Dance party mode.

As I sit here, laid up on our lazy boy – legs extended, laptop in lap – Kevin (Mr. K) is wiggling his butt and waving his arms around the living room with a huge smile on his face. “It’s dance party mode!”

I’m in the midst of a depressive episode. He’s trying to make me laugh. and it’s working.

***

***

I hadn’t been hit by depression until about two months after Kevin and I started dating in May. It was magical. unbelievable, even. I thought, perhaps our love has been the antidote all this time!? For the past few years, the trend has been that I cycled about every 2 weeks. Some mornings I’d bound out of bed, link up my phone to my bluetooth speaker and blast some groovy tunes before jumping in the shower. Other mornings, I awoke to my body groaning; I barely mustered an email or text to my boss that, “I’m not feeling well and I’m not going to make it in,” and guilt and shame would tuck me in a little tighter as I fell back into full slumber mode.

In those first couple of months when our relationship was sailing oh so smoothly, I told Kevin about my depression – a kind of pre-emptive ‘relationship damage control’ before it hit. because I knew it would. eventually.

He read my blog posts about my experience with depression and though he said he didn’t understand the first-hand experience of it, he wanted me to know that he was there for me. that he wanted to be. that he wanted to understand the best he could. I felt reassured. And each time depression has surfaced since we’ve been together, Kevin reassures me that he is here and that, “we are going to get through this.”

I’ve not been in a relationship where my partner so explicitly vocalizes and expresses their presence and support when the clouds loom. When in “depressed mode,” one tends to isolate themselves regardless of the support system they have in place. It goes against one of the fundamental symptoms of depression to reach out for or willingly accept support. Relationships are challenging enough. Meeting and melding together two separate lives involves emotional gymnastics and diligence through discomfort. Now throw depression into the mix.

Being in a relationship with someone who lives with depression is scary. How can you support your partner when they push you away? What do you do when they tell you they want to be left alone while clearly in distress? How do you respond when they lay curled in bed all day, sometimes for days?

Being in a relationship as the person living with depression is frightening. How can you trust that your partner will accept you, depressive warts and all? What do you do when they tell you they want to help when you feel the situation is helpless? How do you respond when they attempt to get you out of bed when all you want to do is sleep all day?

There are no clearcut answers to these questions, but there are ways each partner can help their relationship through the stormy storms of depression (more on this in subsequent posts). Kevin and I are learning how to navigate our way through when the thunder rolls. Sometimes he does things like yell, “it’s dance party mode!” while wiggling his butt and waving his arms around the living room with a huge smile on his face. How can I not take him up on his invitation?

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We wore wide smiles.

I have a confession. I have totally been holding out on you. and I’m so sorry. Communication and relationship are important to me. and so are you, dear dear reader(s). I’ve started a couple of posts over the past few weeks but they’ve been lying dormant in my draft folder [insert sheepish grin here]. I want to be better about that. Please be patient with me.

But, guys! I have the most wonderful and pleasantly surprising reason for why I’ve been MIA. I’ve been falling in love.

with Mr. K.

So, without further ado, I want to send these writings out into the universe. They’re tidbits from the past month. I tend to want to spend more time crafting my posts, but I have been feeling badly about not staying on top of my writing. Also, Mr. K and I are celebrating our one monthiversary tonight and he just got home from work, so I must bid you adieu for now.

So much love to you. my heart is bursting.

xo, O

***

Guys. I don’t even know where to begin. When I decided to re-ignite online dating a couple of weeks ago, I looked at it as more of a tool. a defibrillator for my broken heart. I wanted to know who else was out there. to see what different things different men are looking for in relationship. to open my mind to being more open-minded about potential dates. about my future.

Who am I kidding, I wanted to meet someone. that someone. Despite the heartache and grief I was feeling from the breakup with Mr. G, I yearned to make a connection and nurture intimacy.

***

As he fell to his seat on the other side of the booth, my bashful gaze caught glimpses of new familiar eyes. we wore wide smiles. He reached over with his right fist, flipped his hand to unfurled fingers; his palm held my phone charger and chapstick, “I wasn’t sure if you needed any of these things…”

“Ohmygosh, THANK YOU!” Earlier I realized that I forgot my chapstick on his nightstand. “This feels kinda like a break-up, except backwards,” he said. he laughed. I giggled. we laughed together. I hadn’t stopped smiling since the night before, when we met in-person for the first time.

After a day-and-a-half of volleying messages via Match.com, I had to meet him. see his face, hear his words, watch his teeth peek out from between his lips as he spoke. Our connection via text was easy and fun, exciting, invigorating. I wanted to see whether or not the butterflies in my tummy would fly away after meeting in person. I didn’t want to fantasize about this seemingly perfect guy for too long.

