Doctor’s Note: today’s column deals with talk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Oh boy I’m not looking forward to writing this message because nothing about this story makes me look good in any way.
A couple years ago, I started working with a singer on a musical project. Now despite my lack of dating experience and general awkwardness, I’ve never had any issues maintaining professional working relationships with women. I work with women all the time and have tons of healthy platonic friendships. However this time, I got caught off guard and developed intense feelings immediately. We had not just incredible working chemistry but also became like instant best friends. We were texting back and forth all day every day and not about the project. Most of it was just idle chit chat. 90%of which was initiated by her. This was unusual for me because I’ve never had a girlfriend and I caught feelings. I tried really hard to suppress them because I didn’t want to ruin the project but after a while it got to a point where I couldn’t contain it anymore.
After about three months, I finally told her. Initially she said she wasn’t interested but we both agreed that night that we still wanted to work together. However after two days of radio silence she told me she didn’t feel comfortable working with me anymore. I was crushed but I tried to be mature about it and told her I understood but hoped we could still be friends. We didn’t speak for a month after that until she invited me to a gig of hers. Initially everything seemed okay at the show. We hugged and said hi but didn’t talk much before she played. Afterward it took a little while before we could talk but in the meantime I wound up talking to one of her other friends and found out she had decided to move to Nashville. I live in NYC btw. This definitely hit me like a ton of bricks and I kinda shut down. We had a brief conversation at the end of the night where I apologized for what had happened but we never wound up speaking again. I tried contacting her twice after that but she ignored me.
It was at this point that I started to take a regrettable turn. I spiraled emotionally and wound up sending her an email with a love letter like a complete psycho and as you could probably expect she blocked me on social media. I’d never been blocked before and because of the way Instagram handles it I wasn’t sure what had happened so I made a dummy account and check with the intent to delete it right after. Once I’d confirmed I’d been blocked I went to delete it and accidentally deleted my real account. Now I had to make a new one and because of this, I could see her profile again.
I tried forcing myself to not go back and look at her profile but I failed over and over again. I kept visiting it without following or watching her stories so she couldn’t see me. It’s been three years now and I’m still going back there analyzing every post trying to tell myself she secretly loves me too. I’m fully aware that this is a delusion but I keep going back like an addict. I’ve tried blocking her profile to resist temptation but it’s too easy to just go in and unblock it. It’s gotten so bad that I even sent her a message last week asking her to block me again. Though for some reason she hasn’t yet. Maybe she just hasn’t seen the message.
I’m losing my mind. I hate myself for being this person. I have no excuse for my behavior but I can’t figure a way out. I’m suicidal again, I’m isolating and I’ve done everything but completely sabotage my career. This isn’t who I wanna be.
We’re Caught In A Trap
DEAR WE’RE CAUGHT IN A TRAP: First and foremost: if you’re having suicidal thoughts, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255; they’re available 24-7 with trained volunteers to help you.
Next: you need to be talking to a therapist, my dude, not to me. If it’s been three years and you’re wrecking your s--t like this, then there’s a lot more happening than just a particularly unpleasant case of Oneitis.
I feel like there’re a few things that’ve been left out of this story, such as what, exactly, you said that made her feel like she couldn’t be comfortable working around you. Normally, just telling someone you like them or have feelings for them doesn’t end up causing a friendship to turn on a dime to the point that the other person wants to quit having even a professional relationship together. If everything was going great before then… well, I’m guessing something in that conversation went especially badly, and that’s a thing you need to zero in on. That, I suspect, is gonna reveal a lot more about just where things went off the rails.
Now part of what is important to recognize is that what you’re holding onto isn’t her, it’s what she represents. You aren’t hung up on her so much as you’re hung up on the fantasy — not just of her, but of the relationship that never happened. Those relationships are the ones that’re the hardest to let go of because they’re perfect. There’s no question about how much they adore you, everything goes according to your deepest desires and even any “conflicts” you may imagine are superficial at best and easily resolved. You never have to worry, you never have to put in effort, you never have to deal with the days that they annoy the piss out of you and you’re grinding your teeth in frustration about dealing with their bulls--t.
And, of course, she loves you madly, no matter what, with virtually no need for effort on your part.
These imaginary relationships are, in a word, ideal. And part of what makes it hard to let go is that the alternative is trying to pursue a real relationship with an actual person and all the friction and mess that means. Why do that when you can hold onto the hope that this fantasy relationship might come true, when you can bend anything into giving you a crumb of hope?
Well, unfortunately, that’s not hope; that’s desperation. That’s clinging to something you know isn’t real because the truth about it hurts way more. And the truth — and I hate to say this — is gonna hurt: she doesn’t like you like that and you basically burned this bridge so thoroughly that there aren’t even ashes left, just scorch marks on either side of the crevasse. And you keep hurtling yourself into the crevasse.
As much as this is hurts, and I’m not gonna lie, it’s gonna hurt a lot, you have to accept that there’s no changing this. You know exactly how she feels: she wants nothing to do with you. You keep looking for signs that maybe she’s changed her mind because you don’t like admitting it. And no, you haven’t admitted it to yourself, not really. You recognize it intellectually, but you haven’t accepted it, emotionally. If you had, you wouldn’t keep going back to this. You’re going to have to swallow this particular bitter pill and pretend it’s steak because nothing is going to get better for you until you do.
Part of swallowing this particular bitter pill means taking the full nuclear option: blocking her on everything, in every way possible. That means Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, Badoo, everything. If it can connect with another person, then you need to block her. And if you can’t stop yourself from going and unblocking her, then you need to put more obstacles in your path to make it harder to do so on impulse. That may mean installing apps on your computer and phone that prevent you from accessing certain websites or apps except at certain times. It may mean giving control of your social media to a trusted friend and asking them to block, mute or otherwise make it harder to get ahold of her. But you need a complete separation from her if you’re going to stop digging for any microbe of information that you could pretend is cause for hope.
But more than that: you need to hie thyself to a therapist’s couch. If you’re tearing your life up this much over her, then you need help beyond what a loudmouth with an advice column can give. As I’ve said many times before: Dr. NerdLove is NOT a real doctor, and you need the help of a trained mental health professional to help you pick this particular knot apart.
You’re hurting. You know you’re hurting. That hurt is never going to stop if you don’t let it. The wound is never going to heal if you keep deliberately reopening it. If you can’t stop yourself, then you’re gonna need the emotional equivalent of The Cone of Shame to keep you from picking at it while you let the wound finally close and the pain finally subside.
So block her on everything. Delete your accounts if you need to. You can have someone create a placeholder for you and not give you access to it until you’ve actually gone through actual therapy and you’ve made significant progress. But nothing will get better until you’re ready to fully accept the truth about all of this and you go get yourself help.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com