I still remember the first day that we met. I didn’t think I believed in love at first sight — but then I saw him.
From that moment on, we shared everything together. All of the firsts were so fresh and exciting, as they often are with a love so intense. I swear that he grew more and more beautiful with each passing day that I got to know him. I fell fast, and I fell hard. I often found myself wondering what I did to deserve someone so incredible in my life. We were so happy. Life wasn’t perfect, but it was truly beautiful. I couldn’t have asked for more.
I can’t exactly pinpoint when I first felt the shift between our dynamic. One minute, things were as they always were. Before I could blink, though, I found myself engrossed in an alternate reality that resembled less and less of life as I knew it with each passing week. Trickles of rage and anger bubbled to the surface, threatening to break through until they could no longer be harnessed. I’ve been riding the waves ever since.
I currently exist in a heightened state of fear and anxiety, unsure of what each day will bring. When I wake each morning, I silently hope that today will be a “good” day; that he won’t be angry. That he won’t hurt me. Sometimes I’m lucky, and I get my person back. Other times, it feels like I’m living in a battle ground.
If I’m being honest with myself, I often feel alone in my own house. I make excuses to run errands and head into the outside world so we will find ourselves in public spaces. He’s less likely to hurt me here, I tell myself as we grab some groceries. He smiles at me as we stroll arm and arm in the grocery store, and I almost believe it — that we’re normal. At least here, in this shared space, we can uphold our fragile projection of bliss. How desperately I want it to be like this all the time. I love him so much that it hurts.
The physical abuse is hard. I shield my body as best I can to protect myself from the continuous stream of violence. When he’s angry, I try to stay away. If I’m lucky, I can curl into a ball and tuck myself away in a corner of our picture-perfect suburban home as I wait for the rage to subside. If only others knew what went on behind these walls. Sometimes I’m not as fortunate, and I find myself directly in the line of fire. It’s a dangerous line to walk between letting him know how much I fear him while outwardly appearing calm and collected.
The mental abuse is even harder. When he’s really angry, he’ll threaten to hurt me or himself. He’s even gone so far as to dangle himself over a banister and threaten to drop right over onto the cold tile floor. His therapist says he does it to get a rise out of me, because it’s part of his mental illness. It’s difficult to live with.
“You’ve got a big mess to clean up here” he’ll sneer as he pushes the last of the counter contents onto the floor. They crash onto the tile with a loud bang. I have to quickly scan the area for belongings like my laptop and camera, whisking them away to stash when his back is turned. Otherwise he might attempt to pry them from my hands, too. I have to tuck away fragile belongings and keep all potential weapons out of eyesight. Even something as innocent as a plastic wand can be dangerous in his hands during the wrong moment. Sometimes it really amazes me how strong he is.
The most difficult part of the abuse is that it has inevitably trickled downward. He once pushed my now four-year-old son down the stairs during a particularly heavy rage. He also takes pleasure in scaring him, as he huddles in a corner shaking. He has a tendency to argue almost relentlessly with my teenager, who doesn’t always have the sense to back down. How do I raise a strong daughter in this situation? How can I possibly teach her to advocate for herself, while simultaneously begging her to stay silent to keep the explosions at bay?
Thankfully, there are also good times. A lot of really, really good times.
He’s the most incredible person. His smile literally lights up an entire room. He has an unbelievably big heart and always brings me flowers when he returns from a walk. He often tells me I’m beautiful, and it’s especially adorable how excited he gets for any time we get to spend together, just the two of us. When he’s passionate about something, he’s really passionate.
I’m honored to call him a best friend. Sometimes we lay for hours on the couch just talking and reading together. He always gets my sarcasm. He’s always up for an adventure and has a knack for picking the best lunch spots. We walk the trails together, hand in hand, and are effortlessly open with one another about all the parts of this beautiful, messy life. He’s totally my person. He often completes me in the best possible way.
I hold on tightly to who he is at his very core — the most beautiful, loving, broken, human that I would do anything for. This boy that I love so fiercely is so much more than his mental illness — he is also my son, and I refuse to give up on him.