There is no manual for self-care. Oprah’s built an empire out of the idea, but of course every “self” is different.
I am moving.
Bernardo and I are very much in love. But my asthma, chronic pain due to tendonitis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and (quite frankly) mild clinical depression are incompatible with living with a young (beautiful) adult with profound autism, anxiety and OCD.
She and I each need to spread out, claim space, breathe easy. So I am renting an apartment that is essentially around the corner from the house. And this weekend, next week, and next weekend are all about that.
I’m an odd tenant for this building. It’s a cheap apartment. Steel doors, industrial-looking, little things busted here and there. The landlady is quite nice, but like all land-people she won’t invest a dime in the building that won’t turn revenue around for her. I understand this. I can make improvements and take them off the rent, if I want. Or not – just putting up with it till I can upgrade (when Scamp is out of college) is not so bad.
Bernardo is being enormously supportive. He is actually helping me move; he wants me to feel better. Perhaps someday we’ll recombine. In the meantime, he’s being miraculously cheerful. I’m not used to not being screamed at, when moving out of someone else’s house. My divorce with my kids’ dad was acrimonious. So a lot of the emotions I’m feeling now are triggered by that very negative experience (my older daughter is feeling some of the same things, from her perspective; we’ve compared notes). It’s dredging up a lot – and there are physical results from it. I’m learning to read my body’s reactions to things as signs of stress, because my brain has a really hard time acknowledging it. (Oh, no, the water’s just a little bit warmer than it was – the frog is definitely not boiling!)
Like any self-respecting New Yorker, I have a therapist helping me through this. That environment is also hard-core. Every week I go to Bayley-Seton – a mental health facility that primarily sees people with very few resources (including prisoners). I like going there, though. It tells me that, as a nation, our mental health is something to be taken seriously. It tells me that I am the same humanity as the man in the Superman suit waiting with me in the waiting room. I don’t want to be reckoning with my stress and health in a posh environment that tells me I’m a special snowflake. We’re all on this earth, this country, this city, this ISLAND, and we are, in one way or another, in this life together. It’s REAL.
My therapist has seen it all. Her clients, in addition to people like me, are meth-heads, prostitutes, abused people, johns. She has an accent like Fran Drescher and the thousand-yard stare – and no time for bullshit. She’s rearranging the cells in my brain and I can feel it; she is a ninja.
I’m looking at this all as a weird frontier. And I’m blogging about it because…I don’t know anybody else who’s done this before. Declare your love for someone and suddenly not live with them? And stay together?
If anyone can do this, I know that Bernardo and I can.