Martha's Quarter Life Crisis
Martha is a very important part of our team here at Femme Fatale. She has so much drive, charisma and passion; but even for her life can get on top of her sometimes and affect how she feels about herself. Here is Martha's story, talking about coming to terms with her mental health and the world of dating and self worth.
"I turned 20 and had a millennial quarter life crisis"
Disclaimer: I apologise now for the amount of cringe high school clichés that are used when referencing my dating sagas. It seems I am a little out of touch with how to do the adult dating thing.
In recent months I have been struggling with my own self worth, with my independence and ultimately with being on my own. I had never previously considered myself someone to be in a constant cycle of dating, having a partner or 'seeing someone' as I find it often referred to these days. I have seen friends suffer through the pain of transitioning from partner to partner and the damage it can do to their self esteem. Whilst empathising I had always (rather naively) felt this wasn’t me.
Having my first boyfriend at 16 I felt like I had got 'into boys' (so to speak) later than all my high school peers. Now 20; I have retrospectively considered the last 4 years only to shock myself. Realising I had in fact fallen into the trap I always felt I had risen above. In all honesty, I had felt proud of myself going into the second part of my teen years that my 'body count' was below average and my dating had remained limited.*
However this is not the case. Not only do I feel embarrassed of my former self for striving to stick to a certain number of partners that other people told me was acceptable. But I look back at my dating history realising (without dropping any names) that I had in fact always had a man in my life, whether I was talking/dating/seeing them the last 4 years for me have been semi dominated by boy troubles.
I would like to make it clear I am not passing judgement or discouraging dating, whether that be a lot or a little, nor am I suggesting we should have less sexual partners. My point here is to express how these past years have left me feeling like a broken woman as I enter a new and exciting decade of my life. For some, you might be more emotionally robust, have more self control when it comes to letting yourself catch feelings you might be what I would adoringly call a pro dater- good for you!
Unfortunately, this isn't me. I am in no aspect of my life a pro when it comes to managing my feelings, managing myself or keeping my self worth distinct from the on goings of my failed dating life. Now what I will admit is I never felt as though I had actively searched for love or partnership in these years, instead it seemed to keep finding me. But it isn't until now that I realised my naughty subconscious had been playing me at my own life. Whilst I didn’t seek it, I am fucking incapable of turning down the offer. Is it the fomo*? Is it the fun loving young woman in me wanting to live for the moment? No. Whilst having my quarter life crisis I reluctantly accepted that it was my overwhelming fear and inability of being alone that drove this blatantly unhealthy relationships. Not only had I let immature twats walk over me like a door mat for the past 4 years, but I actually craved and needed their guised support regardless of the positions it left me in. I am that scared of being alone, that uncomfortable with myself and have such a lack of self esteem. I let boys treat me like shit. In fact I wanted boys to treat me like shit.
"Not only had I let immature twats walk over me like a door mat for the past 4 years, but I actually craved and needed their guised support regardless of the positions it left me in."
Which leaves me here: sad and sort of alone, reluctant that my new find revelations mean I kind of need to not let this happen again. I am no longer the ignorant pig but self-aware Socrates. But even now I have assumed Socrates identity the journey ahead seems fucking crap. I'm not here for the pain I have to endure. As it transpires I am bit pathetic, so any level of additional pain is a big no from me. I am a independent 21st century woman with privilege, opportunities loving friends and family. I am some actively fighting for freedom and equal rights for women and for the celebration of womankind . So why do I feel so empty? Why does my life have no meaning without a man to pine after, without a man for me to give my heart with open arms. There is something deeper within my own struggle, although I have no full conclusion as to what that is or how to solve it I am at least aware of it. That is as the say the first step.
I have finally taken a step back and been able to acknowledge something I should have really seen 5 years ago. As I have learnt in recent years, just like all other aspects of my life, this problem is rooted in my ignorance towards my own mental health. Whilst I have always acknowledged my struggle, I have never really allowed space for it in my life. What I mean is I have never once adapted my lifestyle towards being kind to myself. For a myriad of reasons I have always pushed myself to be high functioning and high achieving in all aspects of my life. When problems arise I have found temporary solutions to shut them down. I have been to CAMHS, I have seen doctors, I have had medication and intermittent bouts of counselling. But nothing to address what it is that is making me feel this way, only ever quick fixes.
So half a decade on, I realise I still know nothing of my trauma and of my mental health. All I know is I regularly and inconveniently struggle to a degree I am often embarrassed to admit. But I push on until I feel better comforting myself first and for most at the hand of whatever insignificant man is in my life at that time. But it wasn’t until recently that I realised that I have developed a coping mechanism for my struggles in seeking love from those who cannot and will not respect me. When I feel down I am so mortified and so unsympathetic towards my struggles, adamant that people have it worse or that I am not worthy of help. Meaning that me and my low self esteem run into the arms of the first useless male I see. (This isn't me insinuating I find all males useless, simply that my choice in men is, well a bit fucking useless.) I have grown an attachment to these men who come and go from my life in the hope that they will hurt me before I hurt myself. A friend once said that my toxic relationship with men is my form of self harm. It is only in these last months I have seen that. My self esteem is so low that I truly believe I deserve the pain I suffer from those I let into my life.
Bringing me to my reluctant conclusion, that I need to be on my own. I need to learn to care for myself and to love myself rather than panicking and running into the arms of the first arsehole I meet. This is seemingly more difficult for myself now 4 years down the line, my separation from these people who temporarily fill the void in my life. Well the separation hurts, so much. I feel empty, in a way that I'm not sure anyone can fill. For the first time I have to say no to the toxicity of my relationships, no to the quick fix. I need to allow myself to go into counselling with an open mind and a sympathetic heart.
The fear of my 20's being overwhelmingly controlled by the extreme highs and lows that my mental health brings is the only thing pushing me on in this journey. For the first time in my life I cannot and will not rely on other people for my support. I will not mask the pain with more pain, I will not address my struggles when I'm low and disregard them when I'm high. If I want to keep myself alive, I need to learn to create a life where I can help myself.
*Now I realise this is in no way the thinking of the empowered young woman I thought myself to be, but I feel it important to be honest with my feelings and mistakes.
* if unlike me you don’t casually trivialise your crippling anxiety to this relatable acronym it means Fear Of Missing Out.