… any outsider's perception, no matter how much information they're given, they have no idea what the person's life is like." – Amy Grant
* Mo note: this is by far and away the most heartfelt post I have ever written, and will be for a very very very long time.
The other day, my cousin Kristyn posted on Facebook about her niece's blog post about Perception. I read it, and it got me thinking. And then I went back to Facebook, read a few more posts from friends and family and thought some more about perception.
"No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true."
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
When I was living in Chicago, so many people thought my ex and I had it made. No kids, two adults with good jobs making an almost six figure salary living one block off of Lake Michigan in a vintage 1,200 sq. ft. apartment. Why wouldn't we have it made?
We put on such a great act for everyone that I think it was hard for each of us to believe we were actually unhappy.
Our reality is that we were maxed to the hilt on credit. It was rather understandable, each of us moving to Chicago with nothing but a bookcase and a dresser between us for furniture and some leftover stuff I had from my apartment dwelling days in college. Mix and match plastic cups and hard plastic dining ware weren't going to cut it for the long haul.
So we opened up a Macy's charge (Marshall Fields back then) and a Target account and had ourselves a little spendfest. I paid cash for our living room furniture (which I still have, thank you very much) but our dishes, linens, household cleaning supplies, household necessities, and everything else we needed went on those two cards. We opened a Sears account to purchase a computer desk. The following month we had to buy a new car when Dipshit totalled his for the second time (he really was an appallingly bad driver those first few months in Chicago). Then we had a line of credit with Dell when we bought our computer. Add that into the undiscovered reality of Dipshit doing a pretty decent job of stringing himself out on credit even before we began dating along with a loan we took out for our wedding and you'd find the newly married Mr. and Mrs. almost $40,000 in debt.
Sure, I was wearing Ralph Lauren and Jones New York to work; the majority of my wardrobe had been bought and paid for while I was working at Marshall Fields. I bought my mom and I matching DKNY purses and totes for Christmas… at Filene's Basement (a store much like TJMaxx and Marshall's but with slightly higher quality merchandise). And then there was the one lunch hour when I ran out to Marshall Fields and bought 7 pairs of shoes for almost $300.
I can't say I'm perfect. That's what this blog post is about after all.
Of course, in addition to the debt we had, there was also the actual relationship issues Dipshit and I had. He wasn't a big communicator and I'm a yeller. We weren't sexually active (well, he was but I wasn't as it turned out). My wants and needs weren't a priority for him. And I was something of a control freak.
One of us had to be though so that the bills would be paid, food would be on the table, the car would be maintained, the animals healthy, the laundry done, the house cleaned…. You get the idea.
So when I announced the divorce to my friends and family, it would appear the majority of my problems had been shipped over to Iraq.
But in exchange for getting rid of Dipshit, I had a new pile of problems to deal with. The self-doubt that came from the hurt, neglect and anger I'd suffered with during our relationship. The evident self-confidence issues I had as a plus-size woman. The unworthiness I felt because my husband wasn't even willing to work on our marriage because I "wasn't worth it." Direct quote.
And just when I started to feel better about myself and thought, "Okay, I can do this. I can be single again. After all, I live in one of the greatest cities in the world!" my bottom fell out from under me again and I found out I was losing my job. A few months after that, I busted into Dipshit's email accounts and found evidence that he was bi-sexual. He was on "Hot or Not" under "Men Looking For Men." He also had quite a few emails from both men and women that he was planning on hooking up with when he came home on R&R (a few years later, I was having computer issues and was going through some files when I found a huge file full of pictures of naked men and some women. I've never been sure if they were conquests of his or not, nor will I, but….).
Time kept moving on and I lost my job. Despite what I thought was a great resume and applying for up to fifteen, twenty jobs a day, I wasn't getting any interviews. I had an insane week-long bout of insomnia (just a little plug for Miele products – you can vacuum at two in the morning or run your dishwasher and no one is ever the wiser). And then Dipshit came back from Iraq and it got even worse (read my Karma post under the Dipshit category to read how).
