Friday, July 29, 2011

The One From A Good Friend

Someone who has been following my website for just about since it was born, and is bipolar himself, having faced many a personal trial and challenge, sent me a private message recently that was SO amazing that once I dried my eyes, I asked him for permission to share his message more widely, because I believe that many could benefit from it. He generously consented, and I will leave it up to him as to whether he wishes to identify himself in the comments.

"Hey Belinda--

Long time, no see. I've been following developments lately, and did read your blog. There are some things I absolutely need to say. I hope you understand.

I'm sorry for what Alex did... not because it's my fault, but because I know people with bipolar can act better than that. Alex is still responsible for what he does. The mental illness isn't an excuse... it's an obstacle that makes things harder; not impossible.

But I know what you're thinking. And so I'm going to say the second worse thing I've ever said to someone (the first is a story for another time):

Alex doesn't care enough about you to act better.

How he acts is still his choice... even if the voices and imbalance in his head is telling him to do something he shouldn't.

I'm sure he loves you; it's not that. It's just that he needs to care enough to think long and hard before he acts; and he didn't. Hasn't really.

But here's what I'm trying to get at. That's such a shame. A lot of bipolar people could use someone as caring and loving as you in their lives. It's not your fault for not doing enough; or not doing the right things. It's his fault for acting like a shit. His responsibility. And it's his fault that because HE can't control HIMSELF that he's losing the two best things he has in this life.

I'm trying to tell you that you did everything right, everything you can. And you should never question that. Because I know what's going through Alex's head; and I also know that he could stop anytime he really, really wanted to. You can be tempted to push an enter key on a keyboard all your mind likes... but you are the one who has to tell your finger to press it.

I'm bipolar.. My force of will is strong because of people like you who care/d for me. I stop and think before doing anything. The ME inside is in control... not the impulse or the emotional reaction. Because those things hurt people I love. And I don't want to be that kind of person.

Alex isn't going to get better until he decides he wants to. He doesn't have a choice about having faulty wiring, but he does have a choice about accepting the faulty wiring and using the proper electrician to get it fixed. It's just easier not to.

I never want you to think that you're a failure. You're not.

I see everyone telling you that living with mental illness is hell. That makes me sad. I hope that living with me is not like that for the people in my life. The decisions we make matter. The people we choose to be matters. Everyone deserves a chance. You gave more than a chance. Alex made his choices. They were the wrong ones.

That implies that he could have made the right choices. See what I mean?

I have nothing extra to give right now... both my parents are out of work, and I'm trying to help them get by until they can find jobs, or I'd send enough to make you cry. You were always so kind to me, and I wish I could repay that kindness. It made ME a better person. Unfortunately, I'm not your husband, so that effort was kind of wasted, eh?


Chin up. Watch where you're going. No running into stuff. And if there's anything else I can do, just ask.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Crying Time

So, in my new life, midnight is, apparently, crying time. I can't stop. I'm crying over things that haven't even happened yet, and things that are just impossible to fix. The overwhelming unfulfillable desire that's pretty much taking charge is "I WANT TO GO HOME." Because more than anything, I do. I want to go home. I want my husband back...the one that a good majority of this blog has been about over the years, the one from before the other night, in that INSTANT where everything went to hell. I just want to go home. The last time I felt this way, and cried this hard, the unfulfillable demand I was making of the Universe was, "I WANT MY DADDY BACK." That's how deep this hurts.

I'm not some hero who bravely and decisively "did the right thing" and then everything was great. I'm conflicted, I'm depressed, I'm anxious, and I'm homesick. Bella isn't yet, but she will be soon. Mostly right now, she wants to be where I am, though she's very worried about her dad. I'm worried about him. His family has shut me out, and I don't know if they're doing the same to him, but I wouldn't know, since they won't speak to me. I do know that he has nowhere to go. Nowhere. No one in his family will take him in. His only income comes from disability, and his health insurance is mine. And yet, we need for him to get out of the house for a bit, so we can get in.

I can't believe the three of us are not seeing the Harry Potter movie together. It's unthinkable. I don't know--maybe stuff like that wouldn't be so bad. It's in public, then we leave, and we don't have to speak at all, but Bella gets to spend fun time with her dad. I don't know. I don't know ANYTHING.

And here, I'm going to just go ahead and share the most shameful secret I have right now, right out there in public, because maybe someone else is at THIS decision point, and this could help.

