All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. William Shakespeare
A friend and I were having a conversation recently about- when is enough, enough. We both have dealt with or are dealing with spouses that suffer with PTSD. My best advice to her was, “When you feel that you are unable to grow or that he is keeping you from growing, then it’s enough.”
In my relationship it became obvious that my spouse felt more secure and happier when I wasn’t striving to make a name for myself or to become the person I felt I was meant to be. I have come to understand that when you are in a relationship with someone who suffers from a mental health issue, their misery loves company. If you strive to have something, do something or be something that doesn’t feed their addiction, their need to be the center of attention, then they feel acutely lost. On the surface they seem supportive, but when you actually count on that support it’s yanked out from under you by behavior that puts the focus back on them. This made me think of the theatre- how I made the choice to be the stage manager of my own life.
You see I think I made the conscious decision long ago that I wasn’t worthy to be the star of my own life’s play. I was much better suited to be backstage, making sure everyone else in my life looked good, got the applause and was appreciated for their accomplishments. I took satisfaction in the idea that by being backstage making sure everyone remembered their lines, didn’t miss their cues and made scene changes quickly and quietly, that the applause they got was mine as well- it wasn’t and I became resentful. The problem is that you can’t reasonably function in your own life as someone else’s stage manager- because when they forget their lines, miss their cues or don’t make scene changes that failure becomes your burden because they won’t take credit or responsibility for it and it’s been your job to fix it, so it becomes your fault. It’s a vicious circle because you can never take credit for their accomplishments and you can’t take credit for their failures because it all belongs to them. The problem I faced was that I was in love with someone who blamed me for the failures and worked against any success I tried to help him achieve. He wanted to be small, miserable and taken care of- and I was all to willing to accommodate. It wasn’t completely his fault, he was responsible for his choices and I was responsible for allowing his choices to dictate mine. This pattern began in childhood for me… and it hasn’t stopped.
When you spend your life making someone else look good, it’s really difficult to stop. What makes it even harder is the person you’ve always done this for, expects it to continue. Unless you can find a way to grow into a more balanced relationship, chances are good the relationship won’t last. The problem of course is to address the behavior, both of you-have to address the behavior. The balance comes when you learn to trust that you can both have a staring role in your lives and that neither one of you has to be the stage manager all the time. Sometimes you’re the star, sometimes you’re the co-star… but being relegated to stage manager in your own life… that’s not a healthy place to be.
So if you are like me you get help and try to stop doing for this person what they are capable of doing for themselves. And that works for a little while, until you start helping other people in the same way. This is what some psychology texts would call displacement-substituting the person but not the behavior. And the behavior continues. Until at some point you say to yourself or because of a conversation with others- Enough is Enough!
Well I’ve said, enough is enough. The problem is that recognizing the behavior and changing it, is easier said than done. So I’ve found myself feeling very depressed lately. That was when I found this quote;
We can view depression as a profound and very misunderstood state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity. It is an unconscious loss of interest in our story. It is a profound call to let go of the old, and plunge into the new…~ Jeff Foster
So for now I feel as though I should rest. And be okay with this state of rest. I think at some point something will wake me up… but for now-for now I rest.