‘The Long Hard Fall’
Allie began to doubt the rightness of her decision to divorce, worrying what the split would do to her kids. Also, her husband had been a good earner and provided a good quality of life, so that was another level of security she’d lost. The marriage, from everything she told me, sounded horrible from the first day – not that it was her fault or his fault, but just a general incompatibility, as they’d been forced into it by their parents. I suggested to her that marriages don’t have to begin in love, but it can develop throughout the journey. It sounded, though, like her and her husband resented one another and often acted to spite one another.
Allie also had concerns about me, worried whether I’d be able to function in everyday life. Her insecurities made her question her every action and decision, as well as my every action and decision. Her handling of her fears was destructive. I’d learned firsthand how dangerous it is to mishandle issues, and how that can lay the groundwork for future problems.
Maybe because of that, I really wanted to write about my own experiences with anxiety, depression, OCD, and stuff. Over the years I’d tried reading books about depression, but they’d always been so aloof and clinical, usually written by doctors through observation, as opposed to experience. Sometimes, it made me feel like doctors were writing their books for doctors. I wanted to write an everyman’s account.
The result was a book called ‘Overload’. I shopped it around, only to receive rejection after rejection. Then I tried agents. One told me it was a good idea, but unless I was a celebrity it wasn’t going to sell. Because that was the thing: celebrities suffering was fashionable and marketable. Some nobody suffering was not. So, like so much of my other work, the book was exiled to my filing cabinet.
Then, a screenplay I’d written in 2001 sold, although payment depended on the script going into production (which was the standard way deals like this operated in Australia). The producer who’d optioned it, Andy, loved it, but I gradually got the feeling that he had only one shot at making a film so whatever the script, it had to be a winner – although there’s no guarantees in filmmaking. The project fizzled and he moved on. There were a couple of other requests for screenplays: one guy I never heard from again; the other said he wanted to hold onto my script to pitch at several meetings he had – we kept in contact briefly before that relationship dissolved. I also got in partnership with a couple of Melbourne businessmen to write a kids adventure. They liked the script, but the relationship dwindled due to financial reasons when the Global Financial Crisis hit. I also got in partnerships with two different Sydney directors; I wrote extensively for one (without pay), but never got anywhere; I was meant to write a script for the other, and we kept in contact for a while, but as I started having issues it was another lead that flopped.
The issues were Allie, who grew increasingly unpredictable. Sometimes, she’d be loving. Most times, she’d be angry, argumentative, and contradictory. The time we spent together decreased. When I was with her, it was often just as friends. She continued to question my worth and my capability to function, as well as lament I wasn’t where I should be in life given my age.
She improved briefly (or maybe she faked it) and we (and the kids) went on holidays to Palm Cove for just over a week. When we got back, the relationship declined. I kept hanging in, hoping that she would find herself. While there were cameos of what the relationship once was, for the most part it had become torturous, a continuing searing examination of me and how I was deficient. If I began to pull away, Allie grew insecure and became loving, until she grew secure and the cycle started all over again.
I should’ve gotten out, but didn’t want to abandon her. Years later, she confessed that I got her through that time as she dealt with her post-divorce issues, that she wouldn’t have made it without me, but the damage the relationship suffered scarred me in a way that I could never again feel quite at ease with it, even when times might be good.
You should be able to talk with your partner – talk openly, without fear of condemnation, or recrimination, or castigation, but now I was always a little wary where conversations might go, living in a constant state of unease that was similar to living with the anxiety itself.
I wanted something that once existed, and hoped could again, but some pieces you can never put back together.