Why am I being such a psycho?

The last few weeks have been an emotional… not rollercoaster, that seems too strong. It hasn’t been that bad.

But it’s been an emotional teacups ride.

teacups

I had the birthday of my dead ex-boyfriend, and I got the contraceptive implant, which was a slight ordeal. Plus, there has trouble in paradise with Andrew, and now I have flu.

These are small to medium-sized things, but I think my coping resources were already a bit depleted, because over the last few months, there’s been one small-to-medium thing after another (Andrew’s benign brain tumour, worrying about my Mum’s memory, thinking Alex had committed suicide, my Godfather’s head injury, work stress).

Something happened which made me think about my emotions, and what I do with them.

I wrote in a previous post, about that one night, when I was up til 3am, reading emails from my dead ex-boyfriend, because I was sad about his birthday.

The next night, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I probably would have slept fine, but I was worried about getting into a bad pattern, as I was on annual leave, and out of my usual routine.

In 2012-13, I had real problem with sleep. I would spend all day trying to not to think horrible thoughts about Balthazar’s death, but when I was trying to sleep, my mind turned into a slideshow of all my worst fears about what his death was like. I couldn’t sleep unless I had a podcast on, to block out the thoughts. Even now, Ira Glass’s voice makes me feel comforted and sleepy.

Just in case my sleep problems came back, that night, I looked in the medicine cabinet and found some sleeping pills. They were not serious, prescription ones, just ones you have to chat to the pharmacist to get – antihistamines that are also licensed for insomnia, because they cause such strong drowsiness.

I took one that night, and had a great night’s sleep.

Then, I got a bit carried away and took them for a few more nights. I’m not sure why really.

A week later, I was on the phone to Andrew, and everything he said was pissing me off. He said a few things that, I think, were objectively a bit annoying, but we also got onto politics; every view he expressed was exactly the same as mine, but somehow, that pissed me off too.

I ended up abruptly saying, “Well, I’ve got stuff to do,” and hanging up.

I went through to the kitchen, and said to my new flatmate, Nelson, “He’s such a fucking centrist Dad! He’s talking about austerity being bad as if that’s a brand new opinion!”

Even though it was 10.30pm, I had to go for a walk, to try and calm down.

I had another sleeping pill when I got back, still wired and seething, but it didn’t really work this time.

I woke up at 2.00am, wide awake but also groggy with sleep, and I couldn’t stop worrying about my relationship with Andrew.

I had felt so pissed off with him on the phone, and it’s a rare feeling for me. I can’t remember the last time I hung up on someone like that.

Does that mean I shouldn’t be with him?

In the morning, when I was driving to work, I felt livid at the other cars on the road. Everyone was being a dick – other drivers, buses, pedestrians, the little green man on the sign, everyone.

When I got to work, I was doing a new and slightly stressful project with a manager I work with. She said something to me that was objectively annoying (she was a bit tactlessly critical of something I’d worked really hard on).

However, instead of handling it my usual way – having no outward reaction, but carrying simmering resentment for the next 3 years – I actually reacted.

I raised one eyebrow.

Woah. She knew she’d crossed a line.

A bit later on, I was driving to a different office, saying, “Oh for fucking fuck’s sake,” at some traffic lights, when it suddenly occurred to me.

It can’t be that everyone in the world is being more annoying today.

I’m the common denominator here.

It must be me.

I went to a meeting, and felt pissed off at my new supervisee for not being ready for supervision, and in the background, thoughts ticked away about this realisation.

Why was I being so irritable?

Is it the contraceptive implant? Will it get better? Or will I have to get it removed? How long do I wait to see if my mood settles down? How long do I put up with being a total bitch to everyone? How long will they put up with it?

Or is it my mental health? Is it everything that’s been happening lately? This isn’t the worst thing I’ve been through – why am I not coping better?

When I got back to my office, I was eating my lunch and my mouth was dry. I knew that was because of the sleeping pills.

Wait a sec. Could the sleeping pills be causing my irritability?

I couldn’t remember their name, as they were at home, but after a few google searches, I had the right ones (diphenhydramine).

I googled the side effects, and there it was. Irritability.

Then, I googled diphenhydramine and irritability, and found several forums and things people had written about terrible times they’d had with their mood and this drug.

