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Anxiety, confusion, sexuality

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This topic contains 66 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  anita 2 weeks, 5 days ago.

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  • #270889

    afeels
    Participant

    I have been undergoing therapy for two years now. Initially therapy was really helping my feelings of depression, but this year as I have gotten more to the core of my issues I have felt an incredible amount of pain and anxiety and to be honest I feel terrible.

    The anxiety was triggered by me making efforts to start dating. I am a woman in my mid twenties and I have never had a relationship and have always felt confused about the social culture around me that was all around hook ups and one night stands. I didn’t understand it so didn’t engage in it as I never felt desire to. Looking back I was too depressed and lacking in confidence to explore my sexuality. As well my family come from an Immigrant culture whereby sex is very taboo especially in relation to women and so I have always felt a little out of place with how the West views sexuality and truth be told until 19 I thought I would be a virgin until marriage. However I still maintain that hook ups aren’t for me and I need a certain amount of trust/ emotional intimacy before I can have sex with a person.

    My desire to date came about because I fell in love with a very good friend, lets call him JJ. The thing is JJ had a girlfriend once I realised I had a lot of tender feelings for him that were beneath the surface at my constant irritation of him (we had a rocky friendship). After we graduated from university I told him I didn’t want to be friends anymore and he pleaded we remain friends. I eventually agreed to see him and we made amends, but then I started realising that I felt intense love for him. I eventually told him my feelings after a year of struggling with them, and he said he didn’t feel that way about me, this is despite his and I flirting with one another for a while. He said he was so surprised that I felt that way for him, and I am not convinced because to me it was so obvious and so mutual, our little flirtations with each other were even spotted by a mutual friend of ours!

    I stopped talking to JJ after telling him my feelings and he understood telling me to take all the time I needed and that he loved me but these feelings were only platonic. That he doesn’t find me unattractive or deny that he have chemistry but that it is strictly platonic. The thing is the first thing he said when I admitted my feelings for him, he asked me who else knew about these feelings. Even my counsellor at the time found it strange that he say that as a first response. I was confused because he seemed so protective of me and I felt so seen and loved by him. I had been vulnerable with him in a way that I never had been with any man and I didn’t understand why he seemed so loving with me if he didn’t feel that way.. I realised that I had cravings of wanting to be closer to him and wanting to see him more and more. It was like something just switched.  </span>

    Looking back there had been inklings of attraction for JJ that I supressed. One most obvious example was  one night during college we were in his room and ( I might have been on MDMA,I cant remember) and JJ consoled me as I was crying about my house-mates and hugged me. I felt a flutter sensation in my stomach, feelings of love as he was consoling me. I just pushed those feelings aside and thought nothing of them until months later when I realised that I had feelings for him.

    After the JJ incident I realised that I wasn’t dead inside and actually did need/ want to feel attraction/ love. I had always managed to maintain friendships in my life but just seem to fail when it comes to relationships so I guess I give up before they even start. I realised after JJ that I had a habit of being drawn to unavailable men and that I didn’t want to keep doing that because it’s not fair to the women who are with these men and also to myself.

    So I started dating and it’s been a rollercoaster. I have a lot of trust issues with men and hard time allowing them to get close to me and this affects my desire to have sex with these men. As well, I have only had oral sex with a few of the men I have dated and though I enjoyed the experiences at the time I would feel this overwhelming experiences of guilt and shame and convince myself that I caught an STD. This started a few months of increasing health anxiety, which originated in fears about STDs and then gradually progressed to all kinds of fears such as cancers etc. My counsellor at the time suggested I was looking for outside reassurance to tell me that I’m okay and yeah I guess that’s what it was. But as well I think sex in general triggers a lot of overwhelming anxiety for me.

