Fighting Back : A Bus Story

This bus. This is the same bus I take to and from work all of the time. Same routes, same drivers, and generally the same people.

Not a whole lot changes in my life. Steady job, happily married, a resident of my neighborhood for more than two cumulative decades. It is not monotonous in the slightest. It is stable.

Because, regardless of the things that remain concrete, I am always evolving, always flowing, and fluctuating. I am up; I am down. I do not have the luxury of having a constant mental state, where everything is perceived exactly as is was yesterday, and the day before that. Also, I do not have consistency within myself and my emotions to risk tipping the scales.  The cost is too great. 

I am more than content to go on living my life in the same way, unlike many others.  Why?  Because I have endured so much and worked so hard to get to this point.  Right here, where I undoubtedly believe that there are concrete things to grab onto when I’m sliding, and I have at least a modicum of clarity about myself, my present, and my future.

It’s this clarity that keeps me intact.

The predictability that I am going to wake up next to my husband, poke around on WordPress, play with my son, feed us, walk down the street, and hop on the same bus, at the same time, with the same driver to go to the same place I went the day before.

I do that backward in the evening.

I wrote this to a friend, soon after I wrote Pause. Skip. Fast-Forward.

“My mind feels like it fell from a skyscraper and shattered on the ground, 100 stories below. That’s the kind of wreckage we’re talking about. Not only did I leave an impact crater, I’m practically dust at the bottom of it. I can’t think, and I’m overwhelmed by this horrid, damaged feeling.

. . . I was handling it pretty well from moment to moment because they were pretty pronounced from one another, and rather short. Now, I’m pretty sure something tipped me off of my precarious ledge. It doesn’t matter what the causation was, because it’s not going to act as an antidote.

It was coming anyway. Three months in the making.

. . . I can’t trust anything I say, think, or do right now . . .

A few nights ago, I found myself standing at my same stop, waiting for my same bus, having a conversation with C.S. about our respective days.  They had been rough ones.  C.S. was dealing with a defaulted loan, and several accounts that were flaming turds at work.  I had bombed an observation at work, and was dealing with a potential denial from unemployment regarding my lack of work over the summer.  Everything was off kilter, and I had been for several weeks prior to these events.

My way home.

In the 99 Quirks of Lulu, in #2 and #5, I describe certain phobias I have.  So, when I board a bus, I naturally take the seat right in front of the backdoor.  On these buses, there is a plexiglass barrier between that seat and the door.  I am positioned properly, and it alleviates claustrophobia.  I can see everyone who can get to me.  I am close enough to the front of the bus, near the driver, without occupying a disabled seat, and I have an easily accessible exit.

Of course, I always survey my surroundings, without making eye contact.  There were five other people on the bus with me.  A larger, middle-aged man in jeans, who sat two seats in front of me.  A 50-something year old woman, with short poofy hair, dyed auburn, with grey roots coming in, seated a seat behind and across the aisle.  A man occupying a disabled seat in the front, and a male and a female in the very back.

I chatted with C.S., upset by the events that were simultaneously occurring.  It is the same ritual that occurs every night, usually minus the serious conversation.  And everything was in it’s right place.

I take notice of when anyone moves around on the bus.  I have been accosted more than once while en route, so I am always cautious.  The man had been casting me glances, obviously unaware that I had noticed.  The woman got up, and leaned across the aisle to speak with the man.  I continued on with C.S., still perfectly aware of what was going on around me.

She leaned in toward me, close enough for my eyes to focus in on her greyish, crooked front teeth, and scolded loudly, growling, “You know, there are other people on this bus.”

Seeing red again, seeing red again…

Typically, I go unprovoked. I would ignore such a person and prattle louder, in the attempt to defy the other person. But, something triggered. I could feel it in the millisecond before my response. It was like the click of hammer when a gun is fired. And the projectile came out.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be off soon enough,” I replied bitingly, knowing my stop was just a few minutes away.

She snarled, sinking back into her seat, “You know, you don’t have to talk so loudly.”  Funny thing was, I was not talking loudly.  I was speaking in my normal voice, on a bus quiet enough to rival a library.

“Actually, this is me talking loudly.  Just so you can tell,”  I retorted, even louder this time.  I did not swear, threaten, or get up.

“As if it’s all that important.”  Clearly, she was regarding me as some teenage idiot prattling idly to her boyfriend on her cell phone, gossiping nonsensically about this and that.  Looks are deceiving.  She should have learned already in her long life to never take anything at face value.

And I raged, speaking to her as if I were scolding a student for extraordinary misconduct, “Yeah, actually it is important.  This is about my life.  Not your life.  And if you were actually listening as you clearly indicated you could have been by the volume of my voice, you would know what I was talking about.  But no, you don’t, because it’s all about you.”  She didn’t have anything else to say.  Her body language indicated she was terrified, as she became smaller, and smaller in the corner of her seat.

