A Public Letter to My ExHusband

Dear Dan,

Got the call last night, that they put you in the hospital again. This time, they found you lying in bed with a knife by your side. When asked what your intentions were, you told them that you were thinking of hurting yourself. Naturally, the Doctors said to bring you in at once.

They counted your meds and found that it had been over a month since you took them regularly. The hallucinations became your reality and there was no amount of logic that could convince you otherwise. You’ve allowed yourself to shrivel into a caricature of a human being, looking and acting decades older than your 67 years. Your guardians said that we wouldn’t even recognize you. But remember, we saw you at Christmas and while you did look a little worse for the wear, your mind was clearer than it had been in years and you were having a grand time.

You are in the best place possible for where you are mentally and emotionally. They will take care of you, see that you take your medications and that you will connect with people. This may not cure you but it is designed to help you regain your strength so you can live on your own, in your own home.

I cannot imagine what it is like to go through the peaks and valleys of your existence. At the risk of sounding cold, I am not seeking to imagine it either. There are things that are not ours to know. My knowledge of “why” will do nothing to change your circumstances. In fact, constantly thinking of you in your present circumstances, holds you there in my mind. That doesn’t help you either. I would much rather hold onto a happier image.

When we were married, our homes were never large but we always had two things, comfy cushions upon which to sit and one, clean, white wall to use as a movie screen. Of course, there were drinks, and plenty of freshly popped, buttered corn!

You were the proud owner of 500 super 8 films. These were the classics that people love to gather to watch. As you set up your projector for the movie night, you moved with precision and grace. Those films had been well cared for, and this is your moment to let them shine.

You chose each offering for the evening with the purpose of creating a completely fulfilling experience, much like a chef would design a 4-course meal. There would be a cartoon, a short (or two) and a full-length feature.  All of these tied together by a common theme and you educated the curious audience with trivia that left them in awe. It worked and everyone reminded you to let them know when the next movie night would happen so they could make sure they were in attendance.

This is the you I keep in my mind’s eye. This confident, happy man who was as caught up in the experience as anyone else in the room. This person who loved sharing encyclopedic knowledge as freely as some enjoy whistling. This person who devoted himself to the preservation and appreciation of classic cinema, in thought, word and deed.

It has taken your 4 suicide attempts, numerous hospitalizations and many nights and days of soul searching (on my part) to realize that you had been suffering with mental illness long before I met and married you. Perhaps, you thought life would be different with a wife and that somehow everything would sort itself out. I imagine that you were just as disillusioned as was I when we couldn’t make it work. I know that neither you, your family, my family and our friends ever forgave me for leaving.

Even in the face of what you have dealt with in the past 28 years since our divorce, it took me until your first suicide attempt, 3 years ago, to forgive myself. It was at that time that I realized that it was mental illness that robbed us of the opportunity of having a happy life together. Not knowing what to do was no one’s fault, so I forgave you as well.

While I cannot create in your world, I can create a world within me in which the happy you can live. Feel free to visit the world of my mind, anytime. I’ll make sure to have popcorn on hand, comfy cushions to sit upon and one clean, white wall upon which you can project good times.

God Bless you, Annette Rochelle

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60 responses to “A Public Letter to My ExHusband

  1. What a powerful story and letter. This is how mental illness impacts people on such a deep level. And it’s a reminder that there is help. My wishes for peace to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very powerful story, Annette. Mental illness isn’t easy to fight with or against. Best wishes to both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. God bless him Indeed Annette. You were in no way to blame. Mental illness is so hard on both the sufferer and those around them 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Michael Phelps 1's DAVID JANSSEN ~ Our Conversations Blog and commented:
    A logical solution for what you have lived through.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Metal illness that is not treated correctly is a great tragedy, Annette. The sufferers inflict a lot of damage on those around them. My sister was engaged to a man who suffered from bio-polar disorder and it nearly destroyed her. She too found the strength to leave him and restart her life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And he doesn’t really want the treatment, so even the Doctors cannot mandate anything. Yes, Dan was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder, among other issues. In retrospect, I can see the signs, at the time, everyone had me convinced it was all me. God Bless your sister. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Annette.As a psychiatrist, I’ve seen things from the other side, and you are right, even when the person might respond to the right treatment, it is often a struggle to make them see that they need it, and things get more difficult if there are circumstances that complicate matters. Some laws can help but usually only when there is a risk to self or others. All illnesses are difficult, but those who make the people we know and love change their behaviour are terrible. You did all you could and more. A very brave letter. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Olga, I value your comments tremendously. Thank you so much. We used to have hospitals where people like Dan could live but over time, they were closed. Now, unless there are family members or friends around to see to it that he has even the most minimal of care, he is left to fend for himself. Dan is blessed that he has such a family in his corner. They provide him with a place to live, food and friendship but I can hear it in their voices that they are frustrated with his illness. They have finally realized that he will never be the man they met nearly 20 years ago and it could be another 20 before he succumbs to death. They are legally his guardians, so this IS their responsibility. I was brought into this years ago because I was the only one they knew who could answer some personal questions. Since then, I have been kept in the loop. It’s okay, because I understand. I pray for everyone to find peace, in whatever way that comes about.

