Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Taking Other People Down With You

One thing no one ever tells you when you are diagnosed with a mental illness is that you will be compelled to take the people that you love down with you. Now, don't get me wrong. You're not sitting in the dark maniacally plotting to gaslight them into going a little crazy with you. No, I mean that certain mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, make you feel unsafe and so you sometimes want the people around you to act accordingly.

I was sitting in group one day with one of my favorite group members–a cynical and suffering woman like myself. I was venting about how I wanted my husband to go out more because I felt guilty that I couldn't do a lot of the things he wants to do. She goes, "Oh, you take people hostage too?" I had to laugh. She was absolutely right. I hold my husband hostage. It's one of those weird unbalanced scenarios where he doesn't mind being captured by a mentally unstable woman (Stockholm Syndrome?), but I hold him hostage, nonetheless.

Another thing I notice is that my concern for the well-being of the people I love is in overdrive thanks to OCD. Therefore, I get a little anxious when I see my dad eat unhealthy or mom smoke. My husband coughs and I imagine him dying of tuberculosis. Most of the time, I can keep this crap to myself. There is no reason for my fears to dictate other people's lives. But sometimes, that nagging anxiety creeps in and I find myself trying to micromanage other people's health. I give my mother long lectures on what she should and shouldn't do. I tell her how much I worry about them (my parents). What I'm really doing is sucking other people into my vortex of worry. She may not have been worried about the problems I pointed out before, but she sure will be when I'm through getting it off my chest.

I don't know how to change how I treat the people I care about other than to keep treating myself. Maybe if I get my obsessions and compulsions under control, I won't feel like I need someone with me 24/7. I won't freak out at the thought of my father having high cholesterol. My husband will be able to leave me alone for more than a few hours.

I wonder if other people have a similar experience.