It was never my intention to harbor fugitive demons; they came along for the ride I never knew I was on.
I’m not even sure how to lay this story out. Do I tell you all that I laid next to a man most nights and never slept because just a moment before that man was at my neck? I should probably tell y’all how many times I walked …and never got very far. I would always remember those sad eyes and I’d turn around.
I noticed in month two. I’m not sure if I knew exactly but I had a feeling. He had changed and it was not for the better, and it was never for long. My baby wasn’t my baby and I didn’t know why.
I spent a year or so in love with a man who was sometimes someone else. He’s bipolar. He’s as mean as a bull, and as gentle as a summer breeze. Sometimes separately, sometimes all at once. I would be scared and still sit in his arms because the embrace was a familiar warmth. I would feel guilty, because it had to be me right? I was setting him off. “Stop calling so much, go over every day because he thinks you don’t have time for him, text him back before he snaps…” I always thought those thoughts too late. He was always snapping, and I was always confused.
I was mad because I hated his anger. I hated him because I didn’t understand why he would say the things he said. I would tell him all the time “You need help, something’s wrong with you..” I knew those words were true but I never tried to help; I just took it. I apologized for making him angry then went back to secretly hating him. I loved him but didn’t like him and I never treated his illness like a real thing. He had never been diagnosed, he had no medicine, he had no control…I had no cares. I was tired and I was over the name calling. I was over those empty eyes. His ghosts were now haunting me and my door was never open to them.
Then, it happened.
He was stressed and I wouldn’t pick up. My pacifying days were over. He had a fit of rage, alone, on the side of the road as a police car was approaching the intersection. They put him away for a week, heavily sedated and constantly monitored. That’s when He finally heard the words…”Depression” “Bipolar” “Imbalance”. All the things he always felt, all those ghost had a name. All those closet skeletons had a face. And suddenly, he was okay. Face to face with reality, he had a peace he had never known .
He called and said he was sorry and my first thought was to say “About time I get one of these”. I decided to say that he had no reason to apologize because he didn’t choose this. He could have never controlled it even if he tried. I decided to apologize for losing patience and finding distance because support could have gone a long way. Support could have kept him inside and not out there on the sidewalk fighting demons in a losing battle. I was so proud that he wasn’t scared. I was sad at the thought of him in a small room with a door that only locked from one side, but he couldn’t run anymore. Silver lining.
I never saw him as less of a man because he was ill. I never counted him out because he had more obstacles than most. His love was equal to any kind I could have received somewhere else; he just showed it differently. His drive was never altered. I went from sleeping on his air mattress while he slept on the floor because my comfort was more important to him than his own. We went from that to his downtown apartment that was fully furnished with a bomb view. I met that man after he finally won his battle against homelessness; he was humble and grateful to still be alive. He always saw himself as able and so did I. I was proud of him for coming so far, but I knew the rest of his journey was one he would have to walk alone. Love was a distraction and a scapegoat; he wanted to put me first and then blame me for it. He wanted to put himself on the back burner and then hate me for it.
Trust me when I say this: love is not and will never be anyone’s cure. It can mask the symptoms, and dull any pain but it will never heal it.
You all, if you encounter someone with a mental illness embrace them. If you happen to be in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness and has not gotten help, never tell them the things I told mine. I was always spiteful in my words and that was nowhere near helpful. Talk things out and ask what’s wrong instead of throwing that crazy word into the atmosphere. Dig deeper and ask them if they sometimes feel out of control. Ask them if they want help, because we as girlfriends can be a diary, a pillow, a shoulder, target practice for their anger, but we are not the solution. We have not been trained and we cannot be the cure. Mental illness is scary and it’s overwhelming but it’s real. Mental illness cannot be summed up with “crazy”. It is not solved with a prayer and it is not matched with equal anger. The people who suffer from them are stronger and braver than I think we care to acknowledge. Applaud their battle because every day they fight, and be okay with the fact that sometimes that fight will include you. Trust me, every ally counts.