As I was on the bus going home on Friday night a young man got on at the station with his McDonald's takeaway and sat right next to me on the back seat, squashing me up against the window. I'm guessing he had already eaten the hamburger as he promptly stuffed a load of paper behind his seat and proceeded to devour his chips. Now he was quite a big lad so by the time he had spread his enormous thighs out in both directions and made his puffa jacket comfortable I was well and truly squashed in the corner. So now he is filling his face with chips, smacking his lips and occasionally burping out loud in my direction - and all the while I am getting madder and madder.When he had finally finished he wiped his hands back and forth across his jeans, at the same time managing to wipe some of the salt and grease on me too. I'm thinking "keep your temper, keep your temper". I'm a very placid person by nature. I mean, if some young kid walks around with his arse hanging out of his pants because he thinks it looks cool I don't have a problem with that. We were all young and stupid once and as long as it doesn't affect me I say go for it. But this young man was starting to really get on my t**ts. On top of that, I guess all the carbohydrates in his meal gave him that post-prandial slump because he spent the next 30 minutes yawning really, really loud, never covering his mouth and basically burping his shit straight into my face. He then proceeded to call his mom and tell her at least ten times that he was indeed on the number 25 bus. From the way he talked I got to thinking that maybe he wasn't the full quid, to be honest, so all the more reason to just bite my tongue. However, when he finished his packet of chips and shoved that down the side of my seat I had to really debate what I was going to do. I guess the choices were (1) shut up and wimp out, or (2) confront him about it. So I decided I was going to (politely) do something about it, thinking all the while that he could give me a mouth full of abuse or become more threatening (at which point I had decided to just throw his rubbish at him). As it turns out he ended up getting off at my stop so I thought "in for a penny, in for a pound" and picked up his rubbish, tapped him on the shoulder and handed it to him saying I thought it would be better for everyone if he found a bin for his rubbish (all the while preparing to duck and weave just in case).
Well I guess I caught him completely off guard because he actually turned round and said "oh merci" and proceeded to put his rubbish in the bin which was right at hand. One older man gave me the thumbs up and I have to admit I was pretty pleased with myself as I had been mulling it over all the while getting madder and madder and then half expecting to get thumped by his mom who would no doubt be waiting for him at the bus stop. So you see, you never know how things will work out, and hopefully he will be less of a slob next time he gets on the bus.
On another note, did anyone see that Stephen Fry documentary that revisited the programme he made ten years ago dealing with his bi-polar? I thought it was firstly very brave of him but secondly very interesting, not least because my ex was invalided out of his job three years ago with bi-polar.
Had we known more about it I guess the signs were there for anyone who knew what they were looking for, but of course we didn't. In the manic phases he was capable of staying up for three days or so without sleep, which of course meant that I wasn't allowed to sleep because he would be playing guitar, watching TV really loudly or, one time, cooking a full English breakfast for all of us at 4 a.m. on a school night, then going ape shit when no-one of wanted to eat it. There is also the issue of compulsive spending which again was a very typical trait of my ex. One time he went out (pissed) and ordered a € 40,000 car for himself, which of course I then had to pay for, although that was the only thing that I did insist was written into the divorce papers - that he had to take over all payments relating to his car. (Never mind the fact that he routinely trashed it drunk - at least from now on the problems were all his). In fact, I remember some time ago there was a programme on the lovely Frank Bruno and his issues with bi-polar. His daughter eventually had him sectioned for his own protection and she was explaining that though her dad had earned millions over the years, with his illness he was more than capable of going through the whole lot and being left penniless. In fact, she explained how one time he had flown to New York for the day, bought six suitcases and bought God knows how many identical tracksuits, filling the suitcases and then flown home again. Stephen Fry said pretty much the same thing - his obsession if I remember correctly was ipads and when he was "manic" he just had to have another one, despite the fact that he already had several. Of course (as he said) he was fortunate enough to be able to afford this financially but the compulsion was still there all the same.
Having seen some of what my ex went through I felt very much for the people on the programme who explained their feelings of never been able to switch off. My ex once likened it to having flash bulbs going off in his brain but thousands of times a minute and not being able to turn them off.
Rather pathetically a French colleague of mine, when I explained that he had been invalided out of his job with bi-polar, commented that it was just another one of those "made-up" illnesses! I asked her if she would like to live with my husband for a month and see how much sleep she got and then re-assess her judgement. (And to be honest, half of her compatriots seem to have many of the same "made-up" illnesses judging by some of the sick leave they account for at work - but I digress!)
