I’m sorry it’s taken so long to continue the story. Life got in the way. As we all know, it happens. I’ve been working on a whole new plan for marketing our book, which I will discuss in a different update soon. Tonight though, in honor of Robin who is hunkered down and sitting through Hurricane Irma in Florida (she is safe, I promise, and I will be trying to talk her into writing a special post at some point about her experiences), I am ready to continue the story that left our readers hanging so many months ago…
When Robin asked me to go to lunch in March 2016, I didn’t think anything of it. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile, and it was time to catch up. She and her mom had gone to Florida for a vacation and I was anxious to hear about their visit.
We talked about how things went, and talked about how things were generally going in my life. Then, Robin said, “Sharon, I have something to tell you.” Somewhat nervously, but definitively, she said, “My mom and I are planning to move to Florida.”
Okay, I have to back up before I talk about my response to this announcement. After Robin’s mom went to visit her friend Betty in Florida the previous year, she had come home and told Robin she wanted to consider moving there. When Robin told me this at that time, I have to admit I did not respond in the best way. As anyone who has read this story knows, I had been through hell and back with Robin in terms of her mental illness and it’s effects. Robin was finally stable and settled. Honestly, I was very concerned about the impact a major change like moving to Florida would have on her mental health. Her stability had been longstanding, but had never been tested to such a huge extent. I was very concerned about the ramifications of her destabilizing in general, but also having it happen so far away from all the mental health providers who were familiar to her.
I was deeply affected by the year in 2003 when Robin was so suicidal for so long. It’s hard to fully describe the sense of responsibility I felt to keep her alive during that year, no matter how stressful it was for me. Years later I cared for my mother-in-law, who had significant dementia. There were some similarities in terms of the need for me to just keep going, no matter how bad it got, until things changed one way or another. It was stressful, and exhausting.
In the case of my mother-in-law, I had to just keep going until she died. Thankfully, in Robin’s case it was until she was stabilized and didn’t need me to be her caretaker any longer. Years later we were eventually able to navigate the complicated transition from therapist/client, to friends and co-authors. But, I obviously remained very protective of her. And, I am still the person who knows better than anyone else in the world, how quickly and dangerously she can destabilize, given the right circumstances.
So, I have to admit that when Robin told me in 2015 that her mother was talking about the possibility of moving to Florida, I did not react as her friend. I reacted as her ex-therapist who was worried. She had gotten to a point where she was stable, and happy. She had a good job, friends, and was as content as she had ever been as an adult. My reaction came from a place of significant concern about how a major life change might cause her to destabilize. If I’m being totally honest, I was partly worried about getting drawn back into feeling compelled to be her caretaker. We had navigated the transition to me not needing to be in this role any longer. I did not want to deal with the complications of blurring the roles should she become seriously suicidal again. I expressed my concern about all of this to Robin. We had endlessly processed all the complications of the role changes through the years, so none of this surprised her. She seemed to hear me.
Because it was going to be a whole year before her mom returned to Florida for another visit, the topic was dropped. It became a non-issue. But, when Robin made her sudden announcement to me in March 2016, I knew completely why I had not been consulted during the decision making process. I knew why she waited until the decision was final before telling me.
I didn’t blame her. She knew how I would feel. She knew I would be worried, for all the reasons I had verbalized a year earlier. So this time, when she told me the decision had been made, I knew I needed to support her. My concerns were the same as they had been previously. Robin does not deal well with change, under the best of circumstances. I couldn’t imagine how stressful it would be for her to navigate all the significant changes that would be involved in re-locating to a whole new state, far away from her family and friends.
So, what was my response to Robin’s announcement?
My outside voice said, “Wow, Robin! I’m shocked. I didn’t see this coming. You know my concerns, but I am really happy for you.”
My inside voice? What was it saying? “Oh shit! I hope this works for her. God help us both if it doesn’t!”