The Crush I Never Allowed Myself to Feel…Until Now

Nothing destroys self-worth, self-acceptance and self-love faster than denying what you feel. Without feelings, you would not know where you are in life. Nor would you know what areas you need to work on. Honor your feelings. Allow yourself to feel them. ~Iyanla Vanzant

When I first met you, I was amazed. You are beautiful, I can say this without hesitation. I saw the way they all looked at you. The way they rushed to offer you unsolicited favors, the way they desperately grasped for your attention, for your warm gaze to rest on them. But when I spoke to you, I couldn’t help marveling “Who is this person?” You were driven, you were dedicated, you were smart, you motivated, you were curious, you were strong, you were independent, you admitted your weaknesses and you sought to improve them. You had all the strengths that I wanted to possess myself, all these incredible qualities encapsulated in one person. You were too good to be true.

Sometimes I wonder if the universe brought me to you, that your purpose in my life was to teach me something about myself. I remember when I saw you, you flashed me a wide smile, brimming with the confidence and social courage I could never imagine possessing myself. Maybe unconsciously, I knew I was attracted to you even then because girlish shyness hindered me from smiling back. Because when that kid in the front started sitting in my seat, I grasped at the opportunity to sit at the empty desk next to you. A left-handed desk. I am not left-handed.

You were the one who spoke to me first. When we started talking, it just felt so natural. We had some inherent similarities. We shared some of the same goals, the same fears, the same insecurities. Somehow, I knew, in the back of my mind, that you would never feel as strongly as I did. But when you told me you thought I was cool, and that we had a lot in common, that I made you feel inspiration and confidence, I felt a new kind of light happiness, something no words would be able to adequately describe. I hadn’t felt that way in an over a year. You made me happy beyond words, simply by your words of affirmation.

I also lived in constant fear around you. What if you discovered that my feelings were stronger than those of an average friendship? What if the intensity of my caring for you freaked you out, drove you away, leaving me to never experience that light feeling again? I held on, somehow hoping that our friendship was sustainable. I don’t know if you noticed how I listened to you. I hung onto your every word. I tried to assure you that your fears about your inadequacy were utterly false. Every time you vented to me, comparing yourself to others, I held myself back. I wanted to tell you that I didn’t understand how you could compare yourself to them when you were the only one I saw. You were the most beautiful, most ambitious, most self-aware person I had ever met. But I suppressed those feelings because I was ashamed of feeling them, when I knew that you would never return them, and that they had the potential to drive you away from my life.

I laughed when she suggested that the reason I woke up for his lectures at eight in the morning was that I was in love with him. I loved his brilliance, his knowledge, his helpfulness, his patience. I loved the lessons he taught me. I respected him. I respected you, too, but I loved you and only you. I laughed when she said that, staring at the floor and ignoring the fire on the surface of my cheeks. I pretended it was him. I wonder how you would react if you knew it was never for him, it was always for you. Sometimes I wonder if you knew all along, if you knowingly strung me along in a cruel little game, knowing that you only had eyes for others. Maybe you were the one who had eyes for him. But even if so, I cannot blame you. For, assuming that you knew, I am as guilty as you, for I wore my feelings for him openly on the mask that concealed my feelings you, without concern for the fact that he might interpret them as real. It didn’t even occur to me.

It would be so easy for me to hate you. For the pain I felt, for the shock when you abruptly stopped talking to me, for the confusion I felt when you tried to pop back into my life as if nothing had ever happened. The anger I felt when you said “I love you” so casually when those three words meant so much to me. For a while, I almost convinced myself that I hated you. But I know I could never hate you, even if I tried.

Today, almost a year later, I still feel some shame for how I felt. Catching a brief glimpse of him sent me back down that road I have blocked in my mind, for my own sanity, so that I could focus on working towards the relatively lofty academic goals that we shared. But it was easier this time. I spoke up to my support group about it in confidence. One of the facilitators told me something I hadn’t considered before.

“You loved this person, and it might help to honor that allowing yourself to have feelings for this person taught you about yourself. And so even though your feelings weren’t reciprocated, it was the process of feeling that has taken you out of your shell.” And it’s true. I am no longer in denial, and I have you to thank for that.

I loved you. And maybe a part of me still does. I respect that you don’t feel the same way.

