Guest Post – Secure Your Mask First

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My bipolar doesn’t just affect me, it also affects those closest to me, and in different ways than it affects me. Because she’s been around for all of the highs and lows, and because she has experienced each of those highs and lows differently than I have, I have asked my partner to share her thoughts and experiences in a guest post.


 

If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.

I haven’t mastered this yet. Living with a non-neurotypical person is like constantly attempting to be ready for an emergency, but it is really easy to forget to secure one’s own safety first. In my experience, the most difficult aspect of my life is trying to be an emotional barometer for my entire household.

My self-emptying, micromanaging behavior started so innocently back before diagnosis and treatment of my partner’s illness. The behavior came about through a desire protect myself from the trauma of seeing my partner self-harm. It came about through a desire to protect him from the physical trauma he would inflict on himself and the inanimate objects he enjoys. A great way to inflict lasting harm on one’s self is to destroy something that brings you joy — for example, that picture from that great beach trip or a treasured possession. My ‘protection’ behaviors soon became a pattern of codependent behaviors. My self imposed job of being aware of emotions and seeing potential triggers morphed into me becoming master manipulator and continues to this day.

Many days I find myself trying to manipulate the emotional cabin pressure in my home. I do this at the expense of my own emotional well-being. It also is harmful to those around me. My teenage children, themselves in the throws of hormonal fluctuations and learning to emotionally navigate life, are left feeling invalidated and responsible for the emotions, thoughts and behaviors of others. I feel a crushing sense of failure when my partner experiences symptomatic behavior such as self-harm or the destruction of property. It Is also harmful to my partner. Instead of being able to see symptomatic behavior for what it is, he is devalued by me and left feeling as though I believe him incapable of fulfilling his role as partner and parent.

I don’t have any major insights or advice about how to process situations like these or how to prevent oneself from falling into harmful relationship patterns. I have no clue as to how to remedy these relationship patterns and start interacting in a healthy way. All I have is the realization that I need to secure my mask first before trying to assist others. I am no good to anyone else if I don’t care for myself first.

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