This week, after putting some serious time into considering the possibility, I decided I had a crush on a friend of mine. On three separate occasions I told each of my partners and this friend about my discovery.

“… and today is different from before how?”
“Well… yeah.”
“I knew… and I thought I was oblivious.”

Each of these people found this hilarious, because of course I have a crush on her. Everyone knows this!

I used to get lots of crushes. And for a while there I pursued pretty much all of them. At one point I was dating four people. That, for me, is a lot. Then one of them moved (and eventually decided to let me know they’d done so). Another one was self-medicating way too much, and we amicably parted, not being terribly good for one another at that point. The remaining two relationships flourished, and are still flourishing. It’s been amazing.

After that point I still had a crush here and there. Every once in a while I’d flirt with them, or more. But far less often than before. My energy went into my existing relationships. Building them, strengthening them. Proceeding deliberately (or as deliberately as we could manage). The last time I had a crush… and I don’t mean merely finding someone hot, or enjoying their company. I mean that kind of thing where your legs feel a little wobbly and your entire torso feels full of butterflies whenever you really pay attention to them. The last time I had a crush on someone who wasn’t one of my partners, and pursued it, we had a great time together. We clicked, emotionally and physically. It was awesome. But what she needed from me was something I didn’t have the resources to give. Because of that we had to stop seeing each other, even as friends, for a good long while.

That hurt. And with that hurt I just… stopped having crushes. I placed a moratorium on those feelings for anyone with whom I wasn’t already in a committed relationship. It made sense at the time, and still does, really.

The thing about doing that, though, is that it was the start of my losing awareness of part of my inner life. I mean, I’ve always been oblivious to other people, but not to myself. It got easier for people close to me to figure out what was going on with me than it was for me to figure it out myself. Now, writing this, I wonder if that’s why it took me so long to figure out that my depression and anxiety had gotten the better of me. My partners knew.

But with help, I’ve been recovering from the worst of the depression and anxiety. And I think that in doing so I’ve started to re-open my eyes to myself. I’m not cutting any part of me off from any other part, or at least not doing it as often or as strongly. Parts of me that I hadn’t given light in quite a while have started to get light again.

Probably the first sign of this change was when I started getting to know a new friend, and wasn’t sure if I was just excited to be making a new friend, or if I was experiencing that “crush” thing that I’d pretty much forgotten about. I didn’t pick up on it at the time, but I was in the process of recovering access to parts of myself from which I didn’t even know I was cut off.

And that was a whole lot of heavy stuff just to come back around to where I started.

That friend, way up above? The one who thought she was the oblivious one? I’ve known her since way back when I was still dating four people at once. And I’ve never exactly been secretive about my thinking she’s one of the most gorgeous people I’ve known. Slowly over the years we’ve gotten to know each other better. We started hanging out more often recently, just the two of us, and I’d come away with my mind lingering on this thing she said, or that thing. Or the way her hair fell in her face when she shook her head. Or this, or that, or this other thing, or all of them at once. Using my slowly-returning self-awareness and self-examination skills, I sat and paid attention to these phenomena in me.

“What’s going on here?” I asked myself in all seriousness. “Is this actually different from any other set of interactions with any other people?”

Yes, these are the kind of conversations I have with myself instead of just thinking “She’s pretty. We should do things together.”

No, really. I sat there and recounted to myself different times we’d seen each other or talked over the years, asking what I felt and thought for each of them. That’s probably where I became consciously aware that I’d deprived myself of access to parts of myself for who knows how long.

I came to a conclusion. Yes. Absolutely. This is totally a crush.

Luckily, before I had the chance to start freaking myself out over this (something I can be really, really good at, because have you met my anxiety?) I shared my startling revelation with the people who would have the most investment in this situation.

And what I got it return was kind-hearted, incredulous laughter and gentle pats on the head over this being a new revelation, or at least it being an unexpected development. People know I’m oblivious to other people’s interest in me, but oblivious to my own interest in other people? That’s a whole new level of absurd lack of self awareness.

But, as it often does, my own awkwardness seems to work to my advantage, because this friend said I was adorable. And now we have plans to make out sometime.

Self-awareness, however slow it may be in coming, absolutely rules.