The wife of a bipolar husband builds sandcastle walls while the tide rushes in. A storm surge reminds her there is nothing left to do, or be.
A vision came to me. I was standing on a dock over a stormy inlet. There were white caps in the water and the wind was blowing from the north, rain was hitting me hard in the face. I was holding a prickly fisherman’s rope that held a small wooden skiff in the water. The boat bounced and rolled over the waves. I felt a tug with each crest, I screamed over the wind and rain, “GET INTO THE BOAT!”
Bill was in the water. He was treading the black choppy water in panic within an arm’s length from the boat. All he had to do was scuddle his way into the boat and I would pull him to shore. He just looked at me as he swallowed water and waves crashed over his head. “GET INTO THE BOAT!!” I screamed again, while holding on with two hands. The rope slipping through my hands each moment he stayed in the water. I was pitched forward over the edge of the dock trying to hold on with all my strength. He saw me struggling, however he wouldn’t move towards the boat. I rejected the thought to dive into the water and try to save him. I knew If I did, he would drown me trying to save himself. He would hold me down, pushing his head above mine grasping for air. His panic, pain and ability to save himself would become my demise. I pleaded for him again, “Please, get in the boat”
The children needed a parent back on land, they needed someone showing them how to hold tight and when to surrender to a higher power. I would soon have to let go of the rope. I couldn’t hold on any longer. My strength could not, would not be in vain to this cycle of pleading, holding, pleading, holding.
Bill continued to tread water in front of the boat. He looked at me from the water in desperation, perhaps thinking I would eventually take the dive into the water to save him, because that is what I had always done, I had sacrificed myself for the family time and time again. I had become the lifeguard for those around me, yet who would save me if I needed help? Who is holding the rope with me now? In the vision I became resigned, almost relaxed, void of anger, to this undeniable truth. I am no longer supposed to be his keeper, that isn’t my purpose any longer. I peeled my eyes away from his stare, we both knew what the eventual outcome was to be.
I summoned the last bit of strength, looked to the purple horizon in the distance, where the storm was starting to clear, opened my hands, letting the rope slip from them. My hands were curled, red and chapped against the thick grey braid that was passing through them, burning with release. Slowly, I turned away from him, steadily walked off the dock, back onto land where the ground was steady, where there is shelter in my own heart without the brackish weight of trying to save someone. I laid down my marriage as gently as I could. I laid it at my feet, and I surrendered. I let God hold the rope.
Bill would swim, he would figure it out without me there…Walking up the green lawn, I could see the pink dawn rising through the reflection from the window of the yellow house where my children watched. The place where my heart was beckoning with a steady rhythm, “Over-here” I was on a new path. The path was about rebuilding, discovering and delivering to myself. The path of unrealized potential that runs beneath each of us, the path of unmet life purpose our soul beckons for each and every day.
You are going to be O.K.
Note: This reflection was four years ago. Bill and I have divorced and we are both doing O.K. and continue to talk. Mental illness and suicide is very serious. In no way am I making light of mental illness. I am expressing my thoughts at the time as a spouse of someone with Bipolar Disorder.