(And. I was on a mission to find love, damnit. No time to waste!)

I sent a message, “I wanted to see if you would like to hang out at some point soon? I’ve enjoyed chatting with you and think it would be great to do in person. When are you usually free?” He replied that he could meet that night. so we did. and it was wonderful.

 

 

Have I not been smiling.

“I have a weird feeling that the rest of my life is going to be AWEsome.” My arms wrapped around his neck. I couldn’t help but pull myself up to him. to be closer.

“Why does it have to be weird?” He laughed. scooted his body up a bit. Then dove into the crook of my neck to deliver a bouquet of kind little kisses. My fingertips brushed the soft underbrush of his freshly cut hair.

Grinning, I said, “It’s not weird. I just mean… I have a sneaking suspicion…” {I thought to myself, “How long has it been since I have NOT been smiling?!”}

***

These are a few moments of my day today with K. My face is sore from all the smiles. my belly, awake from days of incessant laughter rumbles.

***

Curiosity comes out of a sense of safety...” – Sue Johnson, MD

 

Grief more bearable.

I’ve dated three guys who have died. All at different times in my life. Each relationship was at different stages. Nonetheless, I have experienced a lot of that kind of grief. Not the grieving at the end of a relationship, a breakup, divorce. Though, I’ve experienced all of those things, too.

I mean the grief of sitting with the reality that one of the most influential people in your life in grade school, whom you always felt you would marry some day or, at the very least, stay in touch with, fell from a friend’s balcony at a Halloween party. a freak accident involving the fire escape ladder. He is the reason I have the intimate connection with music that I do. We use to argue about which instrument was better – guitar or piano. I still have the cassette mixes he made me. I listen to them every now and then. I think of him often.

I mean the grief of working through the realization that someone you are just getting to know. someone who gives you butterflies in the tummy and you can’t wait to see again is no longer alive. He fell asleep while driving under a mile from his house. Our first kiss was only hours before. My last words to him were, “Are you going to be OK to drive tomorrow?” The last time I touched him he looked like he was sleeping but his limbs were hard and cold.

I mean the grief of getting a call at work from a friend who tells you that the person you have been trying to not develop too deep of feelings for because you are going through a divorce, but they’re just so damn wonderful, died in a car accident. He apologized once when he ran late, “Sorry! I pulled over to watch the sunset.” He was asleep in the back of a truck that his best friend was driving while drunk. I met his mom for the first time at his funeral. “Are you Odawni?” A blonde woman in black approached me outside the church. “I’m Tyler’s mom. He talked a lot about you. He said he really liked you but that he was also having a good time dating other people and he didn’t know what to do.” She said I could have anything of his, if I wanted. His dream catcher hangs above my bed.

I joked that I was cursed and warned subsequent boyfriends about my relationship history. Thankfully, I don’t have a fourth story to tell. I share these experiences with you not for sympathy. I’m not dribbling tears over my keyboard thinking, “Oh, poor me! What awfulness I have had in my life!” I share these because this is what life is and can be. Things like this happen. Experiences like this impact your relationships, your world. They have deeply impacted mine. These things, these people, these relationships – these losses help me keep perspective.

As I grapple with the spectrum of emotions that have been coursing through my body and mind after breaking up with Mr. G. As I grieve the loss of the relationship, the possibilities, the images in my mind of our future life together, I think of this grief. The grief of losing someone you can and will never have the option of seeing or holding or being held by again.

No kind of grief is more bearable than another. Loss is loss. Regardless of who or what caused the losing.

 

Conversations we don’t have.

 

“Is that from the Walla Walla trip?” I plopped down on his futon and looked over at the glass of wine in front of him on the desk.

“Yeah.” He half stood up nervously, “You want some?”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” I said. My brain teeth were clenched that there wasn’t already a glass of wine waiting for me (uh-gen).

He handed me a glass. I held it in my lap and threw my head back, “Hang on, I just need to settle in for a sec.” He knew that I had come over cause I wanted to talk. After a few sips of chilled rosé, I started.

“So, this is basically a continuation of the conversation we had last week. Like I said before, I want to make it clear that what I am about to say is how I’m feeling and what I see from my point of view. This does not mean I am right or that you did anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with you. I don’t know how else to preface this conversation.”

He looked at me like he knew what I was about to say but had no idea what I was about to say at the same time.

I continued, “The past week I have felt more disconnected from you. I feel like you’re more distant than before. I feel like, after all that we’ve been through, that our level of intimacy should be on a deeper level. It use to be on a deeper level! What happened?!”

There were things I wanted to express and questions I wanted to ask but I felt as though there were no words. There were no verbal containers to hold the frustration and love and fear that emanated from my core. I had put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say. I was hoping for responses that could help me make sense of what was happening between us. I needed reassurance.

