Posts Tagged ‘guilt’

Confucius say he who gives wife blender should beware when he sleeps.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

I was amused recently while talking with my husband about the differences in creative gifts for men vs. women.  We were inspired by an old episode of Modern Family, and basically my hubby was saying that no matter how much some guy wants a GPS watch, he would probably be happier with a night of great sex.  I brought up that I found it sweet and amusing how every now and then on a certain Unnamed Community Site, someone will post a question asking for suggestions for creative things to do for their boyfriend’s birthday on a budget, and she’ll get lots of responses from women detailing the wonderful creative things they have done, or have had done for them.

A scavenger hunt of places that were significant to them as a couple.

Notes detailing things she loves about him.

I am guilty of this too.  And they sound fantastic to me.  …But in the back of my mind, it’s still sweet and wonderful, and I’m sure he would appreciate the effort, but he would probably be just as happy with the sex.

So anyway, we concluded that really gift giving for men really just works like the fortune cookie thing.  You take a lovely gift, and add “in bed” to the end of it.

Scavenger hunt…in bed!

Notes detailing things she loves about him…in bed!

Getaway weekend…in bed!

Night of dancing…in bed!

Eighteen holes…in bed!

See?  It works!  …At least as long as you’re not giving a sweet little puppy.  Or a goldfish.  Or lama.  Animals in general are probably out of the question.

I generally avoid talking about any of the complications in my own sex life here.  I think that it is one of those areas that still comes with a fair dose of embarrassment and guilt, and as such I naturally avoid sharing it with a selection of random strangers (unlike my butt, which is apparently fair game).  I would happily share my most embarrassing moments (mostly not actually that embarrassing), or how much I masturbate (varies), or what my nipples look like (um…nippley?) before admitting that anything might be less than perfect in the bedroom.  That sort of thing has “FAILURE AS A WOMAN” stamped all over it. …Or that may have been my ass again.  I’ll check.

At any rate, it hurts me to have to say that we’ve ever struggled, because we are so very perfectly matched in that area.  Once upon a time we lined up more beautifully than I had ever thought possible.  In fact, we both had the exact same favourite fantasy, except in opposite roles.  How disturbingly perfect is that??  We had a rich and awesome sex life.  Plus, we have a strong and healthy and wonderful relationship in general, so I don’t like to say anything that might tarnish that perfect picture.

The truth is, though, that there have been challenges.  And maybe other people are having challenges too.  And maybe if I write about them those people will feel a little less alone.  Our major issue was the self-perpetuating cycle of expectation and rejection.  The depression definitely whacked my sex drive down some, and I’m happy to try to get into things to make him happy, but my own desire has been pretty low.  I can go about two or three weeks between sessions without feeling the burn, maybe more depending on which meds I’m on and/or whether I’m in the extra deep pit of withdrawal.

When all of this first happened, I know that my now-husband was hurt by the change.  We didn’t have an official diagnosis yet at that point, and I’m not sure I even knew then about any link between sex and depression anyway.  I know it wasn’t on the radar.  I just knew that I was really tired, and run down, and stressed, and that I was working myself to my breaking point almost every day.  …Which in and of itself is plenty reason for a lady not to quite be in the mood.  I was happy to oblige him, but he could tell that my heart just wasn’t in it the same way.  We were still pretty new at this point too, in the grand scheme of things, so we were a little less graceful in our communication than we would be now.

And then he got upset once.  And that’s all it took.  Suddenly, sex with him went from a completely safe and free and open and judgment-free zone to somewhere with quotas, and expectations, and in which I could be judged and found lacking.  He never meant to hurt me.  He forgot the conversation right after it happened.  I never did.  I don’t know if it’s the same for other women, but sometimes an especially painful word or phrase will hit me just so and get seared into my memory, to be replayed for a while.  This was one of those times.

We’ve had a lot of discussions about it since then, but I’ve never been able to fully shake that feeling for good.  And I’m not sure that it isn’t partly true anyway.  I know that it upsets him when we don’t have sex as often as he would like.  I know that he gets frustrated sometimes.  And as much as he tries to be supportive and understanding, sometimes that leaks out.  We are way to perceptive with each other to be able to successfully conceal our emotions.  And every hint of disappointment I pick up just makes the problem that much worse.

