Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Caught boyfriend on dating websites but he turned it around on you? Feeling depressed during the pandemic and not sure why other people are trying to act like nothing is happening?

DEAR NATALIE: I found my boyfriend of seven years using dating sites. Well, actually, I found them in the "cloud" after he deleted them two days ago. I asked him about this. He said that he was not on any dating sites. I said, “Well, you’re not now after you deleted them a day before I came home from work!” (I work on a travel team Sunday through Thursday in different cities and states.) I cannot get him to talk about this after I questioned him. He then turns around and says it's “my guilty conscience.”  What do I do? —HOPELESS IN MISSISSIPPI

DEAR HOPELESS IN MISSISSIPPI: Follow your gut and the cloud on this one. It’s pretty clear that you already know he’s on dating sites. What’s more upsetting is the fact that he’s blame-shifting and lying. Saying that you have a “guilty conscience” is really just him projecting his own feelings about what he has done onto you. If he is unhappy in the relationship, then he needs to explain to you what is going on. If you are unhappy, you need to share that with him, as well. Get it out in the open. Are these issues that you can work on? Do you want to work on them or are you both just coexisting as roommates at this point? Just because you’ve been together for a long time doesn’t mean that you have to stay together. The idea of being single again after seven years may seem daunting, but it’s better to be alone than to be with someone who treats you and the relationship with disrespect. Get to the root of the issue. Go to therapy together if he is willing. Find out what is causing the disconnect and either work to come back together or make a plan to go your separate ways. 

DEAR NATALIE: Am I the only one who hasn’t been productive during this quarantine? I feel like a lot of my colleagues and friends are acting like nothing is happening. Someone actually said to me the other day, “Why aren’t you taking this time to work on your novel?” (I’m a copywriter). I have absolutely no creative energies right now. I am scared, depressed and anxious most days. In fact, it takes a lot for me just to get through what I need to for my job. Then, I feel exhausted. I am perplexed by people’s ability to distance themselves from reality right now. I feel like I’m going crazy, too. How can we cope with feeling both depressed over not being productive during a pandemic and also allow space to grieve all that we’ve lost as a society? —COVID MELTDOWN

DEAR COVID MELTDOWN: It is wild that we are expecting the same level of productivity from adults and children alike during a global pandemic, civil rights movement and economic collapse. You should not be expected to perform or be productive, but because of the demands and unrealistic expectations that our society puts on us, here we are. You don’t owe anyone your creativity. You don’t owe anyone a performance. If you aren’t feeling like it, don’t do it. It is hard enough to just survive right now. Your productivity does not equal your worth. This framework is harmful to both your mental and physical wellbeing. Allow yourself space to grieve. Take this time to refocus on what matters to you. It is a challenging time for so many of us. When people are feeling anxious, depressed, scared or angry, it can be difficult to feel creative. Channeling your energy into something that makes you feel good might be the better solution here. Self care is not selfish. Do something for yourself like journaling, baking cookies, yoga, taking a hot bath, watching a silly movie or reading a good book. It is also OK to reach out for help. Therapy should not be a luxury and it should be accessible to everyone. If you are able to tap into that form of support, I recommend it. Hopefully--someday--we will live in a country where everyone’s health is prioritized. Because so many people are in denial about Covid-19, it can feel as though you are going “crazy.” Don’t let anyone gaslight you. Some are compartmentalizing all of this collective trauma so that they can try to function on the day-to-day. Collective grief often manifests as anger when it isn’t being properly addressed. Life is not “normal” right now and the attempt to normalize mass evictions, job losses and hundreds of thousands of deaths in an eight-month period is enough to send anyone into a mental spiral. Ground yourself, surround yourself (in a safe way!) with people who are a comfort to you, and just take care of yourself. The only way through this is together, and I hope people start to recognize that on a collective level.

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