Dating = Health?

Dating = Health?

I don’t know the first real thing about the dating game. I don’t know how to talk to a specific person and connect. I just think you have to go to person by person and do the best you can with people in general.
– Jason Schwartzman

Last week, I met with my psychiatrist.  Soft-spoken and white-haired, he encourages and converses gently with me in a way no psychiatrist has done before.  As I chattered about my load of homework and increasing independence, his smile widened with relief.  After months of therapy, I finally seemed to be ready to go out into the “real world.”

When I finished explaining my situation, he scribbled down a few notes before looking straight into my eyes searching for the truth.  He asked several questions about symptoms.  Used to this routine, I answered quickly with hopes of moving on to address other issues.  As I honestly but swiftly replied to his wonderings,  the tension left in his body eased out as he believed my progress.  Then my doctor suddenly asked, “Are you dating anyone?”

Stunned, I am simply stared at him before shaking my head slowly.  In response, he simply smiled and moved on to another question.  I, however, remained stuck wondering what he meant.  As a 21-year-old woman, do I need a boyfriend?  Am I behind everyone else my age?  Could I even handle being in a relationship right now?

The other day, a similar conversation took place.  Jokingly, I told my mother that I planned to visit England, meet a British man, fall instantly in love, and start a relationship.  Head tilted to the side, my mom looked deep into my eyes before answering.  “You are actually in a much better place for that than you were this May.”

Seriously?  That was only a few months ago.  Am I honestly ready to start a long-distance relationship?  Do I want to begin one?

These comments made me both anxious and excited, confused and relieved, validated and pressured.  For years, my parents warned me not to date.  Suddenly, the possibility of it makes me want to dance with joy or throw-up in fear.  Something withheld from me for so long now might happen.  But will it?  Do I want it to?  Would anyone ever consider dating me?

So, I am feeling very conflicted about this whole situation.  Being comfortable in a relationship is a huge step toward a normal life.  My PTSD creates fearful scenarios out of each stranger passing by my car.  Anorexia hisses that I never look beautiful enough for any guy to admire.  Depression isolates me in my room for hours.  Anxiety brings on physical symptoms that keep me from others such as hyperventilating, nauseousness, and splitting headaches.  Aspergers forces me to take long periods of time reading the social cues of others.

With all of these problems, could I still date someone?  If so, does that mean that dating equals health?

Well, I do not think that all dating is healthy.  Many women I met in treatment suffered because of poor relationships.  Others, however, felt great support and encouragement from their husband, boyfriend, or fiance.  Thus I think that the health of dating depends on the relationship.

That being said, people struggling deeply usually need to have time away from a deep relationship.  It is hard to care for someone else when you have a great deal of healing to do inside of yourself.  For me, a boyfriend would have added unneeded stress and anxiety.  While trying to gain weight and discover myself, I am glad to have my family and friends but not a romantic companion.  This is just my experience so some might disagree.  However, it is wise to evaluate your relationships while moving toward recovery.

For those of you who are romantic others to a suffering person, please treat them with patience and compassion.  Watching others suffer might be miserable.  However, they need to take this journey to health despite the challenges along the way.  Please encourage them but do not pressure them too much.  Do research so that you might better understand and help them.

Going back to my first question, is dating a symbol of health?  Perhaps romantic relationships are recovery-focused for some people while triggering for others.  It depends on the person.  Although I am not sure that I am ready, preparing for and thinking about dating brings about fear and anticipation in me.  Hopefully, I can take this journey slowly with lots of help from others.


10 thoughts on “Dating = Health?

  1. jefairgrieve says:

    Good post, Anna Rose. I’ve had a few of the same questions at MY age, 74! I was in an abusive marriage for 20 years, and when I became single, I figured I’d been “cured” of such relationships. Now, though, my thought is “if it happens, well, I’ll see where it goes,” the “it” being a dating relationship. I believe that when the situation is right, you will be able to deal with it quite well. It will feel at least somewhat comfortable to you, comfortable enough so that you are more at ease than afraid. It has to be that way for me, too! Best wishes . . .

    • Waiting to see what happens and to feel comfortable are good ideas. 🙂 Thank you! Also, thank you for addressing the issue of feeling “cured” of relationships or not needing them. That seems common with PTSD. I have felt that way as well. Knowing that it might go away (those feelings) is both a relief and an anxiety.

      • jefairgrieve says:

        My idea of the best “significant other” relationship is to share a duplex–he in his own space on one side, and I in my own space on the other side. The thought of dealing 24/7 with the quirks and demands of another person does not tempt me after 20 years of an abusive and sometimes brutal relationship. Maybe someday . . .

        • It is great that you know your limits. That makes a lot of sense after what you have been through. Plus relationships are hard even if you haven’t dealt with abusive people in the past. Figuring this entire thing out is rather confusing.

          • jefairgrieve says:

            It can be confusing, for sure. You are doing a wonderful job, Anna Rose. I gave your blog address to my therapist because she works with clients who have eating disorders, and she said your posts are very helpful. What I’m trying to say is that you are young, and you will find your way. Just keep on truckin’ and you will get there. You have a loving heart, and this old world needs you. It does, indeed! Hugs . . .

          • This world needs you as well! 🙂 Thank you so very much! Little by little, I am making progress. You have helped me along this way. Thank you for that!

  2. eshuberty says:

    A person should be healthy before dating, but dating is not a sign of being healthy. Don’t think of it as another “step” in recovery, you can be totally happy and fulfilled without being in a relationship. If a relationship is something you what, by all means, pursue that, but it is not as important as a lot of people make it seem.

  3. Csilla says:

    Dating can definitely encourage health if you have a supportive partner. I am not sure I would have had the strength to enter treatment if not for love, support, and encouragement of my boyfriend. And, now that I am out of treatment, he consistently helps me stay on track with my meals and checks in on my emotions, which is definitely helping to keep me from relapsing.

    • That sounds like a wonderful relationship! He sounds like a great guy. Supportive people are indeed very important in recovery whether they be a significant other, family, or friend.

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