“We just started dating a few months ago,” the way he said it sounded like a question. and defensive.

“Yeah but we have been in a relationship for basically a year! I feel like our closeness is regressing.”

He looked at me, “People move at different speeds. Not everyone gets to the same level of intimacy at the same time.”

“I don’t want to philosophize and speak in generalizations! I’m talking about us. You. and me!”

(In hindsight, this is probably where I cut him off and shut him down. Who feels like sharing their feelings with someone who is yelling at you? No one.)

***

So that’s how the conversation started out – approximately – and ended in a break-up. But what if it happened this way?

***

“Is that from the Walla Walla trip?” I plopped down on his futon and looked over at the glass of wine in front of him on the desk.

“Yeah.” He half stood up nervously, “You want some?”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” I said. My brain teeth were clenched that there wasn’t already a glass of wine waiting for me (uh-gen).

He handed me a glass. I held it in my lap and threw my head back, “Hang on, I just need to settle in for a sec.” He knew that I had come over cause I wanted to talk. After a few sips of chilled rosé, I started.

“So, this is basically a continuation of the conversation we had last week. Like I said before, I want to make it clear that what I am about to say is how I’m feeling and what I see from my point of view. This does not mean I am right or that you did anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with you. I don’t know how else to preface this conversation.”

He looked at me like he knew what I was about to say but had no idea what I was about to say at the same time.

I continued, “The past week I have felt more disconnected from you. I feel like you’re more distant than before. I feel like, after all that we’ve been through, that our level of intimacy should be on a deeper level. It use to be on a deeper level! What happened?!”

There were things I wanted to express and questions I wanted to ask but I felt as though there were no words. There were no verbal containers to hold the frustration and love and fear that emanated from my core. I had put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say. I was hoping for responses that could help me make sense of what was happening between us. I needed reassurance.

He leaned in and touched his knees to mine, “I don’t know…I really don’t know, O.” Tears were welling up in his eyes. They glistened. they were beautiful. “I don’t know what’s going on with me but I don’t want there to be distance between us.”

My heart softened and broke a little. I could see he was in pain. A tear broke on the bottom edge of my left eye and raced toward the crease of my nose. I sniffled and grabbed his right hand with my left. I put down my wine to cradle his hand between both of mine. “It’s so nice to hear you say that you don’t want there to be distance. I want to know what you’re thinking, babe, even if it’s that you don’t know. I want to be here for you but I don’t know how to be if you don’t give me anything. It scares me.”

He put his head down and let out a long hard sigh. I moved closer. wiggled my way onto his lap and stretched my arms around him. “I’m sorry I kinda stink. I didn’t take a shower after yoga.” He held me tighter. We both sighed. and cried. our heads cradled in each other’s necks. For a split second I had an image of two swans with their necks intertwined but the smell of him brought me back to us. I took in a deep breathe to smell his skin, his hair, his shirt, the wine on his breath. Him. I could feel my muscles ease into our embrace.

It was like nothing more needed to be said. at least not in that moment. I felt so close to him. We sat there. holding each other. the record stopped and we both popped up our heads and looked at the record player, then looked at each other, and laughed. 

“What do you wanna listen to?” he asked. 

“Umm, Cocteau Twins, of course!” He tried to get up from the chair but I held him back with the weight of my body and gave him a kiss on his nose. “OK, you can change it now,” I said with a grin.

He smiled.

It involves laughing.

Thank goodness for good friends. I had a long talk with one of my oldest and bestest friends this evening. Now I know what a car feels like when its tank is filled with petrol, or how Tic Tok feels when he gets wound up (Return to Oz reference – a gazillion brownie points if you get it). Sometimes you need to talk to someone who knows you well and shares their thoughts with you to know how you want to move forward. Good friends are the best reflective listeners. The message that rings with me from our conversation this evening is this:

“Dawni, you sound like you are ready for a relationship. You sound like you know what you want and you want to be with someone who is ready for a relationship too.” (paraphrasing here)

Yes. It’s true. I’m 37, and though I don’t subscribe to the expectation of marrying with 2 kids and a white picket fence, I want to find a partner, damn it. I have lots of good stuff to share, and other people do too, and I want to know it, share it, explore it, ask questions, really stupid questions that that person will tell me are not stupid because no question is.

Now. I know myself. Historically I have a tendency to fall hard and fast. but as I have grown older, I feel as though I can no longer afford to. I yearn for partnership, someone to grow with, like roots from two trees in a big tangled beautiful mess. I want that.

I didn’t think I would end up in this position again but I am considering re-igniting my match.com account. (my stomach is churning as I type this) There is someone to meet. who wants to meet me. and come out from the shadows and show themselves. there is a future together that we are both so excited and ready for. and it involves laughing. a lot.

