As some of you are aware, there's been more than a fair bit of turmoil in our household over the past year and a half or so. Recently my housemate, John (jkusters), and I finally sat down to talk through some of the issues at hand, brought about by his post a few weeks ago about unfriending me.
We had a productive discussion the following week, but not without going over what's happened over the past many months. Since I felt very hurt by some of the things he posted and I feel I was portrayed inaccurately (and he agrees now that I was), I asked him if I could post about our discussion to give a sense of things from my side of the fence, and he said that would be fine, and that he would link to it from his LJ (which I'm sure is what brought at least some of you reading this here now).
I realize not everyone is interested in all the details, but for those that are, and especially those that heard only John's side of things and judged the situation without hearing "the rest of the story," I encourage you to read what I have to say (and thank you for doing so).
First I'd like to backtrack a bit. For those who only know John from LJ, you only know his epsiodes of depression from his side of things, which is understandable, and all the support you've given him over the past months is admirable and kind.
However, to be blunt, you don't have to live with it. Let me give you a rundown of what has happened many, many times in our household:
- Small, insignificant thing happens
- John flies off the handle
- He storms off to his room
- He stays locked in his room for anywhere from one to three days
- Upon emerging he is either "over it" or announces that he has "rewired himself," so there is no longer an issue and it doesn't need to be discussed
- Dinner not being 100% ready when he's called
- Giving a small appliance a permanent home in the kitchen
- Taking a shower at the same time he is
- The kitchen being disorganized
- Hanging a picture on my bedroom wall
Every meltdown has been met with open-mouthed incredulity by me and the other two members of the household (one of them John's partner, Michael, and the other our friend, Daniel), and is followed up by the entire household walking around on eggshells for several days afterward for fear of causing another meltdown. Furthermore, any discussion to resolve it was nipped in the bud by both word (saying he's "rewired" and it doesn't need to be discussed) and deed (sequestering himself for long periods of time), which therefore makes me shocked that I have been the one accused of not wanting to communicate.
Finally, in March of this year, after being repeatedly invited to use one of his computers to play City of Heroes and a 3-day meltdown ensuing because I was then actually using it at the same time he wanted to (and then, after being asked to finish, not finishing fast enough), I decided I needed to make some changes in my relationship with John.
Now I will be the first to say that I understand that his reactions were fueled by his depression and were, from an emotional standpoint, somewhat beyond his control. However, this doesn't change the fact that they did indeed happen, and they caused incredible amounts of tension and unease in our home.
It was at this point a feeling of self preservation kicked in, so I made a decision to remove myself from potentially meltdown-inducing situations. This included:
- Immediately buying my own gaming computer
- Getting a storage unit (there has been friction over how much stuff I store in the garage, even though I signed a rental agreement that included being able to do so)
- Intentionally putting a cordial social distance between us
- Stopping all replies on LJ (this actually started a few months previous after the barbeque discussion)
- Avoiding discussing potentially volatile subjects (such as when I woke up one morning to find an exercise machine in my living room with no notice or discussion, and a brief acknowledgement in his LJ afterwards)
Over the next few months things settled down. The distance between us was disappointing, yes, but at the same time there were far fewer meltdowns (and none caused by me) and the house was a more stable, if less friendly, environment.
It was then a shock for John to suddenly unfriend me and for me to find out that the situation had been eating away at him for quite some time, so I approached him about it and we went out to dinner.
To John's credit he acknowledged his meltdowns and apologized for them, and he also apologized for often talking down to people as if he knew everything. Both of these were a good start, but it still seemed that he didn't fully understand the impact of his behavior over the last year and a half, nor did he understand my thoughts and feelings behind my actions.
I figured since this was likely the only time I'd have to address my concerns, I let it all out - basically everything you just read (and then some). I hope I was successful in not being judgemental or angry, but I'm sure I was blunt and painfully honest (and by the expression on his face the download of information - likely all of which was new to him - almost caused him to melt down again, but thankfully he roused himself and didn't). Basically I had to review much of the past in order to get us to the present.
