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Questioning Sexuality, Simultaneously Getting Back Together with ex-Girlfriend

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  anita 2 months, 4 weeks ago.

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  • #340178

    Joel
    Participant

    Okay so first time posting here.

    I apologise in advance for this but there’s quite a hefty background to what’s going on.

    First things first, I’m 24 years old and male. I’ve got a history with quite serious anxiety and depression. Throughout my adolescence, retrospectively, I see that this culminated in a very unhealthy, compulsive relationship with masturbation, porn and sex. I always considered myself heterosexual, and my life has been regularly plagued by intrusive thoughts about women, compulsive sexual behaviour with women, and a generally out of control attitude in relation to sex with women. During my adolescence, I became compelled to occasionally use gay porn, which I found quite confusing and upsetting at the time. This eventually led to homosexual urges which I would always berate myself for having. Normally in situations when getting high and watching a movie with a friend for example. Never out in the street in public or even at parties, as was the case with women. Eventually I learnt to accept that sexuality is a spectrum, and one that I am someway along, but never seriously considered myself far away from heteromantic. I’ve done a lot of work in therapy about my relationship with sex and masturbation, while it’s a struggle and I’ve still got a long way to go, I’ve mostly been on top of it which I’m very proud of and very relieved about.

    Now the other side of the background is all about my ex. We first got together about 4 years ago. We had a very intense, very codependent relationship, which we maintained in a very tumultuous off and on manner over those 4 years, often due to my poor mental health, as well as some irresponsible behaviour on her part. Last year we were back on between April and September. This came after a period of us being split up due to my having drunkenly kissed another girl. In the interim I had done a lot of work on myself in therapy, but our relationship became a story of my remorse and her having all the power to decide that she didn’t forgive me. This did not really gel well with the nature of my mental health issues, which revolve around self-loathing, abandonment issues, self-punishment and isolation. Anyway, she ended up breaking my heart by withdrawing from me over a period of months. She has since admitted to having ‘checked out’, citing her plan to travel in Mexico for 3 months, which we had never really discussed properly. But I was pretty much torn apart but her refusal to communicate with me. Meanwhile, my mother had broken her ankle and suffered an anaphylactic shock during surgery (after getting divorced, quitting her job, losing all her money, and suffering a pretty serious depression of her own – all of which I was having to support her through) so dealing with all of that whilst my partner had ‘checked out’ was very very difficult. So, eventually I confronted her about my mounting stress and had to break up with myself, such was the extent of her unwillingness to communicate. This was very humiliating.

    I should say that what I’ve written focusses on the worst aspects of our relationship down the years, and must make for some ugly reading – I will say that we were, and still are in a way, very very in love with each other, which is harder to quantify in anecdotes.

    Eventually she left for Mexico and I spent the months she was away healing from the quite intense pain of the summer. I had finally gotten to a place where, whilst I still missed her, I was beginning to feel a bit more comfortable in my life again. I had adjusted to a reality where she didn’t want to be with me, and I didn’t want to be with her, and I was relatively fine with it.

    2 days after she got back to London she called me, telling me how she still loved me and was thinking about me every day, and had a lot of time to reflect on how terribly she’d treated me. Since then (about 5 weeks ago), we’ve been having very open and honest talks about what’s been wrong with our relationship down the years, which has felt predominantly really encouraging and productive. I get the sense that both of us want to change ourselves, firstly, for our own respective benefits, and so that we can love each other better. We’ve slept together a couple of times, but want to avoid diving straight back in to a relationship until we can both feel that we trust each other and ourselves, which isn’t the case right now.

