Drowning In A Sea Of Asperger’s (Part 1)
For 27 years, I was married to a man who was bipolar. One minute he would yell and the next minute he would be nice. My mom did not validate my need to divorce. To this day she questions whether I am better off divorced. Sure, it’s hard to survive financially, especially when he gives me zero child support, but the peace and tranquility outweigh financial challenges.
Baruch Hashem I have five sons, so there is always someone around to make Kiddush – and if there isn’t, I read Hebrew too. For those people who are struggling in abusive relationships, my message is that there is life after divorce and that life, for the most part, is peaceful and pleasant.
I hope that my story will help others who find themselves in similar circumstances, so that they may save their sanity before it is too late.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Mommy, the police are looking for you.”
Bile threatened to explode in my throat as I went to the door to acknowledge the unexpected intrusion.
Maybe they were traffic cops who noted my speeding down the Tappan Zee Bridge on my daily commute to the South Bronx.
“Are you Samantha M.?” asked one of the two uniformed cops flanking my doorway.
“We have papers for you.” I was offered a packet.
“You really don’t know what this is all about, do you?” asked the bewildered officer.
I had some inkling, probably due to all those support groups for abused women that I had attended. But I wasn’t about to make his job any easier. “I really don’t know, but I am sure that you are about to tell me.”
“I have papers for you from Ronald M.,” he explained.
I interrupted with a burst of nervous energy. “Ronald M.? Why, Ronald M. is upstairs, at the dining room table. If he wishes to give me papers, why not simply give them to me instead of hiring you to come to my house to give me papers from him” I stopped to gasp for air.
“He lives here?” the cop asked. “He lives in the house?”
“Unfortunately,” I admitted, “but in a separate bedroom, as per doctor’s orders.”
“Should the children be around while I clarify the material?”
“I have no secrets from my children. I won’t summon the others for some impromptu show, but the children who are present may remain.”
My two sons moved closer to me as the officer reluctantly revealed the contents of a thick transcript. “Ronald M. accuses you of behaving in an abusive manner,” he began. “In 2000 you punched Ronald M., causing retinal detachment in his eye. In 1995 you bit him…”
“Is the monster who has abused me for more than 25 years claiming that I am victimizing him?” I asked, astounded.
“Yes,” the policeman calmly verified, “and if you go upstairs to confront him, you will be violating the Order of Protection.”
“Do you think I plan to be in his vicinity any more than I have to?” My tone softened. “My husband is fragmented. He expects me to take the papers from you, place them on my dresser, then come downstairs and join him for the meal. I don’t think so.”
Turning to the children, my heart breaking, I told them I was sorry. Blinking back burning tears, I forced myself to continue. I’m going next door to eat the Shabbos meal. Tell the rest of the children that I apologize, but I cannot be at the same table with him.”
I found myself snarling at the law enforcers who had unwittingly just turned my life upside down. “I am permitted to leave the house, am I not? I don’t have to remain in the company of the man I have been accused of victimizing.”
“That would be a wise course of action to take,” one officer affirmed.
Kissing my children good-bye, I retreated to the home of my neighbor. Together we would examine the papers served by him – while he presided over the dining room table, pretending all was right in his world.
For 27 years I lived with a man who hid his anger under a veneer of normality. Stephen King could replicate the scene, details intact, and then adeptly uncover the abnormal within the ordinary, the terror beneath the staid. Ronald M., a quintessential Stephen King character, stalked the earth, latent rage hidden beneath a flimsy veil of ordinariness. Mild mannered in appearance, the Clark Kent parody needed no telephone booth to facilitate his transformation. Able to metamorphose instantly by connecting to the horror within, Ronald effortlessly tapped into a dormant underlying rage, changing instantly into Super Horror.
I thought it normal to witness his explosions, and then a half hour later his suggestion that we go out to eat. I would often crawl into bed awash in tears because he had yelled at me for burning the spaghetti, or for writing too many checks – only to have him wake me a couple of hours later for mandatory intimacy.
Had I imagined the yelling? Maybe I was being overly sensitive. He couldn’t have really meant it. He did invite me out to dinner afterwards, didn’t he? Such were my thoughts as I made a desperate attempt to make sense of a discombobulated existence. There was nothing strange with my husband’s volcanic eruptions one moment and his calm demeanor the next. To me, it was part of daily living. In fact, it was insane.
An undiagnosed mentally ill spouse, he possessed an array of symptoms ranging from bipolar, borderline personality, to unadulterated temperamental rage. I cohabitated with a walking time bomb for more than two decades, never knowing what would set him off. When people asked how I’d managed for so long, I replied dismissively, “You get used to anything.”
(To be continued)