Today, I had my meeting with my MH Champion. I wanted to have this meeting before allowing myself to go back on Tinder.
I seem to be in control of how I am thinking and feeling and what I am doing. The main thing to be aware of is to not let that "control cycle" control me. This means that I am constantly overthinking, overanalysing, monitoring and judging myself for thinking and feeling a particular way. The danger of this is that it might make me less susceptible and open to new experiences.
I am constantly judging myself for saying and doing certain things. I am often quick to ascribe emotional meaning to those things without needing to. An example is of those times when I was out in Soho with the M&M people. I judged myself for talking about my ex because it might come across as "negative". It is a positive process to confront these things and be able to talk about them openly. But I was blaming myself for talking about them too much and spreading negative energy. Worse still, I was seeing myself as manifesting those things happening again simply by talking about them. This was a distinction that I needed to learn. The distinction between thought and actuality.
My MH Champion tells me that we all talk about our ex's. To some degree, each and every one of us has pain attached to us. When we talk about our pain, it gets our pain out in the open, which makes it easier to move on. I should not feel bad for saying my ex's name in public or talking about him if it helps me to move on. I related to her about my most recent journal entry in which I said his name. How Dumbledore got it right "fear of the name increases fear of the thing itself". And how the process of saying his name helps draw power out of him and trivialises him so that he becomes less frightening. I felt like I had acted aggressively by saying his name to people in public. My MH Champion affirmed that there is nothing negative or aggressive about saying my ex's name to people in public if it helps me to "move on". Eventually, I will have said his name enough times that one morning, I might wake up and realise that I have not thought about him once for 6 months. I told my MH Champion about the dreams that I was having about Avi Taler. In the act of telling her, I realised that I have not had a dream about him for over a month. It shows that I have made progress.
For the record, the above is not necessarily all about Avi Taler. It is about anyone who I have come across in that way. And the fact that I had spent my entire life preventing myself from saying someone's name in public, which is what ultimately hurt me (not the qualifiers themselves). Social pressure, norms and expectations. 🙅♂️
This expands into the wider question of Tinder (and other dating apps). My boycotting of Tinder arose out of my fear to swim in an ocean where I might be bitten by a shark (= my ex). It was driven my motivation to get back on the dating apps if / when I feel "ready", i.e., if I can find a healthy and positive way of doing it. One that is serviceable to my needs.
Between November - March, I was convincing myself that I am not "ready". Because of what happened with HZ on Halloween. I invited him out to see a show. I sold him his ticket as a little test to see if he were true to his intention of attending. He purchased the ticket, but he did not turn up. I was with 2 other friends anyway so it was not like a "date" setup. But I did wait and wonder for 3 hours and send him several messages without hearing anything back. At the time, I responded negatively (Read More: 01/11/2020). I thought "OMG, I have been stood up!" I might have played the Love Fool / Eternal Victim by reporting it to the WhatsApp group of 200+ people. In my journal, I wrote "how perfect and ironic - ghosted on Halloween". The following morning, HZ messaged me immediately to tell me that his phone had died. I was left thinking "what was all that about, was it necessary to put myself (or others) through that thought process?" This formed the basis of my rationale that I was not "ready" to date. The premise that I have all of this pain inside me waiting to tap into. Just because someone does not message me or show up, I immediately think the worst of them. Or blame them. I felt scared and shocked about how much I seemed to be blaming other people for something else that someone else had done in the past. Afterwards, HZ & I exchanged a few flirtatious messages but they did not lead to anything. I felt too anxious and nervous about messaging him back. I realised that this was not a healthy situation for me to be in. And that if I felt this way, he was probably not the right guy for me. Again, that is a judgement in itself. On the one hand, I might be protecting myself through making those judgements. On the other hand, I might be restricting myself. Yes, the fact that I felt too anxious about messaging HZ might be an indicator that he is not the right guy for me. It should feel natural. By the same token, the right guy will understand my restraint and make an effort with me.
Back in 2016, a mental health practitioner at the Lambeth Living Well Network observed that I have all of these layers. Every time someone penetrates those layers and hurts me in some way, I tweak my armour and add another layer. I have been through that whole process of telling myself "I am not ready to date because I have all of this unresolved pain that is waiting for someone to tap into". Actually, that is not such a bad thing. To some degree, each and every person has pain. It is all part of the package. By talking about it openly, am I not purging myself of that pain? Am I judging myself for doing so? I came to the realisation that I might not be ready to date because I am telling myself that I am not ready to date. I am limiting and restricting myself through my own negative judgements and preconceptions of myself. But if I tell myself otherwise, the act of telling might make me "ready".