There was a lot of anxiety there for a while.  More than I think I’ve had attached to almost anything else in my life.  He would get frisky, and I would get scared.  Not of him at all or anything, but of…I don’t know exactly.  Judgment maybe?  Performance anxiety?  The knowledge that he could be mad at me in association with what we were about to do?  I would try to push through it as often as I could, but when that emotion was intense, he didn’t want to take advantage of me that way or put me through that.  We wanted sex to be a pleasant thing again.  Eventually, he stopped initiating all together, for fear of being shot down.  I ended up trying to make sure that we made it there at least once a week, whether I wanted to or not.  I’d pick the best moment I could find, and if I couldn’t find a good moment I would just make my move when time had run out.

I felt awful about it.  He felt awful about it.  And it fed upon itself.

We are better now than we were then, but I can’t say that there isn’t still some tension around the issue.  At the moment, we’ve decided to try…um…physical recreation…as often as possible, the theory being that maybe at the least it will lose some of the stress that’s now associated with it.  Plus, that could be fun.  So far, I’m finding that it makes it easier to be more frequent, and a little calmer, but not more interested.  It feels good, but most of the time just isn’t worth the effort (which feels really sad to say).  I think the libido is just one more casualty.  And now there’s a whole new ball of stress and guilt around it because we both know that it isn’t what it should be.  I am proud of us for finding ways to stick with it even through the queasy-tired-craziness of late.  In the back of my mind, though, I had hoped that it would make more of a difference.  I was hoping that I’d want to have fun again, and things could be closer to what they used to be.  I’m sad to find that so far they’re not.  I don’t know if there’s anything more we can do at this point.  Maybe this is just our reality until I get well.  I never thought that we would be those people, with the bedroom issues.

At any rate, this is a difficult thing to put out there, but part of the point of this platform in the first place was to try to be open about the things that I would most want to hide.  I do think that airing them out helps some, and keeps them from taking on too much power.  So there it is, internet.  My libido has tanked.  I’m super guilty about it.  And there’s tension surrounding what should naturally be a fun part of our relationship.

It’s a puzzle.

…in bed.

And they play it on my radio station all the time. That’s a lot of crazy hair.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Every time I hear that “Tick Tock” song on the radio, I mishear one of the lyrics in the chorus as “party on top.”  …And it makes me think of a reverse mullet every time.

And no, that statement has no bearing on the rest of this post whatsoever.

Trying to pin down and compare emotional responses and perspectives is a difficult thing.  Am I better on the Wellbutrin than I was before I started trying medications?  Hard to say.  It is better than the Prozac.  Better than the Luvox.  More consistent than the Ritalin.  Much better than the Cipralex, and eons ahead of the Effexor.  But down to subtle details?  That’s tough.

Because in the moment, things always seem to make perfect sense to me.  When I’m having terrible PMS, I often recognize that I am overreacting to something.  When I’m having a sudden and intense emotional period because of a change in medications, I can tell that isn’t really me.  But in the day to day?  The “normal” state of things at any given time?  It all seems to make sense given the circumstances.  I am sad because my relationship is more distant.  I am not doing much because everything is boring.  I don’t want to make phone calls because the thought of them gives me a headache.  And nothing seems “so bad,” or like a concern that’s really valid enough that I need help.

And then after the fact, my medication changes, and my world takes on a different set of complications, and I have a What the Hell Was I Thinking moment or two.   And I boggle at how I could have found things to be normal, or that I didn’t fully recognize just how bad things had been.  It’s amazing what can seem perfectly natural and justified at the time.

So I’ve been trying to keep track, in those moments, of the things that I realize are a vivid sign of being unwell.  So that when the meds change again and I’m back in that place I will know without doubt that if that feature is present there is still something wrong.  So I don’t have to wonder if a particular medication is working or not, or if I should be feeling guilty for not being back at work. I’m sure that the list is woefully incomplete, but I can only identify the ones that have at least temporarily cleared up, or that were medication-induced in the first place.  There are a lot of features in the description of depression that I have never yet had a break from (Do some people truly not feel guilty or inferior all the time?), so for now, they remain just an unremarkable and stable part of me.

Features I now use to identify when I am having problems:

1) Lying on the floor out of a lack of seemingly better options as an activity.

