Shaking off an identity (Recovering from depression)

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For the first time since my depression first set in around eleven years ago, I feel that I am really making positive steps towards a recovery. I’m not experiencing the same crushing hopelessness and despair that I was feeling up until just over a year ago. I am managing relatively well on a day-to-day basis at keeping my mood steady. I think my relationship with Fleur has been the main contribution towards this recovery, with added help from my anti-depressants, improved social life and stronger financial situation.

The big issue I am having is with shaking off my identity of eleven years. For most of my adolescence and almost half of my life, I have identified as somebody that struggles with depression and anxiety. It has been so integral to my personality that I would often use it as an excuse for myself, or to celebrate as an obstacle that I had overcome. So when such a large part of my personality is no longer present, who do I become?

Whilst I know that living with depression and anxiety is far from unusual, I almost feel as though those conditions made me something. Without those characteristics, I am nothing. I am just a plain, boring person, moving through life leaving no real impression. I want to have some meaning – even if it is only to myself.

As a result of these thoughts, it is difficult to no longer identify as somebody who is mentally unwell. I was thinking about my depression just the other day when I had to realise that I’m not really depressed now and I was making it up inside my own head. Whilst I don’t want to be depressed or anxious, the diagnosis is something of a safety blanket to me.

I hope that at some point in the future I will no longer look at myself in this way. The trouble is that I can’t see how I would look at myself. Would I look at myself as energetic, healthy…balanced? I just don’t picture it.

I Will Be Living Alone

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Lying in bed on Saturday morning, Fleur and I had a chat. I asked her whether she had decided if she wanted to move in together or not, and she had decided that she wouldn’t at this time. She was insistent that she would like to live together and she would be happy enough to live with somebody before marriage – the problem was that, due to her religious beliefs, if she lives with someone, they have to be the one that she will marry so that it is not a sin. She is fairly confident in our relationship, but she isn’t sure enough yet to take that risk.

Her decision hit me pretty hard, largely because of the fact that she had previously said yes. I’d got myself excited about living with her, having a better place to live, somebody to share with more, being less lonely and being more financially secure. I thought that I was moving into the next stage of my life and growing up a lot. I was going to be living more comfortably, and preparing myself for any further steps – marriage, house ownership etc. Having that ripped away has left me deflated and stressed.

I’ve spoken with my current landlord and I’m free to move out of my current flat basically whenever I like, up to the 26th August, and they’ll adjust my rent accordingly. They’ve also said that I can take whatever furniture I want with me as it is only being scrapped otherwise. Whilst all of this is helpful, I’m really stressed because I’m struggling to find any suitable properties to rent anywhere near my price limit. All of the places I’ve found so far are quite a bit more expensive than my current place, which will be a real stretch. When you add in the fees, the moving costs and the settling costs, it’s going to put me out quite a lot I think. I’ve been saving to go to Canada next year and was actually doing quite well. I’m devastated that I might suddenly have to lose everything I have saved for basically nothing.

I just want to get sorted as soon as possible and settle back down. This underlying uncertainty and tension is difficult to cope with at the moment.

Self-Inflicted Sexual Frustration

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Fleur stayed over at my place last night. She’s stayed a couple of times before over the weekend, but this was the first time she’d stayed midweek. Her dad is away on business this week, so she didn’t fancy being home alone. I met her off the train at 10.30pm and we went back to mine. She had a little bit more work to do, so I chilled for an hour whilst she finished off, then we went to bed.

Things got steamier than previously in the bedroom. For the first time we were both naked above the waist whilst making out. I enjoyed seeing and playing with her breasts properly for the first time. I tried to go down on her a couple of times, but she kept grabbing my head and pulling me back up. She explained that she didn’t feel comfortable enough for me to do that yet. I did stroke her clit through her pants, which by her convulsions she seemed to enjoy a lot. Fleur is very quiet in the bedroom which will take some getting used to (the only girl I’ve been with before was very loud).

After finishing with her, Fleur asked me what she could do for me. It wasn’t the first time she had asked, but it was the first time that I would have considered going ahead with it. She kept apologising for her inexperience and saying that she probably wouldn’t be very good, but she wants to give me pleasure. I wouldn’t let her. I’m rather anxious and embarrassed about the mess from ejaculation. It never really used to be a problem for me before….but then most of the time I was having penetrative sex using a condom, so mess wasn’t as much of a big issue. It’s over 5 years since anybody has touched my penis and whilst I really want her to pleasure me and to enjoy myself, I won’t let it happen.

I’m not sure what the root of the problem is. I think there are at least two factors at play;
1. I don’t want to make a mess and feel gross, potentially grossing her out too and scaring her off and,
2. I’m really insecure and don’t feel like I can have an equal relationship with somebody. I always have to give more than I receive because I feel like it will make me more likeable.

It’s really frustrating me because I’ve finally got what I’ve been wanting for for so long – a sexual relationship with a beautiful girl I care about (OK, so it’s not sexual intercourse, but we are doing sexual things) but I’m not making the most of it. Any advice anyone?

How Much Is My Mental Health Linked To My Identity?

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Life has been much better for me of late. Since the very end of 2013 when I woke up one morning and my depressive episode seemed to be at an end, I have had much more positivity and energy. This positivity and energy have resulted in me spending more time with the people close to me and getting more involved in my hobbies, which in turn makes me feel even better.

As I prepare for my next appointment with my psychiatrist (this coming Monday) I’ve been thinking carefully about where I currently am. I realised that, at this current time, I wouldn’t describe myself as depressed. I wouldn’t say I’m happy. I do have more moments of happiness than I would during a depressive episode, but I think my mood could stand to be a bit better. I’m not currently depressed though. I sleep fine, I see friends, I regularly enjoy my hobbies and I’m eating healthily. I still have negative thoughts sometimes and my concentration aren’t great, but I’m not sure this is enough to be classed as clinically depressed.

