Holly: The Rollercoaster Ride

For Holly, living with Ron was “an extreme roller coaster all the time.” In their eight-year marriage, he left four times, one time for an entire year. She explained that Ron was an alcoholic and was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until age 55, because he used alcohol to self-medicate. After they were married for four years, Ron decided that he was not an alcoholic and he could drink. That time he left Holly for a year and almost drank himself to death. One time he called Holly, who took him to the hospital. He had an extremely high level of alcohol in his body; emergency room staff told him he should have been dead.

With all the chaos in his life, Ron asked for a divorce. Holly asked him to wait a year because he might make a decision to come back. After a year of ups and downs, dating, and sometimes staying over at Ron’s house, he told Holly he still wanted a divorce and they completed the paperwork for a “self-divorce.”

There were many tensions in their marriage. Holly comes from a family with nine siblings and has four children, seven granddaughters, and one great grandson. When Ron was depressed, he did not want Holly to have a lot of contact with her family. He said he would come back if Holly could agree to limit family member visits to one at a time. She responded, “No, I just can’t. I can’t live like that. It’s not going to happen.”

When Ron was depressed, he did not want Holly to go to meetings. For a short while she tried to do what Ron asked, but when she became depressed, she decided she did need to go out for meetings and see friends. After Holly became more involved at Ron’s church, he decided they should go to a different church. Then they attended a supportive home-based church for several years. However, when Ron became depressed, he did not like the people at church and wanted to leave that church. Ron’s extreme unpredictability made life difficult.

It was to the extreme, unpredictability. Not being able to plan anything around it. Plan and plan and plan for a vacation and then go on the vacation and he could do only one thing a day because he was exhausted. And not be happy to do that one thing although you planned all year for this and he’s the one who wanted to go.

During their marriage, one of Holly’s granddaughters moved in with her. Kara initially came for a one-month visit but after that month, Holly asked to keep Kara for a year, until her son’s life calmed down. Ron encouraged Holly to have Kara live with them and they went to court to obtain custody, which was granted after two years. Although Ron supported Holly during the process, two weeks before the last court appearance was scheduled, he told her, “I don’t want to be a parent again.” Holly felt like she was being asked to choose Ron or Kara. Holly was firm about keeping Kara with her. She obtained full custody five years ago; Kara is now age 14.

While living with Ron, Holly constantly tried to figure out how to help him and would go to many appointments with him. When Ron allowed her to come with him, she would be his spokesperson and try to bring clarity to the situation. After three years, Ron did not want her to come along on appointments. She explained she would “say the truth and he would say his truth.” Holly thinks Ron did believe what he was saying but it wasn’t what was actually happening.

After their divorce, Ron periodically visited Holly and asked to get remarried. She concluded, “We can talk. We can be friends. But I would never have married him again. Because I know it doesn’t change.”

Holly learned about Ron’s death from her sister and sister-in-law who both lived in the out-state region where his accident occurred.

At first it was just okay because it had been a while and I thought it was over. Then I started crying for no reason. I don’t do that. I’m a person who’s very calm and I can handle a lot of stuff. I was crying for no reason. I was so angry. Not that he died. Not that he did that stupid thing. And actually, not that he was gone. But just that he wasted so much. He was estranged from four of his five kids. He has been married four times. Anytime he got invested in a church, after a few years, he would throw it away and go to a different church because they didn’t understand. He made some deep, deep relationships and threw them away every, every time. Such a loss.

Holly realized she had never dealt with the chaos of their eight years of marriage. She would handle each situation as it came up, explaining, “You can’t be mad at somebody that’s sick because it’s an illness.”

More of the Story: Family Mental Illness