    This health anxiety has now been replaced by my anxieties about my sexuality. You see, when I speak to my counsellor I get the feeling that she thinks that I am gay. That all my issues with men are because I am gay. And typing that out seems so funny to me because to be honest she might not be thinking that. However she did ask me a question which sparked all this anxiety about my sexuality. She asked me what I felt the first time I kissed the guy who I had my first kiss with at 19. I never thought about how I felt when kissing men it’s just something I did. And then I realised I didn’t feel anything with my first kiss, really. I felt a little uncomfortable and awkward, but also curious. But that was it. I then went on to google and searched what people felt when they kissed and I saw all these things about fireworks and sparks and I looked back on all  the guys I had kissed and didn’t remember fireworks or sparks. And it made me question, what if I thought I had a crush on my first kiss but I actually didn’t have any feelings for him and that made me panic. I thought about all the kisses I have had, and there were a few that made me feel good and one kiss where there was this sensation of me and him being perfectly in sync for a minute, almost like the physical went away for a moment and our kiss fit, but I have never felt overcome with desire from kissing. And then I thought oh God maybe there is something wrong with me.

    A few counselling sessions after my therapist asked me where all this shame about being sexual came from and I told her that I had a crush on a girl around 9-10 ( I don’t really remember the age that well but about that age) and that might have something to do with it. But I also told her that I wasn’t sure whether the crush was a romantic crush or whether it was a identity crush as the girl resembled a lot of aspects of my mother (Long red hair and long earings). And that I went to an all girls secondary school and I never had any feelings for any of the girls there and only had crushes to men during my teenage years. There were no sexual feelings for this girl only I guess feelings of awe. My most memorable time of feeling sexual attraction was when I was 17 when I got the opportunity to go to a mixed college and I met this boy in my media class. I remember feeling intense sexual attraction to him and really giddy and overwhelmed with excitement and suddenly becoming really flirtatious but that then became really anxiety inducing for me so I pushed him away despite all these overwhelming feelings for him because I was convinced he would reject me. I think that was my first experience of falling in love and though pleasant at first it became so scary to me. I had crushes on boys during my teen years and so I kind of forgot about the crush on the girl until I brought it up in counselling. As well what I had failed to tell my counsellor and what I realise now is that I also had a sex dream with a women when I was 13 and she was the lady from desperate housewives, a show about mothers and housewives and she had red hair. I woke up so confused because I didn’t fancy her at all and if I was going to choose a member of the cast I wouldn’t choose her. Nonetheless I just forgot about these feelings. I also later on realised that when I was 5 I was caught by my mother kissing two children and she beat me heavily for this. I think this is where the real shame over my sexuality comes from rather than the crush on that girl and I later told my therapist about this.

    I could write so much more but I wont because it will be too long and I am conscious of this post getting longer. Basically I have been crying everyday nearly because I do not know who I am, what my sexuality is. I feel this overwhelming pressure to define it and it doesn’t help that I feel so confused. I have never felt sexual attraction to women but have only felt sexual and physical attraction to men in real life but these occasions are rare. Looking back this sexual attraction has come after some established emotional trust has been formed. However in my dreams I have had sexual fantasies of women, and men and this is confusing me. As well with the men, the fantasies are more sensual/ loving as well as erotic. The fantasies with women seem to represent me and my experiencing pleasure without the pressures of a connection, but I don’t know, maybe I am just in denial? When I masturbate it is easier for me to feel aroused when thinking of another women than a man, but I will feel no attraction to the woman in real life? I feel so sad because with men I am dating I will feel attraction and then the attraction goes away in an instant and it confuses me. For example, I will kiss a guy in a bar surrounded with people and feel desire and attraction but once we are alone the desire is gone. This confuses me because I feel like it is simply me being afraid of intimacy but I now am starting to panic and think what if I am just simply not attracted to men, despite what all my earliest feelings for men have been.

    • This topic was modified 5 months, 3 weeks ago by  afeels.
    #270945

    anita
    Participant

    Dear afeels:

    Good to read from you!

    Sexuality is not a part of us that is separate from our  overall emotional development through our childhoods and on.

    You must have  observed how young children play in the playground, running and screaming, full of joy. You don’t see adults acting that way because we all disassociate to one  degree or another, we all feel less excited much of the time and so, we act… mature, not like children.

