Dear Doc NerdLove,
Discovered your column and YouTube channel a couple weeks back and decided to write to you for advice about a pretty hairy situation I’ve found myself in.
Some background, I’m a single man in his late thirties who has been living in Louisiana for most of his life. Due a childhood where I suffered abuse at the hands of a stepparent, I have found it difficult to socialize, have difficulty talking about my emotions and have suffered from severe mental problems. Needless to say, my attempts at any form of romantic relationship have ranged from “went nowhere” to “complete disaster” and I’ve generally not sought anything of the kind for a number of years. Further compounding things is that I live in a very economically run down part of the state and therefore have difficulty finding steady work, am frequently broke and need to rely on my family for financial assistance. I have suffered frequently from depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts as a result of this. Things got particularly bad for me in 2015. Lack of response on job inquiries for several months, growing alienation from my conservative family, and just feeling lonely and like I had no future, that sort of thing. I was suffering panic attacks, losing sleep and was emotionally and physically exhausted. I felt like I couldn’t hold out much longer.
Then some woman-hating asshole shot up a movie theater in Lafayette and that’s where a friend of mine comes in. Let’s call her H. I had met her years before through a forum dedicated to B-movies and weird cinema. I found her to be an incredibly kind, funny and intelligent person and was delighted that she had similar interests to mine. Though it was a while before the two of us met off-line, we became fairly good friends through social media and chatting and now get together face-to-face whenever we can. A few years back, things had gotten to a point where I wanted to see if H was interested in being more than friends but a bad experience with admitting romantic interest to a friend in the past left me hesitant to do anything. When it came to light that H had hooked up with another member of our circle of friends — let’s call him D — I figured “Oh well, shit out of luck again” and I thought that was the end of that. We were still good friends, after all.
Fast forward to 2015, H was going through a bad time as well. Her father, who she was very close to, passed away, leaving her an emotional wreck. She was depressed all the time, her relationship with D was becoming strained, and felt as though everything was falling apart for her. Well, when she heard that there was a mass shooting in my neck of the woods and she couldn’t reach me all day (I was at my sister’s, babysitting my niece, and phone reception and internet service there was spotty) she began to worry that something had happened to me. When I finally got online that night, I found a message from her that read: “I really need to know that you’re okay.”
Getting that message shook me up. Here I was, thinking myself to be a burden on everyone and thinking maybe it would be for the best if I was just…gone…and here’s this person who lives halfway across the country, going through all that she was going through, worrying about me. It was a reminder that somebody gave a shit if I died and suddenly I found that I couldn’t go through with committing suicide. Those thoughts didn’t just magically go away, mind, but when they came, all I could think about was H, all the things she was dealing with and this little voice would tell me, “you do this and it will kill her.”
In the months that followed, as H and I did whatever we could to support each and help one another through what we were going through, I realized I was very much in love with her. And realizing this left me a little scared because you see, H and D moved in together back around 2010, have stayed together since, and despite some problems, anybody can see that the two of them are still very much in love with each other. Now, I’m not as close to D as I am H, but he’s been good to me for as long as I’ve known him and he recognizes that mine and H friendship is important to her. I really like the guy.
And so, I have never told H how she stopped me from killing myself, beyond some vague statements about “helping me through a rough patch.” I worried that if I told her about it, it would lead to her finding out about how I feel about her and I just did not want to dump that sort of drama on the two of them. (I figure if H finds out, D going to find out.) I didn’t want her to feel “girlfriend zoned,” y’know? I thought that if I kept quiet that maybe these feelings for her would just die down and fade away with time, and for brief moment it looked like they did, during a period where financial problems kept me from traveling for a while. Then I had finally gotten to where I could afford going to meet up with everybody at a B-movie film festival earlier this year and there she was. After being around her, seeing how happy she was to see me again and the great time we had, those feelings didn’t so much as come creeping back as they kicked down my front door and mugged me. I’ve been miserable ever since I got back from this trip.
Well, over the past couple of months, I’ve come around to the idea that telling H may be the only way to get over her. It took a ton of effort to come to this but I’ve attempted to write to her, explaining everything. (Figured she deserves something more personal than an e-mail but I’m worried I might lose my nerve if I tried face-to-face or over the phone.) Unfortunately, attempts to write this have felt like open heart surgery being performed without anesthetic. I’m scared of how my friendship with H and D will change once they find out, I’m scared of how this may affect our group of mutual friends, and I’ll admit, I’m terrified of how much letting go of her is going to hurt. So it seems that every time I make some progress on this, just when I think that I trust the two of them enough to believe they will be understanding and sympathetic, the doubts come roaring in. They tell me what an awful idea this is, how I shouldn’t be putting H and D in this position, that they’ll resent me for doing so, you’re going to make a fool of yourself etc., etc. Several times I’ve come close to taking everything I’ve written, tearing it up and keeping my damn mouth shut.
I’ve sought advice from friends outside of our mutuals and its ranged from saying that I should just tell her how grateful I am she helped me in the past but that telling her I’m in love with her would just cause things to go south to a friend who had been in a similar situation telling me that I should tell them everything for the sake of my mental and emotional well-being. I guessed that maybe I need some help on how to go through with this one more time before I finally finish it and that’s where you come in, as I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get it from a professional and impartial outsider. So here’s my question, Doc: am I doing the right thing by telling her and if so, how would you advise I go about doing so and maybe some idea on how to deal with any possible fallout from this, good or bad?
Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t