Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why Can't I set Boundries and Say No?

I am a member at an place that offers art classes, art supplies and studio space/time for people (members) with particular major mental illnesses. At this studio you can be a participant in classes, help teach classes, or be an instructor. Most of the classes are taught by members. I have been a member and taken a few classes over the past few years, but this year I pushed myself to do more.

My pdoc and I discussed creating a community for myself. I love this studio. The members are great. Also, there are occupational therapists who are, in my view, the best I've seen. I feel like members are treated completely as equals by the O.T.'s, something I haven't experienced before. I feel valued and cared for. It is a great community for me.

This year I applied to be an assistant instructor. I am near the end of my second class and I love it, I love the people, I think the instructor is great too. It also gives that day some structure; gets me out of bed, provides me with a reason to leave home, etc. On top of that it gives me a sense of accomplishment, and my life a small sense of purpose and meaning. So I decided to do more.

I now volunteer to help with another class as well. I also attend an array of planning and information meetings. I just finished taking another course there and now I have volunteered to help people move from structured classes to working at the studio on their own. On top of that I have committed to volunteering once a week at our city's Shakespeare festival.

The problem? I am completely overwhelmed and depressed right now. For the past maybe 9-10 weeks my depression has been worsening and I am as close to suicide as I have ever been, maybe closer. Every therapy session for at least the past 6-7 weeks Dr. X. has either asked, "Have you considered ECT again?", or "Have you considered a hospital stay?".

Dr. X. is not the type of pdoc to TELL me what to do. I can only surmise these queries are his way of "suggesting" these options. I have thought of both and I think I need both. I have, however, made commitments to Studio and to the Shakespeare festival. I am loathe to break commitments, even if I know they are getting in the way of my getting well. It is almost an obsessional urge to keep my word, but also because I fear the consequences.

I believe I can manage to back out of the Shakespeare festival after the required 7 shifts and feel okay about that. I have just completed week 4. The real problem is that I just cannot, and will not, break my commitments to the studio. I fear there will be repercussions if I do. I worry I will lose the O.T's faith in my reliability. I also am afraid I will lose the connection and respect that I have worked so hard to gain with other members in this community. I fear the loss of future opportunities at the studio, for instance other instructor opportunities. There are a million reasons why. I told my pdoc my commitments end August 19th. That is when I would consider a hospital stay.

Now the real reason I am writing this is because one of the other studio helpers called in sick last week and then this week called to say they will not be returning to help because of their symptoms. (They told the OT to explain that to us).

I am so proud of this person. I am also jealous that they understand their boundaries, that they are able to say no to take care of themselves, that they put themselves and their mental health first. When will I get there? Why do I not put me first? Or why do I have such a warped view of what putting me first looks like. (i.e. avoiding judgement and punishment). I hope my co-helper will be okay, and I hope I can learn from this person's strength.

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