    Now my real problem is that over the last few weeks, I’ve been having thoughts about men. It started when my feeling of excitement about what was happening between me and my ex had hit it’s peak. I read about Phillip Schofield coming out as gay and was plagued by an anxiety that that would happen to me after I had re-committed to my ex. The thoughts I was having were very obsessive and intrusive, and at times I felt almost psychotic or schizophrenic. Since I got over the initial anxiety, which was very harrowing, I’ve fallen back into very compulsive masturbation habits, sometimes to gay porn, sometimes to straight porn. The thoughts about about my possible bi-sexuality are still present, but in a more rational light, and I even started chatting to some guys on tinder in an effort to explore my sexuality. However, I’m struggling to marry how I feel about my ex, which is that I really want to be with her and for it to work, with my desire to explore my sexuality, and my impulse to message guys on tinder for example. I’m still not even sure if I’m attracted to men! I’m no stranger to excessive, compulsive masturbation and porn consumption leading to strange/unwanted and rootless sexual fantasy, and something I’ve discussed in therapy is my attraction to chaos/absence of boundaries/sexual gratification outside of what I consider normal. Rationally, theoretically, I’ve not got an issue with the idea that I’m bi-sexual or even gay, and I’ve spoken about it with my ex who is actually very supportive. I’m just finding it hard to know which of my feelings are real, which of my desires are real, and what is fantasy/coping mechanism/anxiety.

    I’m sure this seems a bit muddled, I’ve written in a bit of a rush, but I hope it’s comprehensible. Not really sure what I’m looking for from the community, but it actually feels good and reflective to type all of it out.

    Thank you!

    #340568

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Joel:

    A short summary of what you shared: you are a 24 . You have a history of “quite serious anxiety and depression”, and a “compulsive relationship with masturbation, porn and sex”, as well as a four year on and off overall unhealthy relationship with a woman. You are attending psychotherapy and making progress.

    About five weeks ago, this woman, your ex girlfriend of four years,  called you and told you that she still loved you, and she  expressed regret for  “how terribly she’d treated (you)”. Since then the two of you had “very open and honest talks about what’s been wrong” with the relationship in the last four years, “really encouraging and productive” talks.

    When your “excitement about what was happening between (you) and my ex had hit its peak”, you started “having thoughts about men”, “intrusive thoughts”, and you were “plagued by an anxiety”. Following the elevated anxiety, you have “fallen back into very compulsive masturbation habits, sometimes to gay porn, sometimes to  straight porn”, and you started chatting with some guys “in an effort to explore my sexuality”.

    You now struggle between really wanting to be with your ex, a woman, and your desire to explore your sexuality.

    My input: as I see it, and I will state it in a simplified way- The Problem is not your sexual orientation. Your sexual orientation is a side issue that is far from being a main issue. Your issue is severe anxiety. When your anxiety is elevated, for whatever reason, obsessions/intrusive thoughts plague you, and compulsive behaviors aimed at lowering the anxiety follow.

    OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is about elevated/overwhelming anxiety, and the brain side stepping thoughts about the original fear,  distracting itself with irrelevant thoughts/ Obsessions,  and then performing compulsions aimed at relieving the anxiety attached to those thoughts.

    Let’s look at what happened recently: there has been excellent, open, honest and promising communication between you and a woman you feel strongly about. You got scared and your anxiety was up. The original fear that was activated here is probably the young boy that you were having been abandoned or betrayed by a parent, maybe your mother. That boy loved his mother so much and the hurt of her betraying that innocent, intense love of a boy for  his mother, was overwhelming.

    But it is too scary to be aware of that original fear, so what the brain does is it sides step the real issue, and it picks a side issue: sexual orientation. If the main issue was your sexual orientation, it wouldn’t have come up in such a big way right after the meeting of the minds and hearts with your ex girlfriend.

    When we get very scared as young children, we can’t hold that fear for long in our awareness. We instinctively repress it. But fear repressed is not fear gone. It gets activated again and again, attaching itself to many thoughts at different times, thoughts that are not about that early, scary childhood experience. So the original fear never reaches our awareness adequately, and it gets forever recycled as OCD, until we look at what scared us then, bring it back to  our awareness, process it over time, make changes in our lives that fit our new awareness (ex., to not avail oneself again to an abusive parent).