My feelings about my irritability abruptly changed.

As soon as I knew the reason, I stopped worrying.

Although the implant can cause mood swings, the timing of my irritability fit more with the sleeping pills. It was such a relief that I could stick with my new contraception, without worrying.

It was a relief that I wasn’t unravelling, mentally.

It was a relief not to have to worry about Andrew and what my annoyance meant.

I didn’t take the sleeping pills again, and the irritability wore off quickly, but I actually embraced what was left of it.

Usually, I’m slightly pissed off most of the time, but in a cheerful way.

I quite enjoy talking about things that piss me off. For example, I was talking to my friends about Powerpoint the other day. I enjoyed it when we talked about how much we hate it when someone shows a video, during a presentation, but they don’t make it full screen. Or, even worse, when they don’t make the presentation full screen, and do the whole thing in the navigation pane. Or the fact that the default for printing in Powerpoint is one slide for page, and NO ONE HAS EVER WANTED THAT.

I enjoy talking about annoying encounters I’ve had with strangers who I think broke social norms, especially around queuing.

But I hardly ever get properly pissed off with people I actually know.

Before I knew the cause, every time I felt irritable recently, I worried about what it meant, or I felt out of control, and it intensified the feeling.

As soon as I knew the cause, I kind of enjoyed it. I could probably afford to get a bit more pissed off. Later in the week, the manager I’d raised an eyebrow at came and found me and gave me a voucher for a free drink.

It reminded me of something in Psychology. There’s a type of therapy called ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) which I sometimes use.

One of the ideas from ACT, is that our difficult emotions are not the problem. The problem is our struggle against difficult emotions.

For example, I work with lots of patients with anxiety disorders, and some of them have anxiety about anxiety. They might be worried about the physical symptoms of anxiety, or that they won’t be able to cope if they allow themselves to think about their worst fear. This means every time they feel anxious, they try to suppress the feeling, generating lots of additional anxiety. We work on dropping the struggle with anxiety.

With my irritability, it was amplified by the fact it didn’t fit with my view of myself, and by my worry about what it meant. As soon as I dropped the struggle with irritability and embraced it, I hardly noticed it.

I had the same thing when I decided to go back to my old home, on the 5th anniversary of Balthazar’s death. Every other anniversary, I had tried to block out the pain and sad feelings, and it just made them worse. As soon as I thought OK grief, show me what you’ve got! I had a cry, and then felt more peaceful than I had in years.

Then I realised I could apply similar logic to my feelings with Andrew. The meaning we attach to problems and emotions makes such a difference.

As I said, there has been trouble in paradise:

  • he has continued working incredibly long hours, and I’ve worried about our future
  • getting the contraceptive implant seemed to drive a bit of a wedge between us, at first
  • we had a few weeks in which we only saw each other once a week, because of his long hours, and him being away at weddings and things at weekends. When we’re together, I feel great, but I overthink when we’re apart.

He made a massive mistake, the day I got the contraceptive implant.

The night before, was the night I stayed up until 3am, reading emails and feeling distraught. I was still upset the next day, plus I was nervous about getting the implant.

Because I thought he wouldn’t be at work yet, I texted him, asking if he could talk. I said I was feeling sad about Balthazar’s birthday, and he knew I was nervous about the implant.

It turned out, he’d gone into work early. He texted me about half an hour later, saying he was ‘at an address’ (such a policeman thing to say! Isn’t everyone literally always at an address? Unless they’re in space?) but he’d phone me in an hour.

I went and got the implant and came out feeling shaky and vulnerable, as well as still feeling a bit bereavementy.

He didn’t phone me.

Three hours later, he texted again, saying he was only just leaving ‘the address’ but he’d phone me in 30 minutes (no apology).

Then, another 2 and a half hours went by.

When we finally spoke, I blurted out, “I don’t think this is going to be work between us.”

“Hang on! What do you mean! I’ve just been busy at work!”

“You told me you’d call me in an hour and then 3 hours later you said ‘actually, I’ll call you in 30 minutes’, without even saying sorry, and then another 2 and a half hours went by. I feel let down and unimportant and I feel like this ALL THE TIME with you.”

