Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: Admit it: Dating can suck

Heartbreak is traumatizing.

Heartbreak is almost unbearable when you’re mentally ill. This time last year, my life was in shambles. I made a mistake that deeply hurt one of my friends and it turned into a public spectacle. It got so bad that I deactivated my Facebook and turned my phone off for a few days because I couldn’t take the fallout.

A couple months later, while in the midst of a depressive episode, I got dumped. When you’re crazy, there is no such thing as just getting over something. Depending on your situation, it can take months or even years to truly “get over it.” Sometimes, you never do. I was devastated. I thought my relationship was the one thing I was doing right in the midst of my funk and it got swept out from under me. It’s something I’m still getting over. I loved her. I still do. As hurt and angry as I am, I still love her. When she gave me the breakup speech, she told me she loved me. Almost every day, I wonder if she meant it. We float in many of the same spaces and sometimes, I’ll catch her looking and I’ll wonder what she’s thinking. Something tells me that I will never know.

For a year, I have been grappling with questions that will probably remain unanswered:

What did I do?

How could I not see it coming?

What’s wrong with me?

Is it my looks?

Depression tells me it’s definitely me. The extroverted side of me wants to go out and actually meet people, but anxiety talks me out of it. When I actually go out, I’m around the same people, so much of the time I don’t bother, because dating seems like a crapshoot.

Dating, in general, is difficult. When you’re crazy, it’s another mountain that I have to climb, and I’m no athlete.

Although I don’t know her, I experienced a surge of emotions when trans activist Janet Mock married her longtime love Aaron Treadwell. When their wedding photos surfaced, Mock looked so relaxed and comfortable in her new husband’s embrace. I was extremely happy for her, but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness.

I want that. I want someone to adore me like that. I want to feel comfortable. I want to feel desirable. I know we’re not supposed to seek validation from other people, but sometimes it’s nice to feel like someone is looking at me like Kanye West looks at himself in the mirror. I’m not saying this to draw sympathy. The only party I can’t stand is a pity party. While we bask in the glow of marriage equality, we have to remember that the dating scene ain’t pretty. If you don’t look or act a certain way, you get looked over. While some of us are running to the chapel to get married, there are folks picking up the pieces of another broken relationship or trying to figure out why someone has ghosted them. I’ve finally dipped my toe back in the dating pool and it’s scary because it brings another set of questions.

I like them, but do they like me?

Where is this going?

How long will it last?

 At this point, I’m trying to enjoy myself even though the thought of another heartbreak scares me. I don’t know what 2016 holds for my love life, but I’m ready for it. I think.