So, I had a rather disturbing event this past weekend. It really wasn’t a big deal, or it shouldn’t have been anyway, but it significantly affected my whole weekend.
My Girlfriend had a yard sale on Saturday. Initially her daughter was going to help, and I was going to spend the day at my house taking care of some yard work and spring cleaning. But she had some last minute company and had to back out. I wasn’t comfortable with my Girlfriend being there all alone with cash money in her hands and a bunch of strangers around, so I went to help. We had already set things up so there’s wasn’t much to do at first except wait for people to show up. And they did show; by 9:00am we had a steady flow of people, and most of them were buying. And then she got a call from her attorney. She’s in the middle of a nasty divorce, and the attorney had received a bunch of documentation from her ex that she wanted my Girlfriend to pick up to review before a meeting on Monday. So she agreed to meet her at 1:00 that afternoon. At 11:30 she went in to get ready, and left a little after noon, leaving me there alone to watch over things for her. That was no problem, and I was glad I was there to help so she could take care of it. Since she was only picking up documentation, she expected to be back in an hour or so, and we could pack the leftover things and get it all cleaned up. I had no issues at all with it.
By 3:00 I hadn’t hear from her, and people had stopped coming by, so I started to break everything down and box it up to be stored until she figured out what she wanted to do with it. No worries.
Then it was 4:00.
I had just about finished, and stopped to text her to make sure she was okay. No response. I went in to grab a bite to eat (I hadn’t eaten all day), and even sat down to rest for a minute. I must have been tired, because that minute turned into an hour, and it was 5:00 before I woke up.
And still no Girlfriend.
I knew there was no way she could have spent 4 hours meeting with her attorney, and I started to get upset. Where was she? I thought that maybe she had gotten some bad news about the divorce and had gone off a while by herself to think. That would be no problem, but she could have at least texted me to let me know she was going to be out a while. Her inconsideration began to eat at me. Couldn’t she at least take 10 seconds to let me know she was okay? Then of course I made the leap to: ‘she’s had an accident and was hurt to badly to get in touch’.
Now I’m really freaked out.
I knew deep down that everything was really okay, and there was a reasonable explanation for why she wasn’t home. But in spite of that, my mind was going 100 miles a minute, and I was getting more and more upset.
It’s 6:00, there’s no word from her, and I’m getting angry.
I sent a very terse text that I was headed home, and hit the road. The OCD kicked in, and I was stuck on ‘she could have at least called’ over and over in my mind. I was really at my wits end.
By the time I got home, she called. As inconceivable as it was, she had indeed been with her attorney the whole time. Now that they had some missing documentation that they had been waiting for, the attorney wanted to go ahead and review it with her so they could plan the next steps. She’s (Understandably) angry about the whole divorce process, and got completely caught up in what they were doing, and didn’t realize it had been so long. She apologized profusely, insisting that she would have called to let me know if she had only realized how long it had been.
I believed her. And it made no difference at all in how I felt.
Now, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be concerned and maybe even a little angry with the situation. I don’t ever expect her to constantly check in, or account for her time. I trust her completely. But there was an expectation, and when it didn’t happen getting upset is entirely appropriate. But my reaction was totally over the top. And once explained, I couldn’t get past what had happened. There was just something wrong with the whole thing, and I couldn’t shake how bad I felt. In my rational mind I knew that it really wasn’t that big of a deal, and as far as my interaction with her I presented as normally as I could.
My feelings weren’t normal however. They were even kind of scary.
Fortunately, Monday’s are the day for the weekly meetings with my Therapist. And needless to say, this was the immediate topic for discussion. After hearing the story, she agreed that there was a valid reason to be upset. She also agreed that my real reaction was not appropriate, nor was the fact that it was something I was struggling to get past. And then she changed the subject. She started asking again about my family history with regard to mental health.
And I immediately went back to the first significant event I had with mental illness.
I’ve told the story before. The short version is, I had pestered and pestered my mother to let me walk home from some errands instead of riding with her. We lived in a small town, and all the kids would walk to the store. It was a big deal back then, almost a rite of passage, and I really wanted to do it. But I was 5 years old, and it would be totally irresponsible for her to let me do it. But I continued to bug her, and finally she agreed to let me off a block away from the house and tell my Father that I had walked all the way. She stopped the car, let me out, and I proudly walked up to my Father to announce that I had walked the whole way like a big boy!
I didn’t see my Mother again for a month.
Again, the Readers Digest version of the story is that she had been extremely depressed, and had finally reached the point where she just couldn’t cope. So she had dropped me off, and immediately drove herself to the local mental hospital for help. But no one talked about things like that back then, and especially to a 5 year old. It was beyond my comprehension anyway; all I knew was I was being a brat, and my Mother disappeared.
Talk about abandonment issues.
Wait a minute. During the most developmental time of my life, I had a major trauma involving being left by one of the most important in my world. I’m an adult now, and with my history I certainly understand 100% what drove her to make that choice. I get it. But obviously the damage was done.
This behavior was not a new thing. It’s happened a lot over the years, and I usually have dealt with in a bad way. Typically when put in that situation, I would start calling and texting over and over; becoming more and more frantic. And the longer it went on, the angrier I got, the voice mail messages I was leaving were getting really nasty.
It’s killed more than one relationship.
This time I handled it completely differently. I was still greatly upset. I went through the same escalation of feelings. The temptation to obsessively start calling and texting was almost overwhelming. But no; I’ve learned through my therapy that situations like this really aren’t as bad as they seem. I knew I could trust my Girlfriend; I know she cares about me, and I knew deep down that there was a reasonable explanation. So in spite of the distraught, I kept my interaction with her in check.
That’s progress isn’t it?
In her usual way, my Therapist helped me realize the obvious. She didn’t tell me why she thought I was having that reaction; she led me to come to the conclusion on my own. I may or may not have believed her, but I believed myself. And I gained some valuable knowledge about myself that I can apply the next time something like this happens. And it will happen again, no question. Life happens. I may not be able to stop the feelings, but I can understand them, and understanding is the beginning of healing.
But that’s true for everyone isn’t it; Bipolar or not. We all have life events that shape who we are and govern our behaviors in every situation. Good and bad, we become the sum of everything we experience. Maybe it’s not as extreme as what I went through this past weekend, and maybe it’s even more disturbing. But it’s how we all are, and there’s no measure of better or worse. I think that the more we know about ourselves the better we can understand what drives us. The more you know, the more chances there are to change behaviors that aren’t healthy. Not everyone needs therapy obviously, but I do think it’s good to reflect on situations that are uncomfortable and at least try to be able to explain to ourselves the why’s and how’s. It’s how we all can become better people.
I don’t think that happens nearly often enough.
At least in this particular instance I was able to come to an understanding. I immediately felt better, and when it happens again I’ll be ready. It’s another step forward for me on my path to healthy living. I can’t change the past, but I can change the future.
And my future is looking better every day.