My MH Champion says that it is good to have layers. I could practise messaging and interacting with people without caring so much. She observes that I have such a high degree of control over myself that I (and others) struggle to move forwards. A super control cycle. If I can practise messaging and interacting with people whilst not ruminating on my messages and actions so much, I might open myself up to new experiences. Meanwhile, my barriers will kick in naturally if / when they need to, whenever I find myself in a situation in which I feel compromised. Like they did on March 28th, 2019 (which is in itself not a bad thing as long as I do not beat myself up about it). So I do not need to worry about having layers.
She says that the fact that I have these layers is a positive. They protect me. They weed out those guys who will not attempt to penetrate those layers and get to the soft, squidgy centre of me. Eventually, one guy will. I will know that he is the right guy for me because he has invested on getting to that centre of me. Like a hot knife through butter. A nice analogy.
She says that I hurt hard and I love hard. She observes that this is a nice quality about me. She also realises that this makes life hard for me. I experience emotions intensely. The pain is much harder whenever I experience a breakup. Most people can move on quite easily. I cannot. I hurt deeply. This is not a bad thing. But it does mean that these layers are necessary to have in the first place. She says that there is a reason for saying and doing everything that I say and do. A higher purpose. And that I must believe in that reason. Not judge myself or do myself down for feeling a certain way about someone.
I have been on Facebook Dating and Hinge to ease myself back into dating. Strangely enough, I seem to have allowed myself to do that before consciously thinking that I had found a "healthy" way of using dating apps. I recounted my experience of:
Subconsciously, I might have realised that the screenshotting is precisely that mechanism that enables me to use dating apps in a healthy mindset. I self-subjugated to my MH Champion by saying: "I know that this is super weird but I have trained myself to take a screen shot of anyone who I come across on a dating app who I know". She was completely understanding and even mentioned that she does a similar thing. She observed that if this is what works for me, I should do it. If it enables me to feel more in control and more comfortable. She advises me to try a few conversations without the screenshotting to see how comfortable I feel about letting things go. But definitely, as a "stabilisers on a bike"-style mechanism, to practise putting myself through that mindset of not caring. Screenshotting is a good thing to do if it helps me to feel more comfortable when I am on a dating app. And yes, I should try dating even if I do not feel 100% "ready". I might surprise myself. Go on a few dates and enjoy them. This is the most important thing. Try not to judge situations too much but enjoy them in the moment without ascribing emotional meaning to them where emotional meaning is not necessary. She says that I am a fun guy and I deserve to get myself out in the world again.
Last Friday, I went on a date with MK. I suppose that you could call it a "date". We met on Facebook Dating. At first, it was going well. We were messaging over 2-3 days. We talked about teddy bears and cats and other cute things. Until he casually dropped in that he lives with his boyfriend. My first question was "may I ask you what you are looking for on here [a dating app]?" His response: "I do not know, friendships, something casual. What about you?" My response was "I am looking to love and be loved in return." He said that he could offer friendly love if that is any good? I said that this is fine. I encouraged him to give me a shout next time that he is in Vauxhall as a way of "signing out" nicely - sending the Last Message. At which point, he instigated a meeting. We met. The date was short and sweet. It lasted the best part of 2 hours. He said that he would like to meet me again. I agreed. I walked away thinking that the date was nice. I was not overly enraptured. Since then, he has not messaged me. I am OK with this. What is the point of messaging someone unless there is something to talk about? A basis for the conversation to happen? It is true that some people might not know what they want. To justify them existing on a dating app in the first place. But that does not need to be my problem. My job is to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I have some little tools and techniques to help me remain in control:
Ultimately, these tools help me to protect myself. I might have felt deflated because nothing much came out of our date. Maybe that in itself is a form of prophecising. I do not know yet. But the act of resolving each and every account within myself enables me to draw closure (albeit temporary) and focus on other experiences and people.
At a wider level, this has resulted in me developing an Abundance Mentality. Not seeing each and every guy as "the one". Instead, keeping my options option. Believing in myself to know that "the one" is the right guy who is out there who will make an effort with me. And that I have equipped myself with the right tools and techniques to vet them. It was not something that happened overnight. Sonia explained to me the concept of Abundance Mentality back on 01/05/2019, before messaging Avi Taler to wish him luck in his concert. But I did not believe in it. How could I? I was hurting. I was blinded by my pain. I was suffering from cognitive dissonance along with trauma bonding. I was fixated on Avi Taler being the answer to everything. When he was in fact the door that needed to open in order for me to arrive at this realisation.