I can’t explain the physical relief I feel, admitting that I loved you, remembering the parts of your personality that I admire and love so much, the parts that inspire me, rather than the pain. It is like letting go of the breath I’ve been holding for a year, like resurfacing from the water after trying not to drown. I know that admitting this to myself will help me move on from you.

I admire you and respect you greatly. I have been allowing myself to smile at others, the way I never could at you. I have been channeling the confidence, independence, strength, and grace with which you carry yourself when interacting with others. You have changed me, for the better, in ways that you could never imagine. I am rooting for you. I hope that you find all the success in the world, and I will celebrate when you get there. But more importantly, I hope you find peace with yourself, and maybe even with someone else, someone you truly desire.

You told me that you were grateful to have met me. And I am incredibly grateful to have met you. You showed me that I could still feel, and you have given me the brightest hope. Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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Shit People Say to the Depressed

I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety three years ago, although I am certain that the disorders have plagued me for much longer. Try as I may, I find it extremely difficult not to fall into the pit of cynicism. Moreover, I find it unfortunate how ignorant many people are in the realm of mental health.

Of course, every person is different. Some things that I find frustrating might be helpful to others under similar circumstances. I shall address three major things that have been personally frustrating to me. I have put together quotes from highly intelligent and well-intentioned people. I highlight the fact that they have good intentions because chances are, those who are truly malicious and ill-willed will not bother to take note of this and try to filter what they say, if they manage to even get past the first paragraph. I am taking advantage of this opportunity to explain to those who truly care what depression feels like for me. Please excuse the extreme cynicism and bear with me!

“It will be okay.”

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Do you know everything about my life? Do you know how many times in my past I have been looking to the future hopefully, only to be bitterly disappointed? Can you look into my future and honestly tell me that it will be okay?

After a recent relapse of my depressive episodes, I thought the worst was over. From now on, it could only go uphill, right? I felt hopeful, clear-headed, and ready to face the lemons that life threw at me. That same day, my dog, as dear to me as any other family member or close friend, had a heart attack and left this world forever. Nah, life didn’t just throw lemons at me. It squeezed lemon juice into my fresh wounds.

Maybe it will get better eventually, but relying on such a murky and uncertain possibilities will not change how I feel now.

“You know, this is all happening because of your cognitive errors.”

No duh. Would you tell a cancer victim that their condition occurred to them because of physiological errors? Obviously! Depression is a mental disease, and the sooner people accept that, the less people will judge each other for things that they might not completely understand.

EVERYONE has cognitive errors to a certain extent. Everyone is flawed, and everyone makes mistakes. What is a cognitive “error” anyways? Is it a cognitive property that tends to make us unhappy? Stop treating it like it is something we erroneously planned out. Being depressed is just an extreme chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s not always under our control.

“You need to stop being so sensitive. Be strong.”

Let me tell you something. Depression HURTS. It’s not a passing worry that stings for a second, and starts to ease. It’s not something that can be easily brushed off. It is a pang. It is physically painful. Imagine your chest sandwiched between two extremely heavy and powerful magnets of opposite poles. It bears down on your heart, and wears it down.

Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you fall down flat on the ground, and people walk all over and trample you as you futilely struggle to lift yourself? You raise your head with every ounce of willpower you own, and open your mouth to say something, but alas! Someone’s polished black boot slams against your lips, crushing your nose inwards and and pushing your mutilated face back down on the concrete floor.

You want to cry out for help, but no one can hear you. And then finally you see a familiar face. “That sucks. Sorry,” they manage, and inch away from you. Because who wants to be affected by such negativity? Better to surround yourself with those who make you happy. They run far, far, away, looking back at first with pity, but finally deciding to distance themselves. They favor the company of those who will make them smile, laugh, and forget about the piteous creature writhing in pain on the floor who can only bring them down.

Depression is a headache, heartache, and stomach ache. Even the smallest of things – a friend laughing at your foolish actions, considering you an amusingly clueless and stupid individual or a parent closing their bedroom door, forging a physical wooden block of distance from you – makes your stomach twist with uneasiness. It is as if there are a few big, slimy tuna fish living in your guts, and any time someone does something that disappoints you, they start colliding against your walls furiously, trying to escape. Your stomach is such an inhospitable environment that even the most repulsive of creatures want to abandon you.

So, yes, it would be helpful if I were stronger and less sensitive. But it is not something than I can change so easily.

On a hopeful note, I am planning to make some drastic changes in my life. Will it work out for the better? Who knows. I can’t control how the world reacts to my decisions. I can only hope.