part twelve

I experienced my husband’s first manic depressive episode three weeks after the wedding. I didn’t know it was a manic depressive episode for more than six years though. It was devastating. I couldn’t even begin to say what triggered it. I suppose it didn’t need a trigger but I didn’t know that at the time. All I know is he was so angry and I was so scared. Then he hit the depressive phase and sat catatonically in a chair for three days. He didn’t speak, didn’t move, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep…nothing I said or did or sobbed or begged had any affect whatsoever.

A few weeks after this episode, I missed my period. I was terrified I was pregnant. Turns out extreme stress can trigger missed periods. I had no idea. During this time I continued to attend meetings and go out in service. It was the one thing I figured I could do right. I had so displeased Jehovah that I believed it was the only way to repent and gain his favor again. We still had friends visiting us frequently and there were some fun times. I missed my mom more than I can explain. It’s weird, isn’t it, how you can know someone is not good for you and still love them so much? R would find me periodically going through things from ‘home’ and sobbing. At times he was very loving and concerned. At other times he was cold and uncaring and angry about it all. I never knew which one of him I would encounter. 

Five months after our wedding, R disappeared. For hours. I was panicked. First I was certain he had left me. Then I was convinced he had been hurt somewhere. I called everyone I knew looking for him and nobody had a clue where he was. I finally gave up looking and spent the night sobbing myself to sleep on the couch. The sun was just peaking over the horizon when I heard the front door open. It was R. He walked over to the couch and informed me he had lied earlier in the week and he’d lost his job. Thus began a cycle that continued for more than 7 years. He would get a new job and things would be ok. Then he’d get angry at someone (me, his boss, a workmate, whomever), do something stupid and lose his job. I never knew what would greet me when he came home.

During this time I worked part time at a bridal boutique owned by a sister in one of the nearby congregations. It was a fun and sad job for me at the same time. Since my own wedding debacle, I could barely stand to attend a wedding let alone help smiling brides dress for one. It was more than a year before I could bring myself to even look at the pictures from our wedding. I applied for several other jobs hoping to make a difference in our finacial life however I never got past an interview. I hadn’t been trained to work full time or to even begin to know how to get a job like I was applying for. We were mostly encouraged to do menial tasks designed to give us ample time to go in service and bring others to Jehovah.

R was virtually unemployed for the next nine months. During this time I missed two more periods. I was convinced I was pregnant however again stress ruled my life. My FIL was still ignoring us. Just because he was ignoring us didn’t mean he’d decided to leave us alone. He continued to spread stories and lies about me and I had several more meetings with elders. I was becoming more and more discouraged and my meeting attendance began to falter. Just typing that sentence reminded me of the night R and I went to a meeting and he was still angry about something. I got up to use the restroom and when I came back to where we were sitting, he was gone. He’d left me at the Kingdom Hall and drove off. It was hours before I saw him again at home.

After every such episode, he would later be so apologetic and sorry. He would write me the sweetest notes and bring me flowers and I was sure that it would be better this time. I never said one word to anyone about what was happening. I didn’t think anyone would believe me because R put on such a good show for everyone. I was the only person to see the mood swings or hear the horrible things he said and threatened and did.

Just before our first anniversary, R went to see his parents. Without telling me. He came home that afternoon and informed me his parents were coming for dinner. To say panic ensued is putting it mildly. His dad terrified me. And it didn’t help any that every time I saw him, he tried to look down my shirt or put his arm around me so he could touch my breasts. I really did come to believe I was imagining it. I mean, the messages were so mixed and I had no way of understanding what was going on for me.

We got word that my friends (the brother who studied with me as a child) was moving to a drier climate for his health. Since R had no job and no reason to be home, he went along to help them get everything set up. While he was there, he found a job. Yea. A job. 800 miles from home in the desert high mountains of eastern Nevada. I didn’t get a choice. I was simply informed we were moving. And we did. Three weeks later. I’d seen my parents a few times before the move. I was struggling so badly and I missed my mom. I felt guilt press upon me every time I snuck over to their house but I just couldn’t seem to help myself. My brother still lived at home and I rationalized my visits that way. No one knew though. If I’d been found out, I would have been in big trouble.

My mom was devastated that we were moving. So was I. But move we did. During November. I put a positive spin on it all thinking that things would be better if we were away from R’s parents. And they were. For awhile. We attended our first meeting there and were swamped with ‘brotherly’ love and welcome. It was heartwarming and so encouraging. I thought “This is going to work. I just know it.” We had dinner invitations and were included in congregation events and we lived a mile from the man who’d guided me into the truth and told me I had to get married too. It was good.

My brother came to visit and ended up staying. I’d written a letter to my parents telling them I couldn’t see them anymore because I’d been reminded of Jehovah’s commands regarding the issue. It was horrible. We hadn’t seen them in months but when my brother decided to stay, my parents helped him move and we began seeing them again. It was a secret however and my brother knew what would happen if it became public knowledge. In all of this mess, my parents were amazing. I can’t believe I can write those words now. But it’s true. They took every twist and turn as well as can be expected but if I called, they were there. I find it ironic that the people who perpetuated my physical, mental and spiritual abuse as a child, were kinder in reality than the people who were supposed to be spiritually ‘better’ and more like family.

By the time we’d been married for a year and a half, I wanted a baby. Badly. As Witnesses, we were strongly discouraged from having children. It was presented as an unreasonable desire in this system of things that was so close to the end. Why would we want that added distraction of raising children when our sights were supposed to be on serving Jehovah and gathering believers who would survive the last great battle of Armageddon. I know couples who made the choice to remain childless because of this. They believed that when the new system was here, Jehovah would make them young again and they could have as many children as their heart desired. I, of course, felt ‘less than’ for wanting a child.

We decided over dinner one night that we’d get pregnant. I stopped taking the pill and totally expected to be pregnant shortly. I had no clue what I would learn over the next several months. I thought nothing could surprise me by then. It was actually only the beginning of what I would discover on this journey that is my life.

to be continued


One response to this post.

  1. Traci, this belongs in a book. This incredible collection of memories! I can understand that the intensely personal nature of what you recall would make blogging a far more attractive option than being the identified author of a published book, but WOW! I’m completely transfixed, and weeping for the young woman you were.


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