Somewhere between Bell's Palsy and death
Thursday, December 20, 2007
How does a week go

from scintillating and fun to absolute crap in the span of six, seven, maybe 10 minutes? For me, it’s picking up the phone when Mother calls for the second or third time and then reading this afterward: Lookit.

Jon articulates so, so well the minefield that is loving someone with chronic mental illness that that alone was enough to reduce me to tears. What he doesn’t cover, though, is the tremendous guilt that comes with needing that person to fulfill your needs as well. Not because he hasn’t felt it, because you can’t not feel like a total asshole for needing at least some of the time and be human. (You know, even if it’s just the whole “All the starving/war-ravaged/homeless/abused people in the world, and I’m fucked up over an unreturned gesture” kind of thing.) But Jon is with someone who recognizes that her illness can be all-consuming and therefore works just as hard as he does to give back. What do you do when the person can’t even fathom that you even have needs outside of food or money? Tell the person you need XYZ? You’ve already done that a thousand times. Set boundaries? You’ve tried that, too—it works until things are tolerable before it reverts back, usually worse than it was before. Cut the person off completely? You’ve done it with other people, achingly hard though it was. But with this person, others already beat you to it, so if you joined them, the person would be left with no one and, because they’re ill and can’t take care of themselves, their “hitting bottom” would in all likelihood be death.

What do you do? And how do you get through the day knowing full well that compromise such as Heather’s and Jon’s can happen because, as someone who’s sick yourself, you for the most part keep yourself from falling down the k-hole of self-absorption and despair for that very reason?

If you’re me, you shut down, becoming incredibly nasty toward someone who loves you and wincing every time the phone rings because you know that whatever she’s going to say is going to be ridiculous, but there’s also the remote possibility it won’t be, so you can’t completely ignore it even though you’d rather just hide under the bed. I suspect that’s not the best way to go, since the guilt is staggering.


Posted by Broad7:05 PM
It is the job of a good person to be honest. To be self-aware. To deliberately explore the fault lines of your character and try desperately to not inflict suffering in this strange, ghost-ridden world of worked and fabricated objects. Sometimes the jobs of writer and good person coincide. But more often they don’t. There are way more writers in the world than there are good people.

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