    Let me know what you think about what I wrote, and if you want we can communicate further.

    anita

    #340716

    Joel
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thank you for your reply. What you’ve said is very helpful and I think very accurate. I think it’s true that I have a tendency to suffer anxieties that are irrelevant to what’s actually making me anxious, as well as having a tendency to criticise myself at every opportunity, telling myself that something about me is wrong, that I’m false and that I’m lying to everyone. That’s the root of my anxious feelings in relation to my recent uncertainty about my sexual orientation – this heavily critical, panic-inducing voice that tells me that I’m false and that my relationships are false, and that I’m living a lie.

    Psychotherapy has helped me to deduce these patterns, and I’m now able to pose the question to myself: what am I actually so afraid of/anxious about, and why am I so quick to criticise and doubt myself. Particularly during moments of respite, when I can see clearly how fortunate I am, and how there’s so much in my life that makes me so happy and is so inexpressibly beautiful – my friends, my community, my profession (I’m a musician), my family, and all the wonderful things that earthly existence provides all of us.

    I feel like I’ll be able to work on this in therapy, but I don’t feel close to an answer right now. I know what’s happening with my ex is playing a role, but it’s quite difficult to connect the dots in a way that is satisfactory. I’ve got lots of vague ideas, but clarity and relief seem far away. I’m still going through this cycle of feeling okay – doubting myself (sexuality) via intrusive thoughts – eventually getting myself back together – feeling okay – and so on… although I’m suffering it to a less intense degree at this time that I have over the last few weeks.

    I hope that I can start to get a bit of a foothold next week in therapy, I spoke with my therapist near the end of our session last week about wanting to discuss my childhood in a way that might shed some light on my current situation, which felt quite hopeful at the time.

    Thank you  for taking the time to respond to me, as it seems you do for a lot of people which I think is very admirable.

    #340728

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Joel:

    You are welcome and thank you for your kind words. I want to attentively read your recent post and reply when I am back to the computer in about 12 hours from now.

    anita

    #340782

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Joel:

    You wrote: “It’s true that I have a tendency to suffer anxieties that are irrelevant to what actually making me anxious as well as having a tendency to.. telling myself that I’m false and that I’m lying to everyone… that I’m false and that my relationships are false and that I’m living a lie.. what am I actually so afraid of/ anxious about”-

    – maybe there was something false in the family you grew up in, a Lie that was thick in the air but no one spoke about. A Lie that hung in the air for years, all through perhaps. The Lie distressed you a lot, but unresolved, it sunk under your awareness. Fast forward, your teenage/ adult thinking brain got attached to the question of your sexual orientation, as in: maybe that’s the Lie! Maybe I am living a Lie as a heterosexual, and it will be discovered later, so better expose it now!

    A young child does not feel separate and independent from his parents, so when they live a lie, the child lives a lie, their lie= his lie.

    It doesn’t need to be a lie of the kind that will grab news headlines, it could be something like parents that say things they clearly don’t mean, such as that they love each other, but the tone of their words and facial expressions are not of love but of coldness and indifference. It can be parents that say how much they care for their children and what great parents they are, but their expressions and actions show a lack of caring, and their alleged great parenting leaves he child anxious and depressed.

    Anything like that?

    anita

     

    #341080

    Eskimo
    Participant

    Hi Joel

    Have you ever read up about ocd and how it can focus on ideas around your sexuality? There’s a great forum over at the charity ocd-uk where there are lots of similar stories to yours. Might be worth having a look.

    Good luck!

