My first real relationship wasn't a relationship at all - there was another girl, it was messy and complicated, abusive and manipulative and addictive and, at the end of the day, physically unfulfilling and emotionally draining. We were reckless and wild and it was very intense, for a pair of sixteen year old fools. I thought it was love.
I thought it was love because I get attached to people, easily. I thought it was love because I'd never had that kind of chemistry with anyone else, before - it was a relationship that went from zero to a hundred miles per hour and then hit a wall and exploded. We disagreed on basically everything but there was a powerful intellectual connection, a bond between two people who loved and admired intelligence and intelligent conversation. I thought it was love because in between the neglect and cruelty and drama there were glimmers of kindness, and when you are young and lonely and vulnerable that's all you really want, really.
He left because I am a difficult sort of person and he had less complicated people with less complicated demands to attend to. And when he left, it felt like the world was falling apart. I missed the intensity of our relationship. Everything we did was intense - our conversation, our fights and, in stolen moments, other things, too. It was a destructive relationship and we were slowly destroying each other but I didn't care, because it was all I had. And for two years I had a pair of arms to run to, to hold me tight, to shield me from the world when the world got too dark and scary. For two years I had a shoulder to cry on, a friend who was always there come hell or high water.
But now, nothing. I see pictures of him and there's nothing - no rush of affection, no surge of hate. When I see him in person I irrationally panic and it's very scary - almost as scary as the cognitive dissonance of being afraid of the one person who used to make me feel safe. But after that, nothing. It is as if two years of hugging and kissing and fighting and loving never happened. It is as if five years ago I never laid eyes on a beautiful laughing boy and sighed with longing.
A month or so after that ended it happened all over again. I thought two years was a whirlwind; this was a blisteringly intense two weeks. The first time I met him there was that instant attraction, all over again; and for two weeks chemistry simmered. We were reckless and ran wild, and he was ferociously intelligent; verbal sparring is when I feel most at home, because I have become so comfortable with manipulating words. I felt alive again, after a month of lying in bed, feeling dead. There's nothing in the world like having eyes and hands and lips on you.
And then I felt it, again; that rush, that thing I used to think of as love. We were lying in bed, all tangled up, talking. It was crazy, getting that rush that had slowly built up over two years after just two weeks. And that's when I realized I'd never really been in love.
I am addicted to physical contact. I have never been on any kind of medication for my depression, so oxytocin is my only antidepressant. I have never been able to form a close bond in relationships that didn't involve a lot of physical contact; and my strongest relationships have always been ones that have had some kind of sexual element to them. When R left, he accused me of never loving him, and perhaps that is true. Perhaps all I have known of love is the rush of oxytocin that comes when a boy you have a crush on hugs you hard, and often, and kisses you on a park bench on a sunny winter's day. Perhaps all I have known of love is that feeling that bubbles up when you're lying in bed with someone who has their arm around you and their lips in your hair. I was attracted to these boys above and beyond the rush; they were both charming, charismatic, loveable; but we were rreconcilably different and I was always aware that a relationship was neither achievable nor desirable. I loved them as friends and valued their company, their conversation, those moments of kindness when they swept in and defended me or swept me away from my demons. But most of it is oxytocin, I think - that rush of irrational content and happiness that sates my unfortunate predisposition towards melancholia. I know that seems harsh and clinical, as if I use sex and people like a drug but in that hopeless, vulnerable dependency I think there is something real and visceral in these oxytocin relationships. I literally depended on you, for my survival. You were literally the glue holding me together, and I would have done anything to keep you with me, because I literally cannot live without you. But evidently my best effort to keep you good and safe just isn't good enough. And evidently you did not love me enough to keep me alive.
I am doing well enough, for now, without my oxytocin. I know now that I am not ready for love. But I know that I need to feel that warm glow of contentment, soon. The first time I found it it was in something ugly and addictive and all-consuming - the second time looks worse on paper but was all in all a much healthier, if much less long-lived, affair. I know something as sinister as an oxytocin addiction can be sated in someone good and wholesome and sincere, and that you can make them happy. But I am not stupid enough to think it is love, not anymore. Love is something more than that.