Meanwhile, C.S. was in my earpiece talking me off the ledge.  “Stop talking.  Ignore her.  Just stop talking to her,”  he repeated.

I got home, and we were fixing dinner.  He said to me, “I didn’t tell you to back off because I thought it was the right thing to do.  I was sitting there, listening to this, thinking to myself, ‘What would I do if someone fired their mouth off to me after a bad day?’  And I thought, ‘I’d probably punch her in the face.’  Or at least, I’d want to.  I wasn’t about to bail you out of jail tonight.”

The thing was, physical violence didn’t occur to me until I was already home, ranting about that scene with C.S.  I said to him, “Her posture indicated that she was actually afraid of me.  She should have been.  She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with.

I continued, “I’m going to go ahead and assume that she is near retirement age, by the greys in her hair, and likely had to stay late at work, in a job she hates, because I’ve never seen her on that bus before.  She had a bad day, was irritated, and was looking for someone to take it out on.  So, she is irritated by what looks like easy prey.  I hope she learned her lesson.”

After a few days of mulling this over, I realized what the click was.  I perceived her as a bully.  She matched multiple descriptions of my personal definition of a bully.  Clearly, she didn’t live in my lower-class neighborhood, because she was not even close to gathering her belongings for departure.  In all likelihood, she was riding to the Park N Ride two townships over, so she could drive the hill to the well-to-do part of town.  Match number one, someone with higher socioeconomic standing.  Match number two, she was older than me.  She had a sense of entitlement, as if I had to do what she said, just because she felt a certain way.  Match number three, some kind of social standing, or concept of authority.

Three strikes, you’re out.  I fought back.  Like I’ve been wanting to do my whole life.  And guess what?  I won.

Unfortunately, it took being severely unhinged to do it.

6 thoughts on “Fighting Back : A Bus Story

  1. First, good for you for standing your ground and being you. It doesn’t mean that you let yourself get the best of you, it means that you believed in yourself. Also, I have to go back to the beginning of your post…you mention that you thrive on the stability? I have said for years that my ex has symptoms of bi-polar disorder. He has a strong family history and constantly conveys the highs and lows that make a middle ground so hard to find. He never has consistency. He jumps all over the board with EVERYTHING. It makes me sad and has had a huge impact on my son. I’ve always felt that he has a choice, while he suggests that this is just the way he is built. Your statements suggest that you made a choice at some point to stick to your stability and be grounded? I know everyone is different…but I would love to understand how you got there…it seems so brave 🙂

    • I wrote to a friend, in the same email, “But, that’s not to say it didn’t rattle me. I don’t like it when people rattle my cage. The beast stirs, and I’m not sure what to do there. Because, the beast has a way of manifesting in ways that I may not be able to control or understand. And sometimes, if it’s bad enough, the beast will rage at me.”. My cage was already rattled. She just stirred the beast some more.

      No, I didn’t really let her get the best of me, but now I’m hypervigilant. It’s always like that after I get into a confrontation though. That’s why I’m hypervigilant on the bus. While I’ve never been physically assaulted, I have been verbally assaulted more than once, usually by drunks. I know how dangerous some people are when they aren’t in a rational mental state. I know, I’ve been theres. (I have been dangerous in the past. See, Love the Way You Lie.

      I do thrive on the stability. The instability of my life prior to the last year was exacerbating my symptoms. I’d job jump. I was up and down. I’d get overly ambitious and take something huge on, only to discard it when I felt crushed. I would find myself clinging to shreds of something that looked to be stable, but fell apart in my hands. It was unhealthy. The depression and hypomania made life difficult to navigate. My relationships were all unhealthy, but they were the only things that remained a constant. I moved around. The only things I managed to stick to were very structured things, like school. I did well in college. All of the rest of it, the things that had too much wiggle room, I had extreme difficulty with. And that’s life in a nutshell, constantly changing variables with different actions. And usually, these behaviors are based on some kind of consistent mindset, that I just did not have. That’s why my life was a wreck.

      Maybe that was the way he was built, to have these ups and downs. And maybe he doesn’t feel like he has a choice. It’s the way he has to live because it’s the way he is, it’s the way he was brought up (you said he had a strong family history, and environmental causation contributes to symptoms).

      I made the choices for stability with a guide. My husband was the keystone to the start of my recovery. He showed me a world that wasn’t constantly shifting, full of smoke and mirrors. He made me feel like it wasn’t me after all. The world has a way of putting a mark on a person, and shifting people around who don’t have a good footing. Not like feeling victimized in any way, just empowering me to know that there was a choice for me. And I chose him. I chose a marriage and a life with him, not just because he was a rock, but because I had loved him all along.

