Liminal— “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Most common example of a liminal state: the thread between life and death
Reflection: It’s been hitting me that it’s been over 4 years since I’ve been in a relationship. Whether it was seeing everyone at Thanksgiving or hearing from family and friends who’s getting married, starting families, etc., it just hit me really hard. Although technically I’ve been “untouched” for four years, I’ve actually lost that relationship a year before, long before it was officially ended. Doing the first of many crises and breakdowns, my boyfriend at the time took it upon himself to take up a mistress, the woman he chose being a two-faced “friend,” who viewed their affair as a “relationship” although he was with me making the matter much worse. Thankfully, people knew — and to this day know — the facts and unadulterated truth, no pun intended. Why is this relevant? Because it was the start of the liminal point in my first — and to this day only — relationship.
Despite not breaking up yet, we were not together as we once were. We were with one another physically, as in being in the same room and other stuff, but mentally and emotionally, he was not there. That was and wasn’t his fault — my former boyfriend suffers from bipolar disorder. He is manic depressive. During our best and our worst days together, both when we were dating and before when we were just friends, he would erupt in violent mood swings, ranging from punching a wall and verbal screaming and outrage over a small comment or being “upset” to buying loads of gifts for myself and him, doing things and goings places and compulsive spending of his parents’ money whenever he was happy or feeling an emotional “high.” One moment he was an unrecognizable, hateful being, the next he was hardly the fun-loving, funny man whom I loved. This man simultaneously lifted my spirits and was the one thing pushing me down and holding me back.
When we first met in high school, he went to counseling anywhere from once to twice a week. That’s when he was the most balanced, and, despite the fact that the school forced him to go, boasted of its help and encouraged me to seek it for grief therapy when my grandparents and half of my family died within the course of a year. However, once he graduated, no one could force him to go anymore; he decided that rather than officially get diagnosed and psychologically elevated as recommended to him and his parents (they refused because they were in denial, too; now he was 18 and could decide for himself) that “nothing was wrong,” and he’d be fine. A year after that and his moods increased, his mind going very downhill. I loved and to this day love my ex because he was my best friend and first love. Yet even I can’t deny that there were points where I was afraid of him and in fear for my family, friends, and myself. Despite knowing, my support didn’t stop, only increasing, even to the point of becoming draining and overbearing.
Because I focused all my energy on trying to save and appease him, I lost sight sense of myself. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted anymore, both outside and within, always going by him for his approval for every aspect of my appearance and behavior. What started off as me being afraid of losing him and having him “model” me eventually turned into my ex full-on controlling me; if I wanted something that he didn’t like, I wasn’t allowed to buy it. If I received a gift which he thought was “disgusting,” I couldn’t use it in his presence. There is irony to this situation. As his mind declined and behavior became more erratic, his gifts to me grew less and more cheap, dull, and random to match his “mis-matched” moods. Yet God forbid I didn’t like them (and God, forgive me for using Your name this way to make a point), it was the end of the world.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed this — his mother and friends knew, too. We weren’t psychiatrists, but even Stevie Wonder could see that my boyfriend was suffering from bipolar disorder. Perhaps there was even a little borderline [personality disorder] in him, too. What separates and unites us is how we dealt with him as his disorder grew untreated and worse — all of his friends abandoned him, cutting him off. Some told him straight out, others just let the friendships die. Yet despite knowing he was sick, they said he was evil, calling him an “asshole” and wishing bad luck, pain, and violence inflicted unto him. I don’t blame them, I can’t — I’ll be the first one to admit that he would get violent during his low moods. He even hit his old best friend over the head with a glass bottle and blocked it out, getting heartbroken that anyone would accuse him of such a thing. I used to think it was acting, but I’ve seen great “actors” (meaning pathological liars and psychopaths), and he wasn’t one of them; he was sick. He was a good man deep down inside who was seriously, genuinely mentally sick. This realization is heartbreaking within itself.
In the midst of his physical and emotional fits and rages, I pleaded with him to see what was wrong and seek professional help. I told him not to hurt him, but because I loved him, and because I wanted the mental illness to stop destroying our lives and our bond. The response was not as planned — First, he turned the situation on its rear, calling me “abusive,” because I called him “crazy” and “sick.” Sometimes I’d lose my temper and say those words, for that I deeply regret. Yet most of the time I told him in a serious tone, sometimes getting to the point of tears over my heartbreak of how he was denying his illness and letting it destroy him and us. This went on for months. Then during our first breakup, he promised he’d finally get psychologically evaluated. We both believed this action would come, as he’d express his fears over the “what ifs” if the doctors saw there was something wrong. His biggest fear was being locked up in a mental hospital, and I promised I would stick with him and remain by his side no matter what. This leads to the second problem — he lied that he got psychologically evaluated, telling me with joy that the doctors said was “fine.” The story he told was even better, more like Drago’s training in Rocky IV minus the steroids. That’s how I know not he wasn’t the evil monster many portray him out to be because my ex was an atrocious liar; he thought he was a good one, but his over the top stories and facial expressions gave him away (“What’s so funny, [name here]?”). And yes, these increased the longer and longer he went without treatment. Did I believe him? No, but I wanted to. I desperately needed to at that point.
