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Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:07 pm
by Nomad
I have been with my boyfriend for a year (close friends for much longer) and I am exhausted by my constant questioning and worrying about things being right. I've always done this. But I wish i could turn it off.
I've suffered with depression for over 20 years due to my unhealthy parenting which has led to a serious fear of intimacy. I'm working on it but it makes it so hard to have a romantic relationship.
I just had to write a dedication to a friend of mine - I found it really easy to list lots of amazing qualities about this person and really gush about who they are and how I admire them. It dawned on me how hard I would find it to do this about my own partner. Do I just not care for him? Or is it because it was 'safe' to say it/think it about my friend, and I am just paralised by fear. I mean I must be with him for a reason??? I'm alarmed at how I can be so unsure of who I am sometimes. I just want to be able to give love and receive it, but everyone falls under my critical mind where nothing is ever right when it's close. Have I settled for my partner because he is safe and i know he'll never leave? Or am I going off a deeper gut feeling that bonds us.

Exhausted by my own whirring mind :(

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:54 pm
by David020549
It's difficult to know where to start so here goes. Are you a drifter, do you let others organise things without really getting involved, maybe your boyfriend is similar, happy to go with the flow but not really committed to anything. Don't worry about being "in love" lots of couples stay together for convenience, but you do need to get a goal to work towards, something that would fill your mind.

There are only really two goals to work for, helping others, or helping yourself have a better life, there are many ways to get personal satisfaction from either, so which is likely to suit you.

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:02 pm
by Nomad
Interesting angle to pick up from on my message, I'm not really sure what you mean.
Do you mean am I ruminating too much because I am not doing enough with life, or don't have a focus? Interestingly I am the ultimate doer - always proactive, always the organiser. In the last few years I have deliberately cut back on that as I was doing too much and feeling warn out. But I still fill my time and even though i work part time the rest of my week is taken up in a regular volunteering role. In my spare time I organise group trips, or my own solo adventures. At the moment I am working on a fundraising challenge that involves walking long distance to raise funds for dementia research.
Is that what you meant?
I'm not sure how that relates to feeling love. I'm not interested in a relationship for convenience, I want to be truly bonded to someone and share life. The trouble I have is my depression confuses how i feel and i cant trust myself or how i feel and therefore relax.

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:44 pm
by reckoner
It seems to me that don't feel your background provided you with a good template for a loving relationship so you don't know if the dissatisfaction you're feeling is because he is not right for you or if you are 'unlovable' because of your lack of confidence or experience in how to "give and receive love".

It sounds to me that you have a lot of unanswered questions about yourself that I think will make finding a partner difficult as you won't be able to trust your instincts about whether a relationship is right or not.

No relationship is about giving and receiving love as much as it is about dealing with life's various routines and mundanities. What starts off as excitement and fireworks comes down to managing compromises, from whether or not they snooze their alarm in the morning to how much they contribute to the household. So, to a degree, it's always going to be harder to write that list about why your partner is great than it is for an old friend about whom fond memories have not been obscured by the accumulation of banalities that comprise living with someone day in day out.

I can't help thinking you sound a bit idealistic about love and how it should feel and therefore wonder if you're looking for a relationship to, perhaps not complete you, but maybe provide relief, distraction or some kind of resolution to your problems with depression. If that's the case, I think you'll be blocked from enjoying a relationship for what it is because of ongoing questions about yourself and whether you're capable of being happy and loving/loved, particularly if/when something goes wrong.

It feels like a boring and unhelpful answer but I think you need to tackle your depression before entering a relationship, because they're hard work and only worth your time when you can be sure of yourself and, therefore, the person you go into it with.

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:29 pm
by David020549

I was fishing, trying find out about your personality, it is clear you are confident, proactive and independant, so why the depression. Are you trying to achieve utopia where everything is perfect, if so you are going to fail, you seem to be very self contained, as if you don't "need" anyone else.

Love, most women look up to their man, admire him and let him take the lead, you sound so dominant ( in the nicest way ) that falling in love with him is hard to do in the way you expect. It sounds like you have a reliable partner that you enjoy living with, a great many women in love with unreliable men, would swap places with you.

I think you are quite masculine in your personality, don't worry about it but be aware that your emotions are going to be more masculine.

