John asked me to write something about living with him, and more specifically him and his conditions. And right there I start to feel awkward… yes he endures his bi polar, depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress. These are all things he shared with me on our first coffee date almost 12 years ago. I never know what to call these things. Disease suggests physical illness… and he’d tell you it is physical, and it is, but because it doesn’t ‘show’, I have a hard time with that label. Condition seems to be the word I can wrap my head around… it doesn’t seem as harsh for some reason. Regardless of what we call ‘it’… ‘it’ is very much a part of my man.
When he first told me of all these things, he asked if I could deal with that. Just coming out of a marriage with an alcoholic in total denial, I found his honesty refreshing and said, also honestly… I’m not sure, but the fact that you put that all on the table makes me think I want to try.
I wanted to try because we had an instant connection. It’s a connection that we still have, except that it’s so very much deeper now. So almost 12 years later, we’re both still dealing with his condition. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have to just put that right up front and centre. And I will also state right now in big bold letters, I have never regretted making that decision to move forward with John Burner! John is my life, he is the centre of my universe, and I have never loved anyone so completely, and fully as I have, and still do.
The bi polar I think is the really big one. If you do any reading on the topic, you’ll learn that people who have this often believe they are the centre of the universe and seem a little surprised when others don’t deal with them in that way. I like to use the term self focused. This has it’s good sides and bad … on the good side, I usually know when John’s happy or sad, or angry or just out of sorts. When he’s happy, he’s great to be around… but aren’t we all? With John, when he’s happy it can take on a manic edge… and he doesn’t understand if those around him aren’t feeling the same way. The same for the other emotions… I think he finds it hard to grasp that others (me) don’t understand exactly what’s going on in his head, because we should all be tuned in, all the time, completely. And that’s where the problems occur.
When John is upset or angry or sad… he has in the past, put up a protective shield. I have always found this very difficult, as I am one of those people who wears her heart on her sleeve, and I find it much easier to share what I’m feeling… I’m a cryer and have been since a I was a baby, so I really don’t have much choice in this. There have been countless times in my life when I’ve desperately wanted to keep my tears in, and not be quite so open… but when the dam opens, I have zero control… and so it’s been in my best interest to just tell whoever I’m interacting with that I’m upset… and if appropriate, why. My emotions spill, and then it’s done. And I feel better… purged, and ready to move forward.
John has not had the luxury of that easier expression of what is upsetting him. He’s got the emotional baggage of his abusive father, and second wife who abused him horribly, to contend with, along with his hardwiring. I can’t imagine the frustration he feels when he’s down… but he would close himself off, so I couldn’t help him let those toxic feelings out. When I say help… I’m talking about just being there while he talked, cried, or ranted, to let the bad stuff out. He’s is a man of our generation and of course was raised with the mantra ‘men don’t cry or show emotion.’. What a horrible thing to be raised with … we humans have the capacity to feel so much so deeply and he’s been told since he was young to bottle it up. Man up, be strong. Don’t share. Don’t show weakness. As if feeling strong emotions would cripple you and make you less of a man.
As a girl, I was raised to know that tears were okay (most of the time) and it was okay to ask for a hug when feeling down. It was okay to share my feelings because that’s what us ‘weak’ women do. The irony of course is that women are often stronger when it comes to emotional issues because we, most of us anyway, feel more comfortable sharing our feelings and getting the help or release that we need.
I’ve wandered a bit from the topic at hand, but I felt it made sense to lay in some background. I’m an emotional woman who believes in sharing and helping another in need. John was not. Oh he’s emotional all right… but did his best to keep it in. But… he’s bipolar… so when we was feeling stress or joy… those feelings had no outlet, and add in the fucked up hardwiring, and he’d react in very different ways. When upset… he was a very withdrawn, grouchy man who would react with strong irritation to the smallest things. I’d often invite him to share what was in his heart, and he’d react with anger. I think he probably wanted desperately to share, but it was hard, and letting your deep stuff out can be incredibly painful, so he’d shut me out with a hard ‘no’. Not sharing this. Period.
