It’s been since June that she’s gone. It’s my first Valentines without her present in four years and the first in seven years without her as my Valentine. So I’m thinking of her, one of the great loves of my life…lost. And wishing somehow things could be different for us. Knowing they can’t be.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Okay, this is going to be a departure from the usual topics but tonight I just need to do this one for me.
There was a woman I fell in love with. We met in the Portuguese Speakers Wanting To Learn English room on www.orkut.com January 2nd, 2005. We talked for the first time on Windows Messenger and it was for four or five hours but it felt like much less because we enjoyed it so much.
I didn’t see her again for a day or two as I recall, and worried she hadn’t enjoyed the conversation. I finally left her a note, no response. But then one day I ran into her again and it happened again.
At some point I called her, and that connection was also special.
I had a mission trip to Rio, Brazil in April, so arranged to stop and visit with her. From the moment she and her grandma Cleonice met me at the airport, that was it for us. Bianca was mine and I was hers for the next six years.
I visited her every two weeks, using frequent flyer miles, whenever I could pass through on a mission trip, etc. 10-14 days at a time, but they were little slices of heaven. We were so in love and so connected. And it was the greatest feeling of my life.
In 2006, I asked her to marry me. Got on my knees, gave her a ring. She said “yes.” And so in April 2007, after her college graduation, she moved to be with me. In between was all the visa paperwork and immigration documents and fees, a lot more phone calls and a lot more IMs. But I had finally found someone to spend the rest of my life with. After 36 years, I had stopped believing. Bianca made me believe again.
April 14, 2007, we married in a small ceremony in St. Louis.
The marriage was pretty good. A few issues with adjustment to culture and weather and the realities of a husband who needed to work and a lonely wife who was in a new place. The challenge of money limits, trying to find her a job, etc. And although there were moments of odd behavior I now know the explanation for, we were happy, and life was good.
That lasted two and a half years.
The nightmare began October 5th, 2009, when I came home from teaching music in Mexico to find a desperate message from Bianca begging me to pick her up. She knew I was in Mexico. She’d ridden the bus to town to do a workshop for her new job, I thought. She should have been home hours before. What had happened? My cell phone was off to avoid International roaming. The house was empty. So my friends and I searched until early morning. I didn’t know where she was until a policeman arrived at 4:30 am. She was barefoot, had walked all the way downtown, 40 miles or so, thrown away her cell, her wedding ring, all her documents. And was dodging traffic on the highway.
Two days later, I got her forcibly admitted to psychiatric care, the first of five times in the next two years. The treatment was hell because she was not herself and she blamed me. And the first time they let her out, I had to take her back kicking and screaming after only a few days.
But when she got out the second time, she forgave me, admitted I showed my love for her by getting her help and took her meds. A year later, it was hard to remember all that because life was so good again.
In January 2011, Bianca was at UTEP getting As. Her long time dream of finishing her education was a reality. She had a good job too. Everything looked really good.
Oh there were hurdles. I’d lost my job in May 2010, we believe strongly, because of health care costs from Bianca’s illness (something we could not prove sufficiently to go to court but did have strong evidence of). I lost my second job, when the employer was worried I’d leave town and needed continuity and found a replacement. Then unemployment got cancelled. Times were hard. But Bianca worked hard to support us and she encouraged me. And we made it through, got unemployment back. I even had a seasonal job at H & R Bloch. And Bianca was in school.
I was so proud of her. Just so amazed. She was so serious about it. So dedicated. And she did well. I was happy the loans had made it possible.
Then in March, I fulfilled a dream, by going on scholarship to Rainforest Writer’s Village. When I left, she was a bit mad that I was leaving her alone for so long, but things were otherwise okay. By mid-week, she sounded different on the phone. And by the weekend, she was full on manic. The Bianca I’d left behind was gone. And I haven’t seen her since.
She had three more forced hospitalizations, two in state institutions. Lost her job. Lost her school mid-semester. Everything she’d worked for, gone. And I was dealing with a person who hated me again and was mad at me because she was in the hospital. She still wanted me to visit so I could be verbally abused by her. But she denied loving me. Expressed regret of our life together.
I thought for sure the meds would resolve it again. But this time, she never came back.
On Tuesday, June 7, we signed divorce papers. We’d filed the previous Friday. Wednesday, June 8, Bianca flew home for Brasil, forever.
I lost my best friend. I lost my lover. I lost my companion. I lost my wife. And all I can do is cry and mourn the person I lost not only physically but mentally.
Things were so good, so many times. So many precious memories. So many wonderful moments.
The woman I fell in love with doesn’t deserve the life mental illness is creating for her. She deserves love and success and motherhood and so much that she may never have again because of bipolar disorder.
I may find love again. I may have my family. But I know a part of me is gone with Bianca. Because she gave me so much in our short love affair. And at the moment all I can do is wish it had been longer.
I miss you, Bianca. I really loved you. I really cherished you. I’m sorry I didn’t say that enough. I’m sorry I hurt you sometimes. I never meant to. And I’m sorry you have this horrible disorder that’s torn us apart and destroyed our love, the life we worked so hard for. I miss you so much. And our pets miss mommy too. I hope you can conquer this disorder. You’re so smart and talented, if anyone can, it will be you. A part of me just wishes, at least right now, that you could have conquered it with me beside you.
May God bless and keep you, my amor. Thanks for the wonderful time we did have. I’ll always cherish that.
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.
