In the last post Annabelle finally explained to Robin what has been weighing on her mind ever since she came back from New York after visiting Dean.
It was the appointment with her therapist and a mental health doctor. During the appointment, the doctor had explained to Annabelle that she thinks she is showing the characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder. Annabelle did not take the diagnosis well at all and stormed out of the appointment adamant that she would no longer be attending counselling sessions. How will the Robin feel about what Annabelle has told him?
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
Robin woke early the following morning with a lot on his mind. Without disturbing Annabelle he slipped out of bed and sat in a chair in the corner of the room looking out at the view and pondering what he had read during the night about Borderline Personality Disorder. He knew Annabelle would be devastated to hear him say it, but he couldn’t help feel that so much of what he read really did apply to Annabelle.
There were particular phrases that ran through his mind. He had looked at several websites, but the first had been wikipedia were he had read the a paragraph that he felt was Annabelle all over: People with Borderline Personality Disorder are often exceptionally enthusiastic, idealistic, joyful, and loving, but may feel overwhelmed by negative emotions (anxiety, depression, guilt/shame, worry, anger), experiencing intense grief instead of sadness, shame and humiliation instead of mild embarrassment, rage instead of annoyance, and panic instead of nervousness. People with Borderline Personality Disorder are also especially sensitive to feelings of rejection, criticism, isolation, and perceived failure.
In fact, the more Robin had read, the more he knew about the characteristics of this condition, he found his feelings becoming provoked. He came to the conclusion that based on what Annabelle’s therapist had said, the mental health Doctor, Annabelle had seen, must have been trying to help her see for herself that her own characteristics matched those of others diagnosed with BPD.
Annabelle had clearly become enraged and had taken the diagnosis as a judgement, a sign of failure. She must have taken it very personally. But what Robin was reading was really helping him. He had never been able to understand the changes in mood, the rainbow of emotional reactions Annabelle displayed. He had wondered how someone who seemed one moment so confident and excited and exuberant, could suddenly plummet to feeling like a failure, and condemn herself.
Throughout the material he read, there was mention of self-punishing behavior, self-harm. Wikipedia had cited 50-80% of BDP sufferers as having challenges with self-harm. There were other sections that made him think back on conversations he and Annabelle had together ever since they met. She herself confessed she had difficulty concentrating and was easily distracted. She was always so reluctant to give her opinion, state her preference, form any goals. She had never shown any ambition, or declared what she wanted in life, except, she had said very clearly that she wanted him.
That was the first time he had ever heard her state so clearly what she wanted out of their relationship. After their first year together, Robin had left New York thinking that she was ready to move on. He had loved that year with her. But as a man, he saw in her a beautiful, seductive, fun-loving, tactile, flirtatious woman, who always had a party to go to, and who didn’t plan on settling down.
There had always been a concern in the back of his mind that she only came to England because of her pregnancy, but not really for him. To see her become depressed and unhappy, planted seeds of doubt in his mind if Annabelle had really wanted to be with him at all. It was hard to map out how his own feelings had developed. Somehow in seeing how much she was in need, he had naturally made decisions to care for her. Those decisions had felt good, loving Annabelle felt good, but there seemed little improvement in her spirits. Gradually a sense of futility crept into him. The vivacious, lively young woman he had spent a year with in New York had become at best cooperative and meek, and at worst inconsolable and despairing.
When he had left New York with Annabelle and arrived in Blackwood, the exhaustion of his anxiety over Annabelle had finally took it’s toll. By that point he was completely burnt out. He had nothing left to give to Annabelle. Believing he couldn’t help her when he was so low in himself, he felt he had no choice but to seek help.
What he had not expected was his how much he had wanted to immerse himself in anything that felt like an escape from responsibility. He wanted to go back to that year of fun he had with Annabelle in New York. In London, without Annabelle, he had tried to recreate that excitement.
But going to bars and clubs and parties in London, had just opened him up to temptations. It was much later when he had reflected on how Annabelle used to react whenever she felt there was something at a party that made her feel uncomfortable. She hated drugs and heavy drinking. He realized, that all those times she whispered something suggestive into his ear at parties in Manhattan, that may have been her way of making sure they escaped an atmosphere she realized was about to turn. Without her experienced eyes seeing signs of trouble and removing them, Robin had too easily found himself in a serious mess.
Receiving phone calls and e-mails from Annabelle full of details about her life in Blackwood had made him think she was doing better without him. She spoke so positively about her new friends and about the countryside around Blackwood. But then as time went on, she seemed to become so emotionally intense about how much she was missing him.
Robin had not known what to do for the best, but by that point his problems were so big, he could not even think of returning to Wisconsin. It had taken Claudia’s abrasive uncompromising manner to convince him he needed to break free from the habits he had adopted in London, due to his new “associates”. It was during rehab, a time he finally felt he was hitting rock bottom, that he became aware in himself that Annabelle Riley was his main motivation to recover. He missed her intensely. She wouldn’t wait forever for him. He realized he was going to lose her at some point.
But when he had gone back to Blackwood, there were clear signs that her playful, joyful nature had recovered. At first Robin had almost wondered if he could get away with not telling Annabelle of his behaviour in London. That would have been unfair and dishonest. He needed to come clean if they were going to have any kind of future together. Yet that honesty brought the risk of manifesting little depth of feeling on her part.
