Depression Wrecking Ball

September 16, 2009

bipolar

I suffer from clinical depression.

It’s a wrecking ball, especially destructive of marital joy.

If my bouts with depression were confined to being bummed out, or periods of sadness, I doubt they would have had the wrecking ball impact on the joy of our marriage they’ve had.

But that’s not the case.

In its more sinister forms, depression can manifest itself in paranoia, temper tantrums, enraged outbursts, panic attacks and other expressions of groundless fear, anxiety, and anger.

In my case, these outbursts come out of nowhere, are attached to meaningless things, and scare the hell out of my current wife and scared the hell out of my previous ones.

Thirty years ago, I punched a spider web in our car’s windshield because my first wife bit into a cookie as we were taking off to see her in-laws.

I have suddenly, irrationally, without warning raged at my first wife drinking orange juice from a mug instead of a glass; I’ve jumped two feet off the ground in purple anger because my second wife thought I should be making some phone calls about a publication I was editing sooner than later; I turned purple and screamed in the face of a girlfriend because she spoke ill of a former student of mine who’d been subleasing her apartment.

Over ten years ago, I was laid out by the flu and was resting comfortably in bed, getting ready to either listen to the NCAA basketball final on the radio or watch it on television.

Millie came home from a day of work and burst into the bedroom to see how I was and started opening a window in the room.

God, and I mean God, only knows why this set me off.  My teeth clenched, my face reddened, turning toward purple, my body shook, and I yelled at her to stop.  It was my mental illness taking over, battling with panic and rage against the suffocating feeling that I was being controlled, that Millie was trying to run my life, do what I she thought I couldn’t do myself; or deciding I needed windows open..and, in my diseased mind, if I’d wanted them opened, I’d have done it myself (even though I was laid out flat with the flu).

That moment froze Millie’s libido and it’s never thawed.

She’s told me as much.  I so shocked and frightened her with this panicked, angry, irrational, sick outburst that she has never been able to give herself over to having anything like uninhibited sex with me.

And so began, as I see it, our slow descent into joyless marriage.

I’ve worked hard to deal with and treat my depression.  Medication has helped a lot.  Conversational therapy, less so.  I have never worked with a therapist who seemed to work with me as an individual.   The therapists I’ve talked with always see me as part of what “studies show”.  I’ve never believed the therapist was addressing my unique psychological or emotional make up, but addressed me as a part of some trend, or as a series of abstracted symptoms.

Treating the depression has worked and not worked.  The purple-faced outbursts have almost gone away.  If it hadn’t been for a panic attack when my dog went after Millie’s dog a couple of weeks ago, I’d be pretty clean for the last several months, if not the year.

But, it’s not just the outbursts.  Depression wears me out.  I’m often fatigued and nap often.   My fatigue and the time I spend sleeping or lying down, often while working or writing, really bothers Millie and sucked more joy from our marriage.

Both my teeth-clenching, frightening outbursts and my struggles with fatigue have widened the distance between me and Millie.

As long as Millie feels disturbed, distrustful, angry, ripped off, disillusioned, and distanced by how my mental illness affects me, and her, I don’t see how we can have anything but a joyless marriage.

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Sex Buddies

September 15, 2009

sex chart

Many, many years ago Sarah’s marriage was falling apart and mine already had.

We were really good friends and seized the opportunity presented by our failed marriages to become sex buddies.

It was the best sex of my life and lasted for just over a year.

It was misleading, though.

For both me and Sarah, sex was not only a way to have fun together and become even better friends, it was a means of relieving the stress of our marital difficulties.  We experienced sex as a retreat, as a way to not only escape our troubles, but to help build each other’s esteem.

I loved this way of having sex.  We both knew that one day our sex buddy time would end, that we really were not cut out for a relationship that involved getting involved in each other’s business, but we were ecstatic to enjoy the time we had.

Why was it misleading?

Well, Sarah spoiled me.

When we stopped being sex buddies and got involved in other relationships, I went into these other relationships thinking that these other women would also look to sex with me as a way to relieve stress, as a means of comforting one another, and as a way of having at least a brief interlude of fun and mutual affection in the midst of otherwise difficult times.

It’s never happened again.

Millie and I haven’t had sex,I mean intercourse, in, well,I’m sure it’s been almost ten years.  I honestly don’t remember the last time, but I do remember being naked together on an afternoon not long after 9/11 that was wonderful, but we didn’t have sex and I remember Millie coming on strong to me a couple of times when we were drunk and I couldn’t perform.   These incidents were at least seven, if not eight, years ago.

I’ve learned that when she’s under any level of duress, Millie cannot surrender herself to sex.

It’s pretty much that simple and over the last several years, thanks to family illnesses, kids having accidents, pressures at work for Millie, and other points of stress and duress, Millie’s libido died.

It’s odd.  For me, if I’ve had a tough day at work, with conflict, too much work and too little time, or if I’ve had to participate in a painful or tedious meeting, coming home, relaxing with Millie, becoming playful, seducing each other, having the evening climax with sex would be a perfect way to let go of the work place, surrender myself to playfulness and fun, and relieve the tension.

Not Millie.  The stress gnaws at her, tightens her up, and makes having fun with each other nearly impossible.

Millie unwinds by drinking some whiskey or wine.

In the past, the booze would sometimes loosen her up to feel relaxed enough to play in bed, but about eight to ten years ago that disappeared.

For me, not making love in the midst of stress has heightened my sense of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. By masturbating, I can bring myself to orgasm, thus having the physical sensation of pleasure and release, but it’s a poor substitute for making love with my wife.

I married Millie so we could become mates in the life of the mind and spirit.

I married Millie so we could be sex buddies, too.

That hasn’t worked out.  I don’t think it ever mattered that much to Millie.  I see sex as central to marriage and a long term relationship.

To Millie, it seems insignificant.

Having a sexless marriage contributes significantly to our joyless marriage.