Hello! It’s time for the monthly ritual where I answer short questions and give priority to the patrons who keep the lights on and the web-hamsters running. We’ve got twelve questions this week, I’ve written up the first batch and will post the rest later in the weekend. Topics: Passive-aggressive coworkers, celebrating a climb out of depression, figuring out fit a new job, settling in in a new town, becoming a therapist to the stars, and becoming better at conflict.
I (she/her) and my partner (he/him) had been together for three years. Most of the happiest moments of my life have been with him, and we planned our futures together. I don’t value being in a relationship for its own sake, and I’ve only ever wanted this kind of thing with him.
In recent months there weren’t so many of those happy times. We were just ok, with some frustration with each other from big outside stresses coming home with us and making home stressful as well. Last weekend I took stock of everything and realized I really did need to change what I was doing at home, that I was taking him for granted, and that he was worth it.
Yesterday he told me he no longer wanted to be with me and asked to move into our spare room while he found somewhere else to go. It appears that he also took stock of everything, and came to the opposite conclusion. He acknowledged the things he was doing to contribute to a tense home life, taking most of the responsibility. I think it’s more 50/50.
I let him know how I felt, and how much of our frustrations were my contribution. I suggested that we could take some space and try to come back realigned, since we both seemed to have had realizations about our habits. He said he felt better hearing my piece, but that he didn’t want to keep working on this.
I don’t want this to fall apart. I feel we’re teetering on the edge. He said he’s not open to trying, but he clamps down when pressured and reconsiders later. Before this he was still saying he was glad we were lucky enough to meet. I feel strongly that this is not totally shut, but it will be if I fuck up.
My feelingsbombs! are a problem, and I need to stay back. Especially as he is in a high stress period at work for the next two weeks. He’s reserved and needs to come around to this in his own time. But “let’s communicate” is my primary mode, and I have FEELINGS. And he’s home still! Which I feel is better than asking him to go now, but I don’t know how to act. I’m terrified of chasing him away. This is my last chance. What do I do?
Hiding and Seeking
PS context: I am talking to friends and my therapist to get out the FEELINGS, but it’s more all-consuming than they can reasonably cover.
(photo by Trey Ratcliff)
The occasion of our glorious gathering is the existence of the Pavlok wearable fitness tracker, described by the Telegraph as a device “which gives the wearer an electric shock if they fail to meet their daily exercise targets” and by the incomparable Lindy West as “like a Saw movie and/or dystopian nightmare in which thigh gaps have become the global currency.” Here’s the idea: you set some daily goal (which the Pavlok site suggests might also be something like writing 1,000 words or going to sleep on time, but let’s be real — they mean exercise), and if you do not meet your goal, the device will zap you like you are some kind of lab rat. I know what you’re thinking: a brief electric shock is just what I need to get sleepy for a responsible bedtime! (No. This is not what you’re thinking.)
I have so much to say about this method of fitness-by-torture that I could literally write all day and not finish. This post would grow and grow, my endless anger at the world that constructs beauty ideals so toxic that this seems reasonable to anyone spilling over until it takes over the whole site, breaking the tent poles and all. I will not do this thing. I will use my ability to control my own body and brain in this small manner. I will do this because I am in fact not a lab rat but a human being with autonomy and free will, and I don’t need to fucking strap a torture device to my wrist to be the kind of human I want to be.
This is not the first time I’ve written about efforts to introduce torture into weight loss. This idea makes a certain kind of insidious sense, if you buy into the notion that being fat is a moral failing of individual persons (an idea, btw, that transparently is at odds with the idea that we’re in the middle of an “obesity epidemic,” but who says logic has anything to do with fat-shaming?). If you think that fat people are fat because they are constitutionally incapable of eating less or exercising more, and that “calories in < calories out” is a method that will always lead to thinness, then the idea of torturing fat people just a little bit for their own good sounds pretty effective. I mean, sure, it’s unpleasant, but it will work, and that’s more important, right?
Look, it’s true that habits are hard to establish and hard to break. Gamifying your life is an intriguing possibility that uses rewards and punishments to provide external motivation for behavioral changes, and sometimes that works: it can be very very hard to overcome your internal inertia to do something good for yourself, especially if you are prone to depression. Personally, I have become worlds more likely to do the dishes and to write every day since I started using HabitRPG, a free site where I can set my own rewards for good behavior and also have a red panda cartoon companion level up with me. It’s just a little extra boost of motivation each day: if I draft a new poem, I am a tiny bit closer to buying a new dress from Ureshii. There are lots of ways to trick yourself into performing more self-care — including enjoyable exercise as self-care! — that are about building you up rather than breaking you down. Because you know what is not that likely to make you overcome self-loathing-based inertia and go for a jog? STRAPPING A PAIN MACHINE TO YOUR BODY.
This unholy child of Pavlov and Milgram is the logical extension of a fat-shaming culture. Not only are you supposed to volunteer to torture yourself, but you’re also supposed to spend money for the privilege. Make no mistake, Awkwardeers: this is part and parcel of the massive beauty and weight loss industries that sell you the idea that there is something disgusting about your body and then sell you products to fix it, thus reifying the disgust by making it real for you even if it’s not for anyone else.
You are not disgusting. You do not deserve to be tortured. You would not torture someone else, because you are not a torturer. You are a human being with as much worth as every other human being on the planet. You are made out of atoms that were ejected by supernovae when the universe was young. You are a fucking miracle.
Thus ends the lesson. Here begins the dance party!
Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.
I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)
So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.
This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our discussion of the Low Mood Cycle. It’s a concept described in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I thought it would be useful to share.
