Today is a day of reflections. The last few years have been brought some of the most significant changes in my life as I’ve ever gone through. But today brings a major milestone that ends what has been the happiest, and the most devastating period I’ve ever lived through.
Today, I’m being divorced.
I say I’m being divorced instead of getting divorced because it wasn’t my idea. I was perfectly happy in what I thought was a healthy, loving relationship. Yet here I am, on the verge of being single again. The woman I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with apparently can’t wait to be done with me, even to the point of asking me repeatedly over the last year to lie about our date of separation so that she could go ahead and get her divorce. I wasn’t about to lie, but enough time has now passed that she finally gets what she wanted. By the end of the day, I’ll only be a distant memory to her.
Anticipating the day, I’ve been looking back over the life and death of my marriage. It’s been quite the roller coaster ride; taking me to the absolute pinnacle of love, and dropping me to a devastating betrayal and loss.
To say I had no intention of falling in love is an understatement. I had only been separated from my last wife for a couple of months and determined to give myself time to heal and take what I’d learned to keep from making the same mistakes. But then I met her. I knew from the very instant we met that this was going to be something special. There was an immediate connection and the sense of destiny. My brain was screaming; slow down! But my heart was already gone. I could have no more stopped my feelings for her than I could have stopped the world from turning. It was meant to be, and we were inseparable.
My illness first showed itself about six months after we met. I had a series of events that pushed me into a major depression. Within two weeks, I had been falsely arrested by my soon to be ex wife, I had lost my job, been diagnosed with prostate cancer and lost my mother. It was enough to make anyone depressed, and with my illness there was no way I could have avoided it. But she was great. She accepted my depression and was extremely supportive and understanding. She cared for me just like a lifetime partner should have. Working through the bad time actually strengthened my commitment to her.
After I came out of the depression the next two years was an absolutely incredible time. It was a fairy tale relationship. We were in total agreement about everything and never even had as much as a tiff. We were happy alone with each other, and we had an active social circle that we both enjoyed. By our third year together we decided we should be married. Now, I’d been married three times before and with each marriage I had at least some doubts and fears going in. As much as I thought I was in love there were in every case some warning flags or things I wasn’t 100% comfortable with. With this one however that was not the case. I was totally and completely in love and had no reservations whatsoever. The first year flew by and I was the happiest I had ever been in my life.
Then the illness came back into play. I was becoming more and more manic, and after about six months I was totally out of control. My rage was immense. I never directed it at her, but she definitely took the brunt of my anger towards others. My job began to suffer and I was having a very negative impact on our friendships. At this point I had no idea I was dealing with bipolar disorder; I didn’t even realize I was so far gone. The episode ultimately ended up putting me into the hospital, and while I was there my doctor correctly diagnosed my illness and was able to convince me in a way I could accept it. I’d been dealing with this disease my entire life, I was now in a position to actually deal with it and hopefully get control.
But it was too late.
Apparently, she had already decided to end it. She never discussed any of her concerns or hurts or shared any of her thinking at all. She just unilaterally quit, and I had no clue she was that unhappy. She just came home one day and told me I had to leave. I was completely devastated. Just when I had the chance to get a hold of my illness she bailed on me.
The year of our separation started out as absolute hell. I was unemployed, and had nothing but time to try to figure out what had happened and grieve over the tremendous loss. What I thought was going to last the rest of my life was gone in an instant. I spent days alone in my misery; it was the worst time I had ever had to experience. But time heals all wounds and after about eight months I began to come out of it. I rejoined the land of the living. I started going out again and even developed a new relationship.
I had passed through the storm.
My illness took hold again. This time the depression came back with a vengeance. I could make excuses and say that the end of my marriage triggered the episode, but the truth is I had already moved beyond the shock and loss and had no external reason to be depressed. It was just the disease doing what it does. Sure, if we’d stayed together she would have had to deal with yet another cycle. But if I’d had the love and support of my life partner, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad and I could have done a better job managing it. But I was alone, and my depression was a bad one, and again I ended up in the hospital. I’ve told the story of the struggles and pain of this episode, and have only recently been about to pull out of it. And now, I’ve come to the final end of the marriage.
So what do I take away from all of this? Being bipolar certainly had a major role in the death of this relationship. I take full responsibility for the pain and suffering that I caused as a result of my illness. But there’s more than that at work. If she had really cared she would have at least discussed her discontent with me before she made the ultimate decision. Once I found out what I was dealing with she could have at least given me a chance to work it out. During the year of separation, she really showed me her true colors; she killed the marriage without warning, she fought me every step of the way as we figured out the terms of our divorce, she continually asked me to lie, and she told lies of her own over and over. I suppose I should actually thank her, because her behavior over the past year has done much to help me move on. I now realize that she was not the woman I was so hopelessly in love with. I’m sure she has her own perspective and has had a completely different experience than I did. But my facts speak for themselves. I was honest with the reality I knew. I accepted my illness and started working hard to get it under control. I was completely committed to our marriage and would have done anything to make it work. But her love wasn’t as real as mine. She wasn’t honest with me or herself. Ultimately, it was all a sham.
But I’ve learned. I must give myself time to grieve and heal. In spite of where I am now, it was a tragic loss that I have to fully process. Before I even consider a serious relationship again I’ve got to get my illness to a place where I can maintain. I’ve got to learn to be happy with myself, and capable of being comfortable alone. I don’t have to have someone else in my life to be complete. Only when I’m in my own healthy place will I be able to be in a happy and healthy relationship. I’m going to enjoy the company of others, maybe even develop a special friendship that could eventually grow into something serious. But I’m not going to be in a hurry. I will make sure that whomever I’m with understands the illness I have, and can accept me for who I am. I never intentionally misled anyone, but now that I know of my disease it must be shared up front and be a part of any new relationship.
Today is the end of my dream. But today is also a beginning. I have the rest of my life ahead of me to learn, grow, and improve myself and my ability to deal with life. I do have the chance to be happy, and I will. I will continue to work as hard as I can to maintain my illness, and sooner or later it will happen. I will learn to live in the moment, enjoying where I am and making the most of everything around me. I will love again. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I’m as strong now as I’ve ever been.
It’s time to move on.