This isn’t going to be about how the media contributes to the erasure of sexual non-monogamy, although that is a worthy topic of discussion. This is about how, when you are feeling vulnerable, you have to be careful what messages you allow into your life. If you’re feeling shitty about your weight today, perhaps don’t read Cosmo, for instance. Of course, sometimes you don’t see it coming and you’ll be reading or watching something you think is safe when you get hit with something right in a sore spot.
About six months ago I got so depressed that I almost checked myself into the hospital. Mike and I were on the verge of breaking up because my mental health was making a relationship almost impossible. Instead I took a week off from work. I spent it sleeping with my dog on my dad’s couch, going to emergency therapy appointments and working out of a Dialectical Behavior Therapy workbook. When I was relaxing on the couch, trying to turn off my brain for a bit, I watched that British TV show “Extras.” It’s pretty funny overall, but there was this one part that was really hard to watch. Ricky Gervais’ character is being set up by a friend who tells him that the girl is perfect because she’s depressed so you know she’s desperate. He turns her down. It was like a punch in the gut. I was struggling with the way my depression made having a romantic relationship difficult and there was confirmation that I was unlovable and going to die alone. Of course I am very lovable (just ask anyone) and it was the depression talking, but it was the worst possible thing for me to hear that week.
When I have problems with jealousy, I sometimes think about the sit com staple of the controlling/jealous/possessive woman. She’s never a sympathetic character, usually gets dumped in some humiliating fashion and is always seen as a pariah who is inflicting herself on some poor man. I get torn up worrying that I’m that woman. I don’t want to be her. I want Mike to feel happy and free and comfortable in our relationship. But this is a challenge for me. I do get jealous. And while I try not to take it out on other people, it’s not like I can hide it from my partner. He can see right through me. Sometimes I get sucked into loops of self-loathing where I see myself as this stereotype. I wonder why Mike doesn’t just dump me and I think that if he did everyone would think “why didn’t he do that sooner? She’s so jealous I can’t believe he put up with her for that long anyway.”
The only thing that calms me down when I get into that loop is to remember that the people on TV are characters. They are flat. From the broken, depressed girl to the crazy jealous bitch, they are all stereotypes. I’m a complete person. Sure I have qualities that are hard to live with, but I also have other aspects to my personality. My partner loves me for the totality of myself. He loves me as much as I love him, and I manage to be aware of his faults while still finding him absolutely perfect.
The media we consume can hurt us in so many ways when we already have a weakness to exploit. It’s shitty and painful when it happens, but ultimately we do have a choice about what we allow into our heads. You don’t have to make it about you. You are a person, not a character.