2) Frequent thoughts of death, or heightened awareness of all the ways in which I could end my life (swerving into traffic, turning on the gas, etc.).

3) Finding picturing my own suicide “comforting,” even if the thought is not accompanied by any actual desire to act on the image.

4) Arriving at every appointment 45 – 60 minutes early, because I “wanted to make absolutely sure I wasn’t late.” (this was a part of my Prozac Anxiety phase)

5) Finding the duty of changing my cat’s water bowl every morning an overwhelming responsibility, and one that I sometimes need to build up to.

6) Sobbing.  Not crying, but sobbing.  Over something that is itself totally inconsequential.

At least 2, 3, and 6 I had before I started all this, to varying degrees.  Number 5 was not an issue, and number 1 was totally a new one on me.  With the Wellbutrin, I am doing better with these (though I still register highly on the other features of depression).  I still cry a lot, and rarely for justified reasons, but I can feed my cats without needing any elaborate self-talk.

Of course, rather than making me feel hopeful, the improvement just makes me feel like I must be cured now then, and guilty about being off work.  Because feeding my cats for one minute every morning equates somehow to being able to face down a stressful ten hour day.  Because I am depressed still.  And I feel guilty about things like that.


Saturday, March 13th, 2010

My life in a nutshell.  …Or at least in compellingly bad drawings.

I don’t tend to do much internetting on the weekends.  We’re already about two hours short of time for what we had planned to do today, and we’ve only been awake for about three hours (you think I am joking, but I’m not.  Really.  Two hours behind out of three.).  And yes, we schedule these things sometimes.  Because otherwise how will we know to berate ourselves for discussing the future of our car purchases when there was YOGA TO BE DONE?

Conclusions?  If my husband does not get a more comfortable car he will immediately turn into a shriveled old man, and I don’t want THAT, do I?  Also that we do not in any way have the money to get the car that we want.  And that buying a giant old chevy or something makes me feel a little dirty inside.

I sometimes think my life would be significantly improved if I only scheduled more.  Sometimes that it would be significantly improved if  I only scheduled less.  Maybe it depends on what I’m scheduling  (Is there an award for most anal person ever?  Because I am fairly sure the last few statements may have given me an edge… I’m not, really, but I would take your award.  I like awards.).  Left to my own devices I tend to feel pressured to jump from one productive thing to the next, and just end up ignoring work tasks sometimes but feeling super guilty about it rather than enjoying the moment (and by “sometimes” I may be underestimating just a tad).  If there’s something more pleasant on the schedule, then I have no choice but to do it.  And like it.  Because it’s ON THE SCHEDULE.  And you don’t mess with shit like that.

More Somber Than Intended

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I had a blog before this one. It was random, and shared freely with friends and family (well…my sister at least), and patched together in embarrassing HTML that I had learned myself. It had a camel at the bottom. I cannot remember why.

That blog goes pretty much straight through the period of time in which I now figure I probably developed the precursors that led to this bout of depression. I didn’t talk much about how hard things were there. I wrote mostly about amusing thoughts, and undramatic insights, and questions from friends, and things that I had found on the internets (and apparently ninjas. …or so the search stats told me). I just read through some of those posts, looking for something unrelated. At first, I was struck by how jovial I sounded about most things. I was envious of then-me. And then I came across a comment here, and a brief post there, and a little reminder that even though I would never have admitted it then, most days I came home from work and cried.

My therapist asked last week what was going on at this time that might have been stressful. I had identified it as a time of high stress, and one that might have contributed to the issues I’m fighting now. It seemed a likely starting point to look for times that my stress responses could have worn down. I am one of those “somebody’s always got it worse than me” kind of people, so I have a hard time finding the line where I can allow myself to label something as legitimately “stressful,” but I am now recognizing that despite having no missing limbs, or sudden demises, or natural disasters, it is okay to call this time in my life stressful. Legitimately so.

This was the time that my now-husband and I had just completed our respective post-secondary-educations. We had been together for about a year or so. With miniscule job prospects where we were studying, we picked up our lives and moved them to a larger city. We had no money, no jobs, and a whopping pile of student debt. We rationed out how much we allowed ourselves to eat each day, since the rice we purchased was going on the credit card. Once we splurged and each got a 99 cent mini-hamburger at the fast food place down the street and then felt guilty about it. We worried a lot about what would happen if we ran out of credit before we found work. We lived in a friend’s walk-in storage closet for two months.