That secret is that, deep inside, I am actually thinking to myself, "If I had just kept quiet about this and handled it in my own way, I could be at home right now." I could have us in separate rooms, leading civil but non-intimate lives together. I could have my financial information protected, and he would undoubtedly, at this point, give me complete control over all finances. I COULD BE HOME, AND NO ONE WOULD BE THE WISER. I could be surrounded by my dogs, looking out those big windows at my beautiful horses. I could be discussing that new med cocktail the doc put him on with my husband, and we'd undoubtedly be sharing some of our inside shrink-jokes, and things would SEEM normal. Almost. Curse it, it's canning season, and all my jars are there. So many tiny things that are ruined, and these combine into one colossal, painful, longing for the impossible.

So there it is. I know it can't be, but I can't make it not be what I wish for, in my heart of hearts. I want to go home. I just want to go home to a different life.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Part Where We Stop Dancing

For all of my marriage to Alex, I have performed a delicate dance between keeping people informed about what's going on, and protecting his privacy. And I still feel a responsibility on that count, but a line has been crossed, and as much as I love him and want for him all the things in life that people deserve, the time has come to stop dancing.

No matter how good the good times are, the bad times of living with a bipolar person are pure hell. It's not their fault that they're ill, but they ARE responsible for their actions. The thing that makes it hard for "normals" to deal with it is that it is not logical. Where we have something happen, and feel a corresponding mood in response to that, a cycling bipolar person feels the feeling, the mood, FIRST. For no reason except that their brain is broken. Upon feeling that mood, they must then cast about externally, looking for a REASON for that mood. If they feel angry, and you're the only one there, brace yourself. You're about to have done something horribly wrong, whether you know it or not.

There are countless circular arguments. My family can vouch for the times that they have heard Alex, over the phone, trying to make me do something while I cry to be left alone, him standing over me and yelling, "WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?" over and over. WHY am I thwarting him? WHY won't I obey his every, ever-shifting whim? WHY? And here's the shameful part: Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, depending on how much strength you have, you just do it. You just do whatever it is that will make the crazy stop, even temporarily (and it's always temporary) because it's just exhausting. And when you do that, The Beast has won. And it is clever, and it stores that information away. You've just reinforced a behavior, and further cemented it (yes, I'm a total Skinnerian).

So if you follow me at all, you know by now that I've taken Bella and left home. I had no choice. Alex has been in an increasingly florid manic state for weeks now, staying on a non-stop, destructive spending spree that has left us literally penniless. He has stolen my much-needed pain medication and sold it to fund his overdraft charges. Let that sink in for a minute. I had medication prescribed to me for the pain I'm dealing with, and it was well know to my husband that that was the only relief I ever get. He let me have three days' worth, then he just took it. He told me that he sold it, and that is probably true. But, you know, that same day he cooked dinner or brought me some candy or something, because he's TOTALLY a good guy. Right? You're getting a taste of living with the craziness.

So meanwhile, during the ruinous spending (OH, how those UPS trucks rolled in every day!), Alex was also spying on all of my internet activity via keylogging software he'd installed, unbeknownst to me, on our home network. Now, I could not care less if he reads everything I've ever said to anyone in any conversation, because I never say anything I wouldn't say in front of him. That's the super-secret bonus to not being a liar: you never have to stop and think about whether you're telling a different story to one person than the other. I have nothing to hide. In the last couple of days, I noticed him hacking my accounts repeatedly, so I knew he had to have software that was logging keystrokes, because I was making some ca-razy passwords. The last one on my Facebook account was actually an insult directed at him: "alexisaliar67". Didn't phase him.

So, last night, Alex went to bed before me. I followed about 15 minutes later. He was watching "Silence of the Lambs" on the Roku player. I was reading Feed on my iPad, so I wouldn't have to turn the light on to use my Kindle. After about 5 minutes, Alex got up, went into the living room, and got on the PC in there. I thought this was a bit odd, but he'd paused the movie, so I figured he'd just forgotten something. I got absorbed in my book, then realized that another 45 minutes or so had passed, and he was still in there click-clicking away on the keyboard. I called out, "What are you doing?" and got an angry sounding, "NOTHING!" I had a hunch, so I clicked the iPad over to Facebook, and there I saw "me" changing my relationship status (I had it on "complicated;" he changed it back to "married"), making posts, and sending messages to people. It made me SICK. Did I mention that earlier that day I'd discovered that "I" had gotten "myself" a Chase credit card? Odd, given my stance on credit cards (they can die in a fire), the fact that I didn't apply for one, and the fact that "Belinda Miller's" contact email was "aalexmiller@aol.com."

