Memories flooded my mind this past weekend. My mother, my brother, and my sister all came up for me, and then the towels, and Jon.
Oh, those towels! I think back to when we purchased them. We needed to replace towels, and I wanted fluffy, warm towels that would feel good after leaving the heat of the shower. We disagreed. After his runaway spending, he couldn’t justify fluffy towels in his mind. I relented, and we got towels that I didn’t like. There would be no argument that way, and keeping the peace was important for my sanity.
I sit here now crying over towels and the wreckage of bipolar in my life, and in our marriage. Crazy what brings one to tears, and even crazier that of all the things that could bring tears to my eyes, it is towels, and the memories, that surface.
It’s the non-logic of bipolar that traps the partner into the crazy. You don’t see it coming, and when you’re in it, you can’t figure out how it is that you got to this place. Seven years without Jon has enabled me to autopsy the “how” it happened.
We were in his car driving home from my work. Driving south on 680 headed homeward, and to this day I can’t remember what I said that triggered the rage. Whatever it was, he went off, and to me, having never witnessed that type of anger, I didn’t get that it was the bipolar talking. What had I said? I was somehow guilty of something, and I had to respond with an answer that would pacify him. He had me right where the dysfunctional mind wanted me. I’d been sucked into something I didn’t understand. His demand for an answer didn’t make sense. In that state of mind, when he was in that place, nothing made sense. Somehow, to him, things made sense, and so he’d demand answers.
I was raised with love, and gentleness, and had not experienced this type of anger or seen it in a relationship. Here it was. I was faced with something I didn’t want, and didn’t understand. This brilliant guy was showing me a side of himself that didn’t make sense. It was borderline narcissism, and it was manipulative rage.
I was years away from understanding what I needed to do in this situation. My response was to attempt to comfort him. What I should have done was leave the rage and let him work it out for himself. I was trapped in a car, and I couldn’t leave easily. It would take his psychiatrist telling me to walk away, and that was over a decade away.
That session was the most helpful session we had with the psychiatrist. This was a man who really cared not only about Jon—he cared about me. He turned to Jon and asked him if my leaving during a rage would be helpful, and Jon, much to my surprise, said that it would be very helpful. For me, those words lifted a burden, and a layer of care. I was already suffering from compassion fatigue, and here was someone telling me to let go!
This wasn’t the first time this man would tell me to let go. In November of 2011, he took the time to talk with me in length about fully letting go and trusting that Jon would do what Jon would do, and that I needed to let the process unfold. Whether he chose life or death, it wasn’t my call, and I couldn’t do one thing to make it right.
In December of 2011, we walked outside to a waiting taxi, and I was off on a fifteen-month adventure at a rehab center where I learned some skills that enabled me to do more for myself as a visually impaired person. This was also a time of contemplation around the issue of being able to let go, and to let Jon live or not live his life.
I didn’t go to the Loo Erf without a plan for him. I had people that were willing to help and, with that, I could leave Jon at home.
I understand why people leave their partners when there are mental health issues. For those of us who stay, it is both a choice and a hope that things can get better. For Jon, that hope came with a two-year Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) program. It required him to change his psychiatrist and take on a psychologist. DBT teaches skills, and for Jon, it moved him closer to an understanding of how to escape the crazy of his behavior. This switch did not occur until I was done with my vision rehab in Apeldoorn. Slowly, the burden of caretaking was lifted. It was helpful.
What was most helpful was Jon realizing how the rages had hurt me. His promise that he would not rage again was something that he kept until the 28th of August, 2016. With a psychotic episode looming near, there was one last burst of rage before he ended it. This was not the rage that I’d experienced that first night; it was the rage of escape, and ending. It is a rage that hurt, and it will stay with me forever. His three-minute outburst would justify his doing what he did in the final moments of our living relationship. It took me to a level of anger I had not allowed myself to feel for him in the twenty-two years I’d known him. I needed to cool down.
I sit here wondering how to conclude this. I think about the three other deaths that have affected me post Jon doing what he did. My mother died after a long life of love and giving to us as young children and adults. My brother died, leaving his wife and adult children. His death caused me to ask why he wouldn’t care for himself better. Why? My sister’s life came to an end after a courageous battle with liver cancer.
Looking back on all of this, I shake my head in wonder, but not in disbelief. I’ve lived through it all: all seven years of it.
Yesterday I sat at the computer and realized that putting it off wouldn’t fix the towel issue. What did I want? Fluffy towels! I needed three sets.
Looking at the choices I had, and the price I’d need to pay to replace the old, worn towels, I thought about what I wanted. I’ll take a yellow set, a blue set, and a light pink set. In the cart, to the checkout, confirm the order with the bank, and the confirmation mail hit my mailbox.
Towels: and I’m crying again.