Demons are not yours.

Kevin doesn’t have depression. His knowledge of depression — first, second, or eleventh-hand — is limited. Sixth months into our life together, he’s spent time with depressed O at least half the time. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for about three of the past six months. The struggle I’ve been grappling with and have held onto as a ‘my’ struggle for the better part of my 37 years has, in six months, become a ‘we’ struggle.

Every now and then,  when I emerge from the dark dizzying sticky slumber of depression, I ask Kevin, “Are you sure you want to move forward in this relationship? This is how it’s going to be the rest of our lives. I will always fall into depressive ruts.” I feel like I need to regularly give him an out, let him know that I get it if he decides that it’s too much for him to manage. I would understand if nurturing a relationship with someone who cycles through depression as often as I do is too overwhelming for him, for anyone.

Each time, Kevin squares his shoulders and steadies his eyes to mine as if to convey, if you don’t hear my words, feel the conviction of my presence.  “Yes. I’m sure,” he says. “I want to be with you.”

**

I feel as though I’m using up the majority of the relationship resources. On top of the other depressive symptoms, I feel selfish and self-absorbed. I feel small, alone, a failure, like I don’t belong in this world. For years, depression has tricked me into believing that no one wants to hear the ‘ridiculous’ thoughts tapping my brain and to (ssssssshhhhhhh) keep my thoughts where they belong – hidden.

This is one of the ways depression keeps a stronghold on you. It’s hypnotic trickery suspends your ability to trust that people who care for you want to hear your fears, and that they want to hear your fears as many times as you need to speak them. But you must share these thoughts, you must share what frightens you when depression has you by the tongue – whether you believe the thoughts or not. Especially in a relationship.

As Kevin said to me one night, holding me as I cried into his warm chest, “Your demons are not yours to fight alone.”

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Bowl full o’ jello-c.

Oh dear. It’s been a while since my last post, hasn’t it? I want you to know I have been thinking of you and I’m not saying that as an attempt to butter you up. I’ve been thinking. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what to write about next. I wanted to give you the excuse that I’ve been too busy learning how to love (which isn’t entirely un-true), but really, I just need to invest more time in doing what I love – writing. So… “Hi!” Thanks for coming back. I suppose I should give you a quick update on my love life since this is why we’re here.

Since I last saw you, I have been in a relationship with a guy with whom I have a very complicated history – a story for another time. – I’ll call him Mr. G. After about a year of see-sawing between kind of, sort of being together and kind of sort of not, we decided to ‘make it official’ and give this relationship thing a go. (This was marked by officially changing our FB relationship statuses, as all serious relationships tend to be made official in this way.) When I started this blog in January, we were taking time apart (on his request) as a result of an incident that occurred involving jealousy. My jealousy.

Another incident occurred more recently. It wasn’t quite as dramatic but has had me evaluating my thought processes in relationships. Note: I was considerably inebriated on both occasions so I would likely have kept my jealous feelings to myself instead of acting on them as I did. As I’m writing this, I realize that I am thankful for these incidents – ‘thankful.’ I have been carrying them as opportunities for growth rather than take the auto-pilot route of feeling ashamed or guilty.

Don’t get me wrong. I also felt like a total and complete dumbass all dramatic and aggressive and out of control and mean. It’s humiliating losing your cool. It’s embarrassing reacting on your sense of insecurity in the presence of some of your closest friends, because really Dawni? Mr. G is gonna be hitting on one of your best friends right in front of you?

Surely you have experienced jealousy at some point in your life. But like any other emotion, people experience jealousy on a spectrum. At times, mine falls somewhere near “intense jealousy” or “more jealous than normal.” And I hate it.     I.   H-A-T-E.   I-T.  It feels like a monster that spuriously sprouts and erupts from your core and your limbs and voice are at its whim. Jealousy plays you like a puppet. I often refer to depression as a bitch. I would say jealousy is….a butthead. Yes. Jealousy is such a butthead.

So, the first incident that almost rendered Mr. G and I no-more happened one late night after playing Cards Against Humanity at a friend’s place. It was a small group of us, most of whom we did not know, and there was a young(er), beautiful, witty chick there who, as the night wore on (along with my level of alcohol) I got it in my head — this is where the butthead part comes in — that, Maybe Mr. G should be with someone like her? Maybe they would be a better fit? They’re closer in age. She’s laid back and fun. Maybe Mr. G should be with her? Maybe he’s interested in her? Oh god, that sucks. Is he interested in her? I wouldn’t blame him, but shit. That would suck if he realized that someone like her would be a better fit for him? 

(At this point jealousy has it’s whole hand up my ass and I’m watching to see if he’s checking her out, looking for nuanced gestures of flirtation or interest from either of them.)

– Time out –

Yikes. The process of writing about this experience is striking my anxiety in a big way but this reflection is good. This recounting of my thought process is helpful. As I have been writing the thoughts that swirled in my head that night, the voice in my mind (my sober, reflective, present mind) has been saying, Wow, that spiraled down super fast. Really? Was I really thinking these thoughts? And believing them? Cause I’m wonderful and awesome! Those thoughts are ridiculous. OF COURSE Mr. G wants to be with me! He chose to be in a relationship with me, not this springy, spritely, cute girl. But springy, spritely, cute me.

I digress. When we got to his place, the first thing out of my jealous-laden lips was, “Maybe you should be dating other people?” Mr. G was not happy about this and rightly so, “That’s a terrible thing to say to someone that you are in a relationship with! Why would you say that?” Why would I say that?

Instead of communicating my jealousy and insecurity with him, I took the I’m-not-taking-responsibility-for-my-feelings-and-will-instead-sloppily-project-them-onto-my partner approach. I don’t recall all of what was said but at one point I was yelling at Mr. G from across the room, “I’m insecure, OK!? I’M FEELING INSECURE AND I NEED REASSURANCE!” I remember putting my whole body into those words. My neck strained forward and my fingers wide-spread at the end of straightened lengthened arms at my sides, like a scarecrow in standing savasana. Clearly, I was opening myself up to him in a way that he wanted to listen.

The next day I realized what had happened and why, and I asked if we could meet because I had been doing some deep thinking and wanted to share my thoughts with him. Mr G. wanted space, if I didn’t mind. I wanted to see him but I understood. Instead, I wrote a lengthy email to Mr. G explaining what happened and what I had been feeling, how I had been treating him poorly at times and I realize it now, how I had said unloving and unsupportive things. It was a confession wrapped in apology.

Acting on my jealousy brought many self-realizations to the surface. Paying attention to my experiences with it and observing without judgment has opened up parts of myself that will only strengthen my capability to trust. I prefer this understanding of my experience vs. that I am a drama queen with low self-esteem. That perspective helps no one in relationship.

***

Now, I appreciate viewing things from multiple perspectives. You learn more that way. You grow exponentially.

Jealousy has always gotten a bad rap. I mean, I’ve been calling it a butthead (which it is). But there are other considerations at play here. Somethings deeper to explore. I leave you two quotes; each offers a different view of jealousy.

“Jealousy, like many psychological problems (from hypochondria to paranoia), is driven by the destructive use of the imagination.” – Mark Tyrell

“Psychologists—especially psychoanalysts—have looked at jealousy as a sign of deep-seated insecurities and personality defects. We view jealousy as a much more complicated emotion. In fact, jealousy may actually reflect your higher values of commitment, monogamy, love, honesty, and sincerity. You may feel jealous because you want a monogamous relationship and you fear that you will lose what is valuable to you.”  – Robert L Leahy, Ph.D.

***

What is your experience with jealousy (first-hand or otherwise)? What have you learned from your experience(s)? About yourself? About relationship?