When he was happy or excited, he’d often get manic… and the cooking would begin… or projects…. Sometimes this was incredibly useful! The gardens flourished and I was always well fed. But often it would become obsessive… making way too much stuff, etc… our friends benefited with being able to take leftovers home. We sure as hell couldn’t eat it all. Lol
When times were good, they are amazing! John is an incredibly caring and loving man, and when he was feeling good everyone knew it, especially me. I never doubted that he loved me, he showed me in so many wonderful ways. But when John was in a bad place emotionally, it was sometimes brutal for me. Offering a kiss on my way out the door might be met with rolling eyes and cringing, a hug would be returned, but briefly, and I’m pretty sure that any suggestions I made that might have offered him some relief, ie, going for a walk, or having a rest, or stretching, would be met with a closed face. NO thank you, I’m fine, was the message I’d get.
I want to stress here, that through all our years together to date, we had a lot of really good stuff going on. And because of all that good, I would try to shoulder the not so good, quietly so to not upset John further, and because I always felt so bad for him. I felt so sad that he had to bear all that pain, and didn’t feel he could share it with me. I’m a very empathic person, and would feel his sadness, or anger, and of course that would affect me… I might be more weepy or irritable myself, and I didn’t quite have the courage to really talk to him strongly about it. I’d offer to listen, hug, etc… but I wouldn’t push. I hate confrontation, and quiet frankly when John’s angry, it was a little scary. I never felt any kind of physical threat from him, but emotionally… it could feel like a bad slap on the face. No one wants to feel that… so over time, I think I pulled back during these times just to protect myself. I knew that he wasn’t doing any of these things to intentionally hurt me, but being bipolar I think clouds out what other people think, and he just couldn’t look past his own suffering. I’m also a caregiver by nature, and I think in hindsight and enabler.
Most of the hurt to me, was from these little instances… but those little things layer and grow to be huge. On a few occasions… and I truly mean just a few, John’s depressions could get to a point where he’d just snap. He’d yell at me for something that usually didn’t make any sense to me, but in his mind what ever the issue was had grown from a small nugget of unease, to a large mountain of distrust. I will not go into details on these events… no one needs to rehash that stuff. And John, please trust these times were few. And I thank you for that. After one of these times we might go two or three days where he wouldn’t talk to me, and always we’d eventually discuss it, and move forward. John always recognized after these events, that he’d over reacted… and trust me folks… there were my fair share of over reactions too. Our communication issues were never a one way street.
It was the last ‘snap’ that was the last straw for me. I knew my emotional state was very frayed before that, and was trying to work on that myself. I should have asked for help, but did not. I did John a huge dis-service to not be clear about my own issues much much sooner. I had made references to my feelings of frustration, but not nearly enough. And for that I can only ask forgiveness, and promise to try my hardest to be as honest, in the moment, as I possibly can be going forward. It is the only fair way to deal with any one. Yes folks… if you listen to nothing else, please listen to that. Be straight up with your people.
John asked me to write my experiences… and because I love him so deeply and because I know his memory problems have caused him to forgot a lot of these things, I’ve accepted. I don’t like to dwell on past hurts or negative things… I’m not convinced it’s healthy… but if it helps John to understand why I’m so full of joy, now that he’s opening his heart to me, than perhaps it’s worth the pain that I know this is going to cause him.
John is a pro at self flagellation, and John – please don’t do that after reading this. That is not the purpose…you’ve done more than enough of that to last you a lifetime!!!! The purpose of this is for me to release some of my hurts, and for you to see what caused them. You’ve told me you have forgotten a lot of these things, so may be this will help you address them, then I beg you to put them to rest!!! Please!
In closing, because quite frankly I’ve had enough crying for one morning, I want to stress that living with some who is bipolar is challenging. There is no sugarcoating that. But… with John anyway, it’s also been, and I expect it to continue to be, a crazy ass roller coaster ride. I happen to love roller coasters, so this is a good thing.
I told John when I left that I didn’t think he could change. I do believe he’s going to prove me wrong, and that will be wonderful. Instead of remaining inside his head, he was made the very courageous leap to function outside his head. With other people, with me in in particular. We have not talked so much in all our years together as we have in the last month I think. We are both working hard to share our day to day struggles and joys with each other. We video chat at least once a day, and I truly believe that we will have a long future together, and I believe that we will have a deeper and stronger relationship then either of imagined.
John has given me the most amazing compliment and gift. He has made the choice to do a personal overhaul … I hope he’s doing this for himself first and foremost, but I know he’s also doing this for me. There are no words to describe, how incredibly special he is making me feel. I think that’s another bipolar trait… passion. Nothing is done in half measures. All or nothing… and he is giving me his all, and I will do my best to accept that and nurture that and do my part to heal, and give him my all, to move forward with the love of my life.