I knew my ex-boyfriend Will* was different the day I met him. I couldn't put my finger on it. He was tense in his social interactions and didn't like making eye contact. My friends and I thought he may have had a form of autism. He could be extremely quiet and mellow. I'm mellow too, so I was happy to have found someone as introverted as myself. As I got to know Will better I forgot about his shortcomings. I just saw the person behind the layers of walls he put up in front of those he didn't know well. I chose to focus on his positive attributes, like his great sense of humor and his musical talent. Sometimes he would say profound things and leave me in awe. Other moments I wished I could pull him out of his deep, dark thoughts.
There were times when we'd be lying in bed together quietly and then boom, out of nowhere he'd snap and accuse me of "playing games" with him. "I'm not a toy!," he blurted out once. I knew his guard was up but I hadn't given him a reason not to trust me. Later he apologized. We took a long, hot shower together. He kissed me deeply and said he was sorry. He stood before me and washed my hair, massaging my scalp. I'd never been so intimate with anyone. I forgave him. We moved forward but the wild accusations continued, worsened.
It didn't help that I was occupied as a stripper and worked in a tempting environment. One slip-up sent us on a downward spiral. If there was once any trickle of trust, it had dried up. He accused me of sleeping with our landlord, and then my music producer. Both accusations were baseless. On another occasion he thought I was hitting on his dad. Will always thought I was scheming, even if I wasn't. Let me be clear--I was not a model girlfriend. I made mistakes and my ex-boyfriend was very forgiving. But things got to be too much and we broke up.
We were together for the better part of a year but I didn't learn about his condition until after our demise. A couple months after we stopped dating I called Will's mom to see if she could get him to stop contacting me. I didn't want to resort to law enforcement. She told me Will was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the mental illness characterized by bouts of depression and extreme happiness. I began to connect the dots. When we were getting to know each other he said he didn't trust easily. That's a cliche I've heard many times so I didn't think much of it. Later I learned that paranoia is a characteristic of the disease, along with impulsive behavior. Everything started to make sense.
Dating a person with bipolar disorder made breaking up more terrible than it already was. Some days he would try to patch things up, and other days he waged war against me. I received flowers, music, chocolate, and perfume as he tried to woo me back. Then he broke into my apartment and stole my laptop. He harassed friends and business partners of mine. He called my mom and disparaged me. My cell phone was thrown out of a window. He left voicemail messages reminding me that I'm a "narcissistic cunt".
All these things angered me but I seem to have an infinite well of forgiveness for this man I once loved. We had extreme highs in our relationship. At some level I think I'm one of the only people who understands him. I don't talk to him anymore but I receive the occasional email or social media comment. I've learned not to respond and I've learned to forgive.
I hope he finds peace.
* indicates name has been changed