Six months ago as of tomorrow, I left my husband after he punched me in the face while I was holding our daughter. This act was to end all acts of violence against me, from the time he tried to throw a bookshelf full of books on top of me, to when he shoved me across the room onto a nightstand just after I had my c-section, as well as many others. What was domestic violence never looked like abuse to me, but rather evidence of his bipolar disorder, evidence that someone, anyone, finally needed to help him with his mental health.
Despite the multiple prostitutes he visited, despite his screaming at both S. and myself, despite everything, I took it upon myself to try and help him because I loved him, to overlook absolutely everything in the name of saving him from himself. I did this for four years.
After my own diagnosis with bipolar disorder, as well as borderline personality disorder, I have come to recognize a few things about mental illness. One, that a person can only save themselves if they want to or have the capacity to. M., I believe, could not and did not want to save himself.
As for myself, I want help with my disorders, and I have the ability to, which is why my therapist laughs when, in my manic states, I resort to dying my hair impulsively or self-publishing chapbooks — as in, using the manic energy for good in my life rather than to harm others — instead of ruining my life.
M. and I are two sides of the same coin, both suffering from the same disorder, which is why I had a deep amount of empathy for him. Morally, however, is how we are different. He used both his family and my own for money, got hand jobs from women sold into the sex industry, stole countless things from others. My point is that he was a bad person at heart.
A disorder does not make someone a bad person; a bad person makes themselves such, and M. just happened to have bipolar disorder as well as a lack of moral code. This is not to say that a person with bipolar will only do bad things if they are “bad;” even good people are capable of doing harm to others. But at the very core of himself, he lacked empathy, lacked love an consideration for anyone but himself — though, maybe, hopefully, he loves his daughter.
In any situation, don’t take it upon yourself to fix someone. Help them, love them, guide them, but don’t try to fix them, and certainly do not stay with them because you are trying to help them. If they are abusive, even simply if the relationship is endangering your own mental health, LEAVE. “But what about endurance, what about repairing a relationship instead of leaving?” you might say. From experience, it is not worth the risk on your life — and yes, your mental health is just as important as your physical health — to try and help someone. Help yourself before you help others.
I no longer feel anger towards him, or upset when I think about my situation. I am only happy and full of love at my life choices and the people in my life. As I have said many times, leaving him was the second best decision I ever made, and only second to having my daughter S., who means the absolute world to me.