Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Love is not enough

(This is an imported post from August 25, 2010, from my old blog at Myspace)

We'd been together for a year and a half when she tried to kill herself for the third time.

It was a rebound relationship, following the breakup of a four year relationship with my very first girlfriend. Meeting a woman in a bar is not so terribly ill-advised. Hooking up with said woman so soon after a breakup is very ill-advised. I know that now. I knew nothing of the sort then. I was 30 years old. I had come out four years previously. Not so very late, all things considered, but I knew very little about how relationships worked, how people worked, how I worked. Prior to coming out, I'd been single and celibate for 3 years while I dealt quietly and privately with my sexuality. Coming out was no big deal; I just did it. I'd been so inclined for a number of years; it was just a matter of coming to terms with it. But I had oh, so much to learn.

Within a month of our coming together, the verbal abuse started. It was harsh, the mental and emotional abuse she heaped on me. And it was cyclic. I should have left then, obviously. But there's a horrible mindset to someone who has been abused. I believe, at the time, I must have thought I deserved it. That she was entirely correct in her observations, her declarations, delivered so scathingly. When you've spent your entire childhood being subjected to such abuse (and worse), it's difficult to believe that such behaviour is not entirely unwarranted.

It's not that I lacked self-esteem. I certainly didn't. But it was a very tenuous state. It was relatively easy for someone to knock it asunder. That's no longer true, and hasn't been for many years, but back then, I was very easily thrown back to the belief that what had been said of me as a child, still held true for me as an adult. It was only afterwards that I made a point of learning about things like bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.

She was manic-depressive, and agoraphobic. She was excessively cynical and very negative, toward practically everything, and everybody. She had extreme mood swings, with frighteningly low downs, and scarily giddy highs. She was on three different kinds of medication. Her first two suicide attempts (while we were together; she likely had tried previously, though I was not privy to those) involved those pills, in various combinations, with or without alchohol. She wasn't supposed to drink, but when you're trying to kill yourself, you'll do whatever you think it'll take.

I was not present for those first two attempts; she called me later, from the hospital, to inform me, brusquely, completely unemotional about it. And then asked for a ride home. The third time I was present. We were staying at her parent's place, who'd gone out of town for the long weekend. We were house-sitting. We'd gone to bed. She seemed alright, normal enough. Sometime much later, I woke to the sound of voices, one of them a male. Which I found very odd. I got out of bed, and headed for the kitchen, to be greeted with the sight of two uniformed police officers, male and female...and my girlfriend. She was fully dressed, and looked completely subdued. What had she been doing, I wondered. Breaking into houses in the neighborhood? Throwing rocks at passing cars?

I blinked, confused. "What's going on?"

Both officers looked around in surprise. "Who are you?" the male officer asked.

"I'm--" I began.

"She's my friend," my girlfriend broke in. "She's staying with me."

(One other note: she was very closeted. I was never once ever introduced as her girlfriend.)

I was asked for my name, and then the female officer stepped forward in a conciliatory manner, and said, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

I frowned, wondering what in the hell was going on. And it was only then that I smelled the car exhaust. My girlfriend still stood with her back against the wall, looking both sullen and contrite, and completely worn out. And the smell was wafting off her in waves, like some noxious perfume that was permeating the room. I nodded to the female cop and followed her into the livingroom, where she sat me down and proceeded to tell me that they had been called by my "friend" because she had been in the process of trying to kill herself in her car, in her parent's garage. She had apparently changed her mind, had come into the house to call 911, and then met the officers in the driveway. I am not slow at waking up, I never have been, and I processed all she told me quickly. I can't say I was surprised.

"Okay, so what now?" I asked.

I was told she would have to go to the hospital, that because she had called 911, she would have to be checked in and evaluated. She was refusing to go, but they weren't accepting her refusal. She had to go. She was also refusing to provide any names of family members. The officer looked at me with a very kind expression.

"Would you be willing to accompany her?" she asked.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was three o'clock in the morning. "Yes, of course," I said.

We were driven to the hospital in the back of the cruiser. When we got there, it took about an hour for her to be admitted. After another hour, during which she never said a word to me, nor I to her, a doctor came to see us, and told me she would undergo a psyche evaluation later that day, and I was free to go. I nodded, stood, and looked closely at her. She never raised her head, never said a word. So I said good-bye, and I left.

Three days later, she was released, and I had to drive her to see her physician (who was also my physician, at the time). She was in with her doctor for about half an hour. When she came out, she made a slight gesture with her hand, and said, "She wants to see you."

"Me?" I asked, surprised.

She nodded, and sat in the chair next to me. Confused, I stood and made my way down the hall, to where the doctor was waiting outside one of the examining rooms. She ushered me in, and indicated I have a seat. She sat across from me.

"How are you holding up?" she asked gently.

I shrugged. "Fine. I'm fine." I wasn't, but I didn't know what else to say.

"You're probably wondering why I asked you in here."

I nodded. This doctor knew of our relationship. I was curious as to what she would say, but I wasn't expecting what she did say.

"You can't stay with her," she said gently. "And you shouldn't. You need to get out of your relationship with her."

I blinked and felt myself go very still.

"It's not healthy for you," she continued. "And it's not safe. Normally, I wouldn't say anything. But I can see it's taking a toll on you, and you're my patient, as well. I know you're not 'fine'. And so I'm telling you that you should not stay in this relationship with her."

I just looked at her, thoughtfully.

"Do you agree with me?" she then asked.

And I realized that I did. She was completely right. And while being advised to leave was not the same as coming to the decision myself, it was a decision that I'd been considering for some time. Yes, the relationship was taking a toll on me. I had become extremely quiet, withdrawn, and unhappy. I'd spoken of it to no one, but she was my doctor. Of course, she knew.

"If you're concerned about how she'll handle a breakup at this point," she then said, reading my mind, "just know that whether you're present or not, she will continue as she has been. Whether she succeeds or not has nothing to do with you. You can't save her. So stop trying."

And again, she was completely right. It was why I'd stayed as long as I had. I'd thought I could help her. But you can't help someone who won't help themselves. I couldn't keep her alive. And I was woefully ill-equipped to even try. We talked a bit longer, more for my doctor to make sure I was really was fine, now. And I was. I was troubled, yes, but she made perfect sense, and I couldn't argue the point. And it was time.

I ended the relationship a week later, after stating I needed time to myself, to think, to process. I was treated to more verbal abuse. She called me everything horrible she could think of. I withstood it. And that was that.

I saw her once more about a year later. I was working in the bar then, as a dj, and was on a break, chatting with the bartender. She came in, looking very unhealthy, said "Hi," and handed me a letter. And left. I opened the letter; it was an apology, for all she'd put me through, for all the abuse, and ended with her saying she knew I'd done everything for her I could, that she knew I'd done it out of love, and that she loved me for that. I tore the letter up after reading it and threw it in the garbage.

I've never seen her since. I have no idea if she's alive or not. I've never tried to find out.

You can't help someone who won't help themself. You can't save someone who is hell-bent on destroying themself. You can love someone, but sometimes, love is simply not enough. And if you are in an unhealthy relationship, get out of it. Take care of yourself first.

These are the things I have learned, and never forgotten. They are difficult to apply at times, difficult to believe, trust me, I know this. But it's important to believe these things. And I do. I must. Because I come first.

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