The picture above is of the clothes that my husband laid out for work the night before the aneurysm. I left them exactly as they were as a sacred symbol of hope for his recovery until the day that he returned to work. He wore them on his first day back after 18 months of fighting for his life.
For the first two months after coming home from the hospital, he had a headache that no narcotic could cure. He’d sleep for 20 or more hours a day, only waking up to take pills or eat occasionally. He couldn’t tolerate light or sound, so I sat in darkness, quietly playing games on the computer. I was afraid to leave him for even short periods of time to go grocery shopping for necessities, but I had to do it.
It was during this time that I would eat an entire box of cereal, then wash it down with a pack of Oreos. I ate my way through every fear, frustration, and pain. I lived in sheer terror on a 24 hour basis, 7 days a week. I’ve never had a close relationship with my siblings, so there weren’t any calls to check on us. My mother didn’t call to see how we were doing. Fortunately, his family are truly amazing, wonderful, caring people.
If I’m honest, I harbor resentment that there were no offers to help from my family and friends. I don’t know if it was such a heavy subject that people were afraid to connect because they’d hear sorrow, but that taught me a couple of important life lessons. The first of which was that I was surrounding myself with the wrong people if they weren’t supportive in a time when I really needed someone. The second was to never be afraid to reach out if I know that someone might be in need of emotional support. I may not always have the right words, but I’ll never knowingly allow anyone to be that lonely.
The one close friend who would have been the first to call, Teresa, had passed away suddenly after a very short illness in July of that year. I know that she’d have been there like my rock. A wife of one of my husband’s friends called to check on us often. Though we’ve never been besties, she will always have a special place in my heart because she was the only one outside of his family who picked up the phone regularly.
I became angry, resentful, and bitter. I spent too much time online trying to get lost in a fantasy world where none of this was happening. I played Facebook games for hours to pass the time so that I wouldn’t have to face the fear and pain. I built a magnificent kingdom in Castleville, but neglected myself.
I idealized suicide more times than I care to admit, but how could I do that, knowing the gift that we’d been given of not just his survival, but his amazing recovery? In December of 2012, I hit a breaking point. I left my house with a full bottle of pills, a plastic tarp, a roll of tape, and a neatly-written note. I planned to tape up the windows so no one could see in after placing the note against the glass warning of what would be found inside.
While driving to the spot that I had chosen, the rational part of my mind was trying to reason with me about why I shouldn’t follow through. I pulled over in a parking lot because I was crying so hard that I began hyperventilating, so I couldn’t drive. I sat in my car for a long time and just let it all out. I thought of how he still needed me. I thought of silly things that I looked forward to – I’d never see the end of my favorite TV show, True Blood. There was no one who loved me to call and I didn’t want to burden my husband with drama. Suicidal thoughts aren’t rational. I was concerned about burdening him with my feelings, but gave no consideration to the burden he’d bear with a dead wife.
I decided to put it off one day. If I still felt the same way in 24 hours, I’d go ahead and do it. I stared at my hands. My fingernails were not polished – and as crazy as this sounds – nail polish saved my life. I went into a store still crying with puffy, red eyes and bought ten different colors of polish. I went home, closed the bathroom door, and polished them to perfection. (I kept my fingernails impeccably polished red for four years as a constant reminder that I have the power to overcome.)
I was physically and emotionally drained. Later that evening, I found myself on the kitchen floor writhing and sobbing. The Thomas Fuller quote “the darkest hour is just before the dawn,” is true. I am living proof. That breakdown pushed me over the edge to make the decision if this was going to be my end or my beginning. I reached out for mental help the next morning. This isn’t the kind of thing that anyone can handle on their own. You don’t pull up your bootstraps and just get better. You have to get professional help.
When the time came to make changes, I used the resentment, anger, and bitterness to fuel me with the strength to make real, positive changes. This was going to end my life or be the beