The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love Advice

Here’s why your single friend always gives the best relationship advice

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I give excellent dating advice. However, if you were to ask me for my dating credentials, I would hand you a blank piece of paper.

For some, being serially single is not a choice. But for me, it’s a lifestyle.

I have been single for all of my adult life, and I thoroughly enjoy the independence and solitude—which I know freaks people out. While some single people date, I do not.

So how does this make me—and other serially single people—expert at giving dating advice?

Let me let you in on a few secrets of the trade.

The first secret is not actually a secret but a well-known fact: Almost all forms of content are about love.

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Even content that exists outside of traditional romance genres usually includes love and sex. For example, that action movie you just watched, was there a romantic arc in it?


Most movies, television shows, and books have provided blueprints for all kinds of relationships. A lot of these blueprints have helped me understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

I’ve also read more than a fair share of fanfiction. Honestly, when you asked for my dating credentials, I could have sent you the link to AO3 and, if you’ve ever read any fanfiction, you’d have immediately understood why this gives me so much credible dating insight.

Even being someone who grew up alongside the Internet has made many of us mini experts on random topics. Most of us didn’t necessarily seek this information out; it just appeared on our Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram feeds.

Here’s the real secret: All relationships are the same.

Whether platonic or romantic, open or closed, monogamous or polyamorous, all relationships are made of the same ingredients. The dictionary definition of relationship describes the connection between people. And we all have experience with that. I may not date, but I do have lots of friends.

Some of my friendships have failed while others have thrived. This has helped me gain insight on communication, boundaries, and respect—insight that applies to both platonic and romantic relationships.

I’ve also watched most of my loved ones experience all kinds of different relationships. As you can imagine, being single gives those of us who are serially single plenty of free time to observe other people’s relationships—and, if you’re a Virgo like me, judge these relationships in order to perfect the advice we give to those who may (or may not) ask.

Just because your single friends haven’t dated anyone—casually, seriously, or at all—doesn’t mean we’re not familiar with the territory. All of our observations add to our dating advice credentials.

In fact, we’re kind of like therapists.

Because we’re removed from romantic situations, we have clarity uncolored by personal bias and experiences.

Most importantly, your serially single friends arguably have the most experience with prioritizing themselves and their needs. This makes us adept at keeping your best interests top of mind if you come to us for romantic advice.

We want you to be yourself and to love who you are. We will encourage you to take the time to learn more about your wants, needs, and goals before diving further into romance.

The best advice I can give as a serially single person is to try out being single. Being single has a lot of perks, the top of which is that it can give you the time, space, and energy to explore you who are.

I’m not saying everyone should be single. I’m just saying don’t knock it till you try it.

And, don’t worry. I promise I won’t say “I told you so” when you realize being single helped you become a better romantic partner.

Happy dating!

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The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love Advice

Did my therapist just compare dating to applying to a job?

Like many people in 2020, I found myself back on the job market. This meant scrolling endlessly—and swiping left often—through job listing after job listing. It was a tedious process and one that I found myself regaling to my therapist during many of our sessions.

While I was deterred by the countless lack of responses and emails starting with, “we regret to inform you…,” my therapist had a more positive outlook on the situation. They noted that job hunting is pretty similar to dating.

I was shocked—and a little disgusted. How could they equate something that should be fun with something that is the opposite of fun? However, the more I reflected, the more I realized my therapist was on to something.

Both dating and job searching have ups and downs, good experiences and terrible experiences. Both offer opportunities to learn about ourselves, our goals, and our wants and needs.

The point of dating and job hunting is to find the best match for us, often by presenting a more polished version of ourselves. Just like in job interviews, we probably shouldn’t go into detail on the woes of bacne or the injustice of fans’ treatment of Zayn post-1D. This isn’t first, second, or even third date material—although it could be for the right person.

Dating is about finding someone whose weird meshes with your weirdness, and the same can be said for job searching. Managers are looking to hire people who are not only qualified but who will be a good fit for the company.

During my job hunt process, I took a fashion risk and wore a leather skirt to an interview. My interviewers were not enthused, and I did not get the job. While it stung at the time, I’m grateful that I wasn’t hired; I would not be a good fit with a company so adamantly anti leather skirts. Jokes aside, this company cared more about what I was wearing than what I was bringing to the table. Their weird did not mesh with my weird and, looking back, that’s totally okay.

This isn’t always the mindset we have when dating. Sometimes it’s easier to hold on to past hurts and rejections. But if someone doesn’t want me for me, then thank goodness they were honest about it! Who wants to end up with a long-term partner that doesn’t even like them?

In a peculiar way, job hunting helped me realize that I don’t have to take dating—or any relationship, whether platonic or romantic—so personally. As the saying goes, you win some and you lose some. But, as a different saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

I think my therapist compared job hunting to dating to encourage me to find the value in the experience I was living through. Being too doom and gloom while job searching prevented me from taking in the sights along the journey. By comparing finding a job with dating, my therapist reminded me that dating can be fun. And even when it’s not fun, at least bad dates give us a story to tell our friends.

While I don’t think we should approach dating in the same way we do job hunting, I do think there are lessons to be learned from both. Admittedly, I wish the lesson was to write your cover letter like you would a dating profile. If it was as easy as that, all of my cover letters would start with: DTW (down to write)/ freaky grammar fetish (oxford commas and em-dashes excite me).

I like to believe the right match(es) for each of us is out there. Even if we have to apply to the partner role multiple times, and even if we discover that role is purely platonic. Just like life, dating is about the journey. Although, unlike life, dating is also about the destination. But that’s a different article.

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Mental Health Sexuality Love + Sex Love

My anti-depressants affected my ability to get turned on

It first started with porn. I wasn’t able to get turned on in spite of watching my collection of hot people going at it with each other. I stopped experiencing desire despite watching Christian Grey in Fifty Shades Freed, and Eyes Wide Shut did absolutely nothing for me. With time, I realized how my anti-depressants had affected me.

I have been struggling with depression for a long time and had been prescribed anti-depressants since the first time I was diagnosed. I have continued therapy and my tryst with pills simultaneously. The pills contributed to me getting up every morning which was a very good sign at that point. So, I popped them every day without fail. They helped uplift my mood, and somehow helped me manage my mood swings.

My therapist and my psychiatrist both managed to not get me addicted to my pills. Once you start relying on a drug to make you feel happy, it messes with your ability to smile, makes you doubt your happiness when you actually are happy. My drugs were my saviors, but my therapist was incredible enough to make me not doubt my increased endorphin level. However, there was a huge cost to my physical well-being along with the emotional one. I started dating only a few months after I started regularly having my pills. I went out with my then boyfriend a couple of times and it started getting serious. We kissed each other and took things slow. And, then I stopped getting turned on.

My inability to get aroused after watching porn could have been chalked off to circumstantial problems. But, when my partner started touching me I failed to feel the way I used to feel before. I was not only not aroused, I wasn’t even interested in the sexual aspect (which is weird because I love sex). Thinking it was a momentary issue, I decided that I would tried again later and eventually feel the usual ‘part and parcel of the mood’.

I did indeed start getting aroused but they were frequent spells, and not continuous lapses. I blamed it on stress, because I was absolutely serious about my then boyfriend and we had connected emotionally. Wasn’t emotional intimacy the gateway drug to pleasure and orgasm?

This affected my mental peace. I was a young girl and I wasn’t getting turned on, what was wrong with me? I stopped feeling sexy and started doubting myself. The only good aspect of this scenario was that I had a therapist I could count on, the non-judging breakfast club variety. I decided to elaborate my problems to her, because I mean I wanted to have sex! And lo and behold, my young self thought the problem was because of me! I was not getting in the mood, or even responding to being touched in my most pleasurable areas. Thankfully, she found the answer to my problems.

My goddamn anti-depressants were affecting my sex drive! My Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) were gradually reducing my pleasure quotient and affecting my ability to orgasm as well. Because I am living in India, my psychiatrist did not inform me about this particular negative effect of my pills.

Nobody openly talks about sex where I live so yeah, it is difficult. But, I finally understood why my lady parts weren’t being as vigorous as they used to before I started my pills.

Yes, I needed mental peace but what is mental peace if you can’t perform sexually or feel erotically charged? I am a sexual being, and I love to have sex, and I’m not ashamed about it! However, the fact that the only pills that helped me get up in the morning were affecting my problems getting into bed with the guy I wanted to really pissed me off.

This was a trade-off, I could continue with my anti-depressants and not get turned on easily, or I could rely solely on therapy and try to get back on track. Slowly, I did stop using my pills and I did get my va-jay-jay back on track but that ‘slowly’ indeed took a lot of time. I changed partners in the mean time because I could not make myself be with someone and let him sacrifice his sexual wants for my lack of desire.

This made me want to dig deep into the whole spectrum of having anti-depressants messing with getting turned on. I discovered I wasn’t the only person who was alone facing this problem. A host of other people have been having similar problems like me.

This goes out to all of you who had to compromise on your sexual health for your mental well-being. You shouldn’t have to do one without the other.

My fellow people, your sexual health matters as well.

So, find a good psychologist and try to solve this curious anti-depressant problem.

I helped solve mine, and currently I feel great (well I am getting better with my depression).

You owe yourself the pleasure of feeling great as well!

Health Care Wellness

Asking for help does not mean admitting defeat

Trigger Warning: Mentions suicide, anxiety and depression.

The first time I went to therapy was as a sophomore in college when a random panic attack before my first ever Honors’ class sent me spiraling all the way to the counselors’ office. I continued to go for the rest of the semester, grateful that the offices were tucked away discretely on campus so that I would never have to explain to friends what made me go to therapy. Two years later, my older brother died of suicide.

Armed with a tangible reason, I was no longer concerned about what people thought as I prioritized my mental health. The cluster of internal dilemmas within had never weighed heavily enough on the invisible scale of emotional pain before, but my brother’s death became a fitting ticket of validation that allowed me to seek help without being ashamed. And that thought haunts me.

My brother’s suicide was completely unforeseen. He was a charming, intelligent, friendly, and sensitive man who was loved by so many. He was a student at a university in Boston, worked full-time, and would only come home once in a couple of years. In his last message to us, he confessed that he felt like he was putting on an act of keeping it together. Other than the toxic society we all wade in and get contaminated by, my brother was also struggling with an internal dialogue he never let the rest of us in on. I spent months thinking about why he thought he wasn’t good enough, but even longer wondering what made him think he wasn’t even good enough to ask for help.

The cluster of internal dilemmas within had never weighed heavily enough on the invisible scale of emotional pain before, but my brother’s death became a fitting ticket of validation that allowed me to seek help without being ashamed.

It’s not that he didn’t have access to information or resources. In the past few years especially, the conversation around mental health awareness has continued to expand and include a variety of voices and experiences. However, as the conversation deepens, it often uncovers struggles that are far more ‘intense’ than our own. A person dealing with waves of anxiety may feel their pain outweighed by another person who battles crippling OCD.  A person with high-functioning depression will always seem better off than a person wrestling with paralyzing depression. The Pandora’s Box of information around mental health has finally opened but as we process this overwhelming amount of information, we often end up placing problems side by side on the same invisible scale my sophomore-self was using.

I understood anxiety as the feeling that envelops you during an overwhelming panic attack, when in fact that there can be layers of anxiety that lead up to it instead. As a student, I spent too many mornings before an exam heaving over a toilet bowl after a night of insomnia, and ending the day with a fever. Dubbed a nervous girl with a weak stomach, I didn’t realize the impact anxiety had on me until the full-blown panic attack in sophomore year. I remember the feeling of relief that settled into my chest as I was given an appointment with a therapist based on the panic attack. It almost felt like I was worthy enough to finally be helped, rather than being ‘dramatic’ or too sensitive.

Self-imposed shame is an obstacle for innumerable people around the world who have accepted mental health’s existence but cannot extend the dialogue to themselves without admitting defeat.

Because the conversation around mental health gained momentum only a few years ago, there are a lot of negative thoughts that we have internalized as an ignorant society that belittle the vast spectrum of mental health. If a mere headache can have layers of treatment – from an aspirin to eye-tests to MRIs – then why does the chronic sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach have to be deemed any less worthy? And yet, we wait for a breakdown to be able to relate all our newfound knowledge about mental health to ourselves. It’s easier to offer help, love, and support to those we care about so when we see a friend struggling, we help them discuss all their options without brushing the issue aside. But when it comes to ourselves, we decide independently that resources like therapy and medication are reserved for those who are ‘really suffering’.

This idea of self-imposed shame haunts me as it remains my biggest obstacle against helping myself. It was an obstacle for the 19 year old girl who didn’t know how to tell her friends she had to see a therapist because she was nervous and didn’t know why. It was an obstacle for my brother who hid behind a cloak of high-functioning depression for so long, it kept him from seeing how much he was struggling himself. And it’s an obstacle for innumerable people around the world who have accepted mental health’s existence but cannot extend the dialogue to themselves without judging themselves for being ‘weak’ or admitting defeat.

We shouldn’t need a dramatic life event to justify helping ourselves. Just like there are ways to cater to milder forms of physical ailments, there are also ways to cater to the mental challenges we go through every day. The judgmental thoughts that arise and keep us from doing so, are thoughts we internalized long before we had all the information we do today. To continue the progress this dialogue has made, we must also stop judging ourselves and equating the idea of self-help to a defeatist attitude. Our health is personal and does not need to be justified to, or validated by anyone else. In the past few years, we have made enormous strides in accepting the information around mental health; perhaps it’s time to destigmatize and accept its resources as well.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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Reproductive Rights Gender Advice Wellness Inequality Interviews

These Muslim domestic violence survivors saved themselves – now they’re working to save others

One day, Verona Collection co-founder, Lisa Vogl, went public with an incredibly painful story on her Instagram about the abuse she faced in her previous marriage. The post quickly snowballed, turning into an opportunity to raise awareness about domestic violence in the Muslim community – and what Muslims can do to prevent future abuse, rather than enable it.

Domestic violence is not particular to any race, religion or culture, and is rampant in the United States. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 4 women has been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in the U.S.

Salma Abugideiri, the founding board member of the Peaceful Families Project (PFP) and a licensed professional counselor, provided insight into domestic violence in the Muslim community.

According to a 2011 PFP survey, the number of Muslims affected by domestic violence is comparable to the national U.S. average. When asked about domestic violence in the Muslim community, Abugideiri stated that Vogl’s case is not an isolated incident. In fact,  she stressed that the matter of domestic abuse needs to be taken more seriously in the Muslim community.

The topic tends to get swept under the rug due to the value Muslims place on privacy, especially concerning family matters, as well as the pervasive idea that a person of faith wouldn’t face such issues.

That, of course, is far from the truth.

Lisa Vogl, who shared her heartbreaking story of being slapped, hit, kicked and even strangled while pregnant during her three years of marriage, thought long and hard before deciding to speak out. “No matter how many times I speak out about it and speak out on stage, I still cry, but I want to use what I went through to help others.”

Vogl made it clear that “this is not a Muslim issue and statistically there’s no difference based on education, race, ethnicity, religion; it happens across the board, but my community needs to step it up with how they handle the situation.” Vogl and her ex-husband went to four different counselors and multiple imams, and, unfortunately, only the non-Muslim therapist took the situation seriously.

On the other hand, they were told by some Muslims to pray, read more Quran, and be patient.

However, Vogl also stated that she wants to “paint the full and accurate picture that I had just as much, if not more help from Muslims. It was my Muslims friends who got me in the car, that paid for me to get to Orlando, that took me in.”

Salman Siddiqui, Director of Community Development at Islamic Circle of North America Relief (ICNA Relief) Central Florida, shared that the organization has opened eighteen women’s transitional houses and two domestic violence shelters in the United States.

When we asked if he felt that community leaders across the nation were properly helping survivors, Siddiqui responded, “I think, in our community, imams have good intentions and try to do their best from an Islamic point of view, but they might not be educated enough to help [survivors].” He believes that more education and courses on how to deal with domestic violence issues would help communities move forward.

Through PFP, Abugideiri has been working to educate imams to educate on how to react and provide assistance to domestic and sexual violence victims. “PFP hosts the National Imam and Chaplain training and workshops around the country to provide training to imams on how to recognize domestic violence, how to respond to it in a way that prioritizes the survivor’s safety and in a way that facilitates accountability in the abuser.” PFP also trains community leaders to learn how to work collaboratively with other advocates and professionals to develop a coordinated community response.

Sheerin Siddique, an attorney, blogger, secretary of the Women’s March Michigan, and survivor, has been outspoken for years about her ten-year-long marriage filled with emotional, spiritual, and physical abuse. For Siddique, divorce was never an option for her, even though the abuse started right from the beginning. “He hit me, bit me, even pushed me down the stairs. He was so possessive and very critical in all aspects, from my height to my looks to my personality. He would ask me if I was really a Muslim and if I prayed.”

Siddique also spoke to imams and was even kicked out of her home by her ex-husband, all while an imam was present. However, she was told by the imam to “give it some more time and keep trying.”

What finally pushed her to leave the marriage came during one particular night of rage: “The night that I left, my three daughters were sleeping in their room, and he came upstairs screaming and shouting, and he literally started choking me. At that point, I knew he was going to kill me, and all I kept thinking was what is going to happen to my girls if I die.”

In both Vogl and Siddique’s cases, the fear of being killed was the final push that led these women to leave their homes. Vogl explained that “abuse does so much to you that you end up thinking that you need the abuser. I was so broken down inside that I felt like I couldn’t live without him, not the other way around.”

Unfortunately, even in the light of stories like Vogl and Siddique, our community continues to stay in denial. Rather than standing up for survivors, many still encourage patience and prayer, regardless of the situation.

In response, Abugideiri says that she talks about safety: “Safety might be that you stay home and he leaves. Safety might be that you separate for a while. Safety might be that somebody comes to live with you. Safety can take lots of different forms. If in exploring safety, leaving is the best option, then it’s really important that, as Muslims, we understand that divorce is not a sin. [In fact,] in the Quran, God said to stay together in kindness or separate with kindness.”


If you or anyone you know has been affected by domestic violence, please reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. To bring imam and chaplain training to your area, contact the Peaceful Families Project.

Editor's Picks Health Care Love Wellness

My therapist gave me permission to hurt myself. It changed my life forever.

“I give you permission to hurt yourself.”

I remember staring in shock at my therapist. I’d been stunned to silence, which was a terrible use of my weekly 50-minute session that I had with him. A scabbed up patch of skin on my shoulder itched with exhibitionism.

No one had ever said it was okay to self-harm before.

I had checked myself into the counseling center at the start of my second semester of college. In fact, I’d skipped a class on Monday morning after winter break to go. My first semester hadn’t ended in the way that I’d hoped.

Instead of celebrating the end of finals, I’d spent the day before my last exam in bed, mentally writing out a suicide note – collecting a mental list of resources in my dorm room, and picturing a long, restful sleep.

That wasn’t the ending I wanted anymore.

My therapist was gentle and kind, with brown eyes and a soft salt-and-pepper beard that made his thin face appear bearish. He was a small person with an affinity for sweater vests.

When I showed him my handiwork, he didn’t balk, he didn’t stir. I remember him sleepily blinking behind his wire-rimmed frames and leaning back in his chair. He assessed my posture – head dropped in shame, shoulders caving and asked a question no one had asked before.

“What do you do when you cut?” he asked. My mouth went dry.

I explained what I’d called my ‘rituals’. How I spent an hour before, and an hour after cleaning every tool I used. How I minimized risk and injury by using new tools and strong antiseptics. How after, I would cloister myself in the bathroom, carefully, gently scrubbing my wounds, applying salves, and bandaging them with care and tenderness.

A tenderness that, in months of working with me, he’d never heard.

“You do realize, that in the moments after you feel that you’ve committed the most self-harm, you also commit the most self-love?”

I felt like I’d fallen off the couch. I still can hear his gentle, contemplative voice as he offered the analysis of my behavior, posed as a question to draw the realization out of me. And through that, we had a plan.

“I give you permission to harm yourself.” Only if, he said, I continued to love myself.

My therapist did not shame me for self-harmase countless people had before. He saw it for what it was; a release of deep-seated rage, of inadequacy, ignited by years of parental neglect and abuse. I did not hate myself, I was just desperate for release.

In time, he suggested using a marker to make red lines on my skin instead of a blade. Soon, I was writing words on my arms or drawing flowers where I’d normally torn my body apart. Soon, the marker was transferred to paper, coming out in a kind of poetry that was like a stream of consciousness. I started to paint.

When my mind cooled, I could focus on how my body was feeling. For me, anxiety comes up in a slow tide, that washes me from my toes to my head in a constrictive blanket – like lava overwhelming a coastline, bringing everything to a halt in heavy, oppressive, molten earth.

I had to break the sarcophagus of anxiety. So I started to run.

I anxiously awaited the end of the year, when he would stay in my college town, and I would head home for the summer – back to a home that had ignored the volcano of depression inside of me.

But I had been painting, writing, publishing poetry, and exercising every day. When I met him in May, the shackles of mental illness were looser. They would never be completely gone – but I could breathe, and I could live.

“I’ll see you in August,” he said with a smile. “I’m confident you have the tools for this.”

My toolbox had once been a razor blade, a roll of gauze, a bottle of antiseptic, a candle and a lighter. Now, it was a notebook, a paintbrush, a pen, and a pair of running shoes.

When did I change? When did I start loving myself?

My therapist had a secret. I always had.

Love Life Stories Wellness

It took losing my mind to finally get help

It’s no big secret that the first year or two of college is difficult for many people.

Mental health issues often manifest – or grow worse – because of stress and a lack of stability. Leaving home for the first time can be scary, and figuring out how to live as an adult with a myriad of responsibilities is difficult. 

My first semester of college started off great, and the freedom was exhilarating. I was one of those high schoolers who couldn’t wait to move out, and I was excited to be on my own. The first few months were mostly fun, as classes were easy and everything was new and fun.

Slowly, however, being far from family and not having many friends combined with all my new responsibilities made life hard. By the second semester, I started struggling with depression and OCD symptoms. I had struggled with anxiety throughout my teen years, but it wasn’t too serious up until this point.

Thanks to the media, there are many myths about OCD. I believed some of those myths, too. I imagined repetitive hand-washing and other behaviors centered around cleanliness. I also had the misconception that being very uptight about cleanliness or tidiness was equivalent to having OCD.

While for some people these kinds of behaviors do show up, for other people like me, avoidant behaviors are also common. I found myself not being able to leave the house as I wanted to avoid anything that would trigger my obsessive thoughts.

My thoughts centered around religious fears and worries that I would end up harming another person. I worried I would lose control of myself, and I spent hours studying up on my religion and hyper-focusing. This type of OCD is known as scrupulosity and is not uncommon. I thought I was losing my mind.

I worried that I was a horrible person because no matter what I did I couldn’t stop these intrusive thoughts. I thought I was defective and didn’t realize this is a mental health condition that many people experience.

I had always been a devout student, and I was dedicated to getting straight A’s. But as my mental health deteriorated, I could barely get out of bed in the morning. I skipped multiple classes a week, and my grades began to drop. This was devastating for me, but I was unable to function no matter how hard I tried.

My social life was also impacted.

I had moved to college knowing few people in the area, and, while I had started to make new friends the first semester, my depression and anxiety kept me in my tiny dorm room day in and out. I wasn’t meeting any new people, and this might me feel even more down about myself as I felt like I had no one in the area that was there for me.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a two-fold situation where you have obsessive thoughts combined with a compulsive behavior that you perform to try and stop those thoughts. I had always known about the behavioral part, the hand-washing thing people always think of, but never known how the intrusive thoughts played in.  

Now, I was never diagnosed with OCD, but I have been diagnosed with OCD tendencies after the severity of my symptoms subsided.

The merits of being officially diagnosed can be debated, but I will just leave it there for now.

Finally, after a few months of torture and many days of feeling suicidal, I reached out for help.

I was put on an SSRI for the first time and noticed a difference in just a couple of weeks. I know I was lucky in this regard as sometimes finding a medication that works can be a much longer process, but for me, these medications saved my life and allowed me to continue on with college. I was able to focus on my classes again and salvage my grades for the most part.

Getting medical help got me back on the path I wanted to be on, and I know I couldn’t have done so without medication.

There is no shame in getting medical help.

For me, learning about the nature of OCD, helped me heal, too. If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts avoidant or compulsive behaviors, there are options available to help you. If I had known what intrusive, obsessive thoughts were and how they work, I would have been able to get help a lot sooner.

Gender & Identity Wellness Life

I didn’t want to go to therapy – until I was finally forced to

I’ve had a multitude of mental health issues that, throughout my life, I was never able to properly address.

My anxiety and depression came to a boiling point over the summer and I was finally forced to seek the help I needed. I tried different antidepressants and mood stabilizers, many of them giving me unbearable side effects such as vomiting, sleeping for 12 hours, and raging migraines.

I finally found a medication that I could tolerate, so that was a relief. But I knew that medication alone was not going to solve all my problems; I had deeper issues relating to my family and childhood that I needed to address.

Despite struggling with mental illness for a large portion of my life, I had never seriously considered seeing a therapist. I never seemed to have the time and I wasn’t sure how much good a therapy session could do. I thought it might be awkward. I didn’t know if I would trust the professional I would be meeting with.

I found plenty of excuses to never explore therapy and looking back, I paid the price for it.

After getting my medicine on track, I decided to try seeing a therapist. I was at a crisis point in my life and I knew I should be receiving all the help I could get. I found a psychologist who focuses on women, children, and the family unit, and I scheduled an appointment. I was feeling low and realized I needed more resources than just the pills my psychiatrist could provide me.

But the day of my first appointment, I dreaded going. I was nervous and didn’t know if it was going to benefit me or be a waste of time. I had no idea what to expect. Since my emotions were all over the place, I had little hope for the first meeting.

I walked into the therapist’s office and sat down. I looked at her dully and asked, “How do I start?”

She responded, “Anyway you want.”

I proceeded to rattle off my recent overdose attempts, my depression and anxiety that I now understood had plagued me for years but I had been able to mask, my dysfunctional family, my strained relationship with my father, my frustration with the job search, and my heightened anxiety from living in the current political climate in America. She wrote furiously on a pad of paper.

In my first session, I removed so many burdens from my shoulders. My therapist validated and addressed my anger, my fears, and my frustrations. It felt amazing.

It was gratifying to have a non-biased party give me advice and walk me through my problems. It was so refreshing to talk through issues with a professional who has 20 years of experience, as opposed to venting to my mother and getting the same unhelpful feedback. I found a space where I would be validated and encouraged. I knew my concerns would not be diminished or ignored.

When I left her office, I felt like I could breathe again.

I felt like I had some amount of control over my life, whereas a few weeks prior, I had been spiraling. As cheesy as this sounds, I couldn’t wait to see my therapist again the following week. I had found my first interaction with her to be so insightful that I knew future meetings with her would only help me get my life back together.

I had finally had the resources to deal with my heavy emotions surrounding my family and childhood. In the midst of my stressful and abysmal family situation, I found a safe space.

I continue to see my therapist on a regular basis, and I would encourage anyone who has the means and is thinking about scheduling an appointment to do so. Seeing a therapist does not make you “weak” or “crazy.” Mental health is important, and it should be treated like any other disease or injury.

If you break your leg, you see a doctor immediately to put a cast on it. When your mental health is at stake, you seek out mental health professionals as soon as possible.

When I became open to the possibility of a therapist helping me, my life changed direction for the better.


If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I thought I’d buried my secret – until my best friend was assaulted

Editor’s Note: The following narrative might be triggering for some readers. 


My life was the definition of perfection.

I was surrounded by people who loved me – a happy family, great best friends, and a sweet, caring boyfriend. I had a new job waiting for me right after my graduation. There was nothing more I could ask for. I couldn’t be more grateful for what I had.

But one day, something happened that turned my life upside down.

One of my best friends was sexually assaulted by her own family member. Of all of us, I was the closest to her and she trusted me in everything. So after it happened, I was the person she confided in. She was hoping that I could help her, at least by being there and give her support.

But I couldn’t.

I thought I could. But the moment she finished telling me everything that happened to her, the shivers started to creep up in my body. I felt shocked, sick and disturbed. But there was something more that I couldn’t explain. Her incident has brought something out in me, that I was trying to hide – my own trauma.

I went through the same thing years ago when I was a child.

At that time, my parents trusted my uncle, my mother’s younger brother, to look after me. My parents were both working and my brother was in a boarding school, so there was no one else except my uncle.

I didn’t question their decision although deep inside me, I could feel something was off. I was never comfortable with him, but I couldn’t see anything wrong with him. He was nice and treated me well by showering me with toys and gifts. But no matter how much he pampered me, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of uneasiness off in me.

There was one more thing he did to me.

He touched me, a lot.

In an inappropriate way. As an innocent and naïve little girl, I didn’t know what he was doing. I didn’t know it was wrong.

It lasted for years until he got married and moved away. Now, I’ve learned the truth about what he did.

He molested me. He took advantage of my innocence and powerlessness. I suddenly felt sick and disgusted and betrayed. There was too much shame in me. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents and my brother.

I knew that some people had it worse than me. I was only molested, not raped. Maybe my trauma wasn’t that bad.

Maybe I could just forget it.

I thought it worked. Little did I know, it scarred me for life. I blocked it from my mind, but it was always there, imprinted in the back of my head. As I grew up as an introverted, shy girl with social anxiety. I had extreme trust issues, even with the people I knew. I built a wall around myself to block everyone from hurting me. These were all the results of my uncle’s nasty behavior, without me realizing it.

But finally, I did, after hearing about my friend’s sickening situation. Not long after that, I broke down in tears.

Suddenly I realized the burden I’d been carrying all this time. I was already dead from the inside. Waking up in the morning was my resurrection, only to have my soul killed again every day.

I needed help. Professional help from experts.

To cut the story short, after a long list of therapists, I finally found the good one. I expected her to give me advice and tell me what to do, but I was wrong. My therapist could see my trauma, just from one glance.

And I hadn’t even said a word yet.

It wasn’t clinical at all. She was a very comforting and understanding person. She had her own way of getting me to open up. For the first time in my life, I could fully trust someone about my problem.

I told her all the story of my past without leaving any detail out and right after that, it felt as if the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. Sharing it also felt like letting it go, not everything at once – but gradually.

It took months for this healing process to work.

Slowly I recovered from the phobia and the trigger symptoms in me were less severe than before. Throughout the process, I figured out that the reason why I kept it as a secret. It wasn’t just because of the shame, but telling someone felt like going back to the horrendous past. That was exactly what my therapist didn’t do. She made sure that I felt loved, supported and knew that I was never alone instead of challenging my veracity.

I couldn’t help my friend while I still had my own issues unsolved. But this time, I’d make sure that she’d get the love and support she needs.

Love Life Stories

When I finally decided to show the world my real self, I was terrified nobody would like me

I’ve always been a pretty bubbly, positive, happy-go-lucky sort of gal – to the outside world. However, up until around a year ago, I felt like I was living in conflict with myself. I would be smiling and joking around with friends and family, but when I was alone with myself, I would become my own worst enemy.

It pretty much started when I graduated from college and moved back home. The transition was difficult for me. I missed my roommates and didn’t realize how much my happiness had depended on being surrounded by friends.

Around that time I developed this fear that if I showed my authentic self to others, I would not be accepted or loved.

I thought that if I showed my “negative” emotions, people would want to stay away from me. I created a double standard for myself; if someone opened up to me I thought they were brave, and yet if I opened up to someone else it was an act of weakness.

These irrational beliefs felt like the truth to me. I realize now that it’s actually the opposite; showing vulnerabilities is what brings me closer to my loved ones.

I began to have such high expectations of myself. In order to be the best daughter, cousin, niece, friend, employee, etc. I had to hide my true self. While my intentions were good, they were causing a lot of damage in the self-esteem department. In order to avoid displeasing the people in my life, I ended up disliking who I was.

I had some trustworthy loved ones who I felt like I could be a hot mess in front of, but at the end of the day, the person I was stuck with 24/7 was myself.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but a point came when I finally decided I would break this cycle of self-loathing- even if it meant facing the darkest and scariest emotions. I realized that you could be surrounded by all the loving family and friends in the world, but if you don’t love yourself, then nothing will feel good enough.

I began going to therapy. I reconnected with my faith and begged God to help me learn how to help myself. I journaled about my feelings and began to look at them with compassion rather than criticism.

I created a box of letters, notes, and anything positive that loved ones had given me over the years. Whenever I felt low, I would turn to the box and go through it, reminding myself that I made a difference in these people’s lives.

I went on retreats. I got involved in my community. I basically forced myself to do the things that I knew would make me feel fulfilled.

And that’s when little miracles began to take place in my life. I was nominated by a lovely author, Tami Shaikh, to be a part of a South Asian Women Leadership Retreat, where I met incredibly successful women who got deep and personal. Through this, I was able to break free from the illusion that I was alone. I also began to find life-changing books, YouTube videos, quotes, and mentors who believed in me.

It’s not considered cool to talk about your self-doubts and insecurities, but I believe that when we avoid these types of conversations, we miss out on valuable opportunities to truly connect with others.

One powerful exercise for me was something my therapist, Linda taught me. “Find a few photographs of yourself when you were a little girl,” she said.  “Then put them in some nice frames around your living space along with the wallpaper of your phone. When you’re being hard on yourself, just look at the photos and see if you still feel the same way.”

I was amazed at how this one small act led me to actually start liking myself. Every time I saw the photos, I couldn’t help but feel love and compassion towards myself, because deep down in my 24-year-old body, was an innocent little girl who simply needed to feel safe and protected.

One of the photos I used for the experiment

Now, whenever I mess up, I think of the photo of the sweet, little girl and ask myself how I would speak to her if she made the same mistake. It would be cruel to yell at a child for not being perfect, so why is it okay to beat myself up just because I’m a so-called adult? As my therapist taught me, adults are just children in grown up bodies.

Through this bump in the road, I learned that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

Disliking yourself is natural at times, as long as you aren’t stuck in that rut. And self love is not just some cheesy phrase, it’s a key ingredient for contentment and inner peace. Now, I am more than happy to show up and be seen for who I am, and I hope that nobody has to feel like their true self is not worthy enough to be seen.

By choosing authenticity, we begin to attract the right people and situations into our lives.

It may not happen overnight, but it’s definitely worth the struggle.