I’m not the center of the universe. Not everything is about me. In order to be married, have friends, and be part of a family, I need to take other people’s needs, feelings and interests into account.
If it were always all about me, I have a feeling people would burn out easily and pass through my life quickly. Those of us with a mental illness need to figure out ways to care about the people in our lives, and make them number one, on the days that we are capable of it.
There are times when my husband is at work and my anxiety is so bad that I don’t think I will make it through the day (those of you who suffer from anxiety will know that I am not just being dramatic when I say, “I might not make it through the day,” it really feels that way). On those days, I often tell myself not to call my husband, because he is busy. I know that my husband would come home, and that being with him would most likely help decrease my anxiety, but my husband has a life and responsibilities outside of our home, and separate from me. I think it is important not to call my husband every time I have symptoms or a battle I am fighting.
Last Sunday, I went to church with my husband, (something that frequently makes me anxious) and on our walk home, we stopped to have lunch. Before our food even arrived, I jumped up, took the keys from my husband, and said, “I will meet you at home.” My husband stayed behind, asked for our food to go, and brought the meal home to me. I simply could not sit in the restaurant and continue to fight my anxiety. On that occasion, I was incapable of putting my husband’s pleasure or wishes first. I needed to get home as soon as possible. I try to limit experiences like this, but of course, I can’t predict or control my illness.
There will always be days when the focus is on me. I know that, and I wish it wasn’t true, but I can’t pick and choose my symptoms. There have been long stretches where the focus was on me because I was actively psychotic. Because, I know that the attention and care is often lopsided, I try to put others first on days when my symptoms are minimal.
For instance, I make 48 cupcakes for my husband to take to work once a month. I know it isn’t much, but it is something I do for him, that has nothing to do with me. I also give my husband full permission (not that he needs my permission) to spend time with his best friend without me tagging along. There are many other examples of little things that I do to try and tip the scale in a way that is more balanced.
I think those of us with a mental illness need extra attention and care sometimes, but for everyone who gives us that extra attention and care, I think we need to recognize their effort and put them at the center of our world occasionally so they don’t burn out or feel like they are taken for granted.
Here’s to the people that love us, and deserve to be the center of our universe as frequently as symptoms will allow.