Tuesday, March 16, 2010

the trick is to keep breathing

March 17, 2004. I was celebrating St. Patrick's Day with friends. My boyfriend at the time was in another city, where he went to university, celebrating with his friends.

He started drinking very early that day. He got so drunk that he woke up in the campus observation room; his friends had brought him there, worried about his health. He left the observation room semi-sober and continued drinking. As he drank, he got angry at himself. He cut. He'd never done that before.

March 18, 2004. He called me. Apologized for not calling the night before. Told me what happened. Told me he didn't know what led him to that. Told me it had scared him.

His words chilled me. I had hurt myself only once before that, two years earlier, out of sheer hopelessness and desperation. I knew the mental anguish it took to get to that point. I wanted to fix everything for him. I didn't know how.

St. Patrick's Day has been a little rough on me ever since then. It always reminds me of that conversation with him; of the sharp contrast between what we had together before that day, and what we slowly lost in the year afterward.

I met him about six months after recovering from major depressive disorder. I had learned to be happy again. I trusted that there was good in the world again. He was the first boy I ever felt entirely safe with. I loved him, intensely. I felt everything intensely. We talked about getting married, decided we would wait until we graduated university. The future with him seemed so certain.

Then that conversation, and things changed. He drank more, even knowing what it did to his mood, even knowing that he would likely wake up the next morning with new scars. He became suicidal. He would disappear for days without telling me, without telling his housemates, leaving me wondering where he was and if he was okay. I worried constantly. I hated the miles that kept us apart.

He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but refused to take his medication - he liked his manic phases and wanted to keep them. He wasn't honest with his doctors, eventually stopped seeing them. Which left me as the only one who knew it all, the only one he leaned on for support. It was more than I could handle; I started breaking down.

Months passed. I was always on edge. I had nightmares. My hair started falling out from the stress. I went days without eating.

More months passed. I stopped feeling. I was numb. I couldn't cry, I couldn't laugh, I couldn't even feel love for him anymore. But I was afraid of leaving him, in case that drove him to kill himself.

A full year passed. I realized I had to leave. For once, I had to put my own needs first. This was no longer the relationship it once was; it would never be that relationship again. It was tearing me apart, and I had to leave before I had been broken into pieces too small to be saved.

And so I left. He didn't kill himself. And I'm in a better relationship now. It was all for the best.

But I still have nightmares. I still don't take care of myself. I still don't eat properly. I still don't fully trust the future. I still assume anything good is only temporary.

I can feel again, but everything feels muted, like my emotions are being played in black and white instead of full colour. Sometimes I want to feel everything again; most of the time the thought of it scares me.


  1. that is so scary dear.
    i cant imagine what it is like to be in that situation.
    thats a lie actually.
    i know exactly what its like to be in that situation.
    and im so sorry.
    because not only do i wish no body else knew what it felt like, i hate to see that other people know what it feels like.
    the good news is that you are in a new realtionship.
    a good one.
    and that is what matters i suppose, not what happened in your past, but what youre going to overcome in the future.
    ive missed your blog, this is a warning that you will again get loads of comments from me :)

    Love, Andy

  2. Thanks for sharing this, J. This was very engaging to read. Was this one of the guys you got to "practice" with? I'm glad you had that relationship, if only to show you that you are capable of being in a relationship. I'm even more glad, though, that you're in the relationship you're in now. Are you talking about this first relationship with your team? It does sound like there is a good handful of stuff to be dealt with wrapped up in these memories...