Sunday, April 17, 2011

We Go To University & We Take A Lover

[all links provided are to supply back story and context]

We moved back to the Midwest, after living in The Mountain State, one of our many moves. We moved in with The Mother, who by this time was better prepared to offer mental support for us. We didn’t get a new job right away; instead we started creating digital art with pirated software. It was an inexpensive way to be creative, seeing as how art supplies tend to be so expensive. We did a couple of small acrylic paintings, one of which was Split, one of our very first painting.

Acrylic on Canvas Board

Special Boyfriend, the man we had met in The Mountain State after we suffered another "breakdown", had moved with us lived with us, and The Mother. We all got along famously. We’d like to say at this point we quit smoking pot. But we didn’t. We’d smoke it with The Mother and Special Boyfriend, and on Sunday nights we had a ritual of watching HBO; Sopranos and Six Feet Under were our favourite.

After we were diagnosed with schizophrenia, a few months after being back in The Midwest, we were on a battery of medications, again. We hated the ritual of cycling through medications, trying to find one that would work. Eventually we would land on a medication that was not used to treat any of the things we were diagnosed with. The medication was Wellbutrin; a medication initially created for smoking cessation, but had since been exploited for its other potential attributes, such as curing depression. It seemed to work fine, we were better – none of us felt like they were gone, and nobody disappeared. It created balance and harmony, for awhile. We quit smoking cigarettes, cold turkey, early in December of 2002; a habit that would come back in 2008-09.

We eventually felt healthy enough to get a job cleaning hotel rooms for a worldwide hotel chain; an eye opening experience to the inner workings of a hotel cleaning staff. We have tips about what you should do both when you get into a hotel room, and before you leave. It’s quite disgusting, hotel rooms. But we digress.

Now was the time for us to decide what to do with our life, being 23 years of age. We had a few attempts at college under our belt, when we were 18 (general studies), and when we were 20, for computers, very short lived because we ended up having our first "mental breakdown”. We were unsure of what we really wanted to do. No consensus was made at first. We realized eventually that we wanted to be an art student, art made us feel healthier, but realized that doing that would not create a way for us to support our self, so we decided on a double majour, to have one as a backup.

The summer before we attended University, 2003, we spent all of our days reading books. Some days we would read nearly three a day. We read a good variety of non-fiction and fiction, books like Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach; The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell; Language Police by Diane Ravitch ; Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlossinger and books on politics, sociology; as many Laurie Notaro books we could get our hands on, as well as Tom Robbins, Hunter S. Thompson, Spalding Grey, Chuck Palahniuk…the list is endless, we read at least 100 books that summer. We have always been good at being primarily alone, which lends well to being an obsessed reader. We had only Special Boyfriend as our friend, until University, where we ended up having a couple more, but never more than 4 people who we would let into our life. They were all art students.

Special Boyfriend, who was at least 6 years older than us, as we discussed before, was a lot like us in many ways; which was nice because that meant he had patience for us. He was an avid reader and a studier of linguistics. The Other Girl was really in love with Special Boyfriend. He was creative and smart, and a very free spirit. We have never known what his mental illness diagnoses were, we know he has them. He had not aware of all the ways in which the government could help fund University, so we had worked on his paperwork for him, and take responsibility for him finally becoming a student. In 2003 he, and us, became University Students together.

Christmas that year we took a trip with Special Boyfriend to meet his mom, and to meet a friend of his who is an artist in Santa Fe. It was one of very few vacations we’d ever had, we had only experienced one family vacation; the summer before The Mother left us.

We took the trip to New Mexico and had a good time; most of us love to travel, though some of us felt very uncomfortable being there.  We trekked around the campus of the University in Albuquerque; ate wonderful Mexican food, easier to find being that close to the border of Mexico. We took long hikes up into canyons to see geological formations with Special Boyfriend, his artist friend, and her husband. We took wonderful pictures of all the beautiful scenery.

When we got home from this vacation, we looked through the digital pictures we had taken of our time there, and stopped at one that blew our mind. It had been taken in a restaurant on one of our last days in Albuquerque.

When I saw the picture of us, I was shocked. What the hell had happened?

We had been told our whole life things like, “you have a beautiful face”,”your skin is amazing”,”You’re not fat, you’re big boned”….when the reality of it was, we were fat. We were 275 pounds stacked onto a6’ frame.

“Why didn’t anyone just tell me I was fat” We yelled at the mother, looking questioningly at Special Boyfriend, who had loved us for what was on the inside, not what was on the outside.

Clearly we should have known, we knew we were heavy…but looking at this picture, we did not recognize the person looking back through the fuzzy quality of the picture, the picture that would change our life forever.
What transpired was an immediate response. That night we discussed with The Mother what actions we might take. We had heard about Atkins; many of our family members had gone on the diet years before and had total success with it. They had all gained the weight back after a cousin of ours was killed in a winter car accident in 1999, a tragic story that is not ours to share; but should be a lesson to why one should always wear a seat belt. The Members of the family who had lost weight had eaten to deal with their sadness, and every one of them gained the weight back that they had lost on Atkins. To this day we do not know why The Other Girl had not gone back home to be with family, we have a feeling it had to do with money, and one of us; one of us who is usually successful at cutting out feelings, the killer of emotion – we do not remember crying about the loss of this loved one. We are ashamed about it. 

