My parents were with us over the holidays. It was a nice time – they live in Arizona and us in Chicago, so we haven’t had the ability to spend the holidays together in five years. My parents understand Tim’s condition well and do a great job of understanding how to handle his moods and idocyncracies, for the most part. My mom is a very organized, ordered person and, as understanding and involved as she is, some of Tim’s quirks and behaviors drive her batty. For example, Tim, for some reason, almost never flushes a toilet. I can’t explain it, I just know that his brain completely omits this necessary step of using the bathroom. After several years of saying, “Tim, please flush when you’re done,” and him responding with a huge shoulder-shrugging sigh and return to the bathroom (on good days) and an argument and storm off (on bad days), we’ve learned to deal with it. If I or Tom or one of Tim’s siblings enters a bathroom to find the seat up and the toilet unflushed, we simply shut it, flush it, then go about our business. My mother, however, got her ire up over it. “I don’t know how you can let him get away with that,” she said to me. I explained to her, when it comes to life with Tim, I pick my battles. There are some irks that I’ll never win, because for Tim, they are a block or a trigger. There are some I push when I can, because they are important to learn. The trick is knowing which is which. Here are some examples:
Things I Let Slide but Watch For
Wearing multiple shirts / pairs of pants at a time (a sign he’s heading for depression and/or psychosis)
Not showering / brushing teeth (more than two days and he’s unstable, or will soon be)
Things I Let Slide Because They Are What They Are
Sleeping with every light in his room on (even the closet)
Never remembering to flush
Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, 24/7, 365 days a year
The tornado of crap that is his bedroom (as long as nothing is spoiling / wet / rotting)
I told her, my mental health is more important than a few extra dollars on our electric bill, or having to look and flush before I use the bathroom. I’d love his room to be clean, and I burn a skanky, stained hoodie every six months, but it’s worth putting up with those things to avoid an expletive-laden argument that will surely come if I push it. And, if this was her daily life, she’d probably learn the same. Maybe. She’s trying at least.
I’d love to hear – what are the things you’ve learned to let slide, for the same of YOUR mental health?