Last Tuesday, 1 month before our 4th anniversary, I had to put my wife in the mental hospital against her will for the second time. Bianca is a highly intelligent, gentle, sweet, giving, joyful person. But when her bipolar II flares up she’s angry, mean, arrogant, and mischievous. I woke up at 5 a.m. and found her cutting phone chords and cables for the internet with a scissor because “I don’t like that stuff there.” This was after I’d already tried once to get police to take her in. They refused because she looked normal to them. They don’t know her. How would they know normal for her? In any case, I worried she’d cut an electrical chord and start a fire or electrocute herself. So it was time.
This is the second time in two years I’ve had to commit her. Having to put someone you love in the hospital against their will, while they beg you not to, is the most painful experience ever. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And I’ve done it three times, twice the first incident, once now. It took four of us to literally carry her to the car while she fought and screamed, then me to drive us 30 minutes to the hospital, again while she screamed and insulted us. It’s weird to look in the face of the woman you love and see a stranger looking back at you. A stranger who looks just like her, has the same voice, but says things which sound nothing like her.
I try very hard to block those memories. Most of the time I can. I don’t want to remember her this way. I prefer to remember her as the woman who blessed my life, the one I fell in love with. I’m pained by the memory of how much I took her for granted in the months preceding this relapse. I should have been her biggest cheerleader when she finally got to live her dream and go back to school to finish her degree. She was doing so well, making awesome grades, and she was working 30 hours and going to school 18. I was so wrapped up in my worries, I was lackluster in my enthusiasm, and I feel like such a jackass now. The times she wanted to cuddle and I was so busy with writing, I put it off and never got back to it. The times I didn’t listen when she was so excited to tell me something mid-draft. I feel like such a loser. Here’s the woman who chose me. After years of failed romances, after 37 years alone thinking I’d never find anyone, she chose me, and I was so unappreciative so much of the time.
When I went away to Rainforest Writers, my thought was that it would be good to have time away to refresh our relationship. The moment I arrived, I missed her and wished she was there. Little did I know that when I got home, I’d still be missing her, because I haven’t seen the real Bianca since before I left.
The real Bianca is such a delight to be with. She is so enthusiastic, often seeing the world through a child’s eyes. She’s fascinated by people, places, language — so many things I easily write off as ordinary. And through her observations, she helps me look at the world in new ways. It’s a real help to me as a writer. And it’s something about her I have always treasured. She’s a great cook and a good housewife. She’s thoughtful even when I’m not. Oh she has her faults, of course, but I have more. And the fact that she’s always loved me and thinks I’m cute, handsome, wonderful always blows my mind.
I so wish it could be me and not her. I wish I was the one in the hospital. I wish it was me losing my job, dropping out mid-semester of my school, etc. If I could take her place in a moment, I so would, because I suffer so much for her. It breaks my heart every time I think about it. I am crying as I type this because I feel such despair, such hopelessness, and such fear that I will lose her, that this is it, that she’ll never get through this. It’s so hard to not get much information from the hospital due to privacy laws. Biance is in no condition to sign a waiver, so the hospital has to protect itself from lawsuits, even though I’m the husband. It’s so difficult to see her struggling and not be able to protect her; to be made the bad guy in manic Bianca’s eyes, when all I did I did to protect her and get her the help she so desperately needs. I wouldn’t wish this situation on my worst enemy. And it makes me determined to do all I can to build awareness and find support for developing a cure to all mental illness.
What a horrible thing it is to see someone with such skill and potential robbed of their life by such a horrible disease. To see them so destructive when they don’t even know what they’re doing. To see them resist the help they need when it’s right there in front of them. I curse Satan and beg God to please help my wife. Give me back my lover, my best friend. I wish it was so easy. Every moment is agony as I’m forced to wait and see if things will ever be the same again. I have small hope in the fact that our marriage came back better than ever from the last time. I can only hope she’ll feel that way and be ready to try again.
It’s hard to know that this kind of thing will likely happen again–it’s cyclical, so probably every two years. On the other hand, I’ve heard stories of people who take their meds and are stable the rest of their lives, so I hope that for her. And yet I fear days to come. If I get her back I intend to treasure every moment, and I hope I don’t forget. I must never allow myself to be too busy to appreciate her. I must let her know how much she means to me, and I must remind her daily of that. Maybe the strength of my love will help her. I hope so. I know the strength of her love has helped me. And I know I feel so lost at the idea of going on without her. Sometimes you don’t realize what you have in the throes of everydaydom. How sad and pathetic a trait is that in human beings? Why does it take a crisis like this to remind us how lucky we are?
I don’t know the answer but I know I need to do better at fighting off that complacency and being appreciative. If only I get another chance. If only I get my Bianca back.
I hate you! You know who you are. You’re the one who takes a beautiful, intelligent, determined, kind, giving, loving, wonderful girl and turns her into a stranger who rants, yells, destroys, and insults. You’re the one who steals time, precious time away from her husband and family. You’re the one who makes her risk her life by wandering on an interstate, going where she shouldn’t go, doing what she wouldn’t go.
You’re a destroyer of relationships; a thief of hope; a breaker of hearts; a robber of peace. You’re a divider of households; a ruiner of reputations; and a restrainer of potential.
I swear, Bipolar Disorder, you will not defeat us. I will not allow you to be the winner here. I will not allow you to rule the day. You will lose this battle. We will fight until we find a cure. We may fail from time to time as we learn more and more about you. But we will conquer you, make no mistake about it.
We will win because our victory is founded on love not destruction. We will win because our determination is to live free, not die captive. We will win because we are stronger, we are more determined, and we are better than you could hope to be.
You’re going down one day, Bipolar Disorder. Get ready for it. We will dance together, hand in hand, upon your grave.