One of the biggest challenges, when it comes to my writing, is get from the idea stage, stuff that goes through my head and it’s all so clear and oh so very clever, to the actually sitting down and writing it. The only times what I wrote sounded genuine and in any way related to my original thoughts was way back in college days when I experimented with Streams of Consciousness (and speed, speed quite often I must say, I guess my hands and mouth raced fast enough that my thoughts didn’t have time to get ahead of them!).
So I read an article by one of my favourite bloggers. Not this particular one, but this one is just as good! As usual it kind of buzzes through my mind. And I was thinking yesterday about stigma, about ableism [read her article, she tells you about it there (funny how once again knowing a term that encompasses so much meaning makes it so much easier to talk about)] and, of course, about me, and my past friends, past partners.
A while back I was back in touch with an ex-boyfriend whom I had been thrilled to find on Facebook a few years ago. This was no ordinary ex-boyfriend. This was someone I’d dated from the age of 16 to the 19 years of age. When I’d met him, he was an alcoholic by choice to wean himself off Heroin. I was old enough to know even at the time how incredibly hard his challenge was. We were together three years, a very intense and loving relationship. We did some biking and that was cool (I am the crazy-haired strawblonde, he is third from left. We were the Ace of Spades.).
When we broke up, we broke up because he had started reusing drugs, different ones, thanks to a French colleague-friend of his. And he started lying about it, to me. Of course. I know that now, “of course”, but at the time it was the worst thing he could do to me: I cared about him, loved him, would have taken him everywhere and anywhere, how could he lie to me?? So when I found out I was so enraged, so furious, so out of my mind, that I spat over the phone the worst things you could ever say to someone bar “I hope you die on that fucking bike”. Fortunately I didn’t say that, but I did lash out, horribly.
I never heard from him again. I had tried to get info about him from his older sister, to no avail. I think she wrote back once asking me to stop. Then I got a phone call from hell, she claimed to be his girlfriend, she has a very strong accent which I had difficulty understanding, plus the line was awful. She yelled at me to let him be, to stop trying to get in touch with him. I told her I just wanted to say I was sorry, sorry for the things I said, and that I wanted to make sure he was all right. She yelled that he was all right and he had her to look after him. And I said but if he’s ok can I speak to him? Please!!! No, she hung up, and I couldn’t get her number, I never heard from her or him again.
Until I met one of the men I hated most in my life, the dealer that had dragged my ex boyfriend and other dear friends to heroin and then some to death, and he chose to inform me that A. was dead. That he had died in a ditch, alone, done with heroin. he also added that our dear friend, R. had also died, giving up years of trying to help his older brother off heroin, he’d finally given in and started on the heroin himself, and died also.
I was devastated, and tried as much as I could to find out more, have different points of view. But I lived in London at the time, and most of our other common friends were dead or had moved on, so there was no way to counter it. Eventually I had to just accept it, and I mourned. The second year in college I was sharing a flat with a dear friend, and my future first husband was a friend who’d come around, the charmer. He had me tell him the whole story, and convinced me I didn’t have to feel guilty. I was so grateful that much of the love I felt for him was gratitude. I felt I could live a semi-normal life again, I could leave the horrendous ghost of A. behind. Later, though, he would use that same knowledge to twist me, injure me, rape my mind and body and torture me.
Every year I returned to Italy, even if just for a short break, I would get my mum’s car and later my own, and drive, aimlessly, around all the places I thought A. could be/have been. Looking for a tomb. Or a shred of evidence that he really was dead. Or not! One of the many times I drove past his sister’s town I saw his brother-in-law. Once of those who told me to leave him alone, even though we were all so close when we were together. I’d already had two beautiful children. I thought even they would see me as harmless now, surely! I was only desperate to know.
I took courage and stopped him on the street and asked him. I said please can you tell me where he’s buried. He seemed to sigh and give in and he told me A. wasn’t dead. He was fine, and had a daughter. I was so relieved, and I started to cry. he smiled, then he told me a little more, and I left, soon after. I was crying all the way home, and I think that knowing what I now knew was one of the elements that allowed me to stand up to P.’s abuse. Because that was his sharpest knife and now he didn’t have it anymore. A. was alive despite me!
When I saw him on Facebook our “re-encounter” was clumsy. I was struggling with communication with my current husband, and A. was taken aback, emotional. My husband got upset we were even in touch so when A. sent me a letter, that he wrote with difficulty, replying to my own, I quickly dismissed it and him, to regain some peace and quiet with my husband. A few days ago I came across that letter again, as I looked for something else. I wrote to him briefly and added a truthful I am sorry, I
know suspect now I have a mood disorder, possibly Bipolar, and at the time I fear I had BPD. I know what it’s like to be not ok in the head, and I didn’t know I was in no position to help you, and I reacted that badly and now I am beginning to understand better why. I am so glad you are better off and happy with your daughter. He responded happily and serenely. That was all we needed. I then had to defend this choice with my husband.
As chance would have it, as we awoke at our Yorkshire friends’ house and I checked my email on my phone, my husband saw the email from A. that was responding to mine. An argument where I was extremely calm ensued. The gist? The time for my giving up things that are important to me is over. I WILL do this as long as I need to. When he pointed out A.’s reaction last time, I pointed out he was reacting to A.’s altered state of mind. This brought me to think about how a friend of mine reacted to a girl he defined “abusive and way too intense for someone on a first date after merely two weeks of texting and emails” and when he showed me what this woman had written I realised with shock it was in no way different to what I may have said in other occasions to other people. My friend kind of acknowledged it but we both agreed it’s one thing to put up with me being like that, a lifelong friend, but completely another to engage with someone in that state (which I understood and sympathised with completely!!) when all you want is a light and carefree hookup.
I was sad for this woman. I was sad for me, for all the times I was told by people I desperately wanted in my life even briefly, even for just a quick connection, that I was “too intense”.
Finally, there was what I originally wanted to talk about, which of course got lost in the way, which was how the fear of the stigma stopped me from seeking external help for my ex-husband, how it stopped me from seeking help from myself, and how I am coming to terms now that I am against many absurd obstacles trying to get a diagnosis. But I warbled on too long and now I am bored of my own voice so I will stop here.