Feeling loveless, grief, and how anxiety can be helpful: Vera Venue

This month, Anonymous struggles with deciding on what they want, while Dom asks about how to deal with recent grief has triggered his anxiety

ABOVE: @sseeker

This article was originally written for and published by Concrete Newspaper, as part of arts and culture magazine Venue.

To submit your own question to Venue’s agony aunt section, use the Vera Venue Submission form (it’s totally anonymous!)

I feel like I’m loveless. I’ve been very confused about my sexuality for a really long time (I have come to the conclusion that if I had to choose a label that fit best it would be biromantic asexual). I’m not sure a relationship is exactly what I want. I’m even less sure if sex is what I want. However, I have a crippling fear of being lonely. I’m super extroverted and love being around people and would love a partner to tackle life with. Do I go looking for a relationship when I don’t even know specifically what, or who, I want or do I risk being increasingly lonely in my 20’s? ANONYMOUS

Thanks for writing in, Anon!

Self-love and self-reliance is a topic we’ve covered a few times in this section, but it’s one I’ll never tire of writing about. Fear of being lonely is not a reason to be in a relationship. In fact, it might be the very opposite. If you wake up every day with the motivation of “I cannot be alone”, then you’re going to end up settling for people who don’t treat you how you deserve, just for the sake of avoiding yourself. Trying to seek out a relationship is extremely unlikely to ever lead to truly healthy relationships.

I also think you should be aware of how sexuality can drastically change, especially in this phase of life. Labels can be super useful when it comes to finding your identity and making it clear to others what you’re interested in, but they can also end up doing more harm than good. I know plenty of people who have identified one way their entire lives, only to meet someone who doesn’t fit in with their label and freak out about what to do. Use them with caution – don’t put yourself into a box that you might struggle to escape from in the future.

This issue and these feelings are very complex, and I don’t want to seem like I’m oversimplifying, but I do believe that you would benefit hugely from just spending time alone. You say you want a partner to tackle life with – that partner can be found within yourself. We’re very conditioned to think that a romance is the ideal partnership, but you are the only person that will be in your life forever. Why spend all of your time trying to find someone to fit into your life when you could spend that energy on getting to know you? 

When I say “date yourself”, I really do mean it literally. Think of all of the things you would do for a partner: buying flowers, cooking dinners, writing love letters: and do them for you. Take yourself on all of the dates you’ve daydreamed about. Study your own face and body in the way you’d look at someone you’re in love with. Enjoy, savour, and embrace your own company. You will feel more whole and content than ever. And as an added bonus, I guarantee you that as soon as you start focusing on yourself, the right person (who appreciates you for all that you are) will stumble into your path.

My anxiety has been so bad recently. My auntie died a few months ago and it’s made me worry constantly, and I worry that my friends might suddenly die too. I know it’s irrational and dramatic but I can’t stop thinking it. DOM, 22

Hello Dom! I’m so sorry for your loss. The death of your aunt has clearly had a big impact.

Though your anxieties may feel irrational to you, anxiety often actually stems from a really productive place. The way our modern world is organised is not compatible with our monkey-brain chemistry, and this is why anxiety is such a huge problem for 21st Century people. Anxiety is, in evolutionary terms, a good thing – for a caveman, worrying about dying is a pretty good way to avoid dying, as it will stop them from doing reckless and dangerous things which could lead to an untimely demise. 

The anxieties of the humans who came before us were much simpler, quicker, and easier to solve than the ones we deal with now, but the biological function of stress has not had the chance to catch up. Basically, we’re still running on an old operating system. The way our bodies deal with stress is called the acute stress response (‘fight or flight’), and it is extremely effective when your biggest concerns are running away from mountain lions or hitting other cavemen on the head. Unfortunately, it’s not quite so helpful when it comes to modern life, as it’s designed to work in short bursts, but nowadays we have stressors that last days, months, and even years before being resolved.

Your brain is trying its very best to protect you. It’s not always super effective at doing so, but that is the original and simplest motivation for anxiety. If you anticipate the worst possible outcome (for example, the sudden death of someone you love) it won’t be such a shock to the system if it does happen. Because we no longer have to worry about dark caves and big animals coming to make us their dinner, our fears have been displaced onto other stress triggers. In your case, the loss of your aunt has brought up lots of thoughts and feelings about death, and your brain is doing what it does best: think ahead, analyse possible threats to your well being, and let you know about them. This is all to make the very long-winded point that you’re not being irrational or dramatic at all. You just care about your friends!

I’ve found it hugely helpful to characterise my anxiety as a separate thing to myself. In my mind, it’s this little blob of nerves and worries, and it’s just telling me what to look out for. The blob gets it wrong sometimes, like when it tells me that I might get hit by a car while I’m sitting in my living room, but sometimes it gets it right, like when it tells me that walking down a dark alleyway is a bad idea. While you feel your (very valid) frustrations, don’t forget that anxiety has kept you alive and gotten you this far. 

You might find that talking to someone about your grief helps to alleviate your fears about your friends. The anxiety you have about losing them could simply be an expression of your grief for your aunt, in which case you should try to face the grief head on. You may also benefit from an intensely physical form of exercise, as this could help to get rid of the adrenaline and stress generated by your anxiety in a healthy way. Lastly, I would recommend talking to your friends about how much you care and worry for them. The feelings you’re struggling with, while frustrating and complex, are also a very sweet expression of how much you love your pals. I’m sure you’ll find that they have the exact same concerns about you sometimes.

Maja Anushka is this year’s Vera, Concrete’s Features Editor, and on the MA Broadcast and Digital Journalism course. As well as being almost as nosy as she is empathetic, Maja has almost a decade’s experience of making YouTube videos which have covered topics such as mental illness, LGBTQ+ issues, grief, relationships, body dysmorphia, and self-esteem. Her goal for Vera Venue is to promote self-love, mental wellbeing, and healthy relationships, and create a space where people can see that they are not alone.

This article was originally written for and published by Concrete Newspaper, as part of arts and culture magazine Venue.

To submit your own question to Venue’s agony aunt section, use the Vera Venue Submission form (it’s totally anonymous!)

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