She was sick. Most of her time was spent on seeming normal. She played tennis and attended cocktail parties. Her friends came over to hang out. They enjoyed the way she cooked pastas and cheesecakes. She saw her in-laws on weekends and attended bible study classes every Wednesday night. She socialized outside the household and was attentive and polite within the family. The house was clean, the children did good at school, her husband was recently promoted. He attributed his success of getting the operations director position to her. “I would never have done it without you. You are everything to me, you are my angel. ” He worshipped her, she was his inspiration, his pixy.
But she was sick. No one had any idea what it took her every morning to get out of bed and function as if she were ok. Her inner world was the ongoing manic-depressive roller-coaster, and she never knew if her mind would take her on the ride of elevated mood and high self-esteem; or she would end up hand-wringing, unable to control purposelessly repetitive body movements.
Sometimes she spent nights pacing in the bathroom hyper and panicky, unable to sleep. Sometimes fatigue hit her so hard that she struggled lifting her head off the pillow. Her self-worth could elevate and drop within days or even hours resulting in tremendous energy loss and the feelings of emptiness and despair.
Hiding her sickness and faking happiness 24/7 was the worst. No one in her family was aware of what was going on, she was too scared, too proud, and too ashamed to be verbal about her condition. Her days were infused with the fear to be revealed and labelled cuckoo. She masked her panic behind the façade of smiling politeness and pleasant demeanor. Her husband finally started making six figures a year, she got accepted by his parents and became president of a local book club. She was scared to mess everything up and kept pretending and going through the emotional nightmare day and night.
It happened on Tuesday. Her husband took her out to dinner. She put on a blue cocktail dress and a perfect smile prior leaving the bathroom, the only safe place where she could be herself restlessly pulling the hair and biting the nails.
The restaurant was almost empty. Her husband had to answer the work phone and hurried outside when a middle-aged waitress approached the table.
– Are you ready to order?
– Of course, – her smile faded when she raised the head from the menu. The waitress was looking straight into her as if digging deep into her soul.
– You are strong, everything will fall into place.
– I am ready to order, – She had the feeling that the lady got her, the lady saw her true messed-up self. And she felt relieved when her husband finally came back.
One her way home she kept thinking about the words of the waitress. The waitress was weird, disrespectful, and crazy, but what she said made sense. Faking health and happiness, when dealing with mania, depression, and panic attacks clearly required lots of inner power.
The next morning started with the loss of energy; her previously elevated self-esteem broke against another depressive episode. She forced herself to open the eyes and look at the clock. It was the time to get her kids and her husband ready for the new day. They wanted potatoes and eggs, he wanted cappuccino and a cream-cheese sandwich.
“I am strong, I will get through this, I can’t feel low all the time, the mood will end up go up anyways” started her recovery. She knew she needed to learn about her mind to be able to foresee upcoming mania and subsequent falling into hopelessness. She started looking for help. She started asking for help. Gradually, she started living.
It is over. I will never see him again. I went through the night hiding under the blanket, shaking with cold, struck with emptiness. The morning started just fine. 20 boy push-ups and lots of water kept my mind away for a little while.
Jim called asking if he can stop by. I confirmed and went into the kitchen to fix an apple pie. Slicing apples and blending egg whites with flour and honey got me busy. I was functioning, I felt almost normal.
Jim brought roses, I cut each stem and placed the flowers into a vase.
– Now what? – he was cold and practical. He kept trying to get me back and hated wasting his time and money with no certainty.
– I do not know.
– Tell me what you want, and I will do it for you.
– You can’t fix my pain, I gotta go through this by myself.
– Nice cake.
– You can take it home.
– Be my mistress.
– You are using me all the time, it is mean and rude.
– I do not care.
– I am ready to give you what you want, just tell me.
– I want freedom from pain.
He left with the pie, I went shopping. The pain subsided as I was focusing on a birthday present for my girlfriend. The pain almost disappeared when I stopped by to give her a hug and a potted flower. Her house smelled like joy and pizza. There were many people and many presents. I drank water and conversed politely. As we went out to watch the sunset over the water, I started panicking, I knew I would have to leave soon and be by myself again facing the pain through the night. – “Are you sure you gonna be ok?” – my girlfriend looked concerned as I kept zipping and unzipping pockets in my handbag trying to find the car key. She wanted to help, and she could not, no one could. It was my pain, my cross, my burden.
