Monday 23 April 2018

Dear Mary: Infatuation with Hollywood actress adds to my misery

Man sitting on stairs
Man sitting on stairs

Mary O'Conor

I AM approaching my late 30s, and since leaving school all those years ago, what should have been an optimistic period in my life has been nothing short of a litany of disappointments in every way possible. Instead of pursuing my ambition of being an actor, since I graduated with my degree all I've done is pursue so-called 'real' jobs I'm ambivalent at best about getting, and the employment experiences I've had have all ended in acrimony.

I was sacked in the wrong from my last job this time last year and the bitterness over the way I was treated is still festering. I have never been in a relationship with a woman – every woman I was ever attracted to has rejected me, and since my mid-20s I have assumed a less proactive stance, in that I no longer run the risk of rejection. I am in an amateur dramatics group at the moment and there is a woman I'm attracted to, but to my knowledge she has a boyfriend who lives abroad and I avoid her when I can. I also have the added problem of cultivating infatuations with film actresses.

At the moment, I am grappling with an infatuation with Anne Hathaway, which has been ongoing for almost two years. She is in my thoughts when I wake up in the morning, and she looms unwelcomingly large for most of the day, and I use the term unwelcome because she is unobtainable.

Since this started I have avoided going to every film she has released, shunning her films on principle as I have no doubt she would shun me because of my social and economic status. I make sure I am not at home if one of her films happens to be on TV, but such a stance requires a level of indifference that does not come naturally.

Frankly, I am not helped by reminders of her current film and accompanying articles about her in newspapers I buy without my prior knowledge of their inclusion, and magazine covers mentioning her marriage which made me miserable enough to deliberately almost walk out under a bus just before Christmas.

Recently, I was travelling back out home from the city centre and the bus stopped at a shelter that bore an image of her face, and I had to obscure it with a cluster of pictures which accompanied a newspaper article I was reading, which I guess tells its own story.

As you can imagine, she is the raw material for a great deal of fantasy, which alternates between pleasant and hate-filled. I can't read a novel without seeing her likeness in the prominent female characters.

For almost two years I have been seeing a mental health doctor on the recommendation of my GP, but this process has been ineffectual, as I have been bounced between specialists and often have to wait four-five months at a time for an inconsequential five-minute meeting. I'm waiting to see a psychologist, this may happen this year, it may not.

I can't talk to my parents about this for reasons I would rather not elaborate on here. But my real problem is how do I deal with an obsession I am trying to control when the object of my obsession is being dangled in front of me to look at but can't touch? I have shed tears over my inferiority complex to this woman and inside I am bleeding and crying.

Mary Replies:

YOUR letter makes me angry and sad. Angry at the ineffectiveness of the HSE, due not to the inadequacy of the medical staff, but rather to the lack of funding. And I am sad that you have been through such mental anguish over a long period of time. The acting profession is notoriously difficult in that jobs are thin on the ground and many actors work in other professions as well. Added to that there is no long-term employment, no pension, no health insurance, and above all there is constant rejection as only one person gets a part that many actors will read for. So as well as being artistic and sensitive, they have to have a very thick skin. You have taken the route of going into amateur dramatics, which seems to me to be a very good decision, given that you have run into problems with rejection in different areas of your life.

Regarding the obsession with film actors – currently Anne Hathaway – this needs to be dealt with on a professional basis and would require you to see somebody regularly in order to make progress. I feel that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may suit you very well. CBT uses a number of techniques directed at Cognitive (thinking) and Behaviour in order to help with various emotional difficulties. No forms of counselling are funded by the HSE and so you would have to pay for it yourself, but as they work in a solution-focused way and in a time-limited framework, it should be financially possible for you.

Website will explain CBT in more detail. It is so wrong that you are going through all of this virtually on your own, so please seek help.

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