You'd think I'd notice mental illness from a mile away, what with my family being the reason for Prozac and all. I had grown up understanding and experiencing every bit of the DSM IV, the handbook of psychiatry. Nope. Like everyone in my family, I was entranced, enamored, entrapped by it.
Or maybe I can blame naiveté; having not had my first kiss until nearly 18, I was a late bloomer in the dating scene and just so excited to have a boyfriend in college that I didn't see it.
I saw him as a charming, spontaneous, adventuresome type. Before we even dated, he picked a friend and I up for lunch and we ended up on a two day excursion through the High Sierras. Another time, we drove to the state border just 'cause. Other times, he'd show up without warning, dressed to the nines to take me to dinner. Sure, sometimes we'd go days without seeing each other, or he might cancel a date, but I was busy with school and he work, so I understood and just enjoyed our fun time together more. I was hooked.
It all started with a phone call. My boyfriend had gone for a late night walk in the nearly freezing rain. That alone should have let off bells and whistles, but it didn't. I found it intriguing and charming, remembering splashing in the puddles and catching rain on my tongue. I fell asleep that night to the sound of pouring rain.
My phone rang, waking me at midnight. I braced myself to pock up the receiver. Nothing good happens after midnight, and collect calls are even worse. On the other end, I could hear teeth chattering from the cold, and guttural sobbing sounds. A weak, familiar voice whimpered out, "help". The voice was that of my boyfriend. I felt terrible, helpless, as I didn't have a car or way to get to him. The call progressed and through the sobs, one thing was apparent. He was suicidal. We talked and talked, about life, love, God, the future. The cries of desperation became a soft whimper, the rain in some supernatural sense calmed to a patter. As his collect call ran my monthly income down to nothing, I told myself this was just a bump in the road, and that I had to stay with him because, dude, I had just saved his life. I was his reason for living. I had done this before, when my grandpa would call, drunk, a gun to his head. I would try to decipher a drunken cockney slur and tell him I loved him and hand the phone to my parents. I was four. Grandpa survived. So did my boyfriend. It would be alright.
I received other phone calls, full of lies and harsh words, fueled by intoxication and untreated mental illness. I was trapped in a relationship for fear he'd kill himself, or worse, me.
I finally realized he never wanted to get help, and I could do nothing to stop his self destruction; all I could do was save myself. F*ck love, I had to love myself. Through meditation, art, a few set backs, I left him and began to heal.
I met a wonderful man who had been on the periphery all along, but I'd been blind to his presence. He didn't see me as broken, ugly, unworthy like I felt. He saw me as an intelligent, caring, awesome person and encouraged me to be myself. To forgive myself. To move on. To blossom.
I sometimes wonder why I had the year from hell, how I nearly lost myself. Sometimes fate does not give you answers, it just shapes you as you move along. Sometimes things happen for a reason unapparent to us, but worth it in the end. Somehow, I am where I am now, happier than can be measured, and I am whole again. So if you are in dire straights, know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep seeking it and moving forward. You are strong, beautiful, amazing.
I was nearly lost in the darkness but now I wake every day surrounded by light.