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aromantic or depressed?


candlewax
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I'm sorry to come in here with one of the "am I..." posts, but I need to talk about this somewhere because I'm unsure about this and I'm kind of nervous to even post about this anymore.

I've struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder my entire life and I often fall into depressions because of it. I'm also just in general rarely get excited or have super strong emotional responses to a lot of things. I have to wonder if maybe this could be affecting my romantic orientation? I think I might be asexual too, but then again I have to wonder if that might be due to my tendency towards being depressed. 

I've thought I had crushes in the past, but in retrospect I think it was just me confusing love towards friends as romantic feelings or just simply picking crushes to fit in. I never got the butterflies or nervousness that a lot of people describe and even people I thought I had crushes on I often questioned if it was a crush. There was instances where I was asked out by people I thought I liked and wanted to date but every time it came down to it I could never bring myself to actually be in a relationship with them, it just sounded unnecessary and suffocating but I often came up with excuses to never date through high school despite multiple opportunities to. I'm graduating this year and I'm well aware that I'm not straight, for awhile I thought I was gay because everyone I had strong feelings towards were girls, but I think that's just because I was only friends with girls and I generally just feel a lot of love for my friends. It's still really confusing though because I don't know how to measure what romantic attraction is if I don't know if I've ever felt it. The only thing I can say is when I found what aromanticism was about a year ago I felt incredibly happy to realize that not having a relationship was even an option, it was freeing but I didn't necessarily consider the label for myself immediately.

I kind of wonder if maybe this is attributed to the fact that I'm just not a very social person and like I said before I tend to be depressed and unexcited. I wonder maybe if I met more people and was a more emotional person I would have romantic feelings towards other people, and this fall I'll be going away to university. I've kind of always expected that I'd meet "the one" in college, and for some reason that always sounded unexciting to me though. I kind of don't want to fall in love with someone and I'd much rather spend my life alone, but again I can't tell if it's my poor mental health talking sometimes. I also sometimes wonder if maybe I am just gay and I'm experiencing internalized homophobia or something, or maybe I'm just too young to even know or the fact that I've thought I had crushes on my friends when I was really young means I can't be aromantic. I guess I'm just wondering if someone feels the same, or if this is a common thing to experience?

Edited by candlewax
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immediately i thought to myself that the answer to whether you felt any sort of affection/attraction to people would be a pretty good indicator, and as you said you had "strong feelings" and "a lot of love" for your friends, it's clear that your mental health issues aren't affecting that, so why would they impair your romantic attraction specifically?  as to your not being sure whether certain feelings you had were romantic, i think that in itself is a good indicator--how many alloromantics (people who do experience romantic attraction) struggle with such an uncertainty or seriously consider that they might be aro?  a year is a long time to have these thoughts--it was as long for me as well, before i started to actually identify as aro, and longer before i came out to anyone (or was truly at peace with it).  i also had the same thoughts when i was questioning: "i don't know whether i've ever experienced romantic attraction because i don't quite understand what it is."  well, in retrospect that's a very aro sentiment.  an experience plenty of aros have formerly mistaken for a crush is called a squish--basically the platonic equivalent.  i've had lots of them.  i also have depression and am introverted, but i've actually never felt that either of those could be related to my aromanticism, i suppose because again, i feel so many other emotions, including types of love.  even without being as social as other people, we've lived long enough to have unavoidably met a ton of people, and not having been romantically attracted to any of them indicates an orientation on the aromantic spectrum--i think it's hard to argue with that, though people will certainly try, for some inexplicable reason (what's it to them?)  if you're not too young to know you're straight, gay, or whatever, you're not too young to know you're aro.  and i don't think internalized homophobia is any more likely than internalized amatonormativity--the concept that the highest form of love/relationships is romantic, and no one can be happy without this.  in fact i'd argue that we're all more susceptible to being fooled into this belief because it's more pervasive--it's shared by almost all alloromantics, including lgbt+ ones, whether consciously or not, and perpetuated in virtually every aspect of society.  heteronormativity is a smaller concept within amatonormativity.  for example, observers are likely to assume a close relationship is romantic, especially but not only if it is between a man and a woman.  of course you know whether or not you're gay better than i do, but whatever you are, it's good to be aware of amatonormativity.  and finally i'll comment on these statements:

9 hours ago, candlewax said:

The only thing I can say is when I found what aromanticism was about a year ago I felt incredibly happy to realize that not having a relationship was even an option, it was freeing but I didn't necessarily consider the label for myself immediately.

that's what matters, really--not what you call yourself but that you're happy.  regardless of your orientation, if you don't want a romantic relationship you certainly don't have to enter one.  i, too, feel so free knowing that i can do whatever i want with my life, unrestrained by a partner or kids.  by the way, the fact that you, like many people, didn't even consider for a long time such a possibility is a prime example of harmful amatonormativity.  

9 hours ago, candlewax said:

I kind of don't want to fall in love with someone and I'd much rather spend my life alone, but again I can't tell if it's my poor mental health talking sometimes.

even if it did have something to do with that (i'm not inclined to believe it does), what of it?  if you want to spend your life alone, that's what you should do.

if you have any more questions or thoughts, i'd be glad to offer some insight.

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6 hours ago, aro_elise said:

immediately i thought to myself that the answer to whether you felt any sort of affection/attraction to people would be a pretty good indicator, and as you said you had "strong feelings" and "a lot of love" for your friends, it's clear that your mental health issues aren't affecting that, so why would they impair your romantic attraction specifically?  as to your not being sure whether certain feelings you had were romantic, i think that in itself is a good indicator--how many alloromantics (people who do experience romantic attraction) struggle with such an uncertainty or seriously consider that they might be aro?  a year is a long time to have these thoughts--it was as long for me as well, before i started to actually identify as aro, and longer before i came out to anyone (or was truly at peace with it).  i also had the same thoughts when i was questioning: "i don't know whether i've ever experienced romantic attraction because i don't quite understand what it is."  well, in retrospect that's a very aro sentiment.  an experience plenty of aros have formerly mistaken for a crush is called a squish--basically the platonic equivalent.  i've had lots of them.  i also have depression and am introverted, but i've actually never felt that either of those could be related to my aromanticism, i suppose because again, i feel so many other emotions, including types of love.  even without being as social as other people, we've lived long enough to have unavoidably met a ton of people, and not having been romantically attracted to any of them indicates an orientation on the aromantic spectrum--i think it's hard to argue with that, though people will certainly try, for some inexplicable reason (what's it to them?)  if you're not too young to know you're straight, gay, or whatever, you're not too young to know you're aro.  and i don't think internalized homophobia is any more likely than internalized amatonormativity--the concept that the highest form of love/relationships is romantic, and no one can be happy without this.  in fact i'd argue that we're all more susceptible to being fooled into this belief because it's more pervasive--it's shared by almost all alloromantics, including lgbt+ ones, whether consciously or not, and perpetuated in virtually every aspect of society.  heteronormativity is a smaller concept within amatonormativity.  for example, observers are likely to assume a close relationship is romantic, especially but not only if it is between a man and a woman.  of course you know whether or not you're gay better than i do, but whatever you are, it's good to be aware of amatonormativity.  and finally i'll comment on these statements:

that's what matters, really--not what you call yourself but that you're happy.  regardless of your orientation, if you don't want a romantic relationship you certainly don't have to enter one.  i, too, feel so free knowing that i can do whatever i want with my life, unrestrained by a partner or kids.  by the way, the fact that you, like many people, didn't even consider for a long time such a possibility is a prime example of harmful amatonormativity.  

even if it did have something to do with that (i'm not inclined to believe it does), what of it?  if you want to spend your life alone, that's what you should do.

if you have any more questions or thoughts, i'd be glad to offer some insight.

Thank you so much for your response it gave me a lot of peace and clarity. While I wrote that I was having a lot of anxiety because I think in my head I was hung up on labels, and I kind of wish I could just cleanly fit into a single identity or perfectly matched the experiences of people from a specific community. In reality I doubt anybody fits cleanly into any specific label and it's never really that easy, although I often felt a bit dumb because I know people who have known they're gay or bisexual since middle school and I've been in a weird limbo of just thinking I might be gay and attraction was actually just way shallower and way less exciting than people made it out to be and sex and romance are something I have to fulfill to feel good about myself. I thought about what you said with amatonormativity being so pervasive, and I tried to imagine if romance wasn't such a big deal or a coming of age thing and I think I probably would have never considered even having a crush on anybody. I think in a way too I just need to focus less on defining my feelings towards people and just enjoy having them in my life. If I don't fall in love then that's fine, and if I do then that's also fine but I have hard time imagining what that even would be.