Hope this helps

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:42 pm
by Mrconfused74
Our past will always play a big part in how we live our lives. Growing up I didn't feel that I was loved, there was always something a sibling would do that overshadowed what I had done. And my parents weren't in a loving relationship either. As a result I feel I've assumed that to be normal, and as a result feel that in every relationship I've had I've purposely done something to sabotage it. Be that cheating, or pushing the other person away to the extent they have left or cheated on me. And recently I've found I'm attracted to women that are unobtainable, usually they are married or in a relationship, probably because whilst I can talk to them, I know the chances of a relationship are slim.

How does this relate to you? It seems as if your past too has affected your relationships, you spent a lot of time deciding whether to make the move from friendship to a physical relationship, so you must've known it was right, otherwise you wouldn't have done it. Just because you can't see or feel something about a person doesn't mean it's not there. All you're doing is putting pressure on yourself and the relationship to work. So if you are happy together and feel like things are natural then don't fight it, don't look for things that aren't there. xx

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:45 pm
by Nomad
Thanks all three of you. Very different replies and useful thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'll respond to each...

Reckoner. Thank you - this is very wise and useful. You are very right. Unfortunately if I wait to 'deal' with my depression and loss of self, I will stay alone. I have had this condition for at least 23 years. I work very hard to manage it and mend the damage done as a child. I invest a lot of my savings to see a professional each week and have been for many years (after the nhs said their services couldnt cover what I needed in my region). I am getting somewhere, however I refuse to let it stop me living. Instead I am being very careful within a relationship and aware that it may not look like other peoples. My friends all ask things like 'why dont you live together', 'when are you getting married' etc but im happy with doing things differently. My partner is unwell too.

And I think that being in a relationship is giving me the challenges I need. Otherwise i just get better and better at shutting off and being alone. I just need to accept how hard it is. Your advise is really good in remembering not to be too idealistic. Thank you for your frank and wise answer.

David. Yes I am an independent person. I don't think there is anything wrong with that in a relationship context. I wouldn't agree with your comment that 'most women look up to their man and let them take the lead' - I think you are just telling me something about your own character there. Both my partner and I believe in equality and have a great balance from that perspective. We laugh that he likes shopping and i put the shelves up for example! Everyone is different. Stereo typing helps no one. We look up to each other.

You say 'so why are you depressed'. Those words come from someone who perhaps doesn't understand mental health. Depression isn't about feeling down because you aren't proactive. It's a condition that can affect anyone, no matter their character or background. Believe me, I would do anything to live my life without it.

M C - hi, how are you? Thanks for your words. You are right as ever, we are all affected by how we were raised or treated and it can be hard to break those patterns. I'm trying hard to quieten that voice that tries to sabotage. It's just trusting I am going in the right direction. I hope that things are ok for you.

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:47 pm
by reckoner
I have to say straight up that I haven't experienced depression personally and do find it difficult to relate to, which I'm sure is an attitude that you get a lot of and must find incredibly frustrating. So I proceed but apologise in advance for anything I say that seems insensitive or irrelevant. I give you my observations in the hope rather than expectation that they're helpful.

I have always felt that the mind seems to constantly try to lay down the train tracks that run the course of our routines, our lifestyle and our identity, maybe not in that order. Basically, the more you do something, the more you do it, even if the tracks are heading to an unpleasant place. At some point, no matter what demons we are battling, there has to be a conscious decision to get off the train if we don't like where it's going. We have to do things differently or change our pattern of thinking.

A number of things you have said sound like a very strong pattern of thinking:

1. "My constant questioning and worrying ... I've always done this."
2. "Suffering depression for 20 years ... Has led to a serious fear of intimacy."
3. "Everything falls under my critical mind where nothing is ever right"
4. "The trouble I have is my depression confuses how I feel so I can't trust myself..."
5. "Unfortunately, if I wait to 'deal' with my depression and loss of self, I will stay alone."

That last one is particularly striking to me because you describe your loss of self but I get a very strong sense of self from you, in terms of the examples above, the very full life you lead and challenges you give yourself to how critical you are of yourself: always shutting down, your constantly whirring mind, to mention a couple. You are as definitive about your self and your future as you are about your past and the problems you face. There seems no possibility of, well, possibility. At the risk of sounding twee, if you believe something is impossible, then it is.