We went through the cupboards that night, after finally decided that cutting out carbohydrates would be the way to lose weight. We threw them all out, to eliminate temptation, because we had always loved our carbohydrates; to attempt this diet was going to require all of Our team, at the time, to control the food intake.

Special Boyfriend and The Mother even went on the diet, joining us in purging carbohydrates from the house. They lost weight on it too. Special Boyfriend was surprised.

Within the first week the weight loss was noticeable, within months there was no doubt the diet was going to be a success, we took 10 pounds off a week at some points. We had so much energy now that we were working out every day at the gym, taking dance classes through the University, and still we had extra energy to dispel. We shed pounds so fast we couldn’t stay in the clothes we kept purchasing to replace the baggy ones. We were eating though, don’t get us wrong. We ate lots of protein; we started eating fruits and vegetables very slowly, to make sure we stayed regular – but fat and protein made up a lot of our diet. We cut out coffee, soft drinks, sugar, “white” foods…anything that was a threat to our success. We lost 100 pounds in 9 months.

During this time we were in University, double majoring in Fine Art and Communication. We were a great student, maintained a near 4.0 (which in The States is the highest grade point average you can really achieve). We loved school, we were successful at it and we loved to learn new things. We took many classes, most months maintaining a more than full-time course load. We excelled at paper writing, we absorbed knowledge like a sponge.

There was a particular man in one of our art class. He was another one of the “mature students”, a title given to people who come back to University after a certain age.

This man was different than most men; we could see the tortured soul blinking through his eyes; his unhappiness, his mental imprisonment, his sadness and loneliness; his anguish. It called to us.

This man was married. We’ve mentioned him briefly in A Mistress Without Cutlery, a story of how we recently fell in love with a married man. This man, this art student, however, we did not love.

Of course we were in a relationship with Special Boyfriend, but him being the free spirit he is, for whatever reason, suggested we take a lover on the side. We didn’t know how we felt about this, asking him if it was because he planned to do the same. His response was no; so we figure that perhaps our sex drive was too much for him and therefore wanted us to outsource our needs, so he could get more reading and homework done.

Like we’ve said, Special Boyfriend was a free spirit. He taught us a lot about love and relationships. He’ll always have a place in our heart, even though to this day correspondences with him drive half of us “crazy” with frustration over his communication styles. Just another one of those relationships we look back on and don’t fully understand; perhaps because we were not all in the same boat on our feelings for him.

So, this man in art school, who thus forward will be coined Art School Lover. He was a married man. His wife was a University law student, studying to become a lawyer; meaning he had a lot of time by himself. They had been married for about 8 years by the time we met him. we do not recall. He was not the type to be forward, or flirt; we don’t recall how it started, how the whole affair came about, but we chose him as our lover.

Art School Lover was a sweet man, a broken man. We would spend  a lot time sharing a painting studio on the campus, talking about various things. He was our fishing partner in the beginning, spending long hours next to the river with us, catching things we would take back to his apartment to cook and eat. We would spend hours lounging on the floor of his home, having passionate sex, taking breaks to draw, talk, and listen to music. Mazzy Star still brings back memories of afternoons naked under a blanket on the futon in his living room.

It was not love we felt for this man. It never was. It was artistic passion, the desire to show him affection and caring, something we knew he wasn’t being provided by his wife. We realize this is morally wrong to some of you. 

In exchange for showing him there was hope for happiness, he inspired us to paint things that were new, and to look at life a bit differently. Just like Special Boyfriend.

The relationship ended, as did his marriage, eventually. We remained friends, still enjoying each other’s company and creating art together, but we never shared an intimate moment after our affair was over. That summer, after it had ended, we (as in Us) kept our ritual of fishing, taking solitude on the rocks next to the river, talking among ourselves and waiting for that big catch while Special Boyfriend spent time reading, creating his own art, and writing, waiting for us to come home and share our beds with each other (we had maintained separate rooms for much of our relationship)

Since this picture we have lost about 35-40 more pounds, bringing our total weight loss to about 130 pounds.

Late that summer, of 2004, Special Boyfriend would take a trip to a different state to meet with a “friend”. He slept with her, and at least had the kindness to tell us. We were upset because of the arrangement we had had, the agreement that he wouldn’t do what he wanted us to do; we had only done it at his request. He moved out, but we remained friends. Later, after we moved to our new home, he moved back in with The Mother; she was just as much his, as she was ours by this point.

Despite the fact he had always been anti-marriage, months later he would marry the girl that he had gone to see; of course it’s since ended in separation and likely divorce. He has moved onto other places, and other states of mind -we remain in contact with him to this day. We were hurt, but as with any ending of a relationship, there is hurt. It was his honesty that we appreciated, and what we learned from the nearly two years we dated him, that will solidify him in our memory.

The next chapter of our life starts in a new country where we went to live with a man we had met there, Talented Boyfriend. We left The Mother, once again, and moved on to try to live our life carrying around the pain of a life of physical, mental and sexual abuse, and mis-diagnosed mental disorders, that later in life we would understand in a different way, as Dissociative Identity Disorder. A six year period where we ended up learning even more about life, people, and Us.

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