With mental illness, how responsible are we for our own happiness?
When I am depressed, it is all consuming. There is nothing that I can do to manage the symptoms. There is nothing I can do to ease the pain I feel, let alone make myself feel better. While I think that it is my responsibility to TRY to feel better, I recognize that it is generally an attempt that is in vain. So where do other people fit in this?
A couple of days ago my partner was upset with me. He felt that I was acting a bit down and his attempts to make me feel better were going unappreciated. He was referring to a couple of days that, while on vacation, I was acting particularly (and strangely) subdued and quiet and generally not acting myself. He felt that he had been trying to cheer me up but to no avail. What struck me, however, was that he said it was his responsibility to cheer me up and because it wasn’t working he felt he was failing at his job. This surprised me. While I have myself said to him, upon cheering him up, that ‘its no problem, its my job’, I never knew he took this remark so seriously. It sounds kind of weird to say but I think that while it is my job to TRY to cheer him up, it is ultimately up to him. I think back to the times where, for instance, he is stressed and feeling down because of all the work he has to put in to clear up any sort of bureaucratic mess that he tends to get himself into (like filling out job application forms, or graduation forms or other sorts of boring and annoying tasks). I try to cheer him up, but I know that the only way he is going to get out of his funk is for him to get motivated enough to fill out the forms and get the problem out of the way. I cant do that for him.
So why does he feel such responsibility for my happiness?
Besides being just a empathetic and generous person, which he is, I think there is more to it. He has seen me at my worse. And he was there for me. He would stroke my hair as I cried at the pain of living and would hold me for hours on end. I think he recognized that there was nothing I could do to help myself – I was at the mercy of my illness. Perhaps that is why he felt it was up to him to do something. Stroking my hair and lying with me was about the only thing he could do that had any affect whatsoever, and he would do it. Now that I am healthy, I wonder if he is still stuck in that place where he thinks I have no ability to take responsibility for my own health. I don’t like to think that he stresses over my happiness. It is normal for a person to have ups and downs and I hate to think that he feels responsible for this.
We talked about it and I tried to make it clear that it is, ultimately, up to me. I hope he understood that while it is his ‘job’ to try and cheer me up, it is not his responsibility! Time will tell I suppose.
As for now, I am left wondering about who is responsible for the happiness and well being of a person with mental illness. Is this a task that is lost to an illness?