My boyfriend suffers from a mental illness. Yesterday he reiterated one of his most persistent, and troubling, downer fantasies: that God kill him. So far, the Almighty has demurred; he’s still very much alive. Thankfully, he always maintains that he’ll never do the job himself. Still, I worry. My dad died by suicide, and I’m not sure I’d recover from a repeat performance.
Naturally, caring for him sucks up a great deal of my emotional energy. He refuses psychiatric care. We don’t have any local friends. All his family lives hundreds of miles away in a city he’s afraid to travel to. What I’m getting at here, is that it’s just me. If he crawls up in a little ball on the bed and refuses to talk, I hold and rock him like a baby until he’s ready to return to his normal level of function.
I’m continually devising action plans, scheming for health and happiness. I enforce a reasonable bedtime, limit his videogaming, massage his body, administer herbal remedies. It’s a big, and often thankless, job. The worst part, perhaps, is how my caregiving distorts normal relationship dynamics. Instead of being his boyfriend, I become his boss. I’m constantly telling him what to do, albeit for his own good (where have we heard that before), but still.
Naturally, he resists my ministrations. Nobody wants to surrender dominion over their own lives. Why would they? Each of us has the right, the need even, to decide certain basic things for ourselves: what we’ll eat, whether or not to take antidepressants, how we’ll spend our free time, when we’ll go to sleep. It’s axiomatic. Sometimes we make lifestyle decisions that fuck us up, but, as free human beings, we get to do that. We have the right to be as fucked up as we want to be. I’ve always thought that.
So what the hell am I doing playing “father knows best” with a grown man whose supposed to be my partner, my equal, my best friend? Yuck! Talk about your cognitive dissonance. The whole sorry business is riddled with philosophical inconsistency, subtle sadistic undertones, intimacy-destroying resentment and recrimination. No wonder I think about leaving.
In the end I always stay though, and I think the reason I always stay is love. I love him enough to take on a role I’m not comfortable with because that’s who he needs me to be right now. He’s not capable of managing his own life so I, reluctantly, do it for him. It sounds bad, and that’s something I have to live with. I refuse to let him flounder and fall so I can stay true to my individualist, libertarian ideals. I don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines, congratulating myself for overcoming my co-dependent rescuing tendencies, while he succumbs to madness and despair. I don’t. Too much is at stake. 1 month ago