I’m a grad student, and my summer course load is light this year. My spring semester is more or less over and I’m facing the prospect of a very lazy summer. That leaves a lot of time for lounging around on the couch and reading the entire Internet and watching Netflix. I’ve found over the years that doing that for a day or two as a treat can refresh me and make me happy, but if that starts to be all that I do I will slide into depression.
Since I’m just pulling myself out of the worst couple years of my life in terms of mental health, the idea of letting all my progress slip away is terrifying. To try to stave off the illness, I’m going to set some goals for myself this summer.
1. I will leave my apartment every single day. If I don’t have class, I will run an errand, hang out with a friend or just take the dog to the park or on a nature walk.
2. I will do something productive every day, even if it’s only for five minutes. Sometimes my trip outside the apartment can count as my productive thing, like if I’m in class or at the grocery store. But if it doesn’t, I will make an effort to cook something healthy or do some dishes or clean something or do laundry. This will also keep my home in a state that will help me be cheerful.
3. I will try my hardest not to dwell on negative emotions. If I need to blog about them or complain a little I will, but after I’ve processed them I will distract, distract, distract. Mike is sleeping with someone else? That sounds like a really good time to get coffee with a friend. Friends stressing me out? Time to turn off my cellphone and take the dog somewhere fun.
I’ve prepared myself well for this summer. I have a whole stack of books to get through and some gardening to do and recipes to try. I have plans to go out of town two or three times. I’m going to try to make up for time I lost with my friends when I was so busy last semester. I’m a little scared of all this free time, but after being too busy to catch my breath for all of April, I’m also sort of looking forward to it.
The past couple of weeks have been hard for me. I’ve been very busy with life stuff and it’s been stressing me out and making me feel a bit volatile. Because of that, Mike and I haven’t really been connecting. I’ve been irritable and our schedules have been conflicting and we haven’t had much time to spend together. We’ve even had a couple of minor arguments. But despite all that, I feel fine about the relationship. I’m not worried about it ending and I don’t think this is a downward spiral or anything. We still like each other, and we still love each other, and I know that as soon as I have more time we will be back in each others’ arms and doing fun things together. And last night I felt really sick and he was there to take care of me. I guess that my lesson from this is that my relationship is strong and secure. I haven’t worried about us at all. I have a good thing going here, and if several weeks of me being overwhelmed and out of touch with him can’t put a dent in it, one night with someone else won’t either.
I have a bad habit I need to break. When Mike’s phone rings or beeps or vibrates or anything my hackles go up. When I see him using his phone I get anxious or irritable. My immediate reaction is “it must be someone he is planning to sleep with” and I get jealous. I just have this negative visceral reaction to seeing him use his cell phone.
I’m trying to get over it, because it’s unfair to him and unhealthy for me, but it’s become a habit of sorts. Every time I notice myself doing it I try to think “so what if it is someone he wants to fuck?” That doesn’t actually change your relationship at all, and you can handle this.” Slowly, the anxiety I feel about his phone is getting less strong each time.
Mike’s birthday is coming up soon and a little after that his phone contract is up so he is getting a new one. His phone now is kind of crappy, so I told him that for a birthday present I’d help him pay for a nicer phone than he would have gotten otherwise with a new contract. My primary motivation is to give him a nice birthday gift that he will use and like. But I also sort of want to do it because it will remind me that my fears about his phone are irrational and I need to overcome them.
I’m actually seriously asking here. Last night I was laying in bed, sort of bored but not ready to go to sleep yet. I glanced over at Mike’s computer screen (not in a spying way, my eyes just happened to glance that way as I was scanning the room) and without really thinking of it I noticed he was having a conversation on social media. Based on the color of the profile picture, I think it was a girl we both know. She’s someone I like, but also someone I expect him to sleep with at some point.
It really shouldn’t have bothered me. I like this girl. We are friends. She has her own primary partner. We are very different people and I don’t feel threatened by her. But just seeing that he was talking to her was enough to remind me of the fact that he sleeps with other people and it put me in a really shitty mood. I felt grumpy and irritable and restless.
I also felt bad about myself, though. I felt stupid for being jealous of someone I know isn’t trying to steal Mike from me and who Mike isn’t planning to leave me for. I also felt kind of gross for having looked at his computer screen and used a half-seen snapshot of his Internet activity to jump to all sorts of conclusions. I mean, for one thing it felt too much like an invasion of privacy. And secondly, I don’t even know for sure what he was doing because I only saw the screen for half a second. There was also an element of “Really, Beth? You’re still letting this stuff bother you? Haven’t we been over this before?”
Mike must have noticed my mood because he came over and asked what was up. I told him I had gotten grumpy and depressed all of a sudden but didn’t tell him why; I didn’t want to burden him or make him feel bad for something he really shouldn’t have to think twice about. He hugged me and kissed me and gave me some attention, and then I felt better and went to sleep.
But as I lay there drifting off I thought about what had happened. I suspect that I was feeling generally bad about myself and thinking I was unlovable. Then when I suspected he was paying attention to someone else it sort of confirmed my feelings of inferiority. But when he paid attention to me I remembered that I am lovable and that it doesn’t matter what he does with other women because he loves me. The real trick is to be able to get to that end result on my own next time.