Dr NerdLove, I need some help figuring out what to do, and I will be upfront and say I fracked up and I caused this crisis in my life and I know I was wrong, but I still don’t know what to do next. I need you to do the thing where to tell me what my real problem is and how to fix it. In simple steps because I can’t handle big ones right now. (And please don’t tell me “I’m afraid there are no more things left to do.”)
The pandemic hasn’t been handled well here and I’m just getting my second shot next week; the percentage of vaccinated people where I live is dreadfully low. The rollout has been slow and there’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy here. My office was supposed to reopen at the end of July (I was so looking forward to it), but now that’s been pushed back to November and I can’t wait that long to get back to some sense of normalcy. I am going insane. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I really think my brain has changed and I don’t know how to change it back.
Some background, I’m married to a man, we’ll call Luigi, and we have one kid. His brother, Mario, is married to Peach and they have 3 kids who like to play with ours. Mario, Luigi, and Peach are all very close. I asked Luigi when we started dating about their relationship and he explained they all bonded really quickly when they met, as Mario’s and Luigi’s parents died when they were kids and Peach’s parents gave her up, so they all had a lot of similar experiences. When I met Luigi, it was a little intimidating because they were all so comfortable with each other and had their own inside jokes and I have always been more socially awkward. But Peach really went out of her way to include me and explain inside references and be kind to me. Mario is friendly to me, but I always got the feeling it’s just because Luigi was into me; he never asked “get to know me questions” or expressed a real interest in me, but he’s ever been rude. Luigi says its because they moved all the time as kids and so Mario never really practiced forming proper friendships when they were younger. Luigi, on the other hand, wanted long-term friendships, but says he was perpetually disappointed when friends fell away after moving. As the years have gone by, I’ve grown closer to Mario and Peach, but I’ve never felt like I truly assimilated into their group, though that’s OK. I have never had tons of friends, but I have a couple close friends of my own and some “work friends”, and Luigi and I have a strong relationship, or so I thought until about 4 weeks ago. And I was never really jealous of Peach and her friendship with Luigi, because I never picked up on any overly flirtatious interactions between them. I never say any “red flags” and Luigi and I are pretty open with each other (i.e. we know the passwords on each others phones/email) and I never felt he was hiding anything from me.
I know this pandemic has been hard on everyone; I’m not unique in that respect. And I’m lucky I still have my job. Our pandemic bubble consists of just our two households. This is where I explain that I really think my brain is broken but I don’t know what to do. I am introverted, and I love my family of course, but it has been very stressful having my husband and kid home all day while I’m working. I’ve been working remotely from my bedroom for more than 18 months and I’ve had to pick up extra responsibilities because we lost someone on our team and haven’t hired anyone new. Added to that, my Dad, who I was very close to, passed away last year. We couldn’t hold a proper service for him because of the pandemic. Maybe I am just worse than everyone else at handling stress, but all of this has added together and I can’t focus anymore. I used to be able to sit and work. I could get through a lot of work and do it well. But now I sit at my laptop and try to start writing and my brain thinks of 100 things I need to do. I genuinely try to be productive, but my brain keeps going to the dishes or mowing the lawn, or do I have enough insurance, or when can we bring the dog to the vet. I’ve never been a big procrastinator before, but everytime I try to bring my focus back to work, 5 minutes later, its gone again. I am now finishing briefs and reports at 2am the morning before they are due, instead of a day early. And I know my work has more mistakes than it used to, which really bothers me, because I take a lot of pride in my professional identity. I am the first person in my family to earn a degree and a graduate degree (same is true for Luigi) and I’m used to being good at things. Now my work is mediocre and I’m worried my bosses are going to start noticing, if they haven’t already. Peach, actually, has been really nice, which kind of irritates me (I’ll get to why in a minute), and has been taking my kid during the day so I can work in the house more quietly. And Luigi has been trying to pick up more of the chores so I have time to catch up on work (which also irritates me). And this would be great, but I can’t seem to focus on work like I should. I need things to go back to the way they were before, but the “normal light” at the end of the tunnel just keeps moving further away. The adults involved are almost fully vaccinated, but the kids aren’t. And I can’t go back into the office until November. And the schools have said they plan to open in the fall, but it is still “tentative.”
