Flirting with anxiety

Photo by Miles Slocum, illustration by Annabelle Bartz.

I am at an age where it is completely normal to have a long term partner. My relatives have even started asking if I have a partner and are always quick to tell me that I am too young when I give them a resounding no. That’s not to say I’m not interested, but it is to say that it is harder for me than it can be for others. Don’t misunderstand me, flirting is never a comfortable process, but it is so much harder when you have mental health struggles. 

Like many others, I struggle with anxiety and depression. I take medication daily to help with both, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there anymore. Having social anxiety makes it hard for me to function in a conversation. I struggle to understand social norms, and sometimes just walking through a hall is hard for me. Along with that, depression, at its core, is about feeling unworthy to exist, much less worthy of specific attention. It is constantly convincing yourself that the people in your life don’t really care about you and that if they do, you will end up disappointing them. 

Neither of these is conducive to the flirting experience: a game of unknown, subtle jesters and making moves to prove you like the other person. A game that is hard when I, and many other people, struggle with the subtleties of a normal conversation, much less with flirty overtones. At the same time, it’s really exciting to be flirted with. To know someone likes you is always an exciting experience, but for me, it’s really paralyzing. How are you supposed to act around someone that likes you? How do you know if you like them? What do you do if you don’t? 

As someone who struggles with this kind of thing, I would just love a playbook or choose your own adventure type thing. Can you imagine:

Your crush just texted you “How are you?” How do you respond?

  • Honestly by telling them how much of an absolute train wreck you are today – turn to page 47
  • The correct way by just saying, “fine :)” – turn to page 23

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a book or a person who gives me the answers I am looking for when it comes to being social and overcoming your mental health. Honestly, I have no good advice on this topic. As any person who has mental health issues will tell you, just telling me “It’s fine. You’re fine.” is not helpful at all. So for now, if you try to flirt with me and I don’t pick up on anything you’re putting down, it’s not you, it’s me.