Borderlines and Their Banners

To be a Borderline is akin to being ruled by mercurial, weather-induced mood swings.

Imagine a bright blue sky, full of warm and comforting sunshine. As you hike underneath that beautiful firmament, it feels like happiness will eternally reign over all of your days. And then? A cloud rolls in. Just one, singular, menacing cloud. As it slowly floats in front of the sun, terrifying shadows creep across the landscape. There is a slight, but tangible, chill that brushes against your skin; and in the absence of light, your heart fills with darkness. You can’t remember the kiss of happy sunlight from moments before. There are no cheerful hues to be drawn from the scene in front of you — only gloomy variations of coal-colored inks. And there is an unquestionable, frightening knowing that this — this horrible monochromatic mood, devoid of any joy — is where you will spend the rest of your life.

In psychology, this is described as “black and white thinking”. Borderlines do not live in the in-between, where most of life takes place. We reside in the extremes — it’s all good, or it’s all bad. And sadly, those who are closest to us do not go untouched by this somewhat wonky world view. People are either heroes, or they are villains — never just people.

Hoisting the White Flag

While I was busy writing yesterday morning about the issues in my marriage, (unbeknownst to me) Mitch was out in the backyard picking up the dog poop. I expressed my extreme gratitude for this gesture, and my husband apologized for having taken so long to get around to it — and just like that, Mitchell went from the captain of doom and gloom to my shining white knight… and this morning, I woke up happy.

The dishes are still piled in the sink, the weeds still reign supreme over the yard, and I (rather blissfully) don’t give a shit, because my husband kept some of his word. So today, the man can do no wrong… until he does. There’s always the risk that he will say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and that damnable cloud will bring the house down through an unpredictable swing into darkness.

The Witch Bitch Touches Them All

My family has lived with the blight of my mental illness for many years, and I cannot imagine what that has been like for them. I have seen my husband’s eyes fill with caution when faced with the enormity of the Witch Bitch’s rage — it is the same harrowing caution that filled the eyes of my parents before him. (Witch Bitch is the name I have given my darker side.) I have seen the tears fall when “Hold On” by Chord Overstreet, or “Try Losing One” by Tyler Braden, sorrowfully flows through the car speakers, because their voices are his. He’s been there, and lived to tell the tale.

Mitchell has returned home to find Lenny (our basset hound that has passed through the veil) crying at the bathroom door. He has opened that door with the horrible knowledge that I am unconscious — by my own hand (and not for the first time) — on the other side. He has stood by, helpless and terrified, as EMTs thread a central line in a desperate attempt to keep me alive. He has sat in hospital waiting rooms as my stomach is pumped, and an intubation tube is put in place. Mitch has listened to doctors tell him that if I return, I will never be the same.

In my last attempt — the one that took me dangerously close to the reaper’s door — Mitch was forced to make a terrible decision: should he tell my family what had happened? (It had been less than a year since the previous attempt; and that event scared the holy living shit out of my son.) Ultimately, my husband decided that he didn’t want Bug (i.e. my son), nor my parents, to have to see me on life support. If I died, he thought it might be easier for them to accept without being exposed to the additional pain he was suffering through… he didn’t want them to remember me in such a dreadful, motionless tableau. That was a burden he was willing to carry for them. It was a decision, born out of kindness, that caused a rift between Mitch and my mother.

And yet, I forget these things too easily. I wasn’t present in those awful eras of darkness… I unwittingly laid that responsibility on Mitch. And to his credit, he has never walked away from the ever-present fear that it could happen again. Swiftly, and without warning. He lives under constant threat of the Borderline within.

Owning My Sins

To have the audacity to complain that my husband is less than a hero is a shameful part of who I fundamentally am. I get wrapped up in my emotions, forgetting that Mitchell is depleted in his own — constantly exhausted by the ever-changing emotional currents in our home.

Mitch must check the temperature and tension of the room before deciding how to approach me; and his rather accurate barometer of my moods does not defend him against the inexplicable rage that is sometimes brewing within the confines of my uniquely crazy mind. Unfailingly, he knows I have gone dark before I do… but trying to warn me of this fact only causes an ugly backlash from the Witch Bitch.

Sometimes, Love IS Enough

Together, we have learned to better navigate the volatile nature of my disease. (And yes, a mental health disorder is very much a disease.) In the rare instances that I can detect the Witch Bitch creeping up to the mic, I am more adept at biting my tongue. I am short with my husband out of necessity. Every response to his well-meaning inquiries is bitten off and spit at him.

“Honey, are you alright?” is answered with a brooding glare and a short, “I’m fine.”

“Baby, what can I do for you right now?” is followed by a sigh that borders on hostile, and a well-known seven-letter curse word (at least, in my house), “Nothing.”

In these moments, it would be better for Mitch to get some distance from my seething fury; and yet, he usually stays close, knowing it’s at his own peril.

My husband is not perfect. (Who among us is?) He has his faults, and his failings; but so do I. (Though I don’t write about my own nearly as often as I write about his.)

And on the days that I am fortunate enough to wake up under the white banner (versus the black), it is important that I document his small acts of heroism… because Mitch is so much more than I often make him out to be.

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