As I mention in another chapter, to Eric, spending all the time in the hospital with me during my coma changed his life: because of that, he feels that everything I face represents a threat. This means that all the care he would like to give me and can’t (his work doesn’t allow for it), another person (a hired professional) has to give it. For my part, I experience every inability to manage on my own as helplessness, and any form of help as captivity.
So, we have to strike a balance between fear and letting go; between accepting help and feeling trapped. There’s a boundary between us that we should avoid crossing if we wanted to respect the other’s wishes and needs. If I claim my right for autonomy, I overlook Eric’s fear of my death and wish to help me. If Eric acts out of fear for my life and a desire to help (stemming from his love for me), he overlooks my wish for autonomy and my sense of entrapment. This conflict was at its height when I was undergoing the phase of confusion – when my brain was really swollen.
To respect my needs, Eric would have to refrain his impulse to help and his fear, because his fear needs a nurse aid, and both a nurse aid and his help leave me with a sense of entrapment and the consequent anger. To respect his wishes and needs, I should refrain from rejecting his or the hired professional’s help, because not having a hired professional means that Eric will have more work than his own (which means more stress). A long journey is facing us, and we both will have to travel together. It will take time for me to heal. And until I heal, Eric and I will have to do the dance: to dance around the boundary without crossing it.