Categories
mental health

Of love & depression.

Depression rarely comes by itself.  It’s not a single, sad kitty sitting on your doorstep – the kitty is a mom, and she brought her litter. Along with the depression and its recognizable and not-so-recognizable symptoms can come things like anxiety, panic, insomnia, mania (yes, mania), obsessive-compulsive behavior, and addictive behavior. Depression also has a tendency to bring with it the one thing that is most difficult to let go – the past. That past not only creeps in and steals our joy, but it also encourages us to hurt those we love. 

I am currently on the upswing from a recent depressive episode, but it was a pretty rough round.  I am used to most of it by now – I have been dealing with the rollercoaster for almost my whole life.  The one thing for which I was not ready was how it made me treat my boyfriend by way of transference and fear of abandonment.  Depression did not cause those feelings, it caused me to focus on all the negatives in the past, and that made me frightened and angry.  Thank God my boyfriend is as strong, patient, and understanding as he is.  

Too good to be depressed about.

Here’s the deal:  I have had quite a few shitty relationships.  I was manipulated, gaslighted, stalked, used, cheated on, and experienced abuse – mentally, physically, sexually – and I managed, with the help of my faith and my strength, to get through all of it and put it all behind me.  In my marriage, I was able to keep those things in the past because my marriage, while not contentious, was not the kind of relationship where I felt cherished and loved and scared to lose it.

I never bothered to even think that he might be any of those things because, quite frankly, it never occurred to me to worry about it.  I don’t know if that says more about him, me, or us, but it says to me that the relationship was not something I was scared to lose. It also says that he could not easily be considered “too good to be true.”

Too good… and too true.

I saw a meme once – and of course, I can’t find it right now – that said something to the effect of it’s pretty sad when you’re so used to shitty guys that when a good one comes along you don’t know how to handle it.  Well, I’ve got a good one.  He is so kind and patient and understanding that sometimes it is hard to believe.  However, he has done nothing to warrant suspicion. At all. He has proved himself to be genuine and sincere over and over again.  I know this. I know this down to my core… until depression comes along and says “HEY! Wait a second. I bet he didn’t just change his mind about dinner… I bet he was manipulating you.” 

Hey, depression: It was a friggin’ cheeseburger. Take a seat.

It has happened a few times, and each time when I was in the throes of depression or anxiety.  Those have also been the only times we fight… largely because it hurts him so much. I cannot stand that.  He truly has done nothing to deserve it, but during these times my depressed brain is spiraling into the oblivion of negativity and it is difficult to convince myself otherwise – until I see the hurt in his eyes. That hurt, as painful as it is for both of us, is what usually helps pull me out of the doldrums. 

Depression or discernment?

The difficult part about this is that we, women especially, often have an intuition that helps us recognize early signs of toxic behaviors. Discernment is key.  We have to learn to differentiate between actual toxic behavior and perceived toxic behavior. This is not easy, and I do not have any really great advice about how to do this.  You must be self-aware enough to know when you are experiencing anxiety or depression. Then you must learn to determine if these perceived toxic behaviors only seem to pop up during mental health struggles, or if they are constant. 

It is an arduous process, but one that can help save not only your relationship but your mental health. It can show you when your behavior is hurting the other person versus them hurting you. You are the only person who can differentiate.  Once you do, and you realize that it is the depression talking, then you need to recognize how you are hurting the other person and make changes to stop it.

Too much of a good thing.

See, we go online and on social media and see all these wonderful pieces of advice about how those of us with mental health issues need to focus on ourselves and take care of our mental and physical wellbeing and that we should not feel guilty about having a mental health issue. 

All of these things are true. However, I do not think it is the ONLY way to treat it. I think that we need to focus on how we are making other people feel. Not so that we feel guilty about it, but so that we can use it as a catalyst to get better, to change destructive thought patterns and behaviors, and to ultimately get on the right track toward overcoming the issues.  When our mental health is hurting the people we love, I think we should try to stop and notice and realize that so that we can use their love to help us fight the battles. 

The depression/self-focus cycle

We, as a society, have become exceptionally self-centered.  While there are a time and a place for this type of behavior, we simply cannot continue to function as if we are the only people who matter, and that our sole focus should be on ourselves. Yes, we need to take care of ourselves.  We need to make sure we are eating properly, exercising our bodies and minds, and getting rest. We need to take days off to reduce stress. However, we also need to look out for the wellbeing of others. No, we cannot pour from an empty vessel… but we have stopped pouring altogether.  

It is that very focus on ourselves that directly contributes to our mental health issues.  We focus so much on our own wellbeing that all we see is that which is “wrong” and that which we need to “fix.” We are not meant to focus solely on ourselves, we are designed to live in a “tribe,” a community, a group. We are designed to look out for one another. This is not only a religious viewpoint – it is also evolutionary.  

Again, I must reiterate – I am not saying that we should not take care of ourselves.  We MUST. At some point, though, we also must look around us and see how we are affecting others.  We must see if our depression can be helped simply by treating someone else with kindness and love.  Purpose treats depression. Having a reason – something that drives us – alleviates the symptoms and helps us push forward.  Do we still need medical help sometimes? Absolutely. But sometimes we are medicating that which only needs love. There is a balance, and we need to find it. 

On purpose.

For so long my purpose was myself, and that got me nowhere.  I spent so much time trying to better myself that all I kept finding were flaws – things that were depressing.  I have never been an unkind person, but I can become disinterested and moody – largely when I am depressed or anxious.  Now, however, I am in a relationship that makes me want to be better. I want to focus my attention on the man I love and revel in his love and support.  Most importantly, I do not want to hurt him. Will I get depressed and anxious? Sure. Loving someone isn’t a cure. What it is is an impetus. A reason.  A purpose.  