In addition to this, whilst I do continue to have a bit of a problem with anxiety, which makes me very uncomfortable, I don’t think I can really say that it impedes my day-to-day life. I’m still able to do everything that I need to do, just sometimes it isn’t very pleasant.

This is the first time in a very long time that I’ve felt this good. It has left me concerned that a big part of my identity has been lost. My mental illness has been so defining for my character, that if I’m no longer suffering from a mental illness, I’m not sure who I am any more? I sort of feel like I would be less of a person for no longer having that obstacle to overcome. I would no longer have that excuse to hide behind. I would be completely exposed and vulnerable. I thought I wanted to recover, but I’m left feeling somewhat uncomfortable and lost.

Separating the Variables

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I’m feeling better. When I say better, I don’t mean fully recovered, I just mean better than I was. Since just before Christmas, I’ve now longer felt suicidal and at great risk to myself, and I’ve generally had a more positive attitude and a bit more energy too. This is really great for me. I really didn’t think I’d pull through my last major depressive episode, it was probably the lowest I’ve been before.

The problem I face now is identifying which changes in my life have helped aid recovery, and which made no real difference. Any time that I come out of a depressive episode, there are always multiple changes to my life. Some of these changes might contribute to me coming out of the episode and some might be a result of me coming out of the episode.

Take right now for example; For the past two weeks I have been taking Paroxetine 20mg (apparently long enough to start feeling the positive effects), I have been running more in preparation for a marathon later this year, I am on a new, stricter diet, I’ve near enough given up alcohol, I’ve been taking part in my hobbies more regularly and I’ve just started a new relationship.

When I go to see my psychiatrist in a couple of weeks, they’re going to ask how I am getting on with the Paroxetine and ask whether I’ve noticed any positive effects. I’m going to have to say that I have been doing slightly better, but I don’t actually believe the Paroxetine has had any positive effect. The psychiatrist will take what they want from my feedback, but I doubt they will agree with me that it hasn’t helped at all (based on my previous experiences). I’m even of the opinion that Paroxetine has caused me more problems, such as my worsening concentration.

I personally attribute the complete right angle my life has taken over the past few weeks to a mental shift of unknown cause. I really did just wake up one morning, no longer in my depressive episode. I still don’t consider myself to be well right now, but I’m not sure if I could describe myself as depressed. What I need to know is the cause of my mental shift and if there is anything I can do to stop them in the future?

When Is The Right Time To Have Sex?

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I’ve recently started a new relationship and this question has been running through my head constantly. I have very little experience of sexual relationships. I’ve had sex with girl in the past, who was my university girlfriend when I was 18. I want to ensure that I don’t try to make the new relationship physical too early and scare her off. So, much like every other aspect of my life, I decided to hop on my virtual surfboard and see what wisdom the world wide web has to offer on this topic.

From what I’ve found, it seems that the length of time people wait to have sex with a new partner varies based on a few characteristics;

1. You’re both ready (This is without a doubt the most common advice given)
It goes without saying really that you should both be ready to have sex before you do it, because otherwise you may well end up regretting it. Wherever you look online, when somebody asks the question, “How long should I wait to have sex with my new partner?”, you will always find people saying, “It shouldn’t be measured in time but when you are ready”. This is really good advice, but it still leaves me unsure. As somebody that has problems with anxiety, I often over-think things and err on the side of caution. What I find most of the time is that once I’ve made the jump, it was the right thing to do. So does that mean that I’m ready and I just don’t know it, or am I not ready? What is one partner says they are ready because they are anxious not to let the other one down?! This is a minefield of anxious pondering.

2. You’re looking for the same thing
This sort of ties in with number 1. If you are looking for a one-night-stand, then you’re ready on date one. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, you may want to approach things slower and more carefully. How long it takes for people to be ready when looking for something serious varies a lot it seems. I imagine it varies more for girls than guys (but this may be ignorant of me). From what I’ve read, some girls are ready very early on, whilst others mention time spans in the region of 6 months before wanting to have sex with a partner. This is down to individual preference I guess. It may also vary based on who they’re with? For myself, I feel ready to have sex very early on and it doesn’t really seem to vary on the person. Is this just because I’m horny though?

3. Age
From what I’ve read, age can be an important factor in how soon somebody is ready to have sex. Young teens may be prepared to wait longer than someone in their late twenties. Some older people may be more likely to have children etc, so they may want to wait longer. We’re both in our early twenties….I don’t know where that puts us?

4. Chemistry
Sometimes when you’re with the right person, it may feel natural early on. The chemistry between two people plays an important part in how long into the relationship you have sex.

5. Experience
If you’ve had lots of experience of sexual relationships, then you may be ready to have sex earlier into a new relationship. This makes sense because the more experience have, the less likely you are to be nervous and put it off with a new partner.

So what I’ve really learnt is very little at all to help my situation. The only thing that I can think is helpful is good communication. Communication has never been my strong point and I am really working hard to make sure it doesn’t damage my new relationship. My family doesn’t communicate so I never learned the skills and my anxiety holds me back too. I can appreciate that if we have good communication, we wouldn’t have to worry if the other person is ready or not, because we would know. My dilemma is that I don’t want to talk about sex too early, because it may come across wrong. Whilst I just want to make sure we will both be comfortable enough to say when we’re ready, she may interpret it as a bit pushy. Would she tell me when she is ready anyway? Do I need to be proactive, or should I just enjoy the ride?