When it became clear that the job market was such that we could no longer rely on the hope that we would find employment reasonably soon, we left our friend’s place and began renting a room from an aunt of mine. We kept to ourselves. She had a rather lecherous husband. We ate in the room. We slept in the room. We worked in the room. We watched a usually functional small T.V. No one had hired us yet in our chosen fields. No one would hire us at the mall because we were too overqualified. I kept hoping that if we could just find “real” jobs, things would get better. They got worse.

My now-husband’s first career job was CRAZY old-school hellish. They worked incredibly long hours (like sometimes home at 2am and back to work for 6am kind of incredibly. If he had nothing left to do an hour after his workday officially ended, they would find actual MAKEWORK activities for him for another two!), for lower-than-industry-average pay, expected complete perfection/obedience/involvement, and had all kinds of absurd social expectations. We had make sure that we were socializing with the “correct” people at the holiday parties, and that we didn’t talk with any one person or group for too long, and that I didn’t speak too much or too openly (he was REPREMANDED about this once. …I am an INTROVERT.), and he (no joking) got chewed out from his boss once for politely declining to get totally drunk near the end of a gathering where he was the DESIGNATED DRIVER. And to top it off, his coworkers were the most infuriating, misogynistic asshats I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. And they were that type of asshat that would make my then-husband’s life miserable if he said or did anything that indicated he wasn’t one of them. My husband’s first career job cannot accurately be explained without excessive capital letters.

My job was hellish too at this time. It is apparently widely acknowledged in the industry that the first few years are hellish for just about everyone. Oh good. Top it off with sweeping judgments, a huge age gap between me and any of my coworkers, long hours, unwritten rules and unspoken expectations, an unusually difficult load, and lots of open-ended opportunities for me to run myself ragged (very ragged. I often literally worked through every moment of free time. Including the vast majority of the weekends. …But it always felt like there was just so – much – to – do.). And I was sick. At least every other week. For a year. I only missed two work days, when my eardrum ruptured and they made me stay home. I cried myself to sleep almost every night. Then I got back up and cried myself to work.

We had one vehicle between the two of us, so I would drive him the half hour down to the nearest subway station before work, and then drive back the opposite direction for another hour or so to get myself to work. And pick him up after. Sometimes at 2 or 3 am. We never got a full night’s sleep. We barely interacted with each other. He got testy because I was “willing” to have sex, but not interested enough. We fought often. We had a few interactions that still break my heart.

We never had time to visit our group of friends from out of the city. And since we were working pretty much around the clock, we didn’t really interact with the people we knew in the area either. I was desperately lonely, and desperately sad.

I have been told, by both therapists who have had time to actually know me, that I have a tendency to severely under-represent my symptoms and side effects when talking with other people. This has caused problems in trying to get my medications sorted out. When asked how I am, I will say “I’m okay. Really sleepy,” with a tone of voice that implies that it’s not that big a deal. If someone were to press and ask if a person could live a “quasi-regular” life with that level of fatigue, I will say “absolutely not!” I am honest, at least.

I think this undervaluing habit applies to my life experiences as well. Just because there are other, shittier things out there that have happened to other people, doesn’t mean that things that have happened to me can’t be shitty too. Even as I write this, I am overwhelmingly compelled to qualify that statement by adding that they weren’t entirely shitty, and feel like I should be looking at the positives – I had a place to live even if it was very small, I had my mate even if we weren’t very close at that time, none of my health issues were serious, we both did find jobs, we bought a cheap car. It was fine. I shouldn’t be complaining.

Because that’s how my brain works.

I feel guilty now about even having written this. I feel ashamed of the judgments people may make when they read it. I can see vividly all the mistakes I made. I feel like it shouldn’t have been a problem for me.

Had I known then what I do now, maybe it wouldn’t have been.

Or maybe it just would have taken me longer to crash. As it is, I hung in for another six years after that.

…Which, they tell me, is probably why finding a successful treatment for me has been so hard.

Damned good intentions. Always ruining things.