    #341240

    Joel
    Participant

    Hi Anita and Eskimo,

    To answer your question, Anita, my parents got divorced when I was 5, and both had several unhealthy and damaging relationships. I felt quite let down by both of them on numerous occasions. I distinctly remember feeling that my dad was very distant and feeling quite unnoticed by him at points, due to the relationships he was in. My mother, on the other hand, has made a string of terrible decisions in her romantic life that I think have kind of eradicated my trust in her. On a couple of occasions she’s committed to relationships that have seemed quite obviously doomed to fail, moved me and my brother in with these people (we lived in like 12 different houses growing up), thrown all her money into these relationships and then freaked out when they inevitably fail. The most recent example of this is when she got divorced last year. I remember once at the age of 17 or 18 having to witness my mum and her partner at the time having a physical confrontation, both of them naked, and my mum shouting at me to call the police. He was not a nice guy, but it emerged that my mum was the one who had instigated the violence. I also have often been put in a position where I have to console my mum and take on a lot of her unhappiness and regret, when these relationships inevitably fail, often in a dramatic, emotionally unhinged kind of way. On top of this I was bullied at school, but never really felt like I could seek any support from my parents about it. I guess I always felt like my dad was too busy with his own shit, and that I had to be strong to support my mum and brother. Although, of course my depression often overrode this, and the situation ended up as everyone worrying about me and me being unable to open up about any of it. I think this sense of isolation is what lead to my addictive relationship with porn and masturbation, and perhaps other addictive relationships I’ve had: with alcohol (luckily, for a very short time), with sex and love, and with cigarettes for example.

    To cut a long story short, I think there are a lot of instances in my childhood where I’ve felt surrounded by dishonesty, fear and anxiety. For the sake of full disclosure, there are also a lot of instances in my childhood where I’ve felt surrounded by love and support, but I suppose the balance hasn’t been ideal.

    Eskimo – I have read up a lot about HOCD, and it does seem that this applies to my situation a lot. However, having felt a bit better in the last week – I saw my ex a couple of times, we slept together again, and it was all really really lovely – today I’ve been feeling very unsure again. I do believe it’s HOCD, and that it is somehow triggered by a lot my psychological issues due to the kinds of experiences I’ve mentioned above. But when it’s happening it feels so real, I become really really unsure of what I want/who I’m attracted to. I’ve read a lot of people describing HOCD this way, but it’s so hard to quieten the feelings that I have when the anxiety strikes – often quite impulsive sexual feelings that I really don’t want to be having. Why it’s so difficult is that there’s so much doubt involved – when I’m able to explain what’s been happening to me the last few weeks, using the kind of terminology that we’ve used on this thread so far, as soon as I’ve finished the explanation a little voice appears that says ‘but what if that’s not true’. The little voice grows into a big voice, and then I’m right back where I was, fantasising about gay sex, freaking about it, obsessively searching stuff online and often ending up reading about HOCD. It’s a maddening cycle.

    Thank you both for your input. This has been a real struggle and I appreciate the support. I really hope that it ends soon and I can go back to being the person I was; I was finally feeling closer than ever to being the person I want to be, which is something I have worked very hard for. The fact that that’s all kind of gone now is the the most upsetting thing about this really…

    #341248

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Joel:

    I will be able to read and reply to you when I am back to the computer. It will be in either a few hours or in about 14 hours from now.

    anita

    #341422

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Joel:

    I apologize for being seven hours later than I stated above.

    “I think there are a lot of instances in my childhood where I’ve felt surrounded by dishonesty, fear and anxiety.. there are also a lot of instances in my childhood where I’ve felt surrounded by love and support, but I suppose the balance hasn’t been ideal”- a week of love and support does not make up, void or neutralize a week (or a day) of dishonesty, fear and anxiety. Fear, anxiety and dishonesty harm, and unless parents admit to, sincerely apologize for and correct their harmful behavior, the harm does not get neutralized at times of peace in the family, such as when going to the beach and having a good day, or when everyone is sitting around the table on a holiday having a wonderful dinner.

    I will focus on just one incident you described and in a overly simplified way (to make a point), I will connect it to your current struggles: “having to witness my mum and her partner at the time having a physical confrontation, both of them naked, and my mum shouting at me to call the police.. my mum was the one who had instigated the violence”-

    – you don’t want to be in this position again, in the position of witnessing a woman naked, shouting, and instigating violence. Your girlfriend may be that woman, so you are scared of ending up with your girlfriend in this position.

    anita

     

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