      And, watching him opened my eyes. He is very rigid, very solid (physically and mentally). He was self-assured, poised, and successful. And I realized I could be too. I could be happy and have a productive life too. I wasn’t doomed! But how? And I just started doing the things he did. Mirroring positive behaviors. But, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t happy and I still had these terrible shifts, although I thought I was doing everything right.

      I had my son by then. I had a husband, a son, a degree I had to finish, and a life I wanted to lead. I didn’t want to ruin it, and I wasn’t about to give it up. I wasn’t about to say, “Well, this is just the way I am,” because I could see that it wasn’t me all of the time. My husband, who knows me better than anyone else in the whole world, wouldn’t say something to me that isn’t true (he really wouldn’t. He’s blunt.) I already had a diagnosis of depression, so I started to gather that it was bipolar disorder. I was already in college for psychology, so I could identify that.

      That’s where people encounter the most problems. When the possibility that there might be some kind of inherent defect comes in, and there’s a label attached to it. Some people don’t believe in psychology and don’t believe that these disorders are real and justifiable. And worse, they don’t believe that medicine will help them to feel better. For me, it was about the way I felt, how I would behave, and the people around me that I was hurting. I would do anything to stop that feeling, just for one minute in my life, without alcohol or anything even more destructive than myself. I would do anything to spare my son the hurt from me lashing out. And, I wasn’t about to alienate my husband, the only person who ever believed in me, that believed I was good and wonderful.

      I sought treatment, even without any encouragement. Because, I knew that if I didn’t, I’d end up destroying my marriage, unable to stay in college (because it was an online program this time), and tearing my family apart. Those were the only good things that ever happened to me, as far as I was concerned. Here were two people in my life, my husband and my son, who only wanted to love me and be loved back. That’s it. No other expectations or strings attached.

      And you know what? It took over 2 years to get to a place where I could say I was stable for any length of time. It took two years for my friends and family to observe the gradual shift from a person they thought was “just like that”, to someone healthy, competent, and finally happy. For real happy, not hypomanic happy. I am in a job that I love, and the longest held ever (14 months). I can be an attentive mom and wife, because I’m not so wrapped up on my own problems. I can honestly give and receieve love, without question or doubt.

      I’d say, encourage your ex to just take a look at some of the stories available in the bipolar community on WordPress. He might be able to draw his own comparisons. But, it’s a process. Don’t be discouraged if he turns away in disgust, because chances are, he probably saw himself in some of those. It may take awhile for him to come to the actual conclusions, without any rationalizations. And more than anything else, he should know that he doesn’t have to feel that way or be that way if he doesn’t want to. If it causes him pain, then he can do something.

  2. Oh, Luna! Thank you so much for your perspective. What a tangled web we have weaved. I see so much of him in what you have explained. All of what I see is the before, not the after. He refuses to do anything about anything. He refuses to grow and conquer his issues. In turn, he emotionally black mails me constantly. He clings to me like a life raft when things get tough and once he is “up” again he no longer needs me until the next time. It blows me away how scheduled it is also. I could set his ups and downs on an alarm clock. Also, he uses alcohol to cope. This makes it easier for him to have the courage to show up at random times in my life when I have made no contact with him. What makes this situation so difficult is that I am truly ready to move on. I will always care about what happens to him, but I want so much more in my life than to stick around with someone that is unwilling to grow. I have allowed him to take advantage for far too long and I do it cuz I can’t turn my back on ANYONE! Mostly, I do it for hope that he will be a better dad to E. I see little bits of the person he could be but being vulnerable to him is like the end of the world. It is like he has a switch to turn things on and off. It scares me. I am at a point that I constantly have to tell him to go away. I have no other choice.

    I am so glad that you realized that your husband could help. I wish he would see the same. I don’t want to have the relationship I used to have with him. I’d like to have a new one built on trust and respect. Mostly respecting my boundaries as the mother of his child. He can’t have what he wants and give me nothing in return. It’s unhealthy. I watch him flail around like a fish out of water most days. He tries to understand things that he won’t ever interpret because of his inability to function. I honestly don’t think he can control a lot of what he does…it is what he learned to survive. But I can’t make him see that, he has to. I get that now, thanks to you.

    It all goes back to the idea that I can only control me. But what do you do when someone you care about is trying to drag you down with them? I’m afraid he will never let me go and I have a hard time dealing with that. He doesn’t really want ME. He wants what I provide for him, a safe place to fall.

    Thanks for letting me explode…it is much appreciated once again. 🙂

    • Explode all you like! That’s what the blog is here for right?

      A person has to want help. But, first, they have to realize that there is something wrong, then get over any notions that they are defective. It was hard for me to come to that when everyone in my life basically incinuated that it was just me. And even after I was diagnosed, it was like that. I couldn’t cope with it until after I was here, on WordPress, in a community of people who had symptoms and stories so similar to mine. In so many blogs I read, I see me. It’s painful, but wonderful at the same time.