Rather than you suffering from loss of self, I think you could do without the sense of one you've already got. Or when you say "loss", is there a sense of a self you used to have that is now gone? Maybe you can start with a self you wish you had and learn to be it.

Rather than defining yourself by the way you've always been, decide to do the thing the person you wish you were would do. Always critical? Then start looking for the good qualities. Always shutting down? Consciously decide to open up and figure out how to do it. Don't accept that the way you've been is the way you'll always be. If everything is a conscious decision, why should it be?

I realise this is all very easy to say. For instance, I don't know how to counter constant questioning of yourself and worrying. This is my mother all over, and perhaps the reason why I strive not to. I just think you have to recognise a pattern that is not serving you well and find a way to change it. To get philosophical, I have come to believe that being happy is a conscious decision.

After all that, I really hope it helps!!

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 4:52 pm
by Nomad
Reckoner - thank you. Either you are a writer or you read a lot!

The funniest thing (if I can call it funny!) is that you sound like me thinking about/advising my partner! It's so easy to see it in others. I so long for him to believe that things can be different, but I am sure you are very right in recognising these things in me too. It is very easy to dance to the tune of beliefs that you have created yourself. I am more than aware.

It's very useful to have that pointed out by an onlooker however. I spend a lot of energy trying to support or simply willing my partner to want to make his life better.. because surely that is what I feel like i am doing. Trying, fighting, working at it. And I am. I mean I really push myself to be and do the things I want to be. I recently went out to South America to run community projects for 3 years because it is something i wanted to do and didn't want my health to rule me. But when your confidence is crippled by your mind, it is very difficult to stay in any job with so many challenges.

Perhaps therapy is dangerous because it reinforces or creates some of the things you picked out above:
"Suffering depression for 20 years ... Has led to a serious fear of intimacy."

But it helps to find a reason for some of the confusion.

You are right in saying it is easy to say and less easy to do. I feel like I have been working on what you describe for a long time. Changing my tracks, consciously deciding that I am good and capable. Deciding not to see my mother despite the guilt because she makes me feel worse about myself. Working less to reduce stress. Occasionally I have break throughs. Sometimes it feels like one step forward and 100 back. The reason for that being the damaging beast of depression. I have to be constantly vigilant of triggers. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you want to change and believe in something, the physical and emotional response to conditioning way back in your beginnings take over on a very subconscious level. For anyone that has experienced any kind of anxiety disorder or depressive illness - being told to think differently and then just doing it is an almost hilarious concept.

The loss of self I talk about is not about who I was, or who I want to be. When you are depressed it is almost like you are behind a thick glass wall - you can see and hear a muted version of the world and feel endlessy frustrated/exhausted that you can't interact with it. The more abnormal you feel the more you withdraw. Every now and then you get these wonderful moments that remind you that things aren't right and that you are under there. The self that I know and that feels natural appears and I think 'this is me, this it what it feels like to live' - and then it is enveloped again by something black and seemingly out of my own control. I can't tell you the amount of diarising etc I have done to try and find patterns etc. Is it hormones, work, stress, people, the weather. It's everything and nothing. Which is why no one really believes it or understands it.

I'm waffling away. But I guess what I'm saying is thank you, you have a lot of valid points and it is very true that it is easy to get stuck on train tracks rather than adjusting your route towards who you want to be. Achieving this is very different with a healthy mind.

And I totally agree that being happy, or confident is a conscious decision. But is love like that? Do I decide/choose to love someone too? Is it only the created movement of romanticism that stops us from doing this and expecting it to come to us? It's an interesting topic and I enjoy philosophy.

So I guess I need to decide to stop ruminating. Ah the irony!

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:01 pm
by reckoner
Thank you for being patient and taking the time to explain how your depression feels. I'm sorry that I have more to learn from this exchange than you.

How does being in a relationship with someone who also suffers with mental health problems affect your own? On the one hand, I can imagine how it must be helpful being with someone who understands the type of problems you face, rather than someone who doesn't and might liken their experience of hunger to your experience of famine, as it were (thinking of myself there!). On the other hand, does it ever get... too much? I ask because in my own romantic adventures, the relationship has worked best when we bring out the best in each other and I wonder if you feel your relationship does this for you both; whether your mental health issues enable you to support or frustrate each other.

