The House That’ JACK’ Built by Matt Carlson

I’m looking again at this picture of a wooden house, the one you see there with the trees and the garden. That wooden structure is actually sitting on what was once a very big cement terrace. I built it myself with my two little hands; it’s insulated, has a see-through roof (though now that’s covered with a special material to keep the warm air in); it has two rooms (a living area and a half office/half entry way. It has a glass door (recuperated from Gréasque) has a front door and one window (from the ex brother in law) and a large bay window (from the ex mother-in-law). It is attached to the original stone house. which is about the same size. It’s sitting in the middle of a forest.

I began building this structure when O. (now my ex-compagnon) was hospitalized for BPD (Borderline Personality Order). I actually built it for him : an act of love. I went and chose the wood, paid for it and hauled it back to what we later called, ‘Le Pin Pastèque’. I emptied the truck and stacked all the wood, put a tarp over it when it rained, bricks too, (on the tarp) when the wind was strong; I bought too the necessary tools and materials in order to build ‘our future cube” : nails, screws, a hand drill, an electric saw, a ladder, a measuring device, big plastic plaques and systems of attaching them for the roof, etc, etc. The list is so long… and I don’t remember the names in English right now… But you get the picture.

At the same time, that O. was in the hospital (and he was in very bad shape): he’d been trying to hurt himself by mutilation, strange epileptic type episodes, stating that he wanted to end his life – he said that he almost drove the car into a ravine. So I had him hospitalized.There was no other choice and he accepted it. My Mental Health Worker experience from 20 years earlier came to life in an instant –  though this was not in an enclosed facility with a close knit team…I was on my own & at that same time, I too, was going a little bit crazy. My Father ( a recovering alcoholic) had just recently passed away and then suddenly O. took a turn for the worse.

We had  been together for five years, initially I hadn’t known that he was suffering from BPD – didn’t really understand what that meant either at that time. I did understand that there was something wrong with him; I remember our first disagreement: he just sat on the couch across the room with this strange blank look on his face. As if, he had become a zombie in the twink of an eye….My days were quickly filled with visiting O. at the hospital, dealing with the administrative problems that went along with that, and taking care of my own health issues. Working on the house gave me a focus – thinking that it would help make things better somehow. Knowing that while you battled with your mind in a crazy house, a physical nest of love and support would soon be opening it’s doors to you? It was not to be so…

O’s Mother and brother showed absolutely no assistance, or moral support whatsoever. Not even one phone call to inquire how I was doing. This was not very surprising, though the initial reaction was to ‘O’s’ being hospitalized. There had always been a strange love/hate relationship going on between O and his family, that I didn’t understand. I continually encouraged him to work through it, to stay in contact with them on some level, even though he stated his hate for them.

O. had specifically asked me to call his Mom  and tell her not to visit for a while, including the brother in that scenario – that he needed time to think, to not be in contact with them. But upon calling her and relating O’s wishes, she hung up on me! Then proceeded to tell O’s brother that I wanted to “control her son” and the situation. I know this because the brother wrote to me an email relaying this information and telling me to ‘stop telling everybody what to do’. I was amazed as it was so far from the truth. Of course, I quickly defended myself by clarifying what had been actually said and by whom – in a very neutral tone yet feeling obliged to make him aware of the inappropriate reaction from his Mother….but to no avail. I wouldn’t understand until several years later the strange reaction from Gigi (the Mother)…. that she was also suffering from BPD! I was surrounded by a family with BPD and didn’t know it!!

Then, suddenly (shortly after O’s being hospitalized) I received a direct message by a young man (via email- oh the joys of Internet, right?) that O was having an affair with someone! And that ‘someone’ was telling me what a terrible person I was (this time O was fabricating stories about me)….Of course,  I told the guy off and NOT gently either. I was furious and went to see O at the hospital, only to find the same person physically present – though he quickly leaves upon my arrival)…Visions of kicking his ass briefly flashed in my head… O tries to explain at first that it’s his ‘barber’. Instantly, I tell him about the message I’d received earlier and it is CONFIRMED with apologies (“I’m a worthless human being – I don’t deserve you” etc) and that the barber and the email sender are the same person – AND that he lives in the same village (Fuveau) AND that the guy is in love with O!…. Of course, O tells me he had only gone a few times over this guys house to get a hair cut and drink coffee. Uh huh, right….I don’t kick anybody’s ass, but driving home I am wondering how the hell to get out of this sticky situation, or to fix it somehow. And wouldn’t I have noticed those hair cuts??

Of course, infidelity had been a serious problem with O from the beginning – that and his drinking. Only my music was saving me, therapy through songs, and the building process of the house, but I was being pulled down by outside forces way beyond my control…. The good news was that a new treatment had been found for me – the famous cocktail of three HIV drugs was actually working. Physically, I was slowly becoming stronger for the first time in 19 years. Why was I staying with this guy? What was wrong with ME?


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