After our break and reconciliation, my ex resumed cheating on me with that “friend.” This time I was being totally blindsided, though I received warnings from my friends and other witnesses caught them together several times. He thought he needed someone physically with him at all time, and because I was going away to school, he replaced me before I even left. He just didn’t want me to know. He thought he found someone who cared about him and could help him, but this poor man was dead wrong. Unlike me, my ex’s mistress used him and his undiagnosed illness as a point for entertainment, thinking it was “hysterical” when he attempted suicide and used to incident to threaten him with leaving and telling me they were “together.” This all came out over a phone call, her bragging about how he almost took his life as he was breaking down before hanging up. Never in my life had I ever heard a human being howl, scream, cry, and act like an animal waiting to be euthanized. I was hurt by his betrayal again, but in the moment of life and death, it meant nothing. The news of my boyfriend putting a gun in his mouth rather then his member in another woman was the saddest moment of my life.
I spent the entire day on the phone with him, from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm, first convincing him not to kill himself, and then making sure he couldn’t run away (I was at my former university at the time and had no access to a car or bus to come down and physically console him). Despite being at my lowest point, I let it go to help him, to encourage him to get on his feet because life goes on, and there is no gift to us more precious than simply being alive. But now I knew our relationship was dead — I couldn’t physically be there to help him, he didn’t have the confidence to go on without a filler, and I was tired of being tired and a shadow of a being with no sense of self or purpose. About a few days later, when I knew his mind was in a semi-better place, I told him to make a decision — me or her. He could no longer have both. But if he chose me, he could never see or speak to her ever again. Pretty hard if they go to the same, mid-size community college and extension sites together, and he’s petrified of being alone, despite how he now saw she was bad for him, only bringing out the worse in everybody (and even if they didn’t fool around, if they were just friends, I would’ve advised the same thing. She was, is, an evil person. If I ever feel comfortable, I’ll write about her as time goes on).
Two weeks went by, and he still didn’t make a decision. One day, I let my anger get the best of me when he uttered, “we’re always be friends no matter what.” Flashback to three years and three months beforehand when we started going out. We didn’t think nor know how serious this would be, and promised to do just that — always remain friends, no matter what. But “no matter what” had gone too far. I laid into him about “is this how you thank me after everything I did for you, I don’t even know who I am anymore because of it,” and his frantic interruptions became too much. “Fuck you, you’re dead to me!,” I yelled, hanging up the phone. I cracked — it was done. He called back, and I didn’t answer. Our relationship was over, just like that. Three years of love, trust, heartache, and pain sliced through his its by my words — “Fuck you, you’re dead to me.” And thus the liminal period of our relationship, and the whole thing in general, had come to a scratching end.
The liminal period of my relationship with my ex-boyfriend haunted me for years. Parts of it still hurt me to this day, two of them being how I could let myself go so long to hold onto something basically dead and also how I ignored the signs of my then-boyfriend’s mental illness for so long and dealt with trying to tell him the wrong way. We have zero contact (haven’t spoken to him in what will be 4 years in March), but I hear stories of him from friends, colleagues, my sister’s close friend who lives around the block from him, etc. He hasn’t gotten better, in fact only worse. I always used to feel guilty years ago, but I hardly do now. I was young, all but a child and not awakened to real life things and the appropriate responses to dealing with them. I was young and foolish, yet having and possessing a good heart. It came in handy as I dealt with such a hard and heavy deck of cards in life that I was forced to deal as good as I did. I used to think, and ponder deep into thought why– why did this happen like that? Why have this happen at all? Why did my boyfriend have to have mental illness? How could God allow mental illness to even exist? Like the dramatic leading up to and breakup? Why not waste away and grow apart like most people do? But then I get my answer that this is why liminal phases happen — to bridge the gap from one point to another. It can be as painless or painful as we make of it; unfortunately, we humans 9/10 times choose the latter, perhaps because we are so afraid of letting go. Therefore, one must learn to cut the cord, to jump off the cliff, take the big leap of faith and leave the former life behind when the time is right before it eats and wastes away at yourself until there’s nothing left, no matter how difficult or heartbreaking it might be. As Jerry Garcia says in the Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey,” “I will get by. I will get by. I will get by-iy-y, I will survive.” We do get by — we get by all the time. Happy reading, everybody ❤ .
via Daily Prompt: Liminal