Moving with Mental Illness: Part 2 – Managing the Overwhelmed
What not to do
After months of packing and fixing up our old home, we finally moved to our new home. More months of unpacking and fixing up our new home lay ahead. It was a challenging prospect for me and overwhelming for Sara. I would like to say that I managed it with the same brilliant insights that I did when helping Sara to overcome her fears. Was my understanding of Sara’s feelings of being overwhelmed another tour de force worthy of another book? … Err, no.
The organization and planning for moving into our new home was daunting, and I soon became focused on getting as many tasks done as quickly as possible. I was tired of living out of suitcases, sitting on lawn-chairs, and having my office consist of the kitchen counter, some shoe-boxes and ever-disappearing pens. Sara was as excited about our new home as I was, and she was just as eager to move in. However unlike me, Sara was not up to working nonstop until all the jobs were done. In the rush of the move, I forgot that, and I ignored my mentally ill wife’s frequent complaints. Today marked a low point: Sara went on strike.
Crunch All the Work Together
Before we moved our furniture into our new home, we needed to refinish the well-worn and warped hardwood floors, replace the twenty-year-old carpets, paint the walls (“hearing-aid pink” was not to our liking), and build a fenced area for our dog. Doing all this was beyond my skills, so contractors were required. With a singular focus on efficiency, I, of course, wanted them to come one right after the other, like an assembly line of renovations. This was too much for Sara, because she would not be able to rest and recover after strangers had been roaming her home. I was oblivious and pushed ahead. As fate would have it, the contractors’ schedules were too full to accommodate my demanding schedule. What I planned to be done in ten days actually took two-and-a-half months—much to Sara’s relief. Lesson: Don’t crunch all the work together. Re-la-x … and space things out.
Proudly Present Your Lists Over and Over Again
I love lists. They organize my thoughts, help plan out the schedule, and get all those pesky details out of my head and on to paper. I had lists everywhere—some running several pages in length. Lists on the computer, lists in notebooks, lists on sticky notes, lists on backs of envelopes. Great stuff! It was with considerable pride that I showed Sara my lists. “See,” I told her, “everything is under control.” Wrong! What I did not realize was that these wonderful lists showed Sara how much work was still to be done. She thought that I wanted all the work on these lists done straightaway (I can’t think why). Result: the total meltdown of my overwhelmed wife. Lesson: Keep your lists to yourself—a lesson I ignored time and time again, with the same results.
Relentlessly Press for Quick Decisions
Door handles, towel racks, toilet-roll holders, cabinet knobs, shelving, curtains, curtain rails, carpets, rugs, coffee tables, etc., etc.—a billion-and-one new items for our new home. What style? What colour? What texture? How much? How many? Where to put them? Which store? I am the “decide-quickly-repent-leisurely” type of person. Sara, being in almost every way my opposite, is a perfectionist who takes forever to decide on the perfect colour, style and texture. Although her decorative decisions are always better than mine, I quickly became frustrated with the delay and relentlessly pressed Sara into making decisions. I wanted to buy the item, install it, and (with immense satisfaction) cross it off my list. Because of my pressure, items were bought before Sara was happy with her decision … and of course later returned. One day, Sara could take it no more. She had reached the end and was paralyzed to make any more decisions. Decision paralysis is a well-recognized mental state. I finally surrendered to the inevitable and took a Zen-like approach to waiting for Sara to make a decision. Lesson: Let your mentally ill spouse make her decisions in her own time. Life will not end if the old cabinet knobs remain in place for (yet) another month. … Oh yes, and keep your receipts.
Do It Now!
“Do it now!” has been a philosophy that I have embraced in my professional and personal lives—not because I love working, but because I want to thoroughly enjoy my relaxation without unfinished work hovering over me. Sara’s philosophy is “Do it when I am ready—mentally, physically and emotionally.” I had to re-learn how to slow down—a lesson I had forgot in the excitement of the move. Lesson: Prepare for the long haul.
After all this, Sara and I have decided that we really, really like our new home, and that we are never ever moving again.