Going from being looked after to looking after someone is an incredibly confusing thing to experience. In any close relationship (including friendship and family relationships) there inevitably becomes a time where roles reverse. Sometime this is brief, a few minutes or hours, sometimes this is for longer.
It’s realistic to say there is a dominant figure in all relationships. One person is the “parental” figure. I say parental because that person does the protecting. That’s the person who wards of the metaphorical “danger”. Sometimes that person has to be the strong one. The person who even though a situation, may be upsetting them to, is able to say “it’s going to be ok.”
In the realm of mental health it is often easy to become the submissive part of a relationship. This of course isn’t strictly to do with mental illness, but physical illness too. The other person in the relationship can feel they need to protect the “weaker” person. Again, I say weaker because that person isn’t particularly weak. But it’s normal to feel the need to protect someone who you see as ill, or upset.
Inevitably, though there comes a time when those roles reverse. I experienced this recently. It was something I was not expecting, it was however something that made me question my ability to handle the situation, but it did help me to realise what it is like to be on the other side for that person.
I am not ok. I haven’t been “ok” for a long time. Some of my close friends know, some know more than others. Some of those people are always there for me and in the last year I have really needed that, I have appreciated that greatly. But In the last month something terrible happened. My partner finally cracked.
It had been coming, I had pretended it hadn’t because I desperately needed that support to continue, but inevitably as I have said roles reverse. When my partner cracked I instantly. Changed. I now had to be his support. I had to be the one saying things would get better (whether I believed it or not) I had to tell him that I thought he would benefit from counselling yet I do not think I would. I had to be there for my partner when I could hardly be there for myself. I had to be the one who was doing the looking after.
It was a huge strain, but it taught me a lot about what he has to face. I used to tell my partner everything, more recently I have been withholding things. Not because I don’t want him to know, but because I think I need to wait for his condition to improve before I tell him every silly thing that affects my life after all a bad day for me right now makes me want to cut myself. And I don’t think he is ready to deal with that. I used to tell him about that. But I don’t think it will help right now so I’m trying to be more considerate. But am I just pussyfooting around now? Am I being the stigma I’m so desperately fighting?
We are talking about how he feels, his treatment and his problems. I just don’t want to add any more of mine to the mix right now. And I think that’s ok. Because I think we see things differently. I am able to desensitise myself from things don’t directly affect me. Examples would be problems he has at work. I can’t relate I am not in that situation. But he gets frustrated when I talk about my work problems and that is hard. I don’t tell him things to get him upset I tell him because sometimes I need to vent too.
I know I shouldn’t hold things in, holding things in is what makes them worse. Holding things in causes my physical depression bouts, the sharp pain in my abdomen. The stiffening of my shoulders. The struggle to find the energy to get out of bed. The fight to stop myself from bursting into tears at any given moment. It’s hard.
Our roles have been reversed for a week now. I’m struggling. If I wasn’t writing and venting this way I’d have probably exploded before now. I miss him. I know this is not his fault, I know things will improve but it’s hard. This role reversal is playing havoc with my emotions. I have become the dominant part of this relationship and I have no idea what I am doing.
The Elephant in the Room