So, MK has a boyfriend. That is his business. He has acted honestly and transparently enough with me to make this fact known to me from the outset. The difference between MK and Lalo is that MK has not led me on by saying that he likes me and that we have time. I have manifested MK's honesty by asking an honest, open question. This is what I did not do with Lalo. And what I learned to do with Ron and subsequently ML. Law of Attraction.
I do not need to worry about the fact that MK might have a boyfriend. I am free to meet, mingle, hug and kiss whoever I like. I am not the one in a relationship. That is his lookout. Which begs the question of whether MK is getting enough from his existing relationship to be on a dating app in the first place? But that does not need to be my question to ask. I do not know enough about him or what has happened in his life. There is nothing that I need to do or speculate. I am comfortable enough in myself to know that we enjoyed a nice evening together. I am OK with the possibility that I might never hear from him again. I might! Whatever happens, I must ensure that I am happy and comfortable with both outcomes. That is life. People disappear. I used to try and do things to change that in other people. Like the AGA (Anti-Ghosting Agreement). But I realised that there is nothing that I can say or do to prevent people from disappearing. What I can change is how I respond to it. Time again, I come back to this principle. This does not stop me from asking the question if I think that something has gone amiss. But it is my choice of whether or not I wish to ask that question. And I must feel confident enough in myself to ask it, regardless of the answer. To not put all of my eggs in the basket of the person who I perceive to be determining my "destiny". This is why I am holding off explicitly asking Rob if he would like to attend my birthday until I am beyond caring about the possibility that he might decline.
I told my MH Champion about how I continue attending the Meetup events every week to remain "part of the crowd". She observes that I do not seem like the type of person who would disappear or drop off the radar. I am ubiquitous. Forming platonic friendships with other members of the LGBTQ+ community is important. It enriches my life. It strengthens me. I know that it is not a process that can happen overnight. I cannot expect to attend a few Meetup events and instantly make friends. It is a process. It takes time. This is why I am trying (not forcing myself) to go regularly. Even if I do not have a great time every weekend, or have a mediocre time. Sometimes, I meet new people and never see or hear of them ever again (despite whatever was discussed). Other times, I catch up with people who I know. Occasionally, I meet someone who I have not met in a long time. This is all part of life. I begin to realise that the true friends are those who do stick around. My MH Champion says that it is the same in my workplace. Although we have not met live (only virtually), she has the impression that people think of me as a nice, fun guy. I should be proud of that. She reminds me that I am regulating myself and ruminating over conversations and situations with other people more than I need to. This is something that I can work on. My conscientiousness is a nice quality to have, but it might make life difficult and more painful for me. She says that I am kind enough and that I do not need to regulate myself as much. If I ask someone if something came across as negative, they might question themselves and how they responded to what I said or did. Which would increase a cycle of self-doubt. In most cases, what I said and did might not have come across as negative. And if it did, other people might have their own reasons why they responded to it in such a way. Reasons that have nothing to do with me.
My MH Champion encourages me to not hide myself away. Find a dating app, whether it be Tinder or another app that I feel comfortable with. Go on dates. Enjoy them. Keep her in the loop with what is going on. If I ever feel under pressure or compromised in any way, she can interpret what is going on. Just like she did with Rob. I had not heard from Rob in over a month. But I was OK with it. Perhaps there was simply not much to say. Rather than anything that I said or did. It is a natural process. I have invited him to my birthday party. This time (in contrast to the Halloween scenario), I am not planning on asking anyone else or giving him 24 hours to respond. I am prepared for the possibility that he might not want to come and that there will be 5 (not 6) of us. Accepting that as a possibility is a positive state of being. Ensuring that I am happy whichever way the wind blows. It is nice of me to invite him. He has been my friend, my foundation. An important influence in my life over the past 1.5 years. I would stick by him in anything. Perhaps our friendship is not "carnal" like it was before. But maybe it is something more than that. It is a nice gesture to show him that whatever happens, I care about him. Even though he has only said "looks cool" and not stipulated whether or not he intends to attend. I might message him a week before and clarify that. For now, I feel satisfied in myself to know that I have done enough by inviting him.