      Like

  7. This hits home. Mental illness can steal life away from the one who is ill and the one trying to help and support. Thank you for sharing, Annette.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You have shared with us one of the most painful sagas of your life. it makes your positive outlook on life even more meaningful.

    Many of the greatest artists and musicians over the centuries would have been considered mentally ill today. That said, it’s one thing to enjoy the beauty of their artistry and symphonies, yet another to live with the human vessel that created it.

    In my mind, “For better or worse” means you weather storms that are not of your making, both of you stronger against it together. It takes the efforts of 2 people to make the marriage work. Life is too short to be tethered to someone else’s tempest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When a psychiatrist wanted to have ME committed, years after our divorce, I gathered my siblings and Dan together to let them know. He stood up and apologized to me and my family for working so hard to make everyone believe I was crazy. He told them that all the things everyone else was blaming me for in our marriage were things HE was responsible for. My life started to heal at that point and his began to get progressively worse. Making my life one of appreciation and gratitude has been my saving grace.While it hasn’t change anything from the past, it has changed how I relate to it all. God Bless us, everyone. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • You have brought to the fore one of the most dangerous things about the power that has been given to psychiatrists. What if your ex hadn’t done the right thing? Would you have been committed? Did you know that at the turn of the 20th century women were committed into institutions for being “loose?” It brings to bear that the definition of “insanity” depends greatly upon who is defining it.

        Your appreciation and gratitude for life has helped many others.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Annette, although this was a tough one to “like,” I loved reading such an amazing tribute to the Higher Self that is your ex-husband. I will hold a space for the forgiveness from all the “higher selves” of those who currently resent you for taking care of YOU to flow into this world so that they are able to embrace the loving spirit that you ARE.

    There is so much *more* we need to know and do to ease the suffering that results from mental illness. We do what we can to promote understanding and acceptance, right? Excellent post – very brave – and all of the comments were wonderful to read.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • *tears* In so many ways, he was the most delightful person. Charming, funny, intelligent, good looking and soft spoken. To this day, my cousins ask after him and as they know nothing of his struggles, of late, they have only the good memories. I am grateful for that. I, too, cherish those good memories. The frightening memories of the abusive side he never let anyone else see? Well, I work diligently to remind myself they are only shadows of a past I left behind (the PTSD self-work). It gets easier and I am grateful for each day that I have on this side of the pain. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Intricacies and heart felt explanations. A piece both sad and hopeful. In its completeness, a wonderful use of pen on paper. Bravo, brave Annette.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a difficult situation. Trying to make things work and not knowing that the reason for the problems is an invisible rival. I admire you and have the biggest respect that you pulled the plug in the knowing that you won’t be understood by anyone. It is what has held me back for so many years. I am glad you finally forgave yourself 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Erika. I remember this one co-worker of Dan’s standing out in the street while I was moving out of our home, after the divorce. He was ranting Bible verses at me, calling me the whore of Babylon, etc. I turned to Dan and told him that if he didn’t stand up for me and tell this man to leave me alone, I was going to run him over with my car. Dan went into the house and the man continued his tirade. (deep sigh) there are moments and there are moments, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can relate to that more than you may imagine, although the situation you described here is a multiple of what I experienced. To me, it feels like one of the ways you can hurt a person the deepest when you are attacked (with words or physically) or offended by others and the person that is supposed to stand up for you turns away and you are left outside alone. Those are the loneliest moments. Also I am not understood what my problem was with that… but at some point we have to stand up for ourselves no matter what the rest of the world says!
        You are an amazing person and my respect and admiration for you only grows! 💖

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Jeez, Annette, you touched my heart so deeply, I’m still crying. You are such a beautiful soul. You’re keeping the light on for Dan, thinking of and treating him as his true self. The cushions, popcorn, and white wall add a loving touch. Bless you, my sweet friend. You are a beacon of hope in the world 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • I could choose anger or compassion and the choices are as much for me as they are for him. Believe me, it took quite a bit of thinking to remember something that was consistently a good memory and this was it! I believe through the use of higher consciousness conversations, we can speak to our souls. As NDW spoke about in The Little Soul and The Sun, there is always a higher connection. And in the end, we are all just people, walking each other home. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
    Annette Rochelle Aben has gifted us with a thoughtful and emotional glimpse of what it’s like to deal with mental illness in the family. Please, read on…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: #ShiningLight Annette Rochelle Aben | TINA FRISCO