 

Break-up, make-up; repeat.

Naturally, since Mr. G and I have a steady history of break-up/make-up, I wonder how things with us will roll out. Is there another make-up talk in the future? Or at least a kinder conversation for closure so that, as my wise therapist (lovingly nicknamed, ‘The Wizard’) says, “We leave each other better off than when you found each other.” I love that sentiment. Regardless of the turmoil, discomfort, or pain. we gave something to each other. At times, we showed each other a tenderness and curiosity that softened our hearts and made us feel special, because we were. We are.

I have no expectation of the future but I do carry a hope that we can find a way to sort it out. It would take a lot, and perhaps more opening up than Mr. G is ready for, but I believe people can change and are capable of so much more than they sometimes think they are.

Giving in to the humanity of oneself changes the world around you. Every day is more alive and interesting. excessive complaining feels like a waste of time. moments are gobbled up by appreciation and gratitude. Don’t get me wrong. The lows still come around and there are days when you feel like gnawing your fingers off cause you’re so pissed/annoyed/frustrated/[enter any painful, uncomfortable emotion here]. Ultimately, it feels amazing to open yourself up to someone. To let another person see you in your rawest moments. Those are the most beautiful, I think.

I digress.

As the days pass since our break-up, I wonder. What will happen with Mr. G? I’ve been doing some reading on the cyclical make-up/break-up relationships and the chances that they can end in success. There are mixed reviews. Of course, the circumstances and people in every break-up are different. But there is some valuable information to consider here. I’m a silver-lining finder so I appreciate some of what I’ve read. Break-ups aren’t always horrible. As with anything, there are opportunities to be had.

I’m not feeling especially creative this evening so I am going to info dump some snippets from articles I found useful. See what you think:

Get Back With Your Ex Permanently After Multiple Break-Ups

  • The only way too truly breakaway from the vicious cycle that has plagued your relationship and build something stable is to start by identifying the real wants, needs and aspirations of both individuals.
  • The tension, frustration and built up resentment from being misunderstood always leads to a breakdown in communication. In order to make the relationship permanent and to avoid yet another breakup you will need to fundamentally change the way you communicate and interact with your ex on a multitude of levels. In fact, your main goal moving forward should be to completely shift the way that you approach talking and relating to each other. Look to always avoid arguments and instead think of potential solutions that can bridge your differences before talking back to your significant other.

How Healthy Are On-Again/Off-Again Relationships?

  • If we’re trying to understand whether on-again/off-again relationship are healthy, we should acknowledge that they’re not all the same. Some evidence suggests that on-again/off-again relationships sort themselves into two primary types (Dailey, Jin, Brody, & McCracken, 2013). The first, called the capitalized-on-transitions type, describes a couple that makes the most of changing circumstances, letting transitions serve as tests or opportunities for relationship improvement. For example, a break-up might allow for the growth that enables a healthy relationship after reunion. The gradual separation type engages in the on-again/off-again pattern with hopes and expectations, but ultimately this pattern gives way to a final break-up.
  • The on-off partners who do report more satisfaction say that the on-off nature of the relationship helped improve the relationship; the breakups and renewals gave them a chance to work on themselves or the relationship.
  • Even if your relationship has gone through several renewals, the lessons from those who have stopped the cycle of breaking up and renewing may still apply. Change something about the relationship. Discuss new rules and norms. Talk about how to resolve issues that led to the breakups or how to improve the relationship. Don’t just hope that the relationship will be better the next time around.

Could Breaking Up Help Your Relationship?

  • Although ending a relationship can be painful, a separation can give a couple space to work on personal issues that have been harming the relationship. ‘It can help individuals reassess their priorities, helping them to know more about what they would like to get out of a relationship,’

Imago relationship therapist, Dr. Sophie Slade, suggests five ways to get your relationship back on track:

  • Get curious – curious about yourself, curious about your partner and curious about what led to your break-up. Try to replace all the criticism in your relationship with curiosity.
  • Take a long, hard look at your own contribution to the break-up– what were you doing that contributed to the pain in the relationship? Blaming your partner won’t get you anywhere. You can only change yourself.
  • See your relationship as an opportunity for your growth. What part of you do you need to grow to create the relationship differently and meet your partner’s needs? And how can you ask your partner to grow to meet your needs in ways he or she can hear and doesn’t have to defend against?
  • Create a vision of the relationship that you both want to haveand then work out what you each need to contribute to create that kind of relationship.
  • Create some rituals of loving behavior and expressions of appreciation for each other regularly: for example, expressing at least one thing you appreciate them doing for you each day at a specific time.