Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A-Z: Work on Yourself

When we're in a relationship with a person with a mental illness, we want them to "go get fixed." Am I right?

Here was my personal progression, when my OCPD ex and I moved in together.

1) We're having a very rough transition into this living together business. Surely things will settle down in a few months. After all, I know we love each other deeply.

2) He's having a rough time, but after all, he did just recently lose his parents. He has the right to grieve; I should just be loving and supportive, and with enough time and love on my part, he'll get over it.

3) Self doubt. This is a nightmare. Maybe everything is my fault. Maybe I just don't try hard enough, love enough, give enough. I don't know how I could give/try/love more, but I should find a way.

Or maybe I should just give up, now. *fantasies of slitting my wrists, letting all the blood and pain drain into the sink*

from Unwanted Advice

4) There is something wrong with him. It's not me - or at least, it's not ALL me.

5) Oh! It's OCPD. Now all I have to do is let him in on it, in the Right Way, and he will be eager to get counseling, because I know he deeply loves me, as much as I love him. We will be able to fix this problem and live happily ever after.

6) I join a couple of OCPD support boards, to get the info on the exact Right Way to broach the subject. Because all I need are the magic words, he will have a Light Bulb Moment, and go get himself fixed.

7) Okay, so the Big Reveal isn't a good idea. Still, this is a mental illness. I wouldn't run out on a partner with diabetes or a heart condition, right? If I am loving enough and caring enough, and broach it in exactly the right way, he'll be willing to go get fixed. Maybe I can talk him into getting joint counseling...

8) A year into my individual counseling, and he still isn't willing to even talk to my counselor. Not even though I beg him, as a way of helping me.

9) I realize can't "save" him. I don't doubt, for an instant he loves me, as much and as deeply as he has ever loved anyone. I love him so much it makes my heart ache, but I can't save him. In fact, everything I do is probably enabling his disorder and making him worse. (Two years now after I left, and I still weep as I type these words.)

10) After a fight that is no worse than others, yet which served, for me, as the last straw on the camel's back, I moved out. Began focusing on me, on my pitifully weak boundaries, on figuring out who I am and what I want.

from Brandozin's Weblog

Your path and your journey are undoubtedly different. Yet here is the reality.

We can't save other people 
unless they want to be saved.

I didn't understand that. When I joined the support boards, in the beginning, I was sure there was some magic word/key/answer they were selfishly withholding from me. Or that, perhaps, only I was smart enough to figure out. (Hello, ego!) I would figure out what it was and share it with everyone and I would be acclaimed as this brilliant OCPD monster-slayer.

When everyone kept advising me to "work on yourself," I thought they were smoking crack. "Hello, he is the one with the problem. Just tell me how to convince him that he needs to get fixed, that's what I'm looking for."

I felt like I was asking, "What's 2 + 2?" and I was being answered, "Tangerines and corduroy, with a  splash of Chanel No. 5."  Really, WTF?

The reality of dealing with a loved one with mental illness, is there is nothing an outsider can do to reach inside those distorted thoughts and neurotransmitter imbalances to "fix it" for them. We cannot control other people. What we can do is to take a look at ourselves - our own thoughts, our own behaviors, our own automatic reactions.
funny pictures - I can't sit on top of the TV all day. Stop being so cheap and just get the cable fixed already.

Sometimes, when we address our own behaviors, erect the kinds of healthy boundaries we need for our own sake, there will be a dramatic shift in the way the disordered person behaves.

Sometimes, this will serve as what my OCPD friend LizaJane calls "getting hit in the head with the cosmic 2 x 4" and spur the person with a mental disorder to seek or accept help, and change.

Sometimes, it will not.

One thing is certain. We cannot control, fix, help, adjust, or otherwise move a person who is disordered or troubled when we ourselves are not "coming from" a place of stability and mental healthiness. We just can't. It's like seeing someone drowning and jumping in after them. without a life preserver or even being able to swim, ourselves.

We really and truly have to work on ourselves first. Put on our own oxygen mask first, and all that jazz.

I get it now. They were not smoking crack when they said, "Tangerines and corduroy, with a splash of Chanel No. 5."

My A-Z theme is Issues related to Mental Health or Mental Illness.

Have you ever experienced the
"Work on your own issues first" directive?
How did you react?
What did you learn?