I met a wide-eyed boy, full of life who loved his family, survived a failed marriage, laughed, and reached out to others. This young man would NEVER think of saying anything hateful to someone dealing with stress or trouble. This young man was always open to new ideas and experiences. He embraced the good and left the bad at the curb. He spoke of his family with pride, he loved animals, nature, gardening, hiking and more. He listened to new ideas and considered each one on its own merit. We double dated with his parents, we took kids and nephews with us to the zoo, bumper boats, shows, the zoo and more. He was upbeat and marvelous with the kids, they loved him!
Ruled by a domineering father this young man was unable to see his full potential and often based his actions on past experiences with this father. He lacked the courage to strike out on his own, to take charge, work with his hands and more. I saw this potential, and the goodness in this man. Realizing his mind always carried the shadow of his fathers words and how he should react to them, it took some time for him to break free and fly. But fly he did! He morphed into his own, taking charge of his surroundings. He learned to work on his own cars, he mastered the art of roofing, he returned to school at an age when many start to coast through life. He took jobs others were afraid to tackle, he pushed his talents, learning about computer ladder programs, combustion, hydraulics, electrical work, plumbing, how to handle toxic waste and more. He schooled and earned a license in boiler operations at an age when most people were happy to flounder in a long-term job. He continued to work, learn, build his store of knowledge and experience.
Along the way he learned tolerance and the ability to communicate with people other found difficult. He quickly gained respect at work, earning the title of “go to man” if you wanted a job done and done right. He also saw me as an equal, always proud to back my choices, brag about my accomplishments while urging me to reach farther, follow dreams, try new things.
I started out liking this man, then I loved him, then I fell “in love” with him. Thrusting out my chin I committed myself to a life by his side. We lived through many, MANY rough years with one of my children from a previous marriage. She tested us to the max, bankrupted us and left us with three babies to care for. We separated more than once, wanting to walk away from each other and the situation, but we came together each time, sought help, made “us” a priority and got out.
I saw him begin to change, but chalked it up to the trauma known as our life. Then ever so slowly, I realized I was hiding things from my mate, unpleasant things about my daughter that I knew would send him into either a rage, or a deep depression. I ate this stress daily so that he could enjoy life. After pulling my daughter out of bars and shoving strange men out the door I was coiled like a spring. One night I had to pull my daughters boyfriend, father to the babies off the road. He was on his knees on the center line, drunk and high, screaming at me to let a car kill him. I never told my mate at the time as he would have over reacted and wrung every drop os stress out of every hour. I arranged for help for the young man but he gave up after one session with an addiction and mental health professional. All you had to do, as a child in the house was shrug your shoulders, say “so what” or talk with food in your mouth.My mate would spring from his chairs, threatening them with violence and intimidation if they did not behave as expected. One night he chased my son from the table, grabbed his arm and pulled him from the ground to swat at his backside. The infraction was so small I don’t even remember what it was, I just remember the ball of lead in my chest when I was unable to stop it.
He began to shatter kitchen chairs, slam doors, threaten to leave and more. We all walked on eggs shells, hiding unpleasantness from my mate. Now, being a hard-core feminist I was PISSED! What a typical male being an ass! But, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had fallen in love with this person for a reason. I tried to sever ties, I embarked on a new adventure with an up and coming band, pretending to have a relationship with the vocalist as an excuse to throw my mate out of the house. It worked for a time, but I kept feeling the pull. Eventually I ended the charade and my mate was willing to try again.
After that, I was committed to this relationship as one deemed to exist by the cosmos. I reveled in the good and clenched my jaw through the bad. My mate however fell deeper and deeper in anxiety and anger. Even when things were good, he saw only the bad. A simple walk in the yard became a point of stress as I would marvel at the baby birds, or flowers, plan our garden etc. as he focused on a tree that my die, a crack in the ancient sandstone foundation of the house etc.
He began to ruin every walk with his pessimistic attitude. He stopped noticing the beauty around him, the good parts. Seeing, and enjoying the good, doesn’t mean you ignore the bad. You still have to deal with a problem, but you don’t have to let it color your whole world. Just because I am marveling over a spring flower, enjoying a nice day, doesn’t mean I don’t recognize a tree may have to come down for safety. I just don’t let it take on a life of its own, becoming a sense of worry that clouds my thinking. I am not a Pollyanna, I can enjoy by home and yard while tucking away notes of things that need tended to. My mate focuses on the negative with laser like precision. I finally starting declining these walks for my own health.
One of my mates earliest memories is of a parent night at his school. He loved his school and was proud of his desk and his work. After the tour the family headed for home. The one thing that stuck in his head to this day was a comment by his father. He said something like; “that was nice, but I notice you were the only kid who didn’t have art work on the wall.”
I felt this was a good sign, meaning he would know how awful he felt to be shot down after trying so hard. I figured he would use that experience in raising our grandkids. I was wrong. If a kid cleans something, he points out what wasn’t done. If they washed a dish he that was left with a spot he would scream at them and stand over them until they did it his way. I know in his mind he thinks he is training them for adulthood, but all it does is push them away. Kids are kids and they will learn how to wash dishes as they become adults responsible for their own home. He doesn’t always compliment them on what is right, or what worked, he points out what was wrong and how to fix it. This is what his father did to him. I watched his father take a tool out of his hand to do things his way, making it clear his son wouldn’t do it correct he talked down to him, making him feel inferior if he didn’t do things his way. He took it to heart, doubting his own ability to learn and perform, it left a deep scar. Hell, his dad would wrench his wife’s birthday gift from her hand to slit the tape with a knife instead of letting her tear the package open herself. My mother wanted to reach across the table more than once to return the gift to its owner.