    Many children who grow up with an aggressive parent or otherwise  unloving parents, feeling alone and lonely, disassociate more than others. The child, overwhelmed by hurt, fear and  even anger toward a parent, feels too much, more than she can endure, so she  automatically and naturally disassociates, gets numb, feel the minimum  possible. Not  only hurt, fear and anger  get minimized but also joy, hope, curiosity, the desire to explore, and so on. All forms of excitation get minimized and the child becomes  depressed.

    You are one  of those  children who significantly disassociated. Fast forward, you wonder why as a young woman, “with men I am dating I will feel attraction and then the attraction goes away in an instant and it confuses me. For example, I will  kiss a guy in a bar surrounded  by people and feel desire and attraction but once  we are  alone the desire is gone”-

    what  happens is that the excitation of sexual desire is normally numb, but not  entirely gone. It gets awakened at times but it  doesn’t stay because the disassociation has  been established long ago, in childhood. Disassociated, the brain/body rejects all excitations. If we feel  it, it doesn’t last, the numbing is automatic.

    It is not that you are heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual-  it is  that you are  disassociated. See the difference?

    anita

     

    #270973

    afeels
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thanks for your reply. I see that this could be disassociation and I had a very rough childhood I’ll admit, which meant as a kid I didn’t explore much or play. Actually it wasn’t until my teens where I remained in school for the whole duration (I moved around a lot from my years 0-12) that I actively started ‘playing’. The thing is sexuality wasn’t part of that exploration and I can remember at 17 feeling sexual attraction excitement but also deep dread. I guess this dread was a fear of feeling things? I’m unsure…

    everytime i explore now now I feel a lot of guilt and shame. What do you recommend for me to work through my disassociation? Do I give up on dating for a while or …?

    #270977

    afeels
    Participant

    As well, I forgot to mention; if I am disassociated why do I feel all these negative emotions (anxiety, crying) everyday?

     

    Many thanks for for your insight and taking time to respond to me

    #270979

    anita
    Participant

    Dear afeels:

    There is more to the issue of sexuality than disassociation, there is also the shame that was communicated to you by your parents: there  is the natural desire of a child to be approved by one’s parents, and therefore to feel shame  for experiencing sexual feelings and  guilty for feeling those and for engaging  in sexual activity.

    There is the reality that certain sexual acts feel good regardless of who performs it, male, female or a robot.and therefore pleasure derived from a particular sexual act that can be performed by female or male, is not an indication of sexual  orientation.

    To add to the complexity, there is that pornographic industry and  a person who is  heterosexual can experience sexual stimulation by watching homosexual activities. and still be  heterosexual.

    It will take time for you and I to communicate about this complex  issue and I am willing. It  will be days and weeks, and we can take our time examining this issue, no rush.

    I would recommend that you do avoid sexual activity for a while but do aim at a relationship with a man that does  not  involve sexual activity, if such a man exists who is interested!

    I think that your healing, emotionally in  general and sexually in particular, is likely to  happen in the context of a healthy relationship  with a man who  is  honest, trustworthy, and committed to you. So might as well aim at such a relationship  first, no sex for a long while as you get to know each other.

    anita

     

    #270981

    anita
    Participant

    Dear afeels:

    Regarding your second post that I just noticed, you are welcome. My  answer to your question: “if  I am disassociated why do  I feel all these negative emotions (anxiety, crying) everyday?”-

    because severe disassociation is meant  to be effective temporarily, not long term.  It is not effective long  term. It  is not the emotions themselves are minimized in the process of disassociation. It is our awareness of those emotions that is  minimized, but  the  emotions keep coming  up again and again and reek havoc in our lives, from  physical illness to neurological disorders and  otherwise dysfunctional lives.

    Healing  is about gently and gradually becoming aware and being  able to endure the excitation without shutting down soon after every excitation.

    anita

    #270983

    afeels
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thanks for your reply.