  15. Reblogged this on Siân Glírdan and commented:
    Re-blogging this in memory of my own husband who stood in Annette’s and rarely put a foot wrong, even when I was in the blackest depths.
    Carers of people with mental ailments are the true heroes as they suffer alongside their loved one and have to watch the walls crumble and warp. Kudos to you, Annette, for having the courage to know when to stay and when to leave. I hope Dan knows this somehow and can come and stay in your creative refuge from time to time. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You struck a true and enlightening chord for many with this Annette, – it MUST be shared as much as possible! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Such a moving letter. That must have been a powerful moment when you realized that it was the mental health problems that came between you two and ultimately caused the breakdown of the relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Yes, it was quite the revelation. Here, we had been blaming each other AND while that made no sense, it seemed logical. Each of us had so may ways we reacted to the stress of it all and most of those ways were NOT pretty. It was hard to tell what was reaction and what was not. In the end, it needed to end.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Annette,

    I had to read this post twice to make sure I understood the purpose. When someone threatens our existence, to survive you do have to break the ties as you did. I know the guilt, yet I don’t understand it fully. I compare it to when I continually tried to please my abusive parents even as an adult, thinking I was the one at fault. The guilt makes no sense, yet we carry it.

    With your previous piece where you apologize to yourself, this piece is equally revealing. This post fits the puzzle piece in place to understand the first. In both cases, it took fortitude to write them, not alone post them. You are a strong woman. I feel privileged to have met you. I feel a camaraderie with you now. We both pulled ourselves out of an abusive situation and overcame the self-demons.

    Both of the aforementioned post are powerful and I thank you for sharing them with us. God Bless. DOUBLE HUGS

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Chuck. It took me y-e-a-r-s to get my act together. It wasn’t until Dan was diagnosed, that I figured it out. Then the emotional roller coaster took me all over the place. My mother had a similar illness and I had always wished she could have had a happier life while she was alive. Dan’s guardians reached out to me for several reasons, not the least of which was because I had pieces of the puzzle of his life that was important in his treatment. Not a problem. Happy to help. We are all just people and if he can live a happier life, I wish that for him. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. God Bless you both, Annette. It can’t have been easy for you at the time, especially not realising what was wrong. Mental illness is so debilitating and the effects widespread. It doesn’t help that everyone thought you were in some way to blame for leaving him,
    I am glad that you have found your peace and I hope that Dan finds his too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Judy. I appreciate the well wishes. There is so much that both our backgrounds contributed to our behaviors. I was used to being abused by a mentally ill mother and he was used to abusing his mother, so he took the place of my mother and I took the place of his mother. Funny thing was, I would hear how he spoke to his mother and think, what the heck… and he would see how my mother treated me and ignore it. Until the day we told her we were getting a divorce. She slugged me in the face so hard that it knocked me over, chair and all. He freaked out, and I was laughing. When he asked her why she hit me, she went off on what a piece of crap I was and how she was so sorry that I had ruined his life. Then he asked me why I was laughing. I told him that since someone other than family saw her hit me, she’d never do it again. She lived another 20 years and she NEVER hit me again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • God, Annette, that really was a marriage made in hell! I am so sorry for what you went through with not just him but your mother too. You must have felt awful growing up when your mum was treating you so badly. I am happy she never hit you again after that, but what a shocking thing to happen. You have gone through so much yet are always so positive and such a lovely person.I am so proud of having you a a friend 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

  20. A very poignant letter Annette that strikes a chord. When others cannot see anything but the good looks, charm and wit when there is an audience but not the man who cannot live with himself it is very hard. You have come through and reached a point where you are above the clutter and see clearly. I wish you much love and happiness where you are now. hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Annette, this is such a poignant real piece of writing. You’re on your way, my dear friend, of letting go and flying free. I’m so proud of you. It was never your fault at all. Love ya! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Colleen. ❤ I was just gobsmacked by the flood of emotions it evoked within me when I got that call the other day. Writing seemed to be the only way for me to move through it and let it go! God Bless us, everyone. Thank you for sharing. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can only imagine. Why is it we look within our own selves to explain why things happen that we had no control over? I’m glad you did, though and am happy at your outcome. Love and hugs, my friend. I am only a phone call away. ❤

        Liked by 2 people

  22. Thanks for sharing your big heart while informing others, we can’t always fix people. That used to be my problem when I endured a relationship with a psychopathic bi-polar man. We can only move on and share our wisdoms in hopes that others won’t have to endure. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday 9th August 2017 – Susan Toy, Annette Rochelle Aben, D.G. Kaye with Tina Frisco, Sue Vincent with Judith Barrow | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  24. Annette – I don’t know how to start, this is such powerful message, very balanced and measured words. This is a wisdom, wake up call…wow!!

    Liked by 1 person

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