      The trouble he’s having is realizing that he has issues. It’s in some people’s nature to defy and deny how others perceive them. Others use it as a guideline for their lives. And sometimes, it’s a conflicting mixture of both. (That’s how I see myself. Caught in between).

      Now, I have to put a disclaimer on the rest. I am not a doctor, and I don’t claim to be. This is personal knowledge acquired through experience and a B.S. In psychology, which makes me in no way licensed to give diagnoses or treatment.

      I see classical depressive symptoms. Like a drowning person. Have you ever taken a water safety course? I have. And they recommend all rescue efforts besides getting in the water with that person. A drowning victim can unintentionally take someone else down with them. He sinks, he knows it, he’s desperate for any way not to.

      So, naturally, like any nurturing woman does (and we’re like this as women. It’s just programmed), he gets brought back into the fold. Because no one wants to stand there and watch someone go down.

      This is where the classical (hypo)mania comes in. I appended the hypo, because there is a serious difference between hypomania and mania, and I don’t know enough to take a guess. Suddenly, he thinks he’s all better. He’s superman, and he doesn’t need anyone, because they are all beneath him. And he’ll fly off to do whatever reckless and impulsive thing fancies him. (Euphoric mania). Or, he’ll turn on everyone, biting the hand that feeds, because he feels that everyone has wronged him. And he’ll fly off the handle, lashing out at everyone and everything because he’s beyond irritable.

      Sound familiar?

      Now, this is where hypomania and mania split. I have BP II, so I don’t experience a whole lot of classically “manic” symptoms. The list includes paranoia, psychosis (a complete break with reality, accompanied by delusions and hallucinations), and extremely risky behaviors. This includes, but is not limited to, promiscuity, gambling, reckless spending, dangerous behaviors, binging (drinking, drugs), etc. Especially the delusions of grandeur, meaning he thinks he’s God or something of the like.

      Now, if most of these click, then you are on the right track. But, it has to be like 90%. Otherwise, you’re looking at a horse of a different color. Because, when you said, “emotionally blackmails me” and “take advantage” and “switch”, it brought up some new things. I suggest you look up psychopathy inventory on Google and look through the questions. Sometimes, the symptoms between the two are alarming. The difference is this one key thing. Emotion. If there is ever really a time that he looks as if the switch has flipped the emotion entirely off, I mean commits acts that would suggest he was completely devoid of emotion, then psychopathy is something that can be considered. Many people with that condition “feign” emotion that they’ve witnessed in others. And they know how to use someone else’s emotion against that person. In that case, well, we’ll talk after you take a look.

  3. Yeah, this is definitely more the story of a scared little boy turned emotionally isolated as a grown up. I don’t see pyschopathy being an issue here. He has feelings. He also has no idea what to do with them or how to express them. He is good at making it seem as though things mean nothing to him. Just when he thinks he made his point, and also as he is hitting rock bottom…he caves and contacts me. He has pretty superficial relationships with most other people. Which is why I seem to be his target. He let his walls down very rarely, but he did that with only me, or so he says. When I use the term “blackmail”…I more so mean that he pulls out all the stops. ie. Shows me the person he knows I like as an opportunity to get a response. Unfortunately, as I am human, I sometimes still react. Still working on that…

    The depressive part I get. That makes a lot of sense, sadly. Also, he has moments of realizing that something is wrong. He hits me with this “I want to be nice to you” business. Says he feels he has wronged me. And that no one likes him and he knows something doesn’t work right. He has also had a great deal of anxiety over the years. He works with the public and at times, this has become a major issue.

    Ok, most of the manic behavior is right on:

    “This is where the classical (hypo)mania comes in. I appended the hypo, because there is a serious difference between hypomania and mania, and I don’t know enough to take a guess. Suddenly, he thinks he’s all better. He’s superman, and he doesn’t need anyone, because they are all beneath him. And he’ll fly off to do whatever reckless and impulsive thing fancies him. (Euphoric mania). Or, he’ll turn on everyone, biting the hand that feeds, because he feels that everyone has wronged him. And he’ll fly off the handle, lashing out at everyone and everything because he’s beyond irritable”

    I don’t know that it is to such a dramatic extent. But I see it. I understand a lot more about him then he probably ever will about himself, sadly. Just wished he would get his shit together and move forward. I hate seeing people trapped in the same downward spiral…oh and, trying to take me down with em. Ha. I know I will probably never really understand what motivates him. Somehow, I know it is not something genuine which is why we won’t be together. I am sure there will be a next time, there always is…

  4. this kind of thing is why I just can’t be around people anymore. No matter how old people are, they still seem to have the personality of a forteen year old inside them. You really handled this so well. I couldn’t do it.

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