    The funniest thing is I don’t think I am able to achieve a relationship with a man that is good, caring and committed without sex! I just don’t see it happening in my age group or where I live (Huge cosmopolitan city) where every young person naturally wants to move to sex very quickly. I have experienced men rushing me and it just heightens my anxiety.

    I have had experiences of being with a man and sensually touching him and feeling a lot of desire. The next day I felt so much guilt for doing so, even though the guy enjoyed it as much as I did.

    Ive also had experiences whereby I flirt with men that I don’t realise I’m attracted to until I start flirting and then looking back I realise perhaps I felt desire for these men but had no knowledge of doing so?

    Im unsure, like you say it will probably take a lot of time to untangle.

    *sigh* I just hate that I’m very confused

    #270985

    afeels
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    ‘Healing  is about gently and gradually becoming aware and being  able to endure the excitation without shutting down soon after every excitation’

    Wow this has given me a lot to think about, thank you kindly

    #270993

    anita
    Participant

    Dear afeels:

    You are welcome. Don’t let a man rush you to sexual activity, doesn’t matter where you live and doesn’t matter the hook up mentality and practice. There has  to be a man who is an exception to this practice, and  might as well find that one man… all you need is that one man, just one.

    anita

    #271065

    afeels
    Participant

    Hi Anita

    Apologies if I am bombarding you with too much, but upon refection I wonder if a relationship with a man would be unfair to the man if I am unclear about my own sexual orientation?

    What do you think? I feel bad when interacting with men as my trust issues tend to ensure that I treat men a lot more harshly than I treat other women, and I dislike hurting men and would want to prevent future patterns of doing so.

     

    #271123

    anita
    Participant

    Dear  afeels:

    You are not bombarding me. Like I wrote before, this topic is complex, so  I expect  my communication with you to take time, it can’t be  rushed, so little by  little.

    You wrote: “I wonder if a relationship with a man would be unfair to  the man if  I am unclear about  my own sexual  orientation?”- I can answer this general question with  a general answer, problem is that I know some specifics of your situation that  makes such a general question and answer irrelevant-

    You wrote: “I have never had a relationship… I still maintain that hook ups aren’t  for me and I need a certain amounts of trust/emotional intimacy before I can have sex with a person”, on one hand.

    But on the other hand, you wrote: “So I started dating and it’s been a rollercoaster… I have only had oral sex with a few of the men I have dated… with the men I am dating I will feel  attraction and then the attraction goes away in an instant and it confuses me. For example, I will kiss a guy in a bar  surrounded  with people and feel desire and attraction but once we are alone the desire is gone”.

    This means that even though you believe that hookups aren’t for you and that you need trust first, you have proceeded to be  engaged in hookups and you do have sex with men without trust. You met men in bars, reads to me, and proceeded to go home with them, having sex.

    This means that this issue of  hookups (sex first, no trust, no relationship first) vs trust  and relationships has to be  settled first. What relevance would there be in letting a man know about your sexual orientation if there is no relationship?

    *The only way for you to  be unfair to a hookup partner is to  not  let him know that you have an STD and endangering his health this  way. I can’t think of any other fairness requirement. Can you?

    anita

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 3 weeks ago by  anita.
    #271171

    afeels
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    I’ve been trying to think of it and I do not know of any other fairness requirement other than the STD thing, which luckily for me is not an issue.

    To clarify I have ‘hooked up’ with someone I met at a bar once and it was such an uncomfortable, and hollow experience for me that I stopped mid way. The other men I have engaged with I have met on 1-3 dates, but looking back that is way too fast to me and feels similar to ‘hook up’ aka no real trust/ emotional intimacy established.

    I am interested in dating men again, but I realise that I have in the past failed to establish my needs- that is emotional intimacy/ trust before sex. It is all so new to me that I guess I have rushed the process looking back and also somewhat feared rejection. As well I find it hard to be vulnerable enough to admit that I am a person who needs time and is uncertain of how long that time will take for fear that there is something wrong with me/ that opening up in this way will make the man reject me. But I have realised if they run away then it is better I know sooner rather than later. I think it is the vulnerability that scares me. To show myself completely, and to let someone near enough terrifies me and this ties so much into the issue of sex as well.

