Dear Papa Bear,
I believe you recently answered a letter from my boyfriend, Sorsolier, and I want to say thank you for your words. What you said was almost the exact same thing we had agreed upon a few days before you posted it, so the confirmation of our mutual realization was great to have and made us both feel much better about the situation. I would also like to say, you nailed it right on the head when you said the reason I was upset was because of a miscommunication problem. We’ve been working quite hard to make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again ... in a long-distance relationship, that’s pretty damn important and I screwed it up. I should have said how I felt right from the start, but that’s not the reason I’m writing you today.
Since I don’t know quite how to begin this explanation, I guess I’ll start from the way beginning.
I’ve suffered from social anxiety my entire life, so much so that it has actually led to me slipping into depression during eighth grade, and I still have yet to dig my way out of it. I used to not be able to talk to anybody, and the only real friends I’ve ever had up until junior year were the ones I’ve had since I was three. Now, it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. Years in musical theatre and increased social interactions have led to me becoming quite an outgoing person, so much so that when I say I have social anxiety, people laugh at me, thinking it’s a joke. However, I have long since noticed a new threshold that I cannot pass.
Whenever something gets even slightly romantic and/or sexual, I feel like I’m about to have a heart attack. On the off chance that someone actually tries to flirt with me, my heart leaps up into my throat and I can’t speak. The last time I held hands with a girl, I think I nearly broke her fingers cuz it felt like I was about to have a heart attack. It seems I have gotten it stuck in my mind that whenever something like this happens, I’m going to fuck up miserably and ruin everything, and by letting that fear take me over it becomes a reality, whether I would have otherwise or not. Quite frankly, it’s horrible and has led to me believing that I will not find someone.
Kind of odd considering I now have a boyfriend... I honestly don’t know why he fell in love with me, but I’m definitely not complaining, as this is the longest, happiest relationship I’ve been in my entire life (the other ones being shallow, nothing relationships that barely involved doing anything and only lasted a couple of weeks).
A long-distance relationship, while still utterly terrifying to me, seemed to be ideal. We could only ever have text-based chats because he’s on a data plan, and any voice or video chatting would drain his monthly data in just a few short hours. There’s no physical contact whatsoever, and no matter how nervous I am, he can’t see just how much I’m freaking out.
It’s been months since those initial first thoughts, and now I’m more than a little confused as to what exactly I’m feeling. I have reached the point where I am absolutely craving physical contact, which, since he lives in New Zealand, and I, Chicago, isn’t going to happen very easily. You’d think that because I am craving this closeness, I’d be over my fears of a physical relationship, but no. While I fantasize about us being together (In both innocent, and not so innocent ways), the thought of actually going to New Zealand and meeting him next year (which is an option that has arisen for me) still has me terrified. I still have incredibly low self-esteem of myself, I still have issues with intimacy and commitment, and I’m still terrified that I’m going to do something wrong, not just because it will be embarrassing, but because this is the first time we’ll get to see what each other is like in person. If I fuck up, I could lose him, and that’s probably what terrifies me most of all, not just because I love him, which I do with all my heart, but I’m scared that I’m never going to bounce back.
Current boyfriend aside, I still feel like I will never be able to find someone who would want to be with me if this relationship were to fail, which there is an extremely high chance that it will given the obvious complication of living on separate sides of the planet.
Given this, there are PLENTY of questions I want to ask and pinning just one down to ask is ... really rather hard. I’m nervous, I’m scared, I just... I don’t know what to do, about the anxiety, about the relationship, about anything. So I guess the real question to ask that would just encompass everything is ... am I insane? Insane for being in this relationship? For loving someone I haven’t even spoken to face to face? For being this worked up over even just the simple act of holding hands with my boyfriend?
Thank you for sitting through my rant, and thanks ahead of time for your words and advice. I appreciate both of them.
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Sorry for the late reply. Glad I was helpful with the earlier letter. About this one: I need to ask a question. Have you, by any chance, suffered from a traumatic earlier event in your life involving sex and/or romantic relationship? Your reply will be most helpful.
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While I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if I dug up some sort of repressed memory later in life, no, I do not recall any sort of incident involving sex or romance. I have been taking therapy, and my therapist says that it is because I have had too many bad experiences with people in general, particularly in my early childhood, which has spawned a fear of forming relationships (of any kind). While I have moved on and have been able to form friendships, it still carries over into what I have described in my letter.
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Hi, again, Morris,
It’s good that you’re receiving some therapy, but I’m not sure it has been helping you. Some things need talking about here.....
Firstly, a phrase that really caught my attention was when you referred to Sorsolier as your “current boyfriend.” That’s called a Freudian slip. The implication here is that you expect this relationship to fail, and Sorsolier is only going to be in your life for now. If that is your mental state, then you have already set yourself up for failure.
Again *deep, heavy sigh* the problem here is the distance. Unless you are really serious about him and plan to either move to New Zealand or have him move to Chicago, then continuing to pursue this relationship is an exercise in futility. You are only doing it because having a boyfriend thousands of miles away is comfortable for you because of your relationship anxiety (you couldn't have asked for a boyfriend who was farther away and still on this planet). You really need to take a deep, long look into your soul and answer truthfully, with all your heart, do you see yourself and Sorsolier together in the future for many years ahead? I mean, REALLY together, not just online? If not, then you should break it off with him and let him be free to live his life in New Zealand while you live your life in Illinois. It is not fair to him to ask him to be faithful and alone because you cannot get over your social anxiety issues.
Now, as to that. You don’t realize it, but you have already found a solution to your problem: theater. As you have found, your involvement in the theater has done wonders for your ability to interact with other people. Shazam! This can also work in your love life.
When you are on the stage, your anxiety is relieved because you have placed a mask over your identity, becoming a character and, hence, shielding your ego from personal hurt. I would bet you that when you first became involved in theater, this worked for you on stage, but not in real-life interactions. BUT, over time, and with continued stage experience, the easing of that anxiety also carried over into your day-to-day interactions so that now, as you say, the friends you have cannot believe you are a shy person.
You can use this same technique in your love life. You might try this by starting with your fursona, although any alter ego character will work. When you meet a potential love interest (or, if things go well, when you meet Sorsolier in real life), do so as your fursona, as Morris Archeltum, not your real self. This might sound disingenuous to you, but it really isn’t since most furries’ fursonas are actually reflections of their true egos. With this temporary shield in place, you will find that your anxieties will be alleviated because you will not feel so vulnerable. You can take on some of the confidence of your fursona to beef up the confidence you are lacking in your primary ego.
Continue to use this technique until, inevitably, as you found in your theater experience, you will no longer need your alter ego. You can take off the fursuit, so to speak, and present yourself fully to your love interest. Depending on the extent of your anxiety, this will take more or less time, but it will happen with enough patience on your part.
Morris, do not let fear run your life. It is fear that prevents us from living, prevents us from being our true selves. Use your fursona as a crutch until your anxiety handicap has eased, and you will get over your fear of messing up your relationships. Expect success and you will create it.
Good luck! I wish you love and happiness.
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