I recently became one of the group leaders of my local younger crowd BDSM group. That in itself is a compliment, but that’s not the one I’m talking about. One of the former group leaders, and the guy who was the embodiment of this group when Mike and I joined the scene together, messaged me to say congratulations. Then he said that he’s happy I’m going to be involved with leadership because I’m “one of the most reasonable people” he knows. I know that sounds like a nice compliment, but maybe not one worth blogging about. But as someone with mental illnesses, I always worry about being called “crazy” or “irrational.” Being called reasonable made me feel like a normal, competent human being. And that’s pretty much my goal in life.
My depression has been really manageable and unobtrusive lately, but now it’s the end of a very hard semester for me in terms of both work and school and it’s seeping back. I just feel burned out and overwhelmed and lonely. I want to go hang out with friends and sleep and work on Mike’s holiday gifts, but instead I have to work on final projects and papers and work obligations. Next semester should be easier, and I’m looking forward to the holidays, so those are bright spots. And Mike’s being really supportive and helpful. At this point in our relationship he’s gotten pretty good at knowing how to support me through depression. I just know that after the semester ends, my depression will go away again. It’s fairly mild and I can tell that it’s triggered by stress. I just have to put one foot in front of the other until I can finish everything and be OK again.
When I started this blog, I didn’t want to write about BDSM because it seemed exhibitionist and irrelevant to the topic. But I realize now that my style of non-monogamy is pretty tied in with kink, because so much of our openness comes in the form of doing BDSM with other people. Last night we went to a party focused on practicing rope bondage.
We had a lot of fun. Mike tied me and another girl together and experimented with a couple of ties on me and I got suspended. I’m not that big into suspensions because I get dizzy easily, and this was sort of a tricky one. Mike also tied the other girl into a shrimp tie. I was surprised by how not-jealous I was. I had a little tweak of it as he finished when he was sort of flirty/dirty talking with her, but then I got over it. After he finished the tie the two of us used her as a footstool for a little, which was fun.
As we drove home, I asked if he was proud of how I handled it and how comfortable I was with him playing with someone else. He said that he thought I was going to ask him if he was proud of how brave I was to get suspended. Luckily, he was proud of both.
It says something bad about my past relationships that I still expect that if I say “I know we planned on doing [sexual activity], but I’m not feeling it right now. Can we do [platonic activity] instead and do [sexual activity] another time?” it will be met with whining and complaining or needling or guilt trips. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t sleep with people like that anymore. The fact that right now I have more than one partner who responds to that with “Of course. Why don’t we also do [other platonic activity]” and doesn’t punish me or make a big deal out of it is blowing my mind. In a good way.
I think a lot about what makes me happy. The way I relate to happiness — with gratitude and a little fear — has been influenced by depression. I feel like if I can just figure out the formula to happiness I’ll never be depressed again. I know that’s not true, but I do think that making my life work the way I want it can help.
Right now, my formula for a happy life includes work, but not too much. If I could, I would work part-time for the rest of my life. Then, I need a good amount of social time with friends, but again, too much of that and I feel like I’m spread too thin. Having secondary partners helps this, because it’s social but not overwhelmingly so. I also need plenty of time with Mike, and I like it spread between getting out and doing things and enjoying a quiet domesticity between us. Then I need time alone to read and blog and watch TV and do solitary hobbies.
This weekend, I’ve had a good mix of all of these things, which is good, since I’ve been feeling burned out lately. I had some work to do, but I also had a four-day weekend to spread it out over. Friday Mike and I went to a big barbecue at a friend’s place and were social. Saturday we went to lunch together and then took the dog on a hike. After that we relaxed together for the rest of the day. Yesterday I had a lot of time to myself and I divided it between working on actual work and on hand-making holiday gifts. Today, I have work to do, but I’m also managing to have a play date with another partner, have a big, homemade breakfast with Mike and watching “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” on Netflix.
I’ve had a fantastic weekend and feel refreshed. But I’m still a bit overwhelmed with school, so I know that I’m going to have to try harder to balance things when school starts again tomorrow.
Last night while walking the dog together, Mike and my conversation meandered onto the topic of my depression. It was the first time we’ve really talked much about it since it’s been in remission. It was a little hard to remind myself just how bad things had been, but it also really highlighted how well I’m doing now by comparison. I’m not happy all the time, but I’m able to be happy. And even when I’m not happy it’s not as bad.
Mike said that, when my depression was at its worst, he had hoped that the one thing I took from it would be a greater security with the fact that he loves me and wants to be with me. And I have. I think part of that was emerging from the depression and realizing that he had stuck by me the whole time and done his very best to support me. Another part of it was having time without other partners to sort of relax and re-set my brain. We had tried that once before, but it didn’t work when I was depressed. Once I felt better, my mind was in a place where I could actually process everything and make use of that time. Since then, I’ve been very secure and happy with my/our choice to be non-monogamous again.
I just feel incredibly lucky that I’m at this place in my life right now. I feel so much better about myself and my situation (not just in terms of Mike and non-monogamy, but also in terms of work and school and friends).
I realized lately that I have a lot of baggage around healthy communication that comes from my previous partners. I sometimes freeze up with anxiety at the thought of bringing up anything serious about relationships because I’m anticipating a fight or a negative reaction. Sometimes Mike and I do fight, but it’s unfair to expect him to react in the condescending, mean or manipulative ways my exes did. This lesson was brought home to me a few days ago when Mike and I had a miscommunication leading to a fight. After, I realized that if I had just told him directly how I felt instead of making assumptions about what he was thinking and trying to communicate indirectly, the worst of that could have been avoided.
Last night I decided to bring something up that had been making me less satisfied with the relationship. I was anxious and expecting a disagreement, but I reminded myself that I didn’t actually know how Mike felt or would react. So after he got home, I very nicely said “I’ve been thinking, and I miss [X] in our relationship.” To my delight, his immediate response was “Yeah, me too.” We had dropped this thing during a more tumultuous time and so I had thought he wasn’t interested, but it turns out that once things settled down with us we both missed it and hadn’t wanted to push it on the other person.
That discussion went really well and sort of meandered into talking about some tangentially related topics and we realized we were very much on the same page. We also had the opportunity to talk about how both of us have changed since we started our relationship in the sense that we are no longer interested in sleeping with someone we aren’t friends with. That one is a more recent revelation about myself. For a while I tried to meet new people and it always made me anxious. But when I started seeing people I was already good friends with it was fun and easy. Mike told me a little about his feelings on a (maybe not) potential partner. It was nice because I didn’t feel at all vested in the outcome, but I enjoyed hearing his thoughts and feelings and knowing where his head was.
Sometimes you have to learn a lesson the hard way, but sometimes you get to learn it through positive reinforcement. Lately I’ve learned the same lesson twice in different ways, and the second way was way easier.