“You ARE important! You ARE important!” He cried.

I think it was a wake-up call for him. He really makes an effort to keep in touch and respect my feelings now. For the rest of that week, he phoned me once or twice a day, to see how I was, and even secretly texted me in court.

Obviously, in my other post, I wrote about how Andrew was brilliant on actual day of the birthday, and I benefited from the other side of him being a police detective. It was so helpful talking to him about the investigation and the inquest. He was so eager to help.

The other thing was, I didn’t feel like he was very supportive about me getting the implant. This surprised me, as he has a great track record of being supportive about gynaecological things. He usually asks lots of questions to try and learn about periods and is very kind when I have period pains.

I think, from his point of view:

  • he hadn’t been completely on board with me getting the implant. He tried to talk me out of it, but I did it anyway (because I thought he was just being indecisive and excessively chivalrous)
  • I only considered getting the implant because condoms were making him lose his erection. I think the implant represented some sexual failure for him
  • the week I got it, we talked about hypothetically what we’d do if I accidentally got pregnant (even though it was about to get even less likely). I said I’d probably want to keep it instead of having an abortion, and he freaked out about it.

The next time I saw him, after I got the implant, I showed him the mark where it went in, and asked how he was feeling about it.

He said, “I’m still a bit freaked out about pregnancy.”

It pissed me off that this was his main focus.

I showed him the bit in the leaflet that said, “In 3 years of using the implant, less than 1 woman in 1000 will get pregnant.”

“It’s just not going happen, so why don’t you stop worrying about that, and worry about the thing that is actually happening, which is that I’ve got this implant, for us, to make it even less likely that I get pregnant, and it hasn’t been very nice for me.”

We had a very slight argument about it. I was probably a bit overdramatic as I was quite tipsy.

Afterwards, I said something like, “at least we’re getting it right early on.” I can’t remember what I meant by that, but it made sense at the time.

He said, “this is the most I’ve ever communicated in a relationship.”

Overall, that night was a great night, because that day, I had sent my novel off to an agent and we were celebrating that, and he was so encouraging and interested in my writing.

Since then, he’s asked more about how I’m getting on with the implant, and shown more appreciation for me getting it.

So, basically, I’ve been really stressed out about our relationship, and whether it’s going to work, because of his work-life balance.

I think it’s reasonable, but I also think I’ve made it bigger than it is.

I realised that this phase in a relationship – 3-4 months in, coming towards the end of the honeymoon period, falling in love – feels really stressful.

Last time I got to this point with someone, it was the Whippersnapper, and it abruptly ended. Which felt absolutely horrible. For a long time. So that already makes me feel apprehensive about being here with Andrew.

The time before that, it was my ex-boyfriend, Matthew. About 3-4 months in, we had our first argument and I suddenly felt terrified of him. I knew that it was completely different from any other argument I’d had.

The vicious and dominating way he spoke to me, and then his absolute refusal to discuss it afterwards, and how it made me feel, rang major alarm bells.

I so regret not listening to my instincts at that point. I wish I’d walked away then.

So, having one experience in which it ended painfully at this point, and another in which I had all the information I needed, but didn’t end it, has made me overthink everything Andrew does. Every single thing feels make-or-break.

What’s happening now is giving me valuable information, and it is important to listen to my instincts. However, I’ve been acting like every time he does anything, I’m completing an online form, and I can’t go on to the next page until I select an option.

Is he going to be the love of my life, or should I end it because it will never work?

Andrew workaholic

But actually, life isn’t an online form.

Re-reading my old diaries for Retro Dater Analysis has reminded me of past relationships. With other ex-boyfriends – Rob, and also Balthazar – we had problems at 3-4 months in, which got resolved.

With Rob, at this stage, he was a bit rubbish when I was feeling depressed. I probably liked him more than he liked me, and I was a bit clingy. These things completely changed over the first year of our relationship. He learnt how to support me better. The balance of power shifted, so for a while, we loved each equally, and then for the final 2 years, he was the clingy one.

If I took this make-or-break, fatalistic approach with him, I could have thought he’s never going to give me what I need and ended it, which would’ve been the wrong decision.