From what you describe, I can only guess that your depression is getting in the way of your ability to feel love because I think the feeling of love demands acceptance of your own vulnerability to the person you're in love with, and it seems that your depression demands that you protect and insulate yourself from further hurt; and therefore love too.

But there are lots of forms of love, not to mention our own individual takes on what love is and that love itself evolves over time from that thrill at the start to partnership when the thrill has left. The best advice I was ever given about love is that what you're really looking for is someone you can sit and chat with in the pub, because once youth and attraction has faded, which it inevitably will, that will be what's left.

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:24 pm
by reckoner
Accidentally hit 'submit'!

Just to add about whether feeling love is also a conscious decision. Actually, in my opinion, no. I think everything except for love is under your control in that it's up to you how you deal with life's random events (I'm generalising here to make a point, I very much appreciate the problems with this statement for someone who experiences depression). But because love involves someone else, I think there has to be a surrender of control in order for the other person to impact your life in ways you couldn't have imagined on your own. So I think you're dependent on Chance for finding someone who brings out the best in you. All you can do in the meantime is be open to it if/when it comes around.

That's what I like to think, anyway!

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:38 am
by Nomad
Thanks. We're mysterious creatures us humans. Yes, I think love is chance and the best thing you can do and decide on is to love yourself. That's my project. My partner came along when I was not expecting it and actually actively not looking for it. It feels like we started backwards and the one thing we really can do is sit and chat in the pub, or a quick call turning into an hour like last night.
You are right, it is much harder for us as we both have mental health problems and i thought hard about that before starting a relationship. Its the thing that brings the questioning and as you rightly said "depression demands that you protect and insulate yourself from further hurt; and therefore love too". But when the blue sky peeks through there aren't any questions. I need to decide whether I can weather his lows as well as my own and whether he will let love in.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:05 pm
by reckoner
It sounds like your relationship does have a lot to offer.

"But when the blue sky peeks through there aren't any questions."

Some time after reading that, I happened to read a review of War For The Planet Of The Apes which describes how the film is about the "need for people to hold on tightly to that which keeps them going" and I immediately thought of you. I think you need to hold on tightly to those blue sky moments.

I don't know if this will be of any help but I employ all kinds of thought experiments to figure my way through things, or motivate myself when I'm in a slump, or just keep myself interested. My favourite one at the moment is that my life is a video game and I have hit 'play again' to have another go and do it right this time. Obviously I have no idea what I'm supposed to correct, maybe it's being tolerant instead of impatient, or maybe paying closer attention to oncoming traffic, who knows. The reason I like the experiment is for the idea that I've chosen this existence deliberately, and that any unhappiness or dissatisfaction represents a challenge. (I know you already give yourself plenty of challenges, I'm not for a minute suggesting you need to give yourself another one, this is just in case the idea is motivating).

Another one I enjoy is that the silence in your head, the silence you talk to when you're thinking, is a real, conscious listener (like God, though I'd never believed in such a thing until I tried the experiment. Seriously, who are we talking to in there?!). The idea I like here is that we operate better when we think we're being watched, a bit like the observation in quantum physics that (whatever those tiny particles are) exist in a state of flux until they're observed, then they fix to a single state (or something). This reminds me of how much easier it is to write to a known person or audience than to no one in particular. I like the idea that there is a silent observer I carry everywhere inside my head who's on my side and wants me to make the right choice.

I don't know if this kind of thought experiment would be helpful for you, and hope you don't now think I'm a massive weirdo...

Re: Why can't I feel love :(

PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:31 am
by Nomad
Thanks again Reckoner - who sent you?! Seriously though, such useful words and I really appreciate the time you have taken. It is very supportive.

I've not been a fan of the last planet of the apes films, but actually saw a trailer for the latest and surprised myself thinking I must see it. If it has such a great message than it's a must!

The experiments are good ones. I think I already do a version of the voice/companion in my head. I suppose it's similar to the advice that we should all speak to ourselves/treat ourselves as we would a close friend. We're in this together! I don't believe in the gods but I can see how people create this to avoid madness perhaps!

No such thing as a weirdo! I'm all for quirks and thinking outside the box. I think we live in a society where we feel we need to explain anything that isn't 'normal'. I personally feel grateful everyday that i'm not normal!!
All the best