So I confronted my husband, and yeah, I was furious. He stood and denied everything, even though I'd just watched it happen. But when The Beast is in control, it's all about the denial, plus Alex himself, no Beast required, has a pretty healthy lying problem, even when it doesn't matter. As my dad used to say of him, "He'd stand up to tell a lie when he could tell the truth sitting down." He's had countless hours of therapy about it.

I had looked up on my iPad instructions for putting up a firewall against keyloggers, and sat on the couch with my laptop and iPad open, reading instructions on one and applying them to the other. The whole time, I was subjected to a yelling rant demanding that I go back to bed and leave this alone. It was about a three-sentence rant, but the sentences were repeated on an endless, angry, loud, loop: "WHY? WHY? WHY?" WHY CAN'T YOU DO THIS IN THE MORNING? WHY? WHY WON'T YOU COME TO BED WITH ME? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?" (That last one is a personal favorite that gets trotted out whenever he gets "busted" doing something wrong--I am to blame for discovering/complaining about/trying to right said wrong. Because I am just bitchy like that. If I would just leave it alone, EVERYTHING WOULD BE FINE.)

When I would not stop trying to protect my account from him, he stomped off upstairs and disabled the Internet so that I could not continue. I went up there to fix it, but he'd hidden the cable away so I couldn't find it. I went straight to the bedroom, where during that two minutes he'd crawled into bed, turned out the light, and was actually pretending to sleep. I turned on the light and demanded that he fix the Internet. I told him (VERY angrily, I admit) that it was the least he owed me. His position was that I had "no business" using the Internet at that time, and that he would restore it "in the morning." I can't imagine why, but this made me even angrier. I also realized that at this point, I was arguing with The Beast, so I tried appealing to Alex. I reminded him that no one--no one--in the world was a bigger advocate for him, that I had championed him for years, fighting for him when no one else would, and that all I wanted him to do was at least tell me where the Internet cable was. No avail. I kept trying to get a connection from my iPad to my laptop, but I couldn't make that work. And yes, during this half-hour or so, I DID go and turn on the bedroom light and demand that Alex right things--more than once. As I'd said, I was furious, and I am human.

I called my mom and let her know what was going on, just in case, and she overheard him on the phone standing there screaming at me to go back to bed, so we ended that phone call so I could try to deal with Alex. The mistake I made at this point was telling Alex my intentions. I can get a bit blinded by rage, too. I told him that I was going to post to Twitter and Facebook from my cell phone, warning my friends that someone else was posing as me online, and that I would send messages to our families (my mom and sister, his mom and sister) telling them the same thing. I should have just quietly gone and DONE it. I might have gotten it done, but that little truth-speaking voice in my head says he would've followed me into the living room to see what I was doing, and the same awful sequence of marriage-ending events would've followed.

I had my cell phone on the charger by the computer, so I went and sat in the computer chair and began to compose a text message. I saw Alex come charging toward me, except that it wasn't Alex at all by this point. Empty, dead eyes of The Beast. Still, I never in a million years would've anticipated what followed. He tried to grab onto the phone, but I held tight. He'd already disabled the Internet, and I knew that he could do the same with the land line, with the push of a button. I panicked. That cell phone represented my only link to the outside world. I was not going to let go of it, even in my pitiful weak state, if I could help it. I was also afraid he'd smash it. He yanked me across the room, ripping the phone from the charger in the process, destroying the charger. I started screaming, in fear, in hopes he'd let go...and because at this point he had an arm across my face and the other hand twisted through my hair...pulling. At the same time, my back and shoulders were being pounded against the floor, I could feel great wads of my hair coming loose at the roots, and a blow to the breastbone. One of his hands was clutching my shoulder, and was right in front of my face, and was my only target, so I bit it, hard, thinking he'd let go of my hair. My hair was what let go, at the roots.

I want to state at this point that I do not believe that it was ever Alex's intention to hurt me--not his goal, at least. His goal was to GET THAT PHONE AT ALL COSTS, and it just didn't enter his temporarily deranged mind to care that he was hurting me. In ten years of suffering every hurt and disgrace that bipolar disorder has to offer--from serial cheating and hardcore drug use during the early, unmedicated time, to alcoholism, to identity theft (yes, it had happened before, and was the impetus for the great depressive state that preceded the fateful ECT treatment), to spending us into poverty, all the while lying, lying lying... he has never, ever put a hand on me in violence. Never. I believe that just amplified my shock with what was going on.