After a year and a half of being angry, sad, disappointed, anxious, and overall miserable, I couldn't see an upside. I was three weeks from losing all of my unemployment benefits, my soon-to-be ex was an even bigger ass than he'd been while we were married, and I had absolutely no job prospects in sight. I wasn't even getting interviews. Me, someone who always got the job after the first interview. Reality was hitting me from every direction and I didn't like it. Not one bit. And I couldn't deal with it.
So I attempted suicide.
I sat down naked in the bathtub on July 12, 2005 and tried to slice my wrists. Just for the record, it hurts. A lot. When I couldn't bear the pain any longer, I grabbed a bottle of booze to chase down a bottle of aspirin.
I don't remember much of that night.
I do remember the exact day though. Because it was the very reason I climbed out of the tub and went to get myself help during one of my more lucid moments. I just remember thinking to myself, "If Kony has to tell Katie I killed myself on her 13th birthday, Katie will never be the same again."
I ended up in a psych ward for a few days. And just to inject some humor into this rather morbid post, I am the idiot that told the admittance doctors, "Oh, don't worry. I don't do what they tell me to" when asked if I heard voices in my head. No, I seriously did. It's a wonder they didn't lock me up for life.
And over the three days I spent in the psych ward, I had epiphany after epiphany. With one explanation from the sociologist who was helping me with my after-the-psych-ward-plan, I learned more about what I was going through than I'd ever learned from the year and a half of therapy I'd been in since Dipshit announced he was leaving me.
To summarize: I was married to a gay man, and therefore any problems in the bedroom weren't about me. It was about him. Because my significant other was a compulsive liar and a man with a very dark side to him as his mother said (perhaps even slightly sociopathic, if that's even a word), most of our relationship would always have two very different sides because we would never view the reality as the same. And yes, my entire life was going to change. I'd have to move home and start almost completely from scratch. It was a rough situation, to be sure, and my feelings were very, very real, but it was just that. One situation in my life.
Whereas most of the fellow patients in the ward with me were there because of their psychological problems. My roommate was a young woman, about the same age as my brother, who told her parents at the age of six that she wanted to lie down in front of a train and be run over. Another woman in the ward was a few years older than I was, with a child, living with her parents in a one-bedroom senior living center that couldn't afford her medication for manic depression (bi-polar disorder). A third patient, a young man who again, the same age as my brother, was also a manic depressive alcoholic "rich kid" who wanted desperately to help himself but whose parents were also alcoholics who didn't believe their son had an ongoing mental illness and therefore would toss out his medication after three months. I saw them. This poor kid had a mother who showed up in a psych ward drunk and complaining about the fact that she was missing dinner "at the club."
These people had real problems that unfortunately would follow them for life.
My financial problems would go away in time. I would gain back my self-confidence and believe in my self-worth with time. I would (or will) eventually meet someone new and perhaps spend the rest of my life with him and start a family. All it would take is time.
And for a brief period, some anti-depressants that made me feel very very foggy most of the time. Within three weeks of my suicide attempt, I packed up 90% of that great vintage apartment I had one block off of Lake Michigan and left the rest with Dipshit. I put 80% of what I took from the apartment and placed it in storage. The other 20% came back to my mom's house with me. Also in that three weeks, my unemployment benefits came to an end. And my divorce was finalized.
I had a follow-up examination with a psychiatrist a month after my suicide attempt. I talked. A lot. I know, hard to imagine isn't it? The doctor asked a few questions and I answered them with my usual honesty. At the end he asked how I felt about the meds I was on. "I don't know, doc, am I supposed to feel like I live in a fog?" I asked.
"So you don't like being on them?" he asked me.
"No, not really." I shrugged.
"Then stop taking them. You, Monique, are an astoundingly normal woman. You have one of the best grasps of reality I've seen in a patient in a very long time. You had a terrible situation to get through, that's true. But you know it'll get better. Tell me, what did it for you?"
"Three days in a psych ward and a really great sociologist who explained it all to me with one conversation. And did you just call me normal?"
"I did," the doctor nodded.