I really appreciate everything you told me, it was insanely helpful and provided a lot of reassurance. Other places on the internet gave me the typically speech of "sexuality is fluid, you're young it might change one day" so I appreciated someone telling me to just trust my feelings and do what ultimately makes me happy. I also think I just needed to hear that my mental health doesn't affect my sexuality, because I had people tell me the fact I'm on meds means I can't know for sure even though my libido and love towards my friends and family have been pretty much unaffected. 

Again I appreciate your response a lot, it provided me relief. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with labelling myself just yet or if I even want a label, but it feels good to know there's people who understand.

Edited by candlewax
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i'm so glad i could help.  certainly, labels are just what we use to help understand ourselves and connect to a community of people who feel the same way--the fact remains that whether or not i call myself heterosexual, i'm sexually attracted solely to men, and whether or not i call myself aromantic, i've never been romantically attracted to anyone, and i doubt either of these facts will change.  of course it's possible, but i'd be equally surprised if, for example, a woman who'd been attracted only to men (romantically and/or sexually) was one day, after a few decades of life, suddenly attracted in such a way to a woman.  and i don't suppose many people, upon hearing that she was straight, would tell her, as you quoted, "sexuality is fluid, you're young it might change one day".  i always hesitate to say anything to that effect to questioning aros (or aces) because of that; while i wish to assure them that choosing a label doesn't mean you have to be sure of how you'll feel for the rest of your life, i don't mean to imply that you can't be pretty sure--enough allos do that already.  but as i said, it took me a while just to identify as aro privately and without a ton of confidence--you don't have to yet or ever.  

On 1/20/2021 at 11:54 AM, candlewax said:

I also think I just needed to hear that my mental health doesn't affect my sexuality, because I had people tell me the fact I'm on meds means I can't know for sure even though my libido and love towards my friends and family have been pretty much unaffected.

mine as well.  and i knew i was aro before i started taking meds, not that that's a requirement to "prove" it.  the only thing which has changed since i've sought treatment for my depression is that i'm now better able to manage it.  people who say things like that are actually being offensive toward aros/lgbt+ people (whomever they're talking about) as well as to people with mental illness.  hypothetically, even if meds did stop you from feeling romantic attraction, are they suggesting you forgo them because it's better to be suicidal/barely able to function than to be aro?  you can see what a horrific sentiment that would be.

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On 1/20/2021 at 2:12 AM, candlewax said:

I've struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder my entire life and I often fall into depressions because of it.

After multiple relapse and remission cycles I haven't noticed that OCD has any influence on my aromanticism. Being free of OCD doesn't make feel romantic attraction. 🤷‍♀️

On 1/20/2021 at 5:54 PM, candlewax said:

also think I just needed to hear that my mental health doesn't affect my sexuality, because I had people tell me the fact I'm on meds means I can't know for sure even though my libido and love towards my friends and family have been pretty much unaffected. 

I've never heard of medically induced aromanticism. Probably the idea comes from conflating aromanticism with reduced libido, which is a well-known side effect of many anti-depressants (afaik there is no specific OCD medicine, often anti-depressants are used instead).

If there was such a thing, this becomes just a question about the label "aromantic". But in practice it doesn't change much. If medication helps then stopping it to experience romantic attraction would make all the mental suffering come back and a chance of unfulfilled romantic desires on top of it.

I have no idea how alloromantics deal with severe mental illness combined with romantic feelings. 🤷‍♀️ I can just imagine it as very bad. Like being in the state of Tomoko in the anime WataMote. Obviously a mentally healthy, aromantic Tomoko would be 10000x better off than the actual Tomoko who is so hampered by social anxiety and depression that all her romantic endeavors cause just more pain and she spends the only relaxed/happy moments daydreaming about romantic love and some prince charming.

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