I am having a hard time with having lost Boris (our small Mexican dog with the big Eastern European name) and doubting my choice to let him go. Not in any rational sense; on paper, logically, I know I did the right thing. But in my heart, I feel sorry and sad. I hope he understands; but maybe not–I’d love a world where animals had the same treatment as people, but would I love that because no one would get euthanized for having run out of quality time, or because people wouldn’t have to suffer for so long, either?
I just know that I really, really miss that little guy, and I am responsible for his absence.
The trip to Chicago was really emotionally hard, and the key piece of that was understanding that I can’t depend on my spouse to advocate effectively for me when he is in his place of origin. On one level, I get it–he reverts to his kid role, he’s overwhelmed, they are extremely difficult. On the other hand, I’m angry and disappointed. I really am on my own, and since that is true, I will never go back with him to visit them unless something is really wrong on a deathbed sort of level. I can’t put myself through that. If they come here, as they have threatened, I will go out of town. I’ve given a lot to them over the years, and they’ve taken a lot more than they’ve given back, and their son can’t set good boundaries with them. So, I will have to set boundaries to take care of myself.
Long after I am gone, I am sure medical science and genetics will evolve to determine how mental illness–or at least the propensity for it–is passed down. Borderline personality disorder runs in my family, and while I am sure the process is somewhat akin to alchemy more than straight genetics, it means that right now there are two Borderlines running about– each from a different generation. That’s just my mom’s side, too–there’s also depression, anxiety, alcoholism, sociopaths, suicide, self injury and drug problems coming from both sides. The question maybe is how do any of us make it out alive? When you know that someone is ill, and you’ve proven to yourself that you cannot help them, you have to detach and protect yourself. Sure, their behavior isn’t personal, it’s pathology, and yes, they are in tremendous pain, but that doesn’t mean you should allow them to hurt you. The moat is in place, the drawbridge is up. All signs say, “Go away.”
You’ve reached the boundary, you’ll need to turn back.
One of my tenants called me today, in tears. One of the roommates’ mother had committed suicide last night. Walked out of the room from an argument with her kids and killed herself. The tenant who called me kept saying she was sorry for burdening me and I told her she wasn’t, I care about her, it’s a horrible thing. I reminded her to take care of herself so that she can keep on being a good friend to her roommate. I told her that her grief is valid, and doesn’t need to be measured against the roommate’s. Gosh, there’s enough grief to go around, really–you won’t run out, or take someone else’s, go ahead and grieve. I suggested that she not judge anyone for how they act right now; grief does strange things to a person, and suicide is like knowing an asteroid is coming to vaporize you–maybe then it might seem rational to ask about how much the house is worth or what should be done with the cars–those are solvable problems, whereas the asteroid is just this terrible thing hovering above your head. Maybe it’s not possible to look right at it; at least not at first. I told her we’d cover the rent if it was late, not to worry.
I revisited, for a moment, Ray and Ruby and John. But then I let them go back to their places. You never get over it, I told my tenant, but you learn to live with it. It takes a long, long time.
The theme is who do I have to take care of, and how much? I have to take care of myself. I have to take care of my child. For ten minutes on the phone I can take care of my tenant. I do not have to take care of people whose mental illness could cause them to harm me. I do not have to take care of people who have no space in their lives for me. I do not have to take care of people who aren’t doing their work.
The shrink said that when we’re about to refine something, or pass to another level of understanding, just before we get there it feels like the walls are closing in, and the problem is everywhere. All around me demands are being made for my attention and energy. People want me to put them ahead of myself. So each time I say no, I’m moving forward. No, you cannot come to my house and ring my doorbell a million times and pound on the door. No, I won’t go on a trip where I will be lonely and ignored and pushed beyond my limits. No, I will not act as a buffer for you to avoid your family.
She also suggested that I probably need a really good cry. This is also true, but a far more elusive beast.