Dear Dr Laura,
I’m 33 and I’ve got a good job and close friends but I’m increasingly finding myself quite depressed these days. I’ve been to my GP and she’s offered medication and counselling but I know what it is. I need a boyfriend. I want someone to live my life with, to do ordinary things – to go shopping with, walk the dog with, go on holiday with, to have regular sex with. I’ve had a few relationships but they never last. The moment I start getting more intimate and close to them, guys just seem to run away. I think I scare them off! This time of year always seems harder. I look online and all these guys seem to be out having some fun, busy social lives, and I feel so disconnected from it. I go on the sex apps, but what’s the point, I won’t find a boyfriend there. Can you help please?
Life can feel lonely, especially at Christmas when streets and social media feeds are filled with laughing couples acting out the festive dream. But we all know really that the rose-tinted, carefully curated version of life online often does not reflect the truth, and some surveys show as many as 1 in 5 people spend Christmas Day alone.
Let’s start with the diagnosis of depression – antidepressants can be very helpful, though not for everybody, and they are not usually recommended for mild depression unless other treatments have not worked. I imagine your GP would have graded you depression (there are different quick questionnaires to grade mood) and has decided that tablets are worth prescribing but, unless it is at least moderate in severity, you may want to try other options first.
Talking therapy can be very helpful too and you can self-refer via this link: nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service. One thing to be cautious with is, if you do elect to go down the antidepressant route, is how you stop them. The guidance in England is being updated to reflect this because people can get symptoms after stopping antidepressants that last weeks, or even months, especially if you stop them too quickly.
Alcohol and drugs can be pretty mood destroying – are you drinking more than recommended? Are you using chems or other drugs that could be making you feel fed up? Using substances to boost your confidence is a strategy many rely on, but it can end up backfiring so think hard about whether this affects you.
Now, the boyfriend issue. Cliché alert but I’m worried that you may be attributing your emotions to your ‘need’ for a boyfriend. It may be that finding someone to share your life with makes you happy but you need to consider the possibility that there is more to why you feel low. If you’re pinning everything on to the dream relationship that’s a lot of pressure for the person you meet, and to quote everybody’s favourite drag competition host: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Is there other stuff going on? Are there issues in work, or family, that are getting you down? Because a relationship won’t solve those. Have you been hankering after a promotion but not brave enough to ask? Is there a new qualification you could take to give you a new focus and get you motivated?
I’m not saying you should pause your quest for love but while you’re at it I recommend you also focus on feeling a bit more connected to life. Join a group to learn a new skill, a choir, a voluntary organisation? Talk to people at work, is there a colleague who’s suggested going for a drink but you haven’t got round to it?
Be open that you’re feeling a bit fed up and could do with some company because the chances are that someone near you is feeling the same way too. Since you will likely spend many of your waking hours at work, it’s also a good place to make friends and maybe through them you will meet someone special? If there are no work social activities, set one up? A team quiz night could lead to beautiful things
Outside of work, try the power of pets. Nothing draws people to you like a dog so beg, borrow (but don’t steal) one, sit outside your favourite café and watch people come to you! And chat to your neighbours – that elderly lady next door may have a lot of wisdom to share, and a son or grandson also looking for love? There are loads of opportunities under our noses but it’s so easy to not look up and see them.
Finally, you are absolutely right, sex apps are amazing, for finding sex. Many use these apps to get straight to the point, cut the chat and meet up with no strings or expectations, so it’s not the best route to long-term love (though I know of at least one example where a Grindr hook-up led to marriage!). There are plenty of gay-exclusive or gay-friendly dating sites and apps focused on people looking for love so why don’t you try one of those instead of feeling despondent about apps that are unlikely to provide what you’re looking for?
So, book some talking therapy as a first move, chat again to your GP about whether antidepressants are needed, think about what else in your life could be making you unhappy, embrace the opportunities around you and you may find that someone who is relationship material pops into your life when you’re not even looking! To end with another quote from the Queen of the night…. “Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all”. There ain’t no cliché like a cliché at Christmas so Seasons’ Greetings Clive and I hope 2020 brings you what you’re looking for.
Photo posed by model