A happy, healthy, cooperative life together is the goal that will not be reached if depression gets in the way. So, when my brain starts sinking and focusing on the past and drumming up falsities about how this man is treating me, my attention must focus on treating him like the good man he is.  It must focus on making sure he is happy, and not just focus on myself. It’s that purpose, that reason, that goal that pulls me out every time.  

Find your purpose, something that you love.  Find a reason. If it is not another person, perhaps it is a hobby.  Perhaps it is a pet. Talk to your doctor, of course. Some medications may be required; I am not anti-meds.  However, no medicine can make you treat others well. There is not a magic pill that can turn your love and attention toward others’ feelings – but that’s what you need to do.  And If you focus on others, then you have far less time to think about what is “wrong” with yourself. Try it sometime. 

Categories
life

I am a divorced Christian.

I am a Christian, I am recently divorced, and I am already in a new relationship.  I also believe, wholeheartedly, that this new relationship is a gift from God.  A blessing.  

I know that people say God isn’t going to “end your marriage” so He can give you someone else.  But in my case, God didn’t end my marriage, I did.  

And I think God gets it.  

God gets that a marriage is supposed to be the complete merger of two people into one and in my case, that never happened; so we chose to stop pretending. We were friends, roommates.  We were not what actually constitutes a married couple.  I was all-in, he admitted later he was just sort of sticking around until I left.  I guess I knew that from the beginning.  Regardless, that’s not someone who’s all-in with you.  We were never “one.”  We were “two” with a marriage license.

We owned nothing together.  We never had children.  We hardly liked the same things.  There was no passion, and hardly any intimacy.  And for whatever reason, I was under the impression that that’s what I was supposed to marry.  I don’t know why.  I guess it was different from all the previous relationships I had.  Those were full of passion and lust and co-dependency and craziness.  This had none of that.  But, like, literally NONE.  Not even the good parts. So I guess I figured, since those relationships crashed and burned, that the type that works is supposed to be the opposite.  That was so unbelievably incorrect. 

We were “two” with a marriage license.

I’m not saying that relationships that work are co-dependent or based solely on passion, but those things need to be there. In a marriage, there is a healthy co-dependence wherein each party discusses things with the other, makes choices with the other, and has a healthy amount of respect for the other’s opinions.  Two become one.  When you become one, you cannot easily survive without the other half; and it’s supposed to be that way.  No, it’s not supposed to be unhealthy and full of threats and “if you leave me I’ll die” ultimatums.  That’s the DSM-level co-dependence.  That’s when one person is obsessed with the other.  

Marriage, however, is a union.  Two pieces of a puzzle creating a beautiful picture – and that picture should come with things like passion and intimacy, mutual respect, discussion, fights, make-ups, and boring old trips to the grocery store and help to dry the dishes.  Marriage should be all of those things or it’s not a marriage, it’s a roommate. 

I am not without fault, here.  I got married almost 10 years ago to someone I certainly loved, and always will, but not someone with whom I was in love.  I just wanted to be married, I think, and like I said, thought a successful relationship didn’t need the passion.  That was my fault, and I know that now.  

When the time came to plan the wedding, he was so disinterested that I became disinterested.  There was no cooing over bouquets or deciding which font to use on the invitations.  There was no stressing over the schedule for the day or who would sit where.  I pretended this was because I was more interested in the marriage than the wedding. The truth was, I knew he didn’t care, so I stopped caring.  Yes, the marriage is more important than the wedding, but if we are being honest, I don’t think he was all that excited about the marriage, either.  It was what I wanted, not him, and he just went along for the ride.  He let me continue forth and gave the impression he was OK with it, but never actually participated. That’s not fair to anyone – neither is not understanding that this wasn’t what a good relationship was supposed to be.  But, I am human, and so is he. 

I won’t go into any more detail about it. I have no hatred or ill will.  And I truly believe neither one of us did anything “wrong” or terrible.  It just… didn’t work; that’s the whole of it.  My point is that if it was never a marriage to begin with, simply a marriage license, then the dissolution of that license in the form of a divorce isn’t the same as tearing apart two people who were one.  It’s simply acknowledging that they never were “one.”

Realize that leaving a marriage that never was a full symbiosis isn’t the same as leaving a marriage because you are “bored” or because the person didn’t wash the dishes or buy you gifts.

That being said, I’m not an advocate for divorce. Marriage is special to me.  I took vows, and they meant something.  This is why it took a long time before the divorce occurred.  I felt like the marriage was one-sided YEARS ago, but I kept plugging along, trying to be a better wife; trying to figure out what would help us.  Our separation was almost two years.  There were no improvements, no changes.  It just… was what it was.  So it was time.  Again, I am not blameless – God knows I am not without fault – but I wanted to feel like I was important enough to fight for, and I never felt that way – not once.  So, the end arrived, and I moved forward. 

Someday, I may go into further detail, but for now, that’s the gist of the divorce story.  I just want you all to realize that, as Christians, we sometimes place unrealistic expectations on ourselves and our marriages.  We also have to remember that we are forgiven, and that forgiveness needs to extend to ourselves, from ourselves, as well.  Fight for your marriage.  Fight HARD.  But if the day comes and you realize it was never a marriage to begin with, then forgive yourself, and let it go.  Realize that leaving a marriage that never was a full symbiosis isn’t the same as leaving a marriage because you are “bored” or because the person didn’t wash the dishes or buy you gifts.  Let go, give it to God, and move forward.  Find the person who wants to fight for the marriage together, with you; who wants to honor God with you in a two-become-one amalgamation.  It’s out there. I promise.  

For me, it started with a Facebook message from an old friend …and got even better from there. 

Stay tuned.