What does it mean to be the designated sane one in a relationship? A lot of people think that being the rational one means that you have to stay calm and logical no matter what happens or that you need to do everything in your power to protect others from stress lest they suffer a melt-down that would be all your fault because you could have done something. WRONG! Totally and entirely WRONG!
Every human being has the absolute right to their own feelings and emotions. We all have the right to do what is necessary to get our own needs met up to the point where it interferes with the rights of others. YOU have the right to protect yourself and find ways to get what you need before, during and after you find ways to meet your partners needs. You are a partner, not a martyr.
It is perfectly acceptable for a designated sane person to have extreme feelings when there is a rational reason for them. It is perfectly acceptable for a designated sane person to occasionally lose our temper when things aren’t going our way. It is perfectly normal and acceptable for a designated sane person to need time away to collect our thoughts or relax.
I know some coping mechanisms that help a designated sane person stay sane, but I must admit that sometimes feelings of hopelessness or depression are actually quite sane and perfectly rational when you are caring for someone with a serious illness. If none of the techniques seems to help, consider that maybe you just need to go through some of these feelings and maybe you need to talk to a doctor or therapist about it.
What should you try before calling in the medical personnel?
1. Accept that your partner has a serious medical condition that affects thinking, feeling and acting. Pretending it isn’t real won’t make it go away. Face it, learn about it and deal with it.
2. Boundaries need to be set up and maintained. If you are allowing your partner or anyone else trample your boundaries or your feelings, check out the article on boundaries and work on that.
3. Repeat the three Cs until you believe them. “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it.” If you don’t have the power, you can’t really be responsible. Let yourself off the hook for everything that can possibly go wrong.
4. Detach emotionally from the stuff that’s going on around you. Are you emotionally invested in someone else’s behavior? Are you embarrassed by what your partner says or does? Detaching just means accepting that another person’s behavior belongs to them and is neither your responsibility nor a reflection on you.
5. Eggshells are not an appropriate alternative to carpet. Walking on eggshells to try to control your partner’s behavior is a waste of effort. If the bomb is ticking, nothing that you do or don’t do will stop the explosion. It will find or invent a reason to go off. Do what seems right to you and let the shrapnel fall where it will. Any other tactic you might use to try to control things is more likely to blow up in your face than to work. Control yourself. That is really all you can do.
None of these ideas is really new–we know most of this intuitively, but somehow things like mental illness and addiction can put a whole different spin on things and we forget that we can still have healthy relationships if we follow the most basic rules.