Many years ago I was living in Pensacola, working as a programmer, 32 years old and about to get married for the first time. My fiance Diana was a brilliant and creative divorced woman with three kids. I had met her while we were both volunteer telephone crisis counselors at the local community mental health center. When we had first started dating I had felt a close and engaging rapport with Diana, but over the course of our courtship I started to feel things getting occasionally strange and disturbing.

Diana had occasional attacks of acute anxiety and depression that had no cause that I could see. I felt frustrated and helpless at such times, at a loss as to what I could do to help her. Sometimes she would be sunk into such profound despair that it actually scared me. At these times she would sometimes blame her depression and anxiety on her job, which was tedious and stupid for sure but then most people probably work at tedious and stupid jobs, so why couldn’t she just get over it? Sometimes she blamed, with a great deal amount of accompanying anger, these deep dark moods on her kids. I found this to be disturbing because I thought this blaming of the kids was completely unwarranted and furthermore no mother should have such hostility toward her own kids.

But Diana could also be charming, warm, witty, and full of enthusiasm. Everyone who met her liked her. I was probably the only one who knew of the other aspect of her personality, the strange dark depths of her. I kept expecting that she would eventually relax and that, being the intelligent person she was, she would eventually see that there was nothing for her to be angry or fearful about, and so just let go of the anger and the depression and the fear. But Diana’s episodes continued. We had agreed to marry, but I was gradually developing some misgivings about it. I felt a great sense of responsibility and commitment to Diana. I couldn’t abandon her. Yet I had the growing feeling that I might very well be heading into a very difficult relationship. I was committed, I felt that it wasn’t possible for me to change the path I was on. I was like a train on a track heading toward something that might or might not turn out to be a disaster.

A few days before Diana and I were to be married, I called a woman a knew named Leah, a friend and fellow volunteer from the crisis counseling service. I asked her if she would take a walk with me. It was early spring and the weather was clear, cool and very windy. We met in downtown Pensacola and walked down South Palafox Street down to the pier that goes out over Pensacola Bay. I can’t remember now what Leah and I talked about but I think it was probably nothing of any great importance. I was very anxious about my relationship with Diana and the upcoming marriage but I don’t think I talked about that. What I remember most was a beautiful day of brilliant sunshine, and the winds whipping up whitecaps in the bay as we walked, and pelicans hovering in the wind over the pier, and that for a little while I was in the presence of someone who cared about me and respected me, and I have never forgotten that even after my marriage and the later divorce and the many other relationships and breakups, all through the years.