With Balthazar, a few months into our relationship, he had a bit of a breakdown. Our relationship was not great around the 3-6 month mark, but it was completely different the rest of the 4 years we were together. At that point, I was completely preoccupied with jealousy about his ex-girlfriend, and also a female lodger he had, who fancied him. He wasn’t treating me as well as he should, because he was struggling with several things.

Again, I could have decided to end it then, but I’m so glad I didn’t. All of those issues just went away. His lodger moved out and soon I barely thought about it. It became obvious that he loved me so much more than he loved his ex. He treated me wonderfully before and after that.

I think it’s partly because of my age, and partly because I like Andrew so much, that I can’t tolerate the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen. I’ve tried to get rid of the uncertainty by seeing everything he does as A Sign That It’s Going to be OK, or A Sign That It Isn’t.

But really, this is bananas.

Another thing from work, which this reminds me of, is the difference between current problems and hypothetical problems. When I’m working with someone who worries too much, one of the first things we do, is separate current and hypothetical problems.

When we’re worrying, we’re trying to reduce uncertainty by thinking about every single that could happen, and what we’d do.

Most of the things we worry about are hypothetical problems. Very few hypothetical problems end up happening.

Often, we’ve started thinking about a hypothetical problem because there is a related, little nub of a current problem that really is happening. That makes us think the hypothetical problem is actually happening.

The things I’m worrying about with Andrew are hypothetical.

With the current problems, I’ve talked to him about how I feel, and he’s started doing things differently, so the current problems feel under control or even resolved.

However, the current problem, his work-life balance, does feel like it could be stage one of 100 stages that lead to a big hypothetical problem.

I’ve had flu over the last week, and have been off work.

I was comparing this to when I was off work with laryngitis in the summer. That time, he was very busy at work, and I barely heard from him. I told him I wished he’d been in contact more, when I was miserable and ill.

This time, he’s also been incredibly busy at work. Every day, he’s worked from about 9am to midnight. However, this time, he’s found time to phone me, once or twice a day, to see how I am. It’s been completely different.

We had a lovely day together yesterday, and he made me feel much better.

When I think about what this week has been like, he’s given me what I need. In the actual present moment, I feel content. There is no current problem.

But when I start overthinking about the future, I feel worried. He’s been working til midnight and going to bed at 1am. There’s a hypothetical problem.

What if, in a few years, we have a baby and he’s still working til midnight and I’m left on my own with the baby, feeling like a single parent?

Well, yes, that could happen, and it’s worth keeping mind, but it would be ridiculous to end things now, just in case that happens. So many things would need to happen first, before we reach that point.

So many problems in previous relationships just stopped and got better. Other things I worried about never did happen.

So many problems I’ve had were things I never thought to worry about it.

I just don’t have enough information about what our future might be like, to make a decision. Ending a relationship because of a current problem makes sense, especially if it can’t be resolved. Ending a relationship because of hypothetical problems doesn’t make sense.

For one thing, this is the worst time to end a relationship. Neurochemically, being in the honeymoon period is like being on drugs. I wrote in a previous post that one reason I struggled to get over the Whippersnapper was the timing – still in the honeymoon period, so I was still off my tits on neurotransmitters and hormones, but far enough in that it was actual love.

When I’ve ended relationships after several years, it felt so much easier, despite our lives being much more intertwined. The neurochemicals had settled down. Also, we knew we had given it our best shot. I only missed the reality of the relationship, instead of pining for the relationship’s potential.

Secondly, the problems I’m obsessing about could change. Obviously, it’s quite likely that if he’s a workaholic now, he’ll be a workaholic in the future. But it’s not certain.

He’s considered leaving the police force before, and nearly took a different job he was offered. He isn’t that happy at work. Maybe one day he’ll get a different job, although being a detective really suits him and he’s brilliant at it.

Hopefully, before long, there’ll be a different government, who reverse the cuts to the police force, so he won’t be so overworked.

We’ve had some good chats recently about his perfectionism. Maybe one day he’ll get more comfortable with working a bit less hard.

Also, after the interview he had, he’s now on the shortlist to get moved to a different police force if a job comes up. Maybe that will have different pressures which affect our relationship differently.

