I like my wife, but she makes my life miserable kind of frequently. And I feel shitty because I let her do that.
I was inspired by Penelope Trunk’s intense honesty to write this. I read certain authors even though I don’t give a shit about their subject because they are just too good to ignore. I feel like reading their words makes me a better writer. Penelope is one of those, and one of the main characteristics that makes her writing great is how intensely honest and vulnerable she is.
A Break in Creativity
The reason I stopped writing around March last year, just as my blog was taking off, was that my wife was sick and I had no mental energy left after taking care of her to write. It wasn’t just that she was ill with cancer or something. We had no idea what was wrong. This sickness turned my wife into an emotionally abusive maniac who required constant care to feed herself and take care of her basic needs.
The thing is that the mania came and went. She’d make breakfast with a smile, then, sometimes only minutes later, walk past me into the bedroom. She had a certain way of walking that was close enough to “normal” for plausible deniability, but that really meant a shit storm was approaching.
Mouth a little tighter than usual, steps a little quicker than usual, eyes cast downward just slightly. No one would have noticed but me.
She’d walk past me in “that” way and I would dutifully follow. If I didn’t, it meant I didn’t love her.
She’d flop down on the bed and tell me to leave her alone, even though if I actually did that she’d be devastated and accuse me of not loving her.
She’d stay silent while I tried to get her to talk. If I stopped trying, I didn’t love her.
When she finally did talk it was to tell me the particular way I was a bad or unreasonable person, and that I didn’t love her.
She’d say something to get a rise out of me, then scurry away before I could respond. If I didn’t chase her out of the room, I didn’t love her.
The conclusion would be that I was deliberately making her miserable for my own nefarious purposes. Probably because I didn’t love her.
The real answer was always that she needed to get her chemistry balanced again, which required eating glucose tablets for the sugar spike then protein for staying even (this was the wrong thing to do, but it was the best we knew at the time).
Most of the time between 20 and 45 minutes after eating, she’d cry and tell me she was sorry, that I was the best husband in the world, then go back to whatever she had been doing. We’d go out that night and hang out with friends like nothing had happened at all.
Should I be mad? sad? understanding? How about just numb.
Meanwhile my mind is in shambles. Should I be mad? sad? understanding? How about just numb. Too confusing to think about, so I just keep trucking.
Eventually the good moments were just a break in the clouds in the storm of misery. Good hours turned into good minutes, and eventually disappeared altogether.
At some point, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t think. I lost touch with good friends, I lost a bunch of weight that I shouldn’t have lost. I haven’t weighed this little since I was 15.
A Break in the Clouds
In August 2010 she was finally diagnosed with a combination of reactive hypoglycemia (we knew that), and candida which is a systemic yeast infection (we didn’t know that). Yeast had overgrown her digestive tract, at first sucking up all the nutrients she ate which exacerbated her reactive hypoglycemia. Eventually the yeast began eating the villi in her small intestine, making it impossible to absorb nutrients even if the yeast were under control. In the final stage of the illness, which can be fatal, small holes in her intestinal lining allowed whole proteins to enter her blood stream and brain undigested. Essentially, the food she ate was poisoning her to death.
After she was diagnosed and began to improve, it was like the sun coming out again. I could work and write and think again. But without that pressure cooker to keep me busy and panicked, I began to realize that I had never been remarkably happy in the relationship. I realized that the year she hid her illness from me after we first met had been long enough to reel me in. That by the time she spewed her first hateful words and told me I should move out for a reason neither of us understood, my hero script was primed and ready to endure hell to prove that I was the type of person who could endure hell. The worse it got, the more determined I was to make it work no matter what happened.
That’s how real world problems work. Your husband doesn’t just beat the shit out of you out the blue. He breaks your vase first, and that’s not over the line, right? Your boss doesn’t threaten to fire you if you don’t pull an all nighter on the first day. He attaches a blackberry to your scrotum first, and builds up from there.
At some point, you find yourself a frog in water that’s starting to bubble. What do you do then?
Out of the Rolling Boil
You might imagine ahead of time that you’ll be courageous and decisive, and that it’s a matter of making a choice not to let people cross your lines. But when she crosses the line, she crosses a different part of it than you expect. And she crosses it just a little, so you’re not sure if she actually crossed it at all, or if maybe the line was actually farther back than you thought.
It’s normal to feel bad when you read advice that makes everything sound easy, then fail to act on it because the situation is actually more complicated. The reality is that the advice really is simplistic and your situation probably is more complicated.
How do you keep moving forward toward your dreams when it seems that the world is conspiring to hold you back?
- Get out of bad situations. If you’re in a miserable situation like a dead end job or relationship, get out of it. Just leave. It will suck your life away until you have no will left to even fix it. I can’t tell you when you should leave, but if you’re asking yourself if you should leave for a long time, you should leave.
- Create time for yourself. If you’re in an overwhelming situation, you must create time for yourself. I didn’t do that, and I let my writing slip. You must give yourself mental space. Get out of the house, spend daily time alone, recuperating. If you can’t do this for some reason, see #1.
- Have a schedule. I post on Mondays and I post on Fridays. Those are the days I post come hell or high water. If I didn’t have the schedule, it would be easy to put everything off in favor of the distraction du jour. That’s why I haven’t produced any movies since the first one, I have no schedule. Wednesday. I just decided this very moment, as I typed this: my videos go out on Wednesdays.
- Incorporate your struggles. When I don’t have the energy to write because things are weighing on my mind, I write about those things. Today is unusual because most of the time I write about them without actually saying so. I ask myself: what advice would I like to hear in the situation I’m in now? Then I write that.
- Do it. Look, all this advice boils down to this: if you want to do something, then you have to do it. Just do it. You want to write but you can’t because you’re distraught? Write anyway. You want to paint, program, build, or plan, but you can’t? Yes you can. Just do it.
My wife has been working really hard for the last couple weeks to be sweet, kind, supportive, helpful, and all the things a loving partner should be. I appreciate that, even if it doesn’t always work.
No matter what she does though, I’ve learned my lesson from 2010: I have goals, and I will reach them. I will maintain a positive environment, I set a schedule and I will damn well stick to it. I’ll write even if it takes all damn day typing a few words at a time between staring at the wall, just like this post did.