Ultimately, being much stronger and way less sick than me, Alex managed to get my phone away from me, and just as I'd feared, proceed to bust it up. From my vantage point on the floor, I spotted a house phone, and crawled to it and dialed 911, as Alex ran to the kitchen. I suspect that his intention was to disable the land line, but he denies this, and I certainly can't prove it. At any rate, my call connected, and a sheriff's deputy was dispatched. I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until he arrived. From this point on, Alex was remarkably calm, while I was near hysterical. My life as I knew it had just ended. We told our stories (which differ distinctly, big surprise), and to my amazement Alex did not get arrested/hospitalized, which is what I was hoping for. Apparently I didn't get battered ENOUGH during this scuffle to get the kind of marks that count as "evidence." The fistful of hair and corresponding bald patch? Nope. Heck, I coulda done that myself, amirite? Anyway, since he couldn't make Alex leave (and Alex certainly wasn't going to do something that gallant on his own), while the deputy waited, I went upstairs and woke Bella, who had, amazingly, slept through the whole thing (tender mercies), and we packed up fast and got out of there.

In the interest of equal time, I will share Alex's version of last night's events, as posted in his Facebook Notes, and he is, of course, free to comment here:

"I went to bed early, about 10:00pm, after waking me up three different times and leaving the light on it was 2:00am, I decicided no on[e] needed to be online at 2:00am, so I unplugged the internet. She threatened me by saying she was, cut off from the world, and was going to call everyone she knew, at 3:00am, and tell them I had unplugged her precious internet until the following morning. She then said she was about to call my 83 year-old mother at 3:30am. This was a tipping point, I [took] her cell phone away. She bit me and threw a fit. She went crazy. She called the police, when empathized with me, and then she proceeded to wake up our child at 4:00am and leave. That is it. I am fine. I just wanted some sleep."

I can find three points in that account that are true: I did bite him (in self defense), I did call 911, and I did leave with our daughter. I can't help but giggle at the image of me biting him for no reason and "going crazy". If I wrote that version, I would've added that I was screaming, "HONEY BADGER DON'T CARE!!" the whole time. It's a very common bipolar defense (both internal and external) to cast the other person as "crazy," and if you've lived with or known a bipolar person for any length of time, you've no doubt experienced this. If you've hung in this long, brava for you, and it's way too late for me to say "long story short," but for now, I can leave it with the point that this is a marriage-ender. This is a line you do not cross, even in a fit of rage, even if you're manic, even if you're just a freaking lunatic. Hands on me for purposes of hurting = goodbye.

I am heartbroken. To think that after all the loving care I've given, all the struggles we've been through, my life-threatening illness, his life-altering illness, the endless fighting against all odds to stay alive and stay together and bring a beautiful, amazing child into the world...it can be over that fast, just because of selfishness and lies and misdirected anger. To think that we made it just long enough to get those negatives from our wedding photographer for free. To think of not just what I've lost by losing this marriage now, but what I lost by being IN this marriage for as long as I was.

The true heartbreaker is this: I have never, for one moment, stopped loving Alex. Never. I don't suppose I ever will. But I'm sitting here now watching this amazing, silly, brilliant, beautiful, wonderful little girl dive for rings in the pool where we're staying, and I know that my job now is all about her. And extra sadness for the fact that her beloved father will no longer be a daily part of her life. They love each other without reservation, and Alex is very good with her (though I don't leave them alone if I can help it, because he kind of "forgets" she's there sometimes)...the way I wish he was with me. Let me repeat: he is an amazing dad--at least supervised, he is. I dread having to tell her that we won't ever live with Daddy any more.

Now something I swore I'd never do, and I hate it, but: we left with nothing but a quarter tank of gas and a $20 bill. My paycheck, which was deposited Friday, was devoured by Alex's overdraft charges down to less than $100. The electric company is shutting off power at the house because of the $354 overdue bill that Alex told me he "took care of" weeks ago. In short, Bella and I are busted, with no way to get through the next two weeks until payday. It hurts to tell an 8 year old who's read every Harry Potter book at least three times and has been waiting for HP7 part 2 since the second HP7 part 1 was over that no, we can't afford to go see it at the Saturday matinee, even though I promised we would, because the Friday payday money is gone already.

I'm putting out the tin cup. If you have a couple dollars to spare (please nothing large that will make me cry or embarrass me), and are so inclined to send it via PayPal to ninjapoodles@gmail.com, I will somehow, someday, karmically (that's when karma tells jokes) repay the kindness, or pass it along to others. I'm 98% sure that I have it secured so that no one else can get into it.

In closing, let me say I don't want hate directed toward Alex. He needs help. More help, ultimately, than I can give.

Finally, I love you guys. You have no idea how much you get me through.