Overlapping issues with boyfriend.

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Overlapping issues with boyfriend. Empty Overlapping issues with boyfriend.

Post by dustyteal on Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:03 pm

My boyfriend and I have a lot of overlap in the issues that we deal with - depression, general and social anxiety, difficulty with social cues, and debilitating fatigue/brain fog (him from long-term insomnia, me from what I suspect could be chronic fatigue syndrome). I also have other mental health issues on top of that.

Sometimes he gets less physically affectionate, less talkative, etc. Every time I notice those changes and check in about it he says that he's fine, just really tired. But it still steps on my anxiety/depression buttons because I'm afraid it's something else: that I'm boring him, or he has lost interest in me, I'm being too clingy, something like that. When we both have brain fog at the same time (which is unfortunately common since we both get it a lot) it can be difficult to make conversation, since it affects both of our ability to function overall. It makes me sad when I can't engage with him as much as I'd like with this barrier, and it makes me sad that mostly all we do is watch t.v since we both have so little energy.

I'm so slow to read social cues that when he tried to give me a bookmark he bought me, it took me a couple of minutes to register that that's why he was sticking it out towards me. So reading a more complicated situation, like when he seems more distant, can be astronomically difficult for me. On top of that, I have hallucinations/delusions sometimes that he has been replaced with another version of him that doesn't know me (I know this sounds bad, I'm seeing a psychiatrist in a couple weeks) and that sort of behavior makes it harder to shake off the delusion.

For example, today he didn't give as much 'oomph' into his hugs as usual, he touched me less, etc. It was a disappointing crash for me as he had been a lot more physically affectionate over the past couple weeks and I was happy to have that. He barely spoke, either. I asked him if he wanted some space and he said, "Oh, no, I'm just really tired." At least he seemed to perk up some and was laughing when I joked around with him.

Sometimes when things get like this, I get really tense, teary, or start to withdraw myself because I get confused, overwhelmed, scared he's pulling away, wondering if I'm handling things right, etc. Sometimes my reactions confuse him though, which can be kind of a mess! If it wasn't for the fact that I care deeply for him and can see myself being with him long-term, I would have probably broken it off for my own sanity.

But I want to try finding other ways to cope with my feelings when he's not able to be as responsive and cope in general with my feelings about how we both have limitations that affect our relationship. Some ideas I have so far:

- do something fun and/or self-care before I see him so that hopefully I will be in a better mood that will improve how things go when we're together, and something after so that if I get anxious again I can calm myself down

- try inviting him to do some non-tv related activity each weekend, and if he can't/won't, then do it myself

- work on other projects/hobbies, like my blog and Sims game, so I can distract myself if thinking about our relationship is stressful and have more to talk about with him

- take more initiative to give him light affection when he's really tired instead of just being disappointed about not getting the usual amount of affection from him

Let me know if you have any thoughts or advice Smile Thank you!

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:52 pm

Hi dustyteal, welcome aboard!

(My heart goes out to you in regards to your recent hospitalization and the recovery process and fight for supports. When I went in I had the fortune of a strong support network behind me, but it was a scary experience nevertheless.)

In regards to the suggestions you put out, I think they’re pretty excellent, especially the first one. I struggle with really bad depression and anxiety, and my boyfriend is a serious bipolar who frequently rapid cycles and also struggles with anxiety, and learning to build systems of support and self-care around our mental health issues in our relationship is something we’re still working on. One of the things that are really true for me is that I’m only as good for my boyfriend as the mood I’m in. If I’m stewing in anxiety I’m just a hard person to be around, and he often doesn’t have all that emotional energy to give to deal with someone else’s negativity. Sometimes we can be wonderful supports for each other, and life each other up, but sometimes we can also really drag each other down, and its kinda like how an object in motion will stay in motion—how we come into the time we carve out to spend together often defines how the rest of it will go. So for me, doing some positive reflection, watching a favorite comedy—something right before I see him that even if I’m really anxious and depressed puts a positive tint on my emotional state really helps in terms of relating to him better. This goes for him as well—there are some times that no matter how long its been or how much we miss each other we just can’t see each other, and the best thing for me to do is turn around and go home. Like I said, he’s bipolar, and when he gets into an agitated manic state its really unhealthy for me to be around him. When he was younger and in that state he would go around getting into fights and trouble but now he’ll just go around starting arguments. He’ll be really irrational, but there’s no talking him down from that, and eventually I had to realize that there’s nothing I can do for him then but to take a step back and take care of myself. Now before I go see him and he’s been cycling I’ll ask him about the state he’s in, if he still thinks it's a good idea to see him, and we’ll agree to cut things short if he isn’t doing well.