Despite the drama of those two days when Annabelle seemed to be struggling to come to terms with Robin’s confession, eventually she had made it clear how she felt. She had done so with more conviction that he had ever seen from her before. He wasn’t imagining it, she wanted a life with him, despite everything that happened. It was clear that if she wanted to be with another man, she had opportunities waiting. Chris was obviously waiting to stake a claim on Annabelle. But she had made it very clear. She was in love with Robin. That had bolstered his self-confidence enormously and sent him back to Switzerland more determined than before to work to pay his debt off as quickly as possible.
He went back to Wikipedia on his phone to read the passages that had struck him over again: People with BPD tend to have trouble seeing their identity clearly. In particular, they tend to have difficulty knowing what they value, believe, prefer, and enjoy. They are often unsure about their long-term goals for relationships and jobs. This can cause people with BPD to feel “empty” and “lost”. Self-image can also change rapidly from healthy to unhealthy. The often intense emotions people with BPD experience can make it difficult for them to concentrate.
There were a long list of characteristics that Robin read and could easily identify with what he knew of Annabelle’s behaviour at times, ever since he had met her four years earlier: Pliant, submissive, loyal, humble; feels vulnerable and in constant jeopardy; feels hopeless, depressed, helpless, and powerless. Negativistic, impatient, restless, as well as stubborn, defiant, sullen, pessimistic, and resentful; easily feels “slighted” and quickly disillusioned. Captivating, capricious, superficial, flighty, distractible, frenetic, and seductive; fearing loss, the individual becomes agitated; gloomy and irritable; self-punishing.
Robin started to dwell on glimpses into a side of Annabelle that she didn’t seem to have been allowed to cultivate. What did Annabelle Riley really want in her life? He had asked her that just before they said goodbye to each other in Blackwood. Annabelle has said she did not know. Robin realized that Annabelle had always submitted to his decisions, his preferences. She had been dependent on him, devoted to him, as she probably had been to Dean before him. Always eager and excited with whatever he had decided. What were her dreams?
“She Dreams”. Robin immediately thought of Dean’s song, one of the songs on their first album. It was the only song on the album sung by Dean, rather than the band’s lead singer Nick. He typed it into the scrollbar on his phone and waited for the YouTube video to appear. Those first verses seemed to take on new meaning. Robin found himself feeling great empathy for Dean for the first time.
This was a man who was in love with a woman who did not know herself. A man who was afraid his lover was like a child in how much she needed him. A man who is is afraid of the responsibility because she needs love, she needs care. A man who was eager to see her grow her own wings and fly…fly like in her dreams.
She dreams of a great quest, she dreams she’ll pass the test, she dreams she’ll be the best, she dreams she’ll find rest. “Let’s go build a boat for me and you, and sail away on the ocean blue. We’ll stop at every bay we pass along the way. Dancing in the sand, walking hand in hand. The last verse was the plea of the same man singing to his lover to make her dreams stronger than the shame, stronger than her tears, stronger than the pain and stronger than her fears.
The guitar chords rung out a soul-churning melody that had made that single win the attention of critics and fans. It was the standout track from Mildew’s first album. But listening to it afresh, Robin really began to appreciate how much Dean had cared for Annabelle. There was no doubt Dean was singing about the same woman Robin was in love with.
Robin saw on the side of his screen was a list of other Mildew tracks including right at the top the song that he was well aware had just been released, “Only One Woman”. He listened carefully to the lyrics, searching for clues about how Dean saw Annabelle now:
“It turns out the woman is still a child, Who needs to be held and told she’s a good girl”
“Discovered too late I’d lost someone so rare, Why did I hurt her, deceive and betray her?”
“She gives up her own dreams to make yours come true, Won’t believe in herself, she’ll believe in you”
Somehow, those words taunted Robin. It was a like a list of things he had missed, things he had taken for granted about Annabelle. He flicked back to the Wikipedia entry on BDP. Right there in the first paragraph it mentioned “fear of abandonment“. With great force, Robin was reminded of what he had done. He had abandoned Annabelle. He had left her in Blackwood, going to seek help for his own mental state, and on arriving in London he had done the things she hated, he had hurt her, deceived and betrayed her.
Although he hated the first half of the chorus of the song Dean had written, it was a reminder that he had ended up doing exactly what Dean had, he had abused alcohol and cocaine. Annabelle, who had given up her career with Sony, her stylish apartment, her world of friends, to come after him. She didn’t believe in herself, she believed in him, despite how much he had let her down. She had been broken. But she had kept on loving. Loyal, humble, submissive – yes she was. Hopeless, helpless, powerless – she may well have been during his absence. Yet here she was, back by his side.
Robin fixed his gaze upon Annabelle, who was still asleep. Perhaps Annabelle may not have been able to come to terms with the diagnosis she had received. But Robin found it easy to accept. New light on the workings of Annabelle’s mind and heart helped him to solidify his resolution. He vowed silently never to let Annabelle believe she was a failure, feel rejected, or to fear abandonment. He would help his exceptionally enthusiastic, idealistic, joyful, and loving lover to believe in herself, to feel completely secure and loved, and to make her own dreams come true.
Why had he ever doubted the depth of her feelings for him? She had probably been hungering for him to supply an unshakable love she could rely on. Starting that very day, he would make sure Annabelle was absolutely certain that she was loved for the beautiful person she was.
You can read the next part of Annabelle’s story here:
Kim, the creator of Writer Side of Life has given us some great writing prompts. Several of them appealed to me, but I have only chosen one to work on for now, because I am still playing catch up with blogging, after my trip to Australia:
I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?