Mental Illness

Caregiving: Going On A Date

Oh, Persephoneers. I have news. Epic news. Earth-shattering news. Not-exactly-life-altering-but-still-spectacular news. News which has, uh, already been given away by the title of the article.

Anyway! Onwards, I think. I had intended to carry on with the Quickie suggestions, after Friendships, but I realised aforementioned news carried a significant Caregiving element and thought I would go in a different direction this week. It is also perhaps worth mentioning that my two week absence from my usual Caregiving slot was much needed and enjoyed. Mr. Juniper was away for a few days and I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up to do some much needed taking care of myself. During peaceful moments of the day, and in the evenings, once Juniper Junior was settled for the night, I did wondrous things like watching films from beginning to end without interruptions. I rediscovered the joy of painting my nails (alternating pink and yellow, in case you were wondering). Made not only gingerbread, but an obscenely yummy lemon curd sponge cake. Good gracious, I even got round to reading Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan and Julian Barnes’s The Sense Of An Ending. In short, I took time to do things that were relaxing, enjoyable and helped alleviate stress. And my goodness, I had been needing to.

I’ll admit it though, I couldn’t relax completely. There was still a part of mind worrying about Mr. Juniper, despite having done all possible to make sure the trip would go smoothly. Oh my, there were a lot of things to be arranged, and it’s perhaps something I may cover in a future Caregiving article. And just in case it wasn’t obvious, it was quite wonderful to have Mr. Juniper home again.

News, though. News! Prepare yourselves. I mean it, I hope you’re sitting down. Mr. Juniper and I are going on a date! What do you mean that’s not earth-shattering? To be fair, yes, there are undoubtedly more important and significant things occurring in our lives, let alone in the world, compared to going on a date. But in terms of being us, being partners, this is pretty stupendous. When it feels as though the only time we get together as us, is when we go to Mr. Juniper’s appointments together to see his psychiatrist, a date feels magnificent.

Dates, for us, are not frequent events. Last year was staggering in that we had two dates. One to see the last Harry Potter film and one to see a play. They weren’t easy, though. And one, was, well… I’ll get to that one in a minute.

A date feels like something that shouldn’t have caregiving anywhere in the vicinity. It should be pure happiness and light. It should be all unicorns, glitter and candyfloss.

Perhaps it’s best I get on with the date that I want to avoid. The reason for wanting to avoid it? Because, uh, it could have been a contender for Worst Date Ever. Seriously. It was the play we went to see. After The End by Dennis Kelly, in case you were interested. And, oh my. I was the one who booked the tickets, I knew what the play was about, I knew what the environment would be, I knew what the portrayals might involve in terms of what was acted out on stage. And yet, it didn’t particularly occur to me until the play was underway that this was possibly the worst play to take someone to, when they have endured abuse and violence for much of their life, and are still in therapy as a result. When the curtain that wasn’t technically there fell, and we made our way back out into daylight, I didn’t know what to expect from Mr. Juniper. His response, as it turned out, was, “Phew! That was kind of intense!” In many ways, the play was a new experience for Mr. Juniper and one, though it was outside of the realm of my expectations, was to be literally on the outside looking in. Mr. Juniper’s new perspective is how I continue to try and keep my conscience clear, because the guilt, dear goodness, the guilt I felt over that date is still alive and well. That said, Mr. Juniper did enjoy the experience and has tried to reassure me of that, too. It just wasn’t quite the uh, experience he was expecting.

The play is a good example though, of the hurdles that can come about in going on a date. At least, when that date involves some kind of theatre or cinema outing. There are some films, like the Harry Potter series for instance, which we have no qualms about seeing. But then there are films which cause a little more apprehension, and it becomes simpler to consider those films as something to be watched in the safety of home, once it comes out on DVD, rather than chancing it and causing distress in an environment where home is a good hop, skip and a jump away.

The next hurdle is travel. For us, going to the cinema involves an hour on the train. Considering that the journey is for a date, then we are at least together but Mr. Juniper can get anxious about travel at the best of times. One thing you’d notice immediately as we get ready for a date is that I’ll be asking Mr. Juniper if he has his iPod on him, if it’s charged and if he has his headphones. The questions are then followed up by the reminder that I don’t mind if he needs to use his iPod. It’s always best to try and avert a crisis, rather than have to deal with one. There are a few reasons why his iPod is so important, one is that he can simply block out the aural aspect of the environment if it gets too much. Second, it gives him a focus other than what’s around him. Third, depending on what he chooses to listen to, he can be actively assisted in calming down depending on what he listens to. Whipping out an iPod is also more socially acceptable than throwing back an anti-anxiety medication in the midst of a packed train, and a fraction quicker, too. At the very least, being able to block out his environment with the use of an iPod, Mr. Juniper can buy himself a little time until we either reach our stop or he is able to take medication. Medication is, obviously, not something to be used in every anxious moment but travel can induce anxiety in people without mental health issues, let alone someone who is mentally ill. The combination of mechanical and human sound, the lack of personal space and general claustrophobic atmosphere can be actively detrimental.

The stress of travel means that the train station itself is a welcome sight. Mr. Juniper and I can enjoy the space and he can decompress (I realise that this is not the most technical term out there). The station allows space, wonderful space. It also means we’re in the city and the city is not unlike the train, except it’s the people moving, not the city. It is not for lack of compassion or romance that we say little to each other on the walk to the cinema. It’s allowing us both space to breathe. Mr. Juniper trying to get himself back to a good place in his head after the travel and me simply being glad that he made it, as far as I can tell, in one piece.

The city and the travel involved in getting there are significant factors in why we also tend to go on dates on weekdays, as opposed to on weekends. To try and avoid, as much as possible, large shopping crowds and packed trains home. Sometimes it doesn’t work and for whatever reason, the world is a little busier than we expected. Weekdays are also when cinemas tend to be quieter, too, thank goodness.

But then, we reach the cinema or the theatre. We are officially On A Date by the time we walk through the doors. We are able to enjoy time as a couple. And next Monday, oh next Monday, Persephoneers, we will be enjoying the Hunger Games.

May the odds be ever in your favour, Persephoneers!

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

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