Scholar Robert Wright (no relation) poses the theorem that when people find themselves in a zero-sum relationship, i.e. if one person gets what they want, the other necessarily will not, they become enemies. War ensues as they fight over resources, territory, and perhaps their very lives. Somewhere in the process of care-giving for my roommate, Erin, we became enemies.
I confess that I gave too much, too often. I forgot to care for myself. "Just get through this bout of symptoms," I thought, "and then I'll be able to rest." But the symptoms kept coming, relentless and terrifying. And I don't mean terrifying in just the "this person might die in my arms" sense, but also the "heart-pounding, fearing for one's own safety" sense. Hours slipped by in crisis that were often needed for self-care. Relationships eroded into heartbreak with no time taken to grieve. And still the violence of late-stage neurological infection assaulted us daily. And I had no place to escape to.
Finally, the insistence upon space and time for self-care demanded that Erin and I no longer live together, and the war began. For Erin would be much safer, and probably healthier, with around-the-clock medical attention. But I am not a doctor, and even if I was she could not afford my or anyone else's constant supervision. And care-giving without self-care yields diminishing returns. Finally I had nothing left to give and Erin had no one else to receive help from. We became threats to each other's very existence, and my attempts to seek space and care for myself put Erin in the jeopardy of isolation. Things got nasty. When the dust settled and we found ourselves living apart for the first time in over two years, our friendship was in tatters.
But then I had gained the perspective to note that Erin was not my true enemy. Lyme disease was the enemy of both our lives and it must be fought. I found the heart to keep fighting for Erin and the wisdom to also fight for myself. Erin is still my dear, dear friend and no one has more heart than her. She has been occupied by an invading army of bacteria, oppressed and devastated, but she refuses to surrender. I have found my limit, the absolute extent to which I can fight alongside her without losing myself. We are doing all we can and praying for more allies, because I know that Erin has much to give this world and we will all be better off with her still around.
So if these words have found you and you are in a position to join us, please do. You will find not a zero-sum relationship but a life-long ally.