Very often, at work, I’ll have a colleague who has a baby and when they come back to work, their perspective on work-life balance is completely different. Maybe if we had babies, this would happen to him, and he’d come home early instead of fannying about with evidence.

Maybe Andrew’s work-life balance will always be a problem, but that’s his one flaw, and we’ll be happy.

A crucial factor is how he’s responded to everything I’ve told him about my needs. Since Implant Day, he hasn’t let me down once.

So, I’ve decided to take every problem and keep it in the present moment, without attaching bigger meaning to it.

When things come up with Andrew, I just need to ask myself:

  • Is this a current problem, or hypothetical?
  • What can I do about the current bit of the problem?
  • With the hypothetical bit, is it an obvious red flag that’s very likely to come true? Or something where we just don’t know?

If I’d asked myself this with Matthew, after our first, horrible arguments, I would have thought:

  • this is a massive current problem now. I’m scared of him and it’s not OK, and I feel miserable
  • hypothetical bit is very likely to come true. Especially as he won’t listen and shuts down the conversation when I tell him how I feel. Even abusive people who promise to change struggle to do so, and he won’t even talk about it

However, with Andrew:

  • actually, right now, he’s giving me what I need. There is no current problem
  • The hypothetical bit could happen, but he has a great track record to listening to my needs and is eager to change things so I’m happier

I can proceed with my online form without selecting an option.

(I did phone Andrew to apologise, the day after the irritable phone call. Although, he had to go halfway through my apology, because he was at work.)

11 thoughts on “Why am I being such a psycho?

  1. Work less hard? If you had an incident happen and you needed the police to investigate, would you want the detective on your case to be the one “working less hard”? That then extends to phone/text responses. You can always say “I will respond when I am finished with my client/patient”. As a detective investigating a scene, Andrew doesn’t have that option. He needs to go where the evidence leads, or in some cases keep looking till some evidence shows up. But who can put a clock on that?

    True, maybe he should not commit to calling back after a specific time, because who knows when will be good? On the other hand, he’s trying to satisfy your needs but is caught up in being the best detective he can be. Pretty gnarly conundrum there.

    For the record? I am an Andrew fan. I am a Dater Analyst fan too. As a couple you two have great potential. Just a few wrinkles to work out.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This post really resonated with me… and I think most of us are always trying to calculate the risks vs rewards when we encounter hiccups in our relationships. Wait it out and regret it or push through it and end up happier? It’s so hard to say what is best.

    As a side note, I’m so glad to hear you made the connection that the sleeping pills were causing the irritability. Right after the birth of my daughter, I was prescribed an antihistamine nasal spray that, in combination with my post-partum hormones, caused auditory and visual psychosis. It was terrifying but, fortunately, I made the connection pretty quickly and the symptoms resolved immediately after I discontinued the medication. Hallelujah! But geezus, I’m still scarred by the experience over 10 years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a long and detailed post and I really admire the way you (as usual) work through your thoughts and fears. I love this bit: “However, instead of handling it my usual way – having no outward reaction, but carrying simmering resentment for the next 3 years – I actually reacted. I raised one eyebrow.” I love the idea of you reacting at the time instead of stewing! I also think that your processing is spot on – hypothetical fears are the worst! Focus on the now and what is actually happening rather than (as my beloved says) ‘getting ahead of yourself’. Also, remember that nothing is ever perfect, and that especially goes for every aspect of your life all at once!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been catching up on your blog of the past week and I have to say I am a HUGE Andrew fan.
    I will admit I found myself groaning at you when I saw you getting annoyed with his level of contact, not that I didn’t think you had a right to be annoy but more that I want to bash your heads together, tell you to chill out and set an alarm on his phone to make sure he checks in!
    I do think a lot of your insecurities from the lack of communication might stem from being messed around in the past. It seems (from my view which could be completely wrong! I’m hardly a beacon of dating knowledge 😂) that you are trying to arm yourself with a bit of “I knew it!” armour so should things not work out it will hurt less.
    Also I got the implant this year and although I didn’t think I was getting any side effects it has been pointed out to me that my moods are more “intense” than they were before! I also find that I cry at things a lot easier… for example a video of a baby donkey made me cry yesterday. 🙈
    I hope it all works out for you and you both find a happy medium!

    Liked by 2 people

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