A few days later there was another programme which talked about a new law which was enacted in the UK in December 2015 regarding "coercive control". Basically, if I understood correctly, it means that under the law "abuse" can now be prosecuted not only when it is physical but any other form of abuse whereby the abuser effectively seeks to control the victim by coercion.
Now overwhelmingly the numbers of victims are female, although there are of course many cases of female on male abuse, although they are in the minority. But since men are usually stronger than women, physical abuse is most often carried out by men - or at least that is my experience.
This programme explained that under the new law, controlling behaviour such as as cutting people off from family and friends, controlling their access to money, deciding who they could see or speak to would now constitute possible cause for prosecution. While I tried for the longest time to help my ex, particularly once we realized he had this problem, his behaviour really was the ultimate in controlling or "coercive control". For instance, he would hide my handbag (which had my car keys, etc. in it) making me have to scramble just to get to work. Then when I made sure I had hidden my handbag somewhere else he would lock the bedroom door so I couldn't get at my clothes, or he would lock me out of the house when I came home from work by leaving the key in the door. I once took all the keys to one particular door so that he could no longer lock me out so what did he do? He took a different key and jammed that in the lock so I couldn't get my own key in the door. He also once locked me outside in my nightie at midnight for an hour in the month of February - how the hell do you fight that!
A colleague and indeed family told me to move and make sure he didn't have my new address, but you know, you can't run from these people, you have to stand and fight. He knew where I worked and could and would follow me home if I had done that so there really is no choice but to stand your ground.
I had wanted a divorce for many years but with him running up debts (that under French law I would also ultimately be responsible for) and trying to function on very little sleep, I wasn't in a position to even try to get my divorce, knowing that he would make my life extremely difficult (if not dangerous) and fight me for the kids.
I admit I started drinking way too much and I'm not proud of it, but when you are so beaten down you just want some kind of anaesthetic to "make it all go away". Of course it doesn't go away but that doesn't stop you trying.
And yet I was one of the lucky ones, as I have a strong character, a supportive family and employer and a good job. Heaven alone knows how those who don't have all that manage, if indeed they do. I never hid what was going on either thinking that the shame is on him not me, but even so it was incredibly difficult to get through - in fact I don't know how I did get through it, truth be told.
Eventually he buggered off with some tart he met in the scummy bar in town and I could only think "hallelujah", although actually that was one of the hardest times because the idiot and the tart behaved like two overgrown schoolkids and would have a spat about once a month, at which point the idiot would move back in on the grounds that "it's still my home". That was pure hell I can tell you.
Although I had called the police on him several times because of his violence, I always held back from making a formal complaint because as an American he needed a carte de séjour (green card) for France and I was afraid he would get kicked out of both his job and the county if he had a criminal conviction. What eventually did it for me though was when I came home one evening and he (having drunk 16 beers that day and started on the whiskey) claimed I had "stolen" his whiskey bottle because he couldn't find it (my youngest eventually found it stuffed down the sofa). That spiralled into a full-blown row and he pinned me to the bed by sitting on my chest and threatened me with his (now found) whiskey bottle, saying "I can kill you and I don't mind doing the time for it". At that point I knew enough was enough, so I shot off to the hospital to get a doctor's report and then on to the police station to file a complaint.
He was eventually convicted of domestic assault and should (in reality) have done prison time, after taking into account his various drink-drive convictions. Somehow though he slipped through the cracks and never did go to prison.
And eventually the divorce came through, I bought him out of the house and he has buggered off back to the States and is now living with some poor, unsuspecting sod over there.
Why am I writing all this down? I guess because I want to get it out of my mind, on to paper and be done with it. There are so many, many incidents which, if you haven't lived through them would seem just unbelievable. Like him saying I was having an affair "because you take too long to do the grocery shopping", or the fact that I wore my apron to go fetch the mail on Saturday was proof that I was trying to show everyone that I was doing everything in the household! I mean, how do you counter insanity like that?
The Stephen Fry documentary made me question whether I should have "stuck it out" because of his mental illness, but the second documentary about coercive control showed me just what I had been putting up with all these years and the fact that I had been using his illness to make excuses for him all along. I didn't love him - in fact I hated him - but I felt for so long that I "should" stick around because he wasn't well. But you know what, there is never an acceptable excuse for violence. They don't change. Only inadequate men (or women) have to use violence or coercion, so if you are in that situation, for God's sake don't believe it is your fault or that it will get better - it won't. Get out before it is too late.