I watched TV that night and fell asleep. The muscles were sore from too many pushups, the body felt empty.
The text from Jim woke me up – “You live in a crappy area, I can move you into a safer neighborhood, get over your breakup and come back”.
I smiled and stretched in bed. I wished I would get away and stay away from the area where everything reminded me of the past where I was happy and miserable. But I knew the pain would follow me no matter where I go. I knew I gotta deal with my emotions rather than running away from them.
I took one day at a time. The ties that connected me with him kept breaking causing pain sharp, and fierce, and nearly unbearable. My body was withdrawing going through convulsions as days went by.
The realization came later as I was focusing on the needle point excited and entirely involved in cross stitching. The realization that pain has nothing to do with love and feelings. The pain came from the hurt pride, from the failing attempts to control the life of another person, from the merciless possessiveness and the urge to dominate and sponge the person for attention, affection, and endless romance and intimacy.
I put the embroidery aside and closed the eyes. The love was there, it felt wonderful. I pictured him with another woman and smiled. I wanted him happy, he gave me the most wonderful time in my life. He deserved happiness and joy. I went outside and turned my face to the evening chilliness. The ego broke into million teeny-tiny pieces, I was vanishing with the drowning in the water sun. I let go of myself, my wants, my desires, my needs. There was no sense in carrying the burden of my pride and self-esteem any longer. The freedom was there. It has always been there. I have always been free. Everything felt simple and natural. I felt relieved and light; as light as a feather returning to my needle point.
She had a noble face with high cheekbones and pale complexion. Dark eyes and long black hair in contrast to ideally clean white skin gave that magical look that enchanted everyone. Girls fought for her friendship, guys throw houses, businesses, and families at her feet. She had memberships at almost every elite country club and ski resort. She confidently carried her exceptional status turning the nose up at others who were unlucky enough to work daily to pay the bills.
Once a month she wore professional make up early in the morning. “I had to see my make-up artist prior leaving my house, need to cover up the bruises”, – a light shrug of sculptured shoulders and a stunning laughter. Her glowing skin looked almost snow white under layers of concealers and a make-up foundation.
– First two days are the worst for the black eye, hard to hide even for my visagiste, and she is a real professional; I wear dark glasses, – on such days she wore them day and night. Everyone followed the trend after seeing her in brandy sunnies at one of private sports event. – I had to accompany my husband right after we argued. Sunnies are my saviors when make-up does not help. – Her voice was melodious; the manners were sweet and slightly condescending.
– And you were not even allowed to stay home and heal after he beat the crap out of you, – she shuddered at my curiosity, my response was too vulgar and direct for her upper-class mindset.
– Technically I could, but he would have taken his hooker instead, and I …., – she paused to sip some cappuccino, – I am fighting to save the family. We have kids.
– Good luck, – I could feel her pain behind thick layers of make-up and seemingly nonchalant IT-girl demeanor.
Her lifestyle was a dream for every struggling girl forced to work to raise kids. She neither killed herself 40 hours a week nor spent sleepless nights when the children got sick. Her husband provided enough, she had money.
– I feel safe home. We are rarely by ourselves. Our kids, sitters, cleaners, his mom and friends…. I have enough time and space to do what I want without him around.
– How do you guys find time to fight?
– Well, – she took a deep breath and tucked shiny locks of hair behind the ears, – two weeks ago he found out I cheated on him with his friend and got furious.
– But you’ve been in bruises for over 3 years now…
– And? – her voice suddenly lost the usual lazy carelessness, – my life is noone’s business. We have a happy marriage, a very happy marriage.
Her gestures were suggestive of “everything is fine, my life is a life-long dream, unachievable for losers like you”. The whole world was at her feet, her life was a perfect fairy-tale for every poor girl from a low-income community. The abusive part of the happy-ending story was thoroughly camouflage behind tons of make-up and prescribed anti-depressants and mood-stabilizers.
She went through long and desperate years of jumping from penis to penis prior getting the marital proposal from her husband. The door into the world of signature clubs and luxury resorts opened, she acquired careless demeanor and refined manners sinking her veneer teeth and well-manicured claws into the lifestyle she had been craving for all her life. Domestic violence was never an issue; she would die for the right to keep the place in the niche of wealth and prestige.
Her husband finally left and froze her bank accounts. She was kicked out of the house with nothing; his attorneys filed for the full custody of their children.
