I have been spending my Sunday cleaning out old e-mails. Buried in a nested set of personal folders, I found one particular folded entitled Crazy. I knew what the folder contained without having to open it. Years ago, I saved e-mails from my husband Dean, who was battling a mood disorder. I did not know exactly what was wrong, but knew it had to be something. E-mails and journal entries documented his bizarre behavior. I took my documentation to a psychologist in a desperate attempt to figure out what had happened to my husband.

Bi-polar disorder-- I had never heard of the illness, but Dean exhibited all the classic symptoms. I wrote about his behavior in my journal:

Goliath has invaded my home again. Although he looks like my husband Dean, he is not the man I married. Dean is a quiet man, who can also be described as realistic, logical, and practical. Goliath, on the other hand, cannot be described with any of these adjectives. Goliath is brash, opinionated, and easily irritated. What concerns me most of all is Goliath's over-inflated opinion of his abilities (thus, the reason for the name). Goliath's exaggerated opinion of himself is so skewed that his version of reality is altered. For example, he exaggerates our net worth and his annual income. Goliath has spent over $12,000 dollars in two months despite the fact that he is not gainfully employed. Needless to say, I miss my conservative, dare I say, cheap Dean.

Goliath has other unusual characteristics when compared to mere mortals. He requires much less sleep than my husband ever did. Sometimes, at 2 and 3 in the morning, I hear Goliath banging away at his keyboard. Then at 7am, he is wide wake and demanding my undivided attention. Goliath also speaks at such a rapid pace that I am unable to respond while he is talking. At times, he speaks too fast for even him to comprehend and often loses his train of thought as he bounces from subject to subject. I am exhausted, frustrated, and worried. What has happened to Dean? Why are we going through this again?

Manic for months at a time, Dean saw nothing wrong with his behavior and refused treatment. Almost always unexplainably angry and unreasonable, Dean's aggression caused him to lose 3 jobs, pile on speeding tickets, and wreck his Audi. Living in a home with this man was a nightmare. I felt as though I literally walked on eggshells every moment we were together. A month before his inevitable crash, I was only allowed to speak to him in a question format, as if I were a Jeopardy contestant in my own home. I thought I was going crazy.

Then, 9/11 came. Sometime later, Dean was drawn to New York. Without my knowledge, he boarded a plane and headed to Ground Zero. I still do not know what transpired over the course of the four days he was missing, although I found a ticket for criminal trespassing on the site.

When Dean finally returned home, he looked as though he had been part of that tragic event. Dusty, smelly, shaking, and screaming at the top of his lungs, I feared the 6'4," 200-pound man in front of me. He must have feared himself, too. Instead of resorting to violence, Dean threw me out of our home. He called his mother, a retired nurse, the only person he now trusted. She flew in and had Dean admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed two weeks. I was relieved to know that Dean was finally in a safe place, though I had no idea what our future held.

A month later, all alone, Dean called and asked me to come back to him. He was experiencing a terrible low and worried he was a suicide risk. There was no question what I must do. I returned and we lived together as man and wife for three more years, battling his illness as best we could.

Never would I consider leaving this man because he had a mental illness. How was it different than abandoning someone who had cancer or diabetes? Determined to live up to my vows, the strain of being provider and caretaker took a toll on my own emotional well being. But, it was not about what I wanted. It was about doing the "right thing" in the eyes of God and in the eyes of my family.

Then, I found them--letters and e-mails to a woman with whom Dean was having an affair. I could not muster anger or dismay, but I also could not live in this environment any longer. We separated three months later, the day after Christmas. I walked away, my head held high. I felt as though I had done right by Dean. But did I do the right by me? Was I crazy for staying in the relationship for so long?

I am still figuring that one out.

People pick up the shattered pieces of the hearts and souls and move on. There is no other way. We rebuild our lives and clean up the messes from our past as best we can. But unfortunately, we can never erase the memories. There is no such thing as a delete key when it comes to matters of the heart and mind.

I can and do, however, delete the Crazy folder without even opening it. I did not need to go back and re-read the e-mails the folder contained. Experiencing crazy once was more than enough.

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