I fell in love because Michelle was gorgeous. I fell in love because we held long, intense conversations together. I fell in love because she was the most stable person I had ever met.
I know that now. Back then, I was simply focused on her foxy-ness, and didn’t realize there was a subconscious voice telling me to find a mate that could ride through hell and back with me.
Back then, neither of us knew I was sick. I was simply the “romantic Latino,” full of life and sudden, effervescent thoughts that I was more than happy to share with anybody. Sure, I could fly off the handle, and did melancholy really well, but I was a writer, a poet, so the dips into sadness made sense.
Years passed. It wasn’t so romantic anymore, the sudden flights into mania, followed by the drop into depression. We replaced “romantic” with “bipolar.” And that was a good thing. Once you have a diagnosis on a sickness, you can work on it with more clarity and information.
This last psychotic break actually played out pretty well, on one level. Though I went mad, I tried my best not to verbally attack, as I’ve been wont to do in the past. When sick, I can shred with my words. Michelle has endured it, and, post-diagnosis, knows where it’s coming from. I doubt that helps much. I’ve seen the weariness in her eyes. This illness exhausts her.
She’s strong. I married her, in part, for that strength, that stability. She suffers this as much as I. But she won’t say it. She’s Iowan. She gets things done. She shows love through action, while I try to find the right word.
One of her greatest demonstrations of love, perhaps the greatest, is something that all people suffering mental illness need: she continues to choose to stay. I doubt I would have that mettle.
Then again, I have my own mettle. Friends have written me emails and have called, after reading this series of essays on our recent battle with the illness. They know I’m sick, but they’ve never seen the details. The essays were a bit too much. I think some of them see me as weak, without recognizing that it took a shitload of will power to write the posts.
We’re now in the aftermath of the attack, in the first easy breaths that follow a battle in an ongoing war. We both know war. We lived in two in Central America. We know what it’s like to fear until your bones turn cold inside you, in places where soldiers don’t think twice about pointing an M-16 at your face. We’ve been on the receiving side of Southern Hate while working with Mexican migrant workers in Alabama. And we both know madness. We’re not weak. We’re tired. Please don’t confuse the two.
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