I told my MH Champion that I unlocked my journal on March 23. Last September, I was going through a difficult phase. My parents found out about my journal (via my brother). I think that their concern was not about anything that I had said in it (I had said nothing bad or wrong). But more about how others might interpret it. I highlighted that the way in which I see myself is more important than the way in which others see me. Nevertheless, I abided by their concerns and password-protected my journal. Over the winter months, I felt disempowered by a feeling of not being able to act openly or transparently about what has happened in my life. I actually felt more comfortable about my life being out in the open. Not in an "airing dirty linen" sense. More from the perspective that people had access to my thoughts and could read me like an open book and see where I am coming from. Without me feeling the need to justify or explain my existence in the world. The other motivation for having my online journal is because it helps me to draw a separation between myself and what is happening to me (what I am experiencing). Anything negative > goes straight into the journal. It becomes trivialised in words. Put to account. Again, I self-subjugated by saying "I know that this is super weird". Straight away, my MH Champion shook her head. She reassured me that this is part of who I am. I am an open book. I should never censor what I say or do. I should remain open in the way in which I talk and act. Some people might shy away from my openness. But the right people for me will appreciate it and be in my life more. She says that I do not need to change myself. My openness is my virtue. What she said reminds me of what Sonia said to me 1.5 years ago. That I have shown honesty and attracted the same back in return. How that honesty manifests in a more open and relaxed conversation.
Read More: 04/09/2019 + 06/11/2020
My MH Champion says that I have a lot of love but also a lot of pain. Sometimes, my pain comes out strong and intense. It scares people away. Occasionally, I might even scare myself with my own pain. This is perfectly natural and healthy. But I should never feel the need to suppress it.
I explained to her that unlocking my journal on March 23 was something that I disciplined myself to do. And to wait for. As a precautionary measure, I went through and re-worded some entries, always considering whether I am happy for someone else to be potentially reading them. I transformed any instances where I might notice myself name-calling. Instead of saying "he was ungrateful", I might say "he acted ungrateful". Moving from "being" to "acting".
The unlocking was something that I did for myself, not for anyone else. I did not "announce" it. I simply put a date in my calendar and went about my business quietly, ensuring that I felt comfortable to do it. This was a positive process in which I acted in sync with myself. Although I had covered my back by "toning it down", my ultimate concern is not with whether or not someone might read it. Simply the fact that my thoughts are out there and accessible (regardless of who reads it) is enough for me.
What about the rest of my life? I am exercising a lot. My MH Champion has seen my Captain Tom 100 Burpee Challenge video. I told her about how my nutritionist at work is meeting with me next week to help me sort out my diet and exercise regime. I am socialising and drinking a lot. Sometimes a bit too much. A couple of times over the past weeks, I have drank a lot, come home and felt ashamed for drinking so much. My MH Champion says that sometimes you need that. To purge emotions and get it out of your system. It can help you feel connected with others. There is nothing wrong with that. Everything in moderation. I mentioned that I am trying to maintain a point of equilibrium. I am going to the gym 3x per week. If I know that I am about to go out on a night out, I will hit the treadmill, cross trainer and bike to kick back at least 500 calories. And I will walk to the event and back again. To keep me accountable to myself (via MyFitnessPal) and within my deficit. I can still make allowances for that. I have started doing a bit of recording. Not too much. But just enough to keep me balanced.
The online shopping has become an addiction. Again, I have developed rules to regulate it.
I think that the same processes and procedures that I go about with my online dating come about in my online shopping. It starts with Mindfulness. Noticing patterns. Being aware of what is going on. I am obsessive. That is not a bad quality to have. There are good things that come out of it. Structure. Discipline. Perseverance. Willpower. Ability to rationalise and not act on impulse. Control. But maybe I could work on is making myself feel better. Ensuring that I feel free, liberated and comfortable. Not beating myself up about life. Enjoying life for the moment rather than ruminating on the past or speculating on the future. Ensuring that I feel happy at any given moment. Going home early for a night cap and treating myself to fresh tortellini pasta if I am not feeling it.
The other day, I bumped into my friend Maria in the post office when I was returning an Amazon item. I told her about my online shopping streak that happens 2x a year (Spring and Autumn). She said that the main thing is that I ENJOY IT.
My conversation with my MH Champion and previous conversations with Maria and Sonia have taught me that I do have the tools to regulate myself. But I do not need to regulate myself to the extent that I am no longer enjoying life. I might become a slave to my own expectations. This is the balance that I am drawing myself closer to. It is OK to feel the need to take screenshots to regulate myself and others if it enables me to feel more in control. It is like having stabilisers on a bike. The key difference is not letting that self-regulation take control over me and my life. Not allowing myself to become a slave to it. Learning how to master it, as and when I need it to. Weighing up the pros and cons at each and every step of the way. Whether it is Tinder or Amazon, this is what making healthy, positive, conscious choices is all about.
Rory spent the first few years of his life in an ice cave, carving out his palace of wonder. He's a bit of a love doll, but he who melts the ice shall have his reward.
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I have been recommended to acknowledge and process all that I have been though, where it all started from how it has affected me.