Woman leaning against stone wall and crying

Dating Update: Trying to Move Forward from Trauma

“Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.” 

― William Goldman, The Princess Bride

It’s been a long time since I was unhappy.

I’ve rather enjoyed feeling happy. I’ve been able to breathe again. I’ve had energy and have felt physically well. And I haven’t felt at the mercy of thoughts and emotions I can’t control for a long while now.

That changed on Wednesday of this week.

Today, as I write this, is Saturday. I slept late and am now cozied up with my cats on the chaise in my living room, a fuzzy blanket covering my lap, hot cup of coffee in hand.

I stirred some hot cocoa mix into my coffee today. The chocolate is a lovely, cheering treat. I needed a cheering treat.

On Wednesday, I made myself just slightly emotionally vulnerable. It has caused me to go into an anxiety spiral, and sadly, I’ve remained there. I am alternating between trying to pull myself out of it and telling myself I need to just roll with it. Neither is helping. I am in a state.

The sexy professor and I had dinner together last Saturday night. We talked happily and enthusiastically for over 5 hours. We laughed, we shared, we delighted.

I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was, how confident and happy I felt, how much I enjoyed learning about his thoughts and his life and sharing my own.

Me, who only a few months ago could barely speak to even her closest friends without shaking and sweating with fear, and who would often go home and cry for days after any attempt to do so.

I went out with a man and was able to relax and have fun. The “New Self” I’ve been so frustrated by has evolved into a newer, stronger, smarter Self that I admire. Seeing her enjoy being open, gregarious, funny, and able to easily converse was stunning. I was shocked and overwhelmed by my own happiness.

I love your life right now! It’s so good to see you like this. It’s like the spirit of your Old Self topped with all your New Self’s power and insights. It’s so great to see!

(One of my best friends, via text, on Wednesday of this week.)

The sexy professor and I continued our long conversation via text after our date. On Sunday, he asked me to dine with him again the next Saturday (today). Through Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday our witty rapport and hilarity continued.

By Wednesday, there really was no denying how smitten I was. Our text conversation Tuesday night was the best one yet. It was all over the place, rambling easily from discussing a piece in the New Yorker to the writing style of William Goldman (RIP) to office politics to an analysis of some of the dynamics within each of our respective friend groups. It was intelligent, thought-provoking, challenging, and tremendously enjoyable.

I made a fatal error, though. On Wednesday, at around noon, I sent this:

Pssst. Hey. Hi. I love our conversations and hope you’re having a great day. That is all. 

He responded in kind:

Pssst. Me too! You rock. Looking forward to Saturday.

And lo, my meltdown began.

It was hardly a declaration of profound importance, for either of us. And yet, it let him know I was thinking of him. It let him know he mattered. It let him know I cared.

The walls I’ve worked so hard to dismantle suddenly emerged from the ground on every side of me, and slammed closed with a massive clanging sound over my head. I was surrounded by heavy gray stone all around and above me. No doors, no windows, no light. Just me, huddled inside a cell of my own making, in self-enforced solitary confinement.

I’m unable to talk to the sexy professor now. Our texting has dwindled to almost nothing. My old anxiety has emerged. The racing heart, the sweating, the shaking, the horrible need to fall to the floor, curl into a tight ball, and wrap my arms around my head. It has all returned.

And I cannot control it. I cannot ignore it. I cannot remember how to be that version of New Self I was until Wednesday. I do not recall how to relax and be easy with him.

I’m filled with self-loathing. I’m blocked and unable to connect. And I’m horribly worried it won’t go away and seeing him will suck and be sad.

I feel like everything I’ve said since that one text is awkward and dumb and I’m having trouble just relaxing and being myself. Everything I do feels so stupid all of a sudden.

(Me, via text)

That’s the Narcissist. Your last text. That’s not what you really think. It’s just that little bastard creeping into your head for a minute. This is the first person you have been interested in in years. It’s scary!

(My loyal and tremendously intelligent friend’s response)

It’s true. It is scary. And while I can try to reassure myself that liking someone a little isn’t going to automatically or quickly lead to experiencing all the pain of the last 5 years all over again, I’m still unable to relax into the present right now.

The trauma I’ve been through is real. The emotional flashbacks I’m experiencing right now are real.

Sexy professor and I are meeting for dinner at 5:30 tonight. I don’t know that it will be okay. I don’t know if I’ll be anxious and ruin the evening, or if it will wind up being a nice time somehow. I don’t know.

Not knowing how tonight will go will have to be okay. I’m not a fortune teller.

I am, however, confident in myself and my strength.

Tonight might not be okay. Things with the sexy professor might not be okay. But I understand no matter how things go tonight or with him in general, I will be okay.

My upward trajectory is consistent and strong. I have, through hard work and self-awareness, conquered all the obstacles I’ve experienced thus far.

I’m able to socialize again. I’m able to laugh. I’m able to feel joy. I’m able to be emotionally vulnerable (in person, outside this blog). I’m able to feel, express, and receive love.

If I’m not able to be romantic with someone to the extent I wish I were able to right now, that’s okay. That’s fine. That’s acceptable.

It’s exciting, in fact. It shows me what my next challenge is.

I have conquered everything else. I will conquer this, too. The sexy professor might not be someone who lasts, for a variety of possible reasons, one of which might be that I’m simply not ready. And that is okay and good, and a wonderful thing to be aware of.

Still… I hope I’m not silent and awkward and completely weird when I see him tonight. I hope tonight will be fun.

I really like this guy. And goddamn it, I wish I didn’t.


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