I tend toward melancholy and I tend toward anxiety. But if I am to be honest, it is only when I am majorly compromised (think fired from my job) that these predispositions reach a clinical level. Do I have trauma in my past? Yes. To name but a few emotional hardships I’ve faced: I was beaten and emotionally abused as a child, bulimia is in my past and I have suffered two miscarriages. I’m in no way pristine yet for all intents and purposes I would consider myself well, mentally. I look around to my friends and loved ones and few are as lucky as me. From my sisters who have shared many of my past hurts, to my partner of 5 years, at least in my friend-group there are fewer who are in robust mental health than not. I am not Mother Theresa. I am not the first person most people turn to for empathy yet I am a nurturer. At the end of the day, I find it hard to extricate myself from the pain and suffering of the people I care the most about. I wanted to share a little bit about some of that because I think there are many people like me – people who are more or less well; but, who sometimes get worn down by the responsibilities that come along with care for people who need a little extra love and support and grace.
Example 1: My romantic relationship
I have chosen to be with my partner for 5 years. Before we were together, romantically, we were best friends. Soon into recognizing our romantic inclinations for one another, he disclosed to me that he has some mood disorder issues. The first couple years of being together, I did a lot of growing a lot of healing through some of my insecurities related to having an abusive, drug dependent father. I had hoped that this growth would be enough to stave off the cycle of arguments we had already established. Alas it was not the case. In fact, with the birth of our son, his behavior actually declined. From the outside looking in it’s pretty hard to watch him cycle. He is easily overwhelmed and I can see him coming down on himself even while he is lashing out irrationally at me. Is this behavior abusive? Sometimes it is. Sometimes the cycles come in fast enough succession and with sufficient intensity (never violent) to warrant it being called such. At other times the cycles are more spread out. It’s obvious what the triggers are – loud sounds, FOMO, working too hard for too long, doing nothing for too long, feeling underwhelmed with what he’s accomplished in life, feeling vulnerable and guilty that he has a mood disorder. In fact, my partner is sober, vegan, works out daily, meditates almost daily, supplements, is on a Naturopathic regiment, has a counselor and goes to bed before 11pm 99% of the time and he is STILL completely at the mercy of his brain chemistry. In the moments that I feel abused its hard to take that bigger picture approach but when peace is long-standing enough it fucking kills me. He is trying. He takes feedback and applies it. Things may never get better than they are which is a hard pill for us both to swallow. For the time being this is what I choose.
Example 2: My girl-friends as a cross-sectional sample
I sometimes feel like I am the only woman amongst all of my girlfriends that HASN’T been raped or aggressed on sexually. Feeling the gut-wrenching sorrow of a woman who has been violated in this way leaves me nauseous and angry. My rage could burn down buildings and scorch everything in its path if it was given a physical embodiment. Thankfully that’s not the case but its red hot in my heart and mind every time another friend shares their story with me. Most of my friends have been cheated on (#metoo). Many of my friends have cheated on their partners that I legitimately cared about. There is a cycle of mental abuse we are in that stems from what is culturally acceptable as a relationship. You’re not allowed to be a slut. You’re not allowed to step away from a relationship JUST BECAUSE the sex isn’t good (or there at all). This is yet another iteration of how sex has been used to wear people down and make them neurotic or give them a cross to bear. If you’ve been cheated on its because you’re not good enough ::eye roll:: if you’ve cheated you’re just a thirsty slut ::eye roll:: You cheated because you don’t respect or love your partner ::eye roll:: People are pent up and sexually frustrated. I don’t have the answers to anyone else’s relationship but I spend a lot of time encouraging my friends (men, too) to take their sexual needs seriously as I view that as an inextricable part of mental health. Other major themes that play out again and again: anxiety as it relates to finances, social life or lack thereof, depression because finances and because the world is falling apart in general. Oh yeah – generally, anxiety and depression just like mood disorders are completely their own dimension and need no excuse. I have friends with PTSD from being medics and/or in the front lines during actual combat.
So what do these two examples help to illustrate?
For one, I am susceptible to allowing myself to be abused and I am susceptible to allowing myself to be angry. I don’t think it’s likely that I will ever be in a community wherein every member is perfectly healthy in all ways. So, it’s important to notice the ways in which I’m most likely to get off of my game. These are my two most slippery slopes. The former obviously leads to a version of me that is a victim and not the empowered woman capable of steadfastness and grace while at the same time kicking major ass at large. The latter is equally detrimental. My fire burns. It is not a nice neat controlled thing but rather a rage that is blinding and indiscriminate. When I start to get pissed off in general I start to get pissed off pointedly at the people I love, at myself and the cascade is fierce and destructive.
Another major element I see in this introspect is that mental health is a slippery slope. We are all constantly subject to a number of very real stressors that leave us depleted. Those predisposed to less robust mental health are at risk but so are the people who choose to be in relationships with those same people. In other words – EVERYONE. I have, in the past two weeks witnessed massive interpersonal stress in my closest relationships and my take away from this is – I just want people to be at peace. I want to give more grace and I sure as fuck need it myself.
Thank you for your beautiful sharings, Carlina <3
@Carlina Muglia on Instagram