If You’re Single & Not Exploring Virtual Dating, It’s OK
I recently had a socially distanced hang out with a single friend and we shared our frustration with everyone wanting to know more if we were we virtual dating than they asked how we were faring with this time inside altogether. In the past few months, I've seen an overwhelming amount of "virtual dating" content for singles and quite frankly, I'm over it. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the world and dating apps have made it clear that as a single person during this quarantine, your job is to date––not spend time with yourself, save money, learn how to bake an olive oil cake (that's next for me), but to find someone to spend your life with.
Still, I get it. Quarantine season hasn't decreased how much people longing for a romantic partner might want to have one. In fact, this time has invited feelings of loneliness and depression into some people's lives as they find themselves starving for human connection, especially those living alone. But, that's not everyone's reality. So while I understand the need for companies to speak to singles and let them know there is still a way to communicate with people while you're social distancing, if you choose to not participate in virtual dating, you should know that choice is just as acceptable.
If you're spending virtual time with a new bae or quarantined with someone special, that's great––but if you aren't, here are other things you can explore to expand your single life in quarantine.
Are you in touch with how you really feel?
Assessing how you're feeling should be a priority period, but we often overlook that for single women. We spend so much time learning how to be better partners, parents, and people that we often don't look out for what needs we could be neglecting to feel within ourselves. While I'll admit that too much alone time inside has been triggering, I can't ever say that sitting with my thoughts hasn't given me clarity on what I need and how moving forward, I can move through my feelings.
Do you want to be in a relationship at all?
I've realized that as much as I say I want to be in a relationship, this time alone has allowed me to be laser-focused on my goals in ways that I never had when I wasn't single, so I often wonder were my cries for companionship even necessary? I want love, and a family but I truly believe that there are instances in life where it needs to be about you, and only you - and that's where I am right now. Additionally, you should also ask yourself what type of relationship you desire to be in, what you desire from your partner, and what type of person you want to be to them, and for them.
Do you want marriage and/or kids?
As I've matured, so has my friend circle and I've come across many women who have never had the white dress Cinderella fantasies that many people (including myself) have had about marriage and being a mother. There are many women who feel full and lead full lives without ever wanting to add a partner or children to the equation. If you're single and feel mentally, emotionally, and financially prepared for children, perhaps it's time to ask yourself if that's something you desire at all.
What do you want your potential partner to know and love about you?
As a Black woman who is unlearning and embracing my duality, it's important to me that my partner loves every part of who I am. In past relationships, I walked away feeling like I often didn't let men see who I really was. There are men that I've dated that don't know I'm funny, or that I can sing but because I'm really shy I only do it around people that I feel safe with. For some time it bothered me to know that I've never felt like I could be my full self, and I never want to feel like that again.
Are you avoiding anything by not dating?
While there are moments in life that are meant for solitude, there is a point where avoiding enters the chat and you need to ask yourself are you single because you haven't found someone, or are you self-sabotaging due to trauma from past relationships, avoiding vulnerability, and replaying moments of pain that occurred during your childhood? Asking yourself those open-ended questions and allowing space and truth to answer them could be what's missing in your journey to meeting the person for you.
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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