– I do not know what to do, he took everything, I do not even have a vehicle, – her voice was usually calm when she called me from the local crisis center where she was brought by the police after overdosing on her sleep medications.
– Do you believe in God? – it was the only response that came to my mind.
– I actually do, – her laughter was sweet-sounding. I knew she was feeling better.
Her husband was there with five bodyguards when I came to visit her in the hospital.
– How is she doing, is she ok? – he was worried, I assured him that she was fine. For the first time in my life I met someone surrounded by hired protection services. One of guys looked hot, I gave him a smile and blushed when he smiled back.
She was discharged that day, beautifully pale and sensuously fragile like a China doll, her back was straight, her head was up. I saw him helping her into the car, they left quietly and quickly.
The divorce was cancelled, she went to Switzerland for 6 months to treat the diagnosed depression.
When she came back she was fresh and rested.
– You look really good, – I was glad to see her happy.
– I am not sure if I told you, – her smile was stunning, her postures were magnetic, – I found a new make-up girl, and she does miracles. I finally have someone who knows how to mask all my bruises.
He instigated fear. The contrast between his calm and pleasant demeanor and my feelings of terror every time I saw him was unfathomable. Well-educated, intelligent, nicely smelling, fit, and smiling, he did not look like a fairy tale monster. Nevertheless, his presence brought shivers up and down my spine. My friends thought I was cuckoo, their “girl, you have a screw loose, go and eat something or talk to a therapist” made me guilty. His excessive concern about my wellbeing brought about shame and remorse; he loved, he cared, and I kept rejecting him quietly panicking when he was around.
I could not loudly demonstrate my concerns. He never raised his voice, but I was fearful to answer back and disagree. Once I got brave; I took a deep breath, and looking straight into his eyes, I gasped out “I am afraid of you”. He quietly stood up and went into the kitchen. I heard him using the water and ice dispenser in his refrigerator, he came back three minutes later with a glass of ice-cold orange juice and a sparklingly bleached smile.
– You think too much, silly, – he smiled watching me gulp the juice, I felt stupid.
His friends were polite and intelligent as well. They wore comfy cashmere sweaters and designer pants and discussed marketing dynamics and sales strategies. They lived in safe neighborhoods, played golf and went boating on weekends. Their women were skinny, classy, and quiet. No one ever was rude or disrespectful, they smiled, always said hello and goodbye. I always smiled back responding to their greetings and farewells with the same pleasant demeanor, but deep in my heart I knew talking beyond “the dinner is tasty, I have enjoyed your company” was not acceptable.
One day I lost my job and gave him a call; my unemployment did not kick in timely, and I needed help to pay the bills. He did not answer, I left him a voicemail prior going to bed. A loud banging sound woke me up at around midnight. I opened the front door and got hit by December coldness. He was standing on the porch, I could not see his face, but I felt the anger through the freezing darkness.
– Are you ok? – I forced a smile and waved him in.
He did not move, he had a bottle in his hand, I got surprised, drinking was not about him, he was into healthy lifestyle and daily exercising.
– Are you ok? – I repeated shivering as the coldness was crawling under my PJs.
– You disappointed me, – the voice was muffled, I stepped back shuddering at the smell of alcohol. – I wasted all my time with you. You got everything gifts, shoes, cruises, but you want more. Now you decided to quit your job and sponge me off. You are like everyone else.
He kept talking slurring words and getting angrier. I kept standing at the doorstep frozen with fear and ice-cold weather. Suddenly he punched the wall right next to me, I screamed and rushed inside. The front door slammed behind my back. I heard the screech of his car as he took off.
I brew green tea and took a warm bath prior going to sleep. When he called me the next morning, he was sweetly polite as usual.
– You scared me last night, – I was expecting clarification and apology.
– I felt used, and I overreacted
– But, I was scared, – I still believed he would dismiss my fears with humor and a fine dining invitation.
– You will deal with this my love, when shall we meet again?
– I need to be by myself.
He kept stopping by with flowers and fruit. Every time I tried to discuss that night I was given Swiss chocolate and new clothes.
– Don’t you see, I am afraid of you. – He laughed, gently stroking my hair while switching the TV channels.
My friends kept calling me cuckoo. They were jealous. He was always attentive, courteous, and intelligent, he was smart, well-educated, and as perfect as a smiley guy from my favorite family yogurt commercial. I felt guilty and stupid, I panicked for nothing.