My mate does the same, he hovers over me, itching to grab something from my hand to fix it, open it or fold it. If he grabs for something I fall into sarcasm, saying something like, “Ok dad, ” he usually gets the hint. I tell him I am NOT his mother and I will not tolerate his urge to grab tasks from me as if he is the only one who can do it right.
Realizing he had issues, he finally went to a therapist supplied by his employer. They clicked and things went well. Medical tests showed that he suffered from anxiety, depression and anger. He started taking medication and he morphed into the boy I fell in love with. I worked with a therapist friend of mine and learned to manage my own reactions to situations without reacting in anger or anxiety when he was in a snit. I put my head on the shoulder of a friend who happened to be a psychiatrist, she helped me see that that he was dealing with not only an unbalanced level of brain chemicals, (organic) and emotional baggage from living with his father.
Once he embraced some medication and therapy with a long-time friend, he was back. He embraced yard work, gardening and getting to know the neighbors. Things were back on track. We left our daughter to make her own life, we took in the kids and built a home in our new location. Things were looking up. I promised to stop hiding unpleasant things from him and kept that bargain. Life was good.
Then, he decided he didn’t need pills to remain stable, he stopped taking them. A short time later he began to over react to everything from requests for a ride to a friend’s house from one of the kids to a flea on a dog. He was short-tempered, and when not working at a furious pace in the yard, he spent hours laying in bed, thinking agonizing, fretting over things every human deals with daily. We talked and he got back on the meds and I had my mate back.
I rode this experience out three times. The good times turning into my walking on tip toe in the course of a month. If our youngest gave him lip over cleaning her rabbits tank, he would loom over her on the couch, threatening to kill the rabbit if she didn’t jump as soon as he spoke. “He said things like “you are not going to like what happens to that rabbit if you don’t clean that tank!” Ominous, scary words that will remain embedded in her brain until the day she dies.
One of the biggest stories about my mates father is how he reacted if he felt his children acted anything less than perfect in public. He was offended and angry if they didn’t behave perfectly in a public setting. He would be angry and mortified if his children misbehaved, made a mess or miss-spoke while visiting relations or out in public. He would berate them for embarrassing him. He put the thoughts of what others might think of him over the feelings and well-being of his family. He instilled shame if they were not perfect in public. These verbal abuses scarred the children and were a source of arguments for my mates husband and wife. The next day, all was well. You didn’t air fights or hurt feelings, you ate them like sour candy. Nothing was ever resolved or talked about, it was buried no matter how the outbursts hurt the children.
This brings me to this month. We are in a battle with the city over a hedge. Long story short, to get a variance that would allow this hedge to shield us from a bar, tattoo parlor and head shop, we have to file papers, pay 100.00 and provide a detailed drawing or photo of the item in question. The city inspector left us with a satellite photo of the property so I decided to attach that to the papers as evidence. Well, my cat from hell slept on the paper, he shifted it enough to put the ends in a pile of glue I was using to fix a kid’s backpack. I straightened it out, trimmed the edges and wiped off the glue. They had already hinted that we would have no trouble in keeping the hedge as we had a gas station next door. So NO grand measure were needed to file the paperwork.
My mate went ballistic! His face turned red, the veins in his neck popped out in an unnatural way and he screamed his words. When I tried to tell him it was glue and not animal feces from our pets, he cut me off, calling me a liar as he knew what feces looked like! He continued to bulge and turn colors as he said he wanted to present himself as respectable with the city. I instantly remembered the stories of his fathers berating his family if the kids did anything to embarrass him. My mate was so worried about what a group of strangers would think of him he screamed, yelled and treated me like a liar. A true mate, a soul mate takes your side, they do not debase you over how a stranger will judge them. He has reverted to anger, he wants anything that demands his attention gone. He wants the dog gone, he wants to snap the cats neck for doing something he does everyday? His is consistently angry, treating strangers like an angel while his family walks on eggshells? Did I mention that he views taking medications as a weakness, not as a fix for an organic lack of chemicals fueling the brain?
Just today, the dog needed out. He got up to let her out then forgot her. When we heard her bark outside the door he put down his computer and let her in. When he returned to his chair the imaginary character in his game had died. His face was inflamed with anger and a severe scowl as he growled, “that dog has to go!” He was angry over the game, ignoring the love of a pet. Looking to defuse the situation I started telling him about the good feedback I had received on one of the stories I had posted on my writers group. The man who used to show happiness over my accomplishments and encourage me, talked over my, shutting me down as he spewed profanity and told me the dog had to find a new home. I never did share the story with him.
Did I mention that this is about the 4th time he has gone off the medication? I don’t know this man and I don’t like him. I am tired of riding this merry-go-round. I am tired of waiting it out until he decides to give the medication another try. I am tired of the anger, the judgement, being called a liar and watching a child wilt in despair over his words.
He fought a good fight, but he is morphing into his father. If he doesn’t come back to earth and embrace the medication I can’t promise to keep this union together. I will not live the rest of my life walking on eggs, watching my kids and grand kids shrink when he turns red and berates them.
I love my mate, but I don’t like him when he is like this. If he wants to break chairs, scream and present himself as perfect to those around him, he may have to do it alone. His dad was often a street angel and a house devil and I have watched this wonderful, young soul adopt this personality. He thinks good thoughts, functions wonderfully when with company, but he is a different person when we are alone as a family unit if he stops taking the meds. I can’t get him to see that taking meds is no different from wearing glasses. They are not evil, nor do they make you a bad person, they are just a tool available to us that can improve your life and live it to its full potential.
I’m not sure how many more rides I can take. Eventually I may have to get off to save my sanity and the mental health of the children. I hope not.