This brings me to your last thought, which is really, really good and important! Today I saw him for the first time in awhile, and while I was looking forward to an afternoon of naked cuddle time he informed me he was in an agitated manic state (which means he doesn’t like physical contact and needs to keep in motion and also doesn’t have a lot of energy for people) and instead if I wanted to see him it could only be for a couple hours for a walk around town. I was really disappointed but I knew if I didn’t adjust my expectations from fun sexytimes to just seeing him for a little bit and catching up I would get resentful and this would taint our time together. One of the things that I’ve found helps with this is to try to schedule something after I’m planning on seeing him—like meeting up with another friend or doing something nice for myself. That way if our interaction is poor/I have to leave/I end up feeling drained/he flakes out on me, I don’t feel like my day has been ruined because things didn’t work out. If I let myself feel like my day has been ruined, then that (sometimes even subconsciously) feeds resentment back into our relationship and makes our next interactions harder. Letting go of how I want our interactions to go and trying to accept the ones that I sometimes get is hard, but its necessary for making them better. I’m also trying to work on ways in which I can express frustrations with our relationship without it coming off as blaming, because sometimes things can be hard without it being anyone’s fault or completely out of the other person’s control.

And oh yeah, other project/hobbies = another really good idea. I’m not so great on this, and I know I really need to improve and try harder on it, but the more idle time I have with my mind going over and over things that happened that made me unhappy with him in the past, or current worries about our relationship, I just make things so much worse! It sounds like you struggle with something similar with obsessing over how things are going and coming up with reasons why its going wrong. Basically I’ve currently been trying to check myself as to if my current train of thought is productive and focuses on a problem that can be solved, if there is anything I can do about it now (like talk it out with my therapist or a trusted friend) and if not then to try to drop it and give my mind something else to do.

One final thought is trying to really understand in yourself that his mood states are not your responsibility and you can’t make him happy or perky—you can always try to present a better version of yourself, but how the other person responds to it is entirely out of your control. I’m really, really bad at this one myself. I spent a lot of time with boyfriend today anxiously smiling and giggling in an attempt to lift his mood, and he seemed somewhat more lively afterwards but it took so much out of me and ultimately his mood states are his and there’s nothing I could do.

I’m sorry this is so rambly—I’m kinda exhausted at the moment, but I think you have a lot of good insights and it sounds like you really want to work to improve your relationship! I certainly would love to hear more from you as you try to implement these new strategies—I have a lot to learn and improve in terms of managing my relationship with my boyfriend when our mental health issues come up!

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Post by The Wisp on Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:12 pm

I'm glad you're seeing a psychiatrist, dustyteal. I'm sorry you're going through all this, it sounds awful Sad

I think your immediate plans of action are wise. I'm not sure that I can provide any advice besides that you should make sure you have contact with some people who will support you and keep you grounded who are not your boyfriend, be they family, friends, or us here.

Good luck Smile
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Post by dustyteal on Sun Mar 22, 2015 8:57 pm

Thank you both for the replies! Sorry for the delayed response, I had a big energy-shortage this week.

Prajnaparamita, it is a scary experience, though I'm glad to hear you had a strong support network to get through that!

I can relate to what you said about being as good for your boyfriend as the mood you're in. I like your idea of doing something to bring your mood up before you see him. I tried doing it and it didn't quite work out that way, because with my sleep problems I would sometimes sleep through the alarm up until he came over and had to wake me up at times, and I missed my chance to do that before seeing him. However, I altered it by doing more things throughout the day when I'm awake that would improve my mood overall. Then even if I slept too much to do something before seeing him, I could at least think to myself about how I accomplished that goal of making a blog post last night, or something like that, and up my mood that way.

Yeah, self-care is so important. I've come to realize too that it's just not in my power to make his depression or his problems better and that I need to make taking care of myself a priority. You guys sound great with communication.

I understand how disappointing it can be to look forward to some cuddle time or sending a day together and then finding out it just isn't in the cards. I like your idea of planning to do something fun after hanging out. That way, even if something goes sideways there is at least something to look forward to. Today my thing was posting a reply here after hanging out with him today, and while thins went well with us today it is still a nice stress-reliever in general just typing things out. So glad to have this forum!

Yeah, I think I can get obsessive too. I think another part of it could be attachment styles. We all generally fall into secure, avoidant, or anxious attachment styles, and I think I lean towards the anxious side. Checking through those thoughts to see whether they need problems-solving or distraction is good. Lately I've veered more towards distraction as I've been trying to get my energy recharged anyway and so I'm all about books, moves etc. right now!

I did the same thing, trying to be funnier with my boyfriend to cheer him up, and didn't realize how much energy it actually takes until I read what you said about that. I decided that for the most part I won't go out of my way to try to entertain him out of is depression, but just joke around naturally as things happen to pop into my head and I have found that it doesn't take so much energy when we hang out together anymore. You're right that ultimately, another person's mood states are their own.

Thank you! Here are some additional thoughts that have come to mind over the past week:

1.
My boyfriend doesn't talk much about himself or his life anymore. He doesn't want to talk about his depression or even answer a "How are you doing?" His face will cloud over and he'll just say, "Fine." It makes me sad that he doesn't feel like sharing himself with me, and it feels lopsided and a bit cold not hearing about his life when I tell him about mine.

I've found ways to deal with it. Now I ask him questions like what he's been reading or watching lately. He lights up when he talks about that stuff. I remind myself that it's most likely about how he is processing his emotions right now and most likely has nothing to do with me. When I get sad about the lack of emotional intimacy from him, I remind myself that talking about the smaller details in life can be just as intimate as talking about the bigger things.

2. I appreciate what he does have to offer: the times he looks over and smiles at me, seeing him get so excited when he's with his dog, him folding me into a hug and validating me when I'm stressed out. And I feel that overall these things are bigger than the depression and the fatigue that we battle. This might sound weird, but I also appreciate the lack of problems in other areas, like "I'm glad he always talks to me calmly when there's a problem and doesn't yell or call me names."

3. When he gets really distant again, I remember the times before when it all seemed so horrible and then his affection, laughter and overall presence would come back again. I can be patient and wait it out until the tide turns.

4. I remember that it is my choice to stay with him, even through the bad stuff. I can in theory end the relationship for anytime and any reason, but every day we've been together I've been making the choice to stay with him, even through the bad parts, just as he has stayed with me even through the darkest parts of my life, and I can see myself making that choice for the rest of my days.

Those are some things that have helped me Smile I wish you and your boyfriend luck on this journey!





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Post by Enail on Sun Mar 22, 2015 9:12 pm

Just wanted to say it sounds like you've got some really, really smart strategies in those recent thoughts of yours!

#1 reminded me a bit of something I think is important: not letting feeling like you want to be there for or help him take precedence over just enjoying his company in whatever ways you and he are up for (and vice versa). There's a danger when mental health issues are in the mix of getting to feel like your relationship revolves around being supportive, or giving the other person the impression that's the case, when I think it's just as helpful - and completely crucial for a healthy relationship - to just be around each other because you like each other and like doing regular things together, things that have nothing to do with mental health.
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Post by dustyteal on Tue Mar 24, 2015 12:44 am

Thanks, Enail!

Yeah, this is true.

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