January 18, 2010

love and conversation

I believe that I have already spoken about the difficulty and fear that can encompass romantic relationships when someone sees themselves as unstable, depressed, or "mentally ill", so I won't try to go too far into that direction. (If I have not gone enough into it please let me know in a comment so that I can be sure to write my next blog on the topic.) What I think is important to talk about is my current relationship and the interaction it has with my current diagnosis.

I am dating and living with an amazing boy, I mean man, who I have been with for quite a while now. I feel we have an amazingly healthy relationship and that is why I feel comfortable sharing this for the blogosphere and for readers hoping to learn or hear more about how to make a relationship work when someone is feeling unstable, etc. My boy, J, is an amazingly stabilizing force. One that I often find myself feeling I couldn't live without. And it is exactly this worry that I think it is important to be aware of. Whenever I have this specific worry I always find it is my own fear of my diagnosis, my being bipolar, that leads me to feeling I can't do without him. I find myself thinking I can't do without someone that I could see being a care taker. It is when I get to these points however, that, though I would not want to be without him, I must always remind myself that I would do fine without him. (But that is once again going back to relationships, mental health conditions, and autonomy.)

I have been thinking a lot about the equality of our relationship. Something that I feel is crucial for all my relationships, romantic or otherwise. I have been thinking a lot about how amazing he is at taking care of me. He does the dishes when I am overly busy with school/conferences/etc. He reminds me to pay the bills when I am too focused on my travels to realize the date. "Oh yeah, it is a new month, maybe I should pay rent..." He seems so often to be the stabilizing force in my own life and in our relationship.

Lately, however he has been extremely busy with his own crazy schedule and has been working hard simply to keep his own head above water. This has led me to make the decision that while he has helped me hold things together when my life lost control, I should help him when he is trying to keep his together. So last night we had a wonderful conversation. I asked him, "what can I do for you?", knowing that he is the very opposite of me in his busy and emotional states--while I can become clingy and needy, he tends to want more of his own space.

The question led us into a wonderful conversation about our own needs, once again helping me realize the importance of being two independent beings within an equal relationship. Though he may hold me up at times when I am feeling unstable and needy, I know that I can do the same for him when things change. I also know that when I am feeling too depressed to help him and he is feeling too busy to help me that we will both chip in to help each other, even if it just means leaning on one another without doing anything else. I know that I can do my best to support him in these busy times, but I also know that he would completely understand if I was to say I can't based on my own emotional struggles. The importance and strength of our relationship all lies in an honest conversation.

For now, thanks to our conversation, my path is relatively easy. When asked what I can do to help he simply said, "keep your stuff picked up, do the dishes, and rub my back". That should be easy enough to handle, and if its not, I know he'll understand simply because we were open enough to talk about it.

The picture was a gift from J for my birthday. Visit his blog here.


Le_Petit_Oiseau said...

I'm a huge fan of these kinds of conversations.

Nancy C said...

Fantastic. This is what makes a marriage or a long-term relationshp work: communication and mutual respect. Good for you both.

Chrisa said...

This sounds healthier than most "healthy" people's relationships. Bravo!

crazybeanrider said...

It is an awesome relationship you have. I think it is important we as bipolars can find the way into the caregiver role. It isn't often we give as much as we receive.

It is far to easy for us to revel in our own misery, we forget to give back to our partners who carry their own struggles.

I am happy for you both. You have found one the best tools in a relationship-communication :)

Mrs4444 said...

My husband and I started our relationship (in our 20's) the same way, and it's served us very well the past 26 years :) Keep it up!