A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Reaction To Brendan's Birthday

Brendan would have been 37 on the 20th. He was only 19 years old when I fell in love with him. I thought of him on Thursday afternoon while watching a high school soccer match. He had been the star of his high school team. I had seen him play and he had been beautiful, a smart, graceful player but sometimes hot tempered. The soccer team that year at the college had been unusually strong. Most of the players were good if not very good. Many of them had also been star players of their own home towns. They recognized each other having played against each other over the years. Now they were all on the same team. Unfortunately a large chunk of them would fail out of school pretty quickly including Brendan who I found out later had not been going to classes. So for some of them their first time living away from home meant an extended party. I was 27 years old and it was my first time living on my own and I fell right into that extended party. I was an irresponsible fool and I was sick though I only partially realized it. I had been hearing voices for about two or three years. I had been withdrawn, unemployed, living at home, going to art schools. Then I moved far into the country to be near my brother who that year was an assistant coach to his friend the coach. And so I met Brendan through my brother.

On the surface Brendan was very polite and respectful and rather quiet. He came across as a hippie, was into marijuana, playing the guitar and the Grateful Dead. He wore tie dyes and macrame necklaces and wrist bands. I mistook him for a peaceful person. It never entered my head that I could ever be afraid of him. Little did I know that Brendan had a reputation for being both a hard drinker and “a lean, mean fighting machine” as one of his closer friends put it a couple of years later. Most of the players on the team were respectful towards him. I was clueless. I can understand in part why I got involved with Brendan. I was lonely and insecure and he was vital and attentive and attractive but we were both sick and that’s ultimately what cemented the bond. But now I look back and I think, “Kate, how could you have done that?!”
I was not a shining example of virtue and yet I kind of thought I was a good person at the time. But almost from the beginning Brendan looked at me with a prejudiced eye, ignoring his own imperfections while using mine against me. He was someone who was consciously manipulative of people and situations. He had been manipulative long before I met him despite his youth. I, on the other hand, despite living in New York City, had almost unintentionally lived a sheltered life. I didn’t socialize. I didn’t use drugs. I kept to myself. I saw myself as an honest, creative person but I was also deeply ashamed of myself for not working, for remaining dependent on my family.

Why was Brendan manipulative? He grew up very differently than me in a wealthy suburb with Republican parents. He was the youngest and the only son. He had two older sisters. One thing I found out quickly was he disdained his parents, his mother openly and his father privately. He said that his father had been abusive towards him repeatedly, eventually he included, said in various ways at various times, that his father had raped him. I remember contemplating confronting his father about this but I never did. Brendan’s abusiveness towards me had a controlling effect on me and as the years went on I wasn’t sure what was really true or not. He had told me that he had a child by a former girlfriend, he told me he murdered a man to settle a cocaine debt and lastly he told me he had been raped. All of this would have happened by the time he was 18 before he met me. But at the time I believed him and it paralyzed me and I became afraid of him and self-protective. I became the scape goat for whatever happened to Brendan. He saw his father, mother and sisters in me and he would swing from a sentimental love to a merciless hatred. And he was that way, he would both defend his family and despise them almost at the same time.

All I knew was that Brendan had been abused and had become abusive and was a hardcore alcoholic because of it. But I had little experience with abuse and addiction and my inexperience left me wide open to attack. Brendan thought mistakenly that because I grew up in New York City that I was tough but I wasn’t. If anything I was soft and receptive and ignorant. I had even been warned by a couple of people in the City not to be so open. But open I was. I shared everything I had with Brendan before he proved his trustworthiness. My mistake and my choice. He was young and sick and I followed him because I was young (still) and sick too. What a mess both of us were.

But there were times when we just got along and liked each other despite it all and standing on that soccer field on Thursday made me think of Brendan then. It’s amazing that I’m still conflicted about him. I can’t accept that he’s dead. He didn’t deserve the last few years of his life and I feel guilty. I left him the last day of July 1995 and he died May 1999 almost a year after I became paranoid and delusional. I could have done more but he had hurt me in ways that made me just detach from him and his life. At some point I chose myself over him.

I realized yesterday that with this blog I’m actually doing a public 4th Step, trying to take a moral inventory of myself. And what have I found? That I am not as good as I thought I was, nor as bad as I’m afraid I am. I’m somewhere in the middle, neither a heroine nor a villain. What hurts is that I wish I could make amends to Brendan but I can’t. I have to sit with this and work it through. I believe that there is some kind of life after death and I pray that wherever he is, he has a healing reincarnation.

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