Sorry, I know that was a long lead in. So what did I do 4 weeks ago to blew up everything? Well, while I was trying to write a brief, I thought, I really need to go through the boxes in the attic and throw out stuff we don’t need anymore. I told myself I would just sort some stuff for an hour and then if I got that done, I could focus on work. So I went upstairs and starting sorting things into trash and donate piles and I knocked over a box with Luigi’s old journals. He keeps a daily journal and I’ve never been tempted to read them before because I know that everyone is entitled to their own private thoughts and I am (was) a grown ass woman. So I put all the journals back in the box and went back to my laptop. And I got a few sentences on the page and then I could see in my mind’s eye that box of journals on a pedestal with a beam of light shining on them with a chorus singing in the background. Honestly, I don’t know why I fixated on them, but I didn’t go back to read them, that day. The next day though, while I sat staring at my screen, I just thought if I read just a couple pages of one, then I could put it out of my mind and then focus on my work. So I did the terrible thing and I picked up the one from last year and started reading. It happened to be a sweet recollection of spending time with my kid and I. I put the journal back, vowed to not do it again, and then went back to work, and then swept the floors, then back to work, then….. back to the journal, and then over the last few weeks all the journals in the box. And it turns out, as you may have guessed at this point, that Luigi is in love with Peach! That is the only explanation for what I’ve been reading and I don’t know how to move on now. There is no actual affair, and I would know now, but he’s been carrying a torch for her since they’ve met. Apparently, Luigi and Peach had one hot and heavy makeout session before she married Mario and she shut it down and told him it would never happen again and they’d never talk about it again. And he writes about how it was awkward between them for a bit, he felt bad about it, and it didn’t happen again. This was almost 10 years ago! And he’s still writing about her, or what things would be like between them now, more frequently when he’s stressed out over something or after he and I have an argument. Just….why? Why can’t he let this go? He obviously feels guilty about this, he wrote about feeling guilty about his feelings, especially in the earlier journals. Does she have some magic lips? Why does he still think about her? He doesn’t write about any of his exes. He’s an otherwise logical and self-reflective person, so why is he still carrying this torch?
And then of course I’m left to wonder what’s wrong with me. Why am I not enough for him to forget her? Am I just second place? I used to be confident in my appearance, I’m not a model, but I’m reasonably attractive. But now I am constantly comparing myself to her. And yes, she is objectively more beautiful than me. And I worry now that I am not Luigi’s “type”. I mean, if he is still hung up on her, Peach and I are different body types, different ethnicities. We have somethings in common, were both professional, accomplished women, though I may be losing my job soon. And we share a couple interests, but now that I’ve obsessed about it, Peach has more shared interests with Luigi than I do and she has more in common with Luigi than Mario. This has me second guessing everything in my relationship, and now I am wondering does he wish I was her when we’re together. Obviously this has affected things and it kills me that’s he’s noticed and trying to be considerate. He thinks its just stress from work and the dumpster fire of 2020/2021. It makes me so angry he’s being considerate because that makes it harder for me to be angry at him. I know that sounds crazy. It also makes me angry that Peach is being so nice because I want to hate her. And now I’m over-analyzing every joke or interaction I see between Luigi and Peach, I can’t decide if I should be angry that she’s not batting her eyelashes at him and he’s still into her, or happy that she’s not. Again, I know that sounds crazy.
I don’t want to blow up everyone’s life, but I want to yell at all of them. I want to scream at Mario that he needs to wake up. Why isn’t he jealous at all? I want tell Peach to back the frack off, but she’s not actually doing anything wrong. I want to punch Luigi and I want mindwipe myself. I thought Luigi was happy with me before and I thought I was what he wanted. I want to go back to feeling good about myself and stop feeling like a consolation prize. I know I created this mess, but I don’t know how to fix it. I can’t tell Luigi I read his journals because I know I committed a massive violation. I’m too embarrassed to talk to my couple of friends. I am falling more behind at work, I’ve grown more distant with all my family, and that’s not fair, especially to the kids, and the guilt over that is making it even harder to concentrate at work, but I don’t know what to do next. Can it still count as a fugue if you plan it? Please help.
Husband Is In Another Castle