    You have given me a lot to think about, and hopefully I can report back to you further about this.

    Kind regards.

    #271239

    anita
    Participant

    Dear afeels:

    “I have rushed the  process”-  if you desire a relationship with a  man, than you rushed and missed the following:

    * Sharing with a man what  you think, feel, what you hope for, what you want, what motivates you and listening to him share the same.

    * Learning about him in different contexts  such as seeing him in  the  context of his family, seeing him when he is disappointed or angry, how does  he act? When the two of you have a conflict, what  happens next?

    * Can you trust  him to  be on your side, to have your best interest at heart; do you have his best  interest in your heart, and can the two  of you operate as a team, helping each  other be better people, calmer, more content and more functional?

    You rushed through  time so each man in your life has been a stranger, someone you just met.

    I hope to read more  from you when you are able and willing.

    anita

     

    #271455

    GL
    Participant

    Excuse me for butting in, but I was wondering, did something happened in your childhood, afeels, that make unavailable men attractive to you? Or some kind of trauma that branded a strong impression on you? And is that where your trust issues in men stemmed from?

    I’m sorry about your friend JJ, but the thing is, he might be one of those people who flirt for fun, who sees flirting as a game more than a indication of romantic leaning. That, or he’s the sort of person whose gets his validation from people relying and depending on him, much of what you seemed to have done with him as a friend. But that’s only speculations because I don’t know him, but it doesn’t seem that you’ve put away that particular history of yours. What made you mention him in your post, as compare to the other men you’ve dated? And what was it about him that let you opened your eyes?

    Also, there’s a possibility that you’re demisexual or something along those lines. Someone who identifies as demisexual doesn’t see sex as a necessary thing in a relationship. Rather, they want an emotional connection with their potential partner before rolling in the sheets, well, if ever. Of course, a demisexual person can find people physically attractive, but they don’t really developed sexual attraction until they feel they are in a mutually comfortable relationship with respect and open communications with their partner. But the thing is, you don’t have to determine your sexuality, sexuality is actually quite fluid so what is attractive now might not be attractive in five years. Determine what you like as of now, but don’t set that as a rigid rule for the future. Also, it would be best to research some key points on sexuality and its explorations because going in blind isn’t always helpful.

    About the sex guilt, that’s something you should go over with your counselor. Your feeling of guilt of performing any sexual deeds stemmed from your family’s teachings that being sexual is bad, especially if you’re a female and you’ve been carrying that teachings into your adulthood. You haven’t cast away the guilt, but as long as the guilt is there, sex will always be something that you might desired, but also something bad to do. And that will make sex torture or boring or scary. That will induce anxiety about sex.

    Now, have you developed healthy boundaries for yourself? There are many kind of boundaries and they help you defined who you are as a person as you currently are. It also help you decide what you will hold yourself responsible for and what you will not. Without any form of boundaries, you tend to let other people dictate your actions regardless of your thoughts. There’s a book called Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend that can get you started. Your counselor can also give you suggestions.

    It seems you’re still dealing with your anxiety and that’s no walk in the park and it’s not something that goes away with time. But you haven’t given up hope for yourself and that’s encouraging. You are still searching for yourself, though that’s a journey until death, so take a deep breath and encourage yourself to walk at your own pace. You are probably pressured from those around you to what you see in the media that you need to have your whole self figured out by the time you reached 30, but that could not be further from the truth. If you had yourself drawn and laminated by the age of 30, then where’s the space to grow and learn by the age of 40, 50 and beyond? People change and there’s so much to do in today’s society so why limit yourself? But done at your own pace. After all, you only have this life, why not live on your own terms?

    Good luck.

    #271509

    afeels
    Participant

     

    Dear Anita,

    Thanks for the response, I will take on board that these things take time. I hope to update soon. For now I will keep working on myself.

     

     

     

     

     

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by  afeels.
    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by  afeels.
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