That, in turn, brought me to his post about unfriending me and everyone's reactions to it. There were a few points he raised that I felt very angry and hurt about, because it seemed I was being portrayed unfairly, and the rest of his LJ friends were jumping in to agree with him (and understandably, given only his side of things).
So, given the background above (none of which, I think, John would disagree with) there are a few points in his entry I'd like to refute.
First, John claims to have repeatedly attempted to talk to me about these issues. I can say with 100% certainty that this is not true. There was one occassion, after my new computer arrived, when we referred to "the computer issue" in passing and that we should probably talk about it sometime, but not only were we expecting company that evening, but at that time there was no way I was going to talk to him about it, since the last time the subject was touched on he locked himself in his room for three days. Regardless of him casually mentioning it, it was clear to me at that time that talking about it would be a huge mistake (plus, at the time, I was still angry about it and was processing my own feelings, which just would have made it worse).
Since that one occassion, there has not been any kind of communication whatsoever from John that he wanted to talk about the distance between us. He said he posted in his LJ, sent me e-mails and talked to me about it, but I never read, received or heard anything of the sort.
Interestingly, John recalls only vaguely the specific meltdown incidents I mentioned above, which to me shows that it was never the incident but rather his neurochemical imbalances that were causing the problems. Given that, he wholly admitted that, yes, it seems unlikely that he did try to get me to talk about things, or that, if he did, it's obvious he didn't communicate them effectively, as evidenced by the fact that it was only now we were finally talking. It wasn't until that LJ post that I even knew he had given our friendship a second thought.
What amazed me was how quickly all of his responders portrayed me as the passive aggressive one, knowing that what John was writing was wholly inaccurate. Furthermore, by the simple fact of writing about it in his LJ and not directly contacting me beforehand (which, since so much time as passed, I would have responded to positively), I saw that as the biggest passive aggressive stunt of all - after all, why drop someone from your friends list and then make a public post about it if you didn't want them to read it (and John admitted as much)? He assumed I wasn't reading his LJ or any of his replies to my LJ, but he told me secretly he hoped that I would and that we'd finally have a discussion.
John also said that the distance between us seems to have affected my friendship with his partner and my good friend, Michael, and he accused me of using Michael as a go-between. However, I can say that I have deliberately gone out of my way to avoid putting Michael in the middle, and that, as far as I'm concerned, our friendship has not changed one bit. Yes, I avoid some topics of conversation because I know that if I say something to Michael it will get back to John (which is fine), and, at Michael's request, Michael and I did discuss the computer incident at the time (before I decided to withdraw), but in general I still consider him a friend (and have been for over 20 years now). We both think that perhaps Michael has taken some of the few things I've said out of context (probably in an attempt to try to smooth things over between me and John), and that might have been seen by John as an attempt by me to use Michael as a go-between, but I made it clear that was never my intention. (At some point I will make sure Michael understands this, too, but I wanted to clear up all this between me and John first.)
Unfortunately, John's LJ entry only solidified why I distanced myself from him in the first place, particularly on LJ. When he asked if we could finally sit down and discuss our issues, I was very, very reluctant to do so because of it - I felt like I was being strong-armed into it. But, in the end, I realized this might be my only chance to finally clear the air (and as a wise man once said, "We all just want to be heard"), so I decided to go through with it, and I'm glad now I did.
By the end of our discussion John agreed that, having now heard my side of it, it seemed to make a lot of sense, and that I acted logically, appropriately, understandably and without malice, and that almost all of his assumptions about me and the situation were wrong. At the time he asked if there was anything he could do to make our friendship, or the next couple of months before I moved out, better, and at first I said no, but later came back to him and said that being able to post my side of things publicly (which I haven't done up to this point), and to have him link to it from his LJ so that those on his friends list who commented on me and the situation could read it, too, would make me feel a lot better.
In the end, I still consider John a friend, and I am immensely happy that he has finally sought the medical attention he so desperately needs. I have already seen improvement, and although he still has a long, long way to go, I'm glad the journey has started. Now that I've been able to tell my side of the story I hope I'll be able to start keeping in touch with him again through LJ after I move.
I realize this was a long read, so I thank everyone - friends of ours, friends of his and friends of mine - who did, and letting me be heard. :) (You're also free to comment if you wish.)