I am not a mental health professional (more caveats on that at the end). But I felt that if these resources had been usefully presented for free on the Internet – especially during times where taking a train and a bus and a taxi to get to a day-long course seemed like organizing a picnic on Venus – it could have helped me that little bit sooner. Maybe it will help others.
Dear Capitan Awkward,
How do you get over someone?
OH MY GOD I JUST REALIZED it’s been SEVEN years since this whole story started and I am SO OVER FEELING THIS WAY.
ok. so SEVEN years ago I started dating someone (X) who had just gotten out of a relationship with (Y). It was just after I moved to a new town where i knew no one, so dating was exciting and lovely and I fell for this person in a real way. Forever Feelings For The First Time. Our relationship moved fast, and we were in a committed and L-word relationship four months in when X dumped me to get back together with Y.
THE STORY SHOULD HAVE ENDED THERE.
what transpired next was TWO YEARS of deep conversations and feelings and negotiations between X, Y and myself. X & I tried being friends & ended up sleeping together multiple times. X tried dating both Y and I at the same time. Y was heartbroken and unwilling and felt cheated on (BECAUSE SHE WAS) and X felt torn and everyone was deeply unhappy.
in those two years, my main support was my new friend Z. Z was a sounding board, late night cheerleader, and advice dispenser. two weeks after introducing X and Z to each other, they fell in love, Y and I were unceremoniously dumped, again, and X & Z moved in together. it was shitty. it was shitty and the worst part is that i felt like i had asked for it, and that I was making terrible decisions, and that i was behaving like the worst of myself. Z tried to maintain a friendship with me while X went back and forth from writing long, dramatic emails to no contact whatsoever. I finally couldn’t handle it anymore and cut both of them out of my life, a decision that affected all our mutual friends and led me to move (not very far) away.
Four years later, I’ve deleted every long-winded email from either of them and avoided seeing them at parties and our friends have (mostly) stopped updating me on their lives.
I am in a two-plus year long relationship with The One (A). A is marvelous, the love of my life, the real deal, the butter on my bread. I’m happy, and successful, and making plans for a future, and would be devastated if anything happened to endanger that.
so why when i do hear news about X and Z that I go immediately to that old place of anxiety and helplessness? How do I get over this feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever i hear either of their names? How do I stop googling them late at night? this is all coming up for me right now because I heard through mutual friends that Z is pregnant. And i want more than anything for that to be No Big Deal.
I need a spell. Or a pill. Or something. I cannot live the rest of my life under the shadow of a failed relationship. Ugh.
More on the theme of parents & communication with adult children today.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’ve been reading your blog for just a few days now but I already caught on to the important part ‘speak up for yourself’.
Now my problem is that I can’t. Or rather I can’t make myself.
I’ve grown up with my bipolar mother. She’s in therapy, on meds and the whole family is very supportive.
She was stuck in depressive stage for what feels like my whole youth, so living at home was equal to walking on egg shells. No arguments, no unplanned behavior, no upsetting mom lest she burst into tears. No friends over (not that I had many). No going for a walk after school instead of heading straight home. No speaking my mind. Keeping my head down so dad wouldn’t have more to worry about.
While my younger brother dealth with the problem by taking drugs and acting up, I was the model daughter. Dream grades. Quiet behavior. Self sufficient.
I, well, broke around age 17 where she had another depressive plunge and went into the hospital. I was unable to visit her, speak to her, look at her without everything freezing. I had two years of therapy, at least one mental breakdown and unvited her from my graduation ceremony because I didn’t want to risk her ruining the day as she was almost but not quite out of the hospital.
Fast forward to today:
I’ve moved out and live with my boyfriend of 6 years. She’s not had a depressive episode in a while but is bordering on mania. She’s still self centered but more aware of her surroundings. Unfortunately she has this big idea of us being/becoming bffs. She tries to bribe me with presents (small things…flowers, yarn, chocolate). She says she loves me and I can see in her eyes that she wants me to just say it back.
But I can’t. It would be a lie. I don’t love her. She has serverely disabled me with this need for top grades, the inability to speak up for myself and the fear that one wrong step will have her telling me again what a horrible child I am and/or send her back into depression.
I generally keep my distance as she’s getting clingy again. I only visit my father (he works at me university, so I can just visit his office). But I don’t want to cut her out of my life. Or rather, I feel I shouldn’t. It would mean not seeing my father as much. I enjoy spending time with her in small doses (or at least I think so…might be self-delusion). I’m afraid it’ll push her back into depression and though I should be taking care and thinking of myself I just can’t.
The solution to my problems is just one talk/phone call/email/letter away
I could talk to my boyfriend.
I could call or email my father.
I could call or write a letter to my former therapist.
But I just sat here for three hours trying to make myself do any of it and couldn’t.
Lips Glued Shut
Ahoy there, Captain, and fellow Awkward Army.
As I am typing this, work has been massively stressful and busy for me–I work at the busiest gas station in my city and despite being part time, I consistently get 40-hour/at least 30-hour work weeks; the end of the summer semester is drawing very near, and next semester (which I only have a week break in between the two) is going to be even more hectic, with twice as many classes; because I am so busy, I very rarely see my main core of friends, who live 45 minutes away from me; I am in a very bad place mentally, dealing with lots of anxiety and general sad feels; and to top it all off, I have now split up from a boy I didn’t want to break things off with, because I’m still emotionally invested in him, even though we were on the opposite ends of “Displaying Affection and Something Resembling Caring” Spectrum and I was hoping to talk to him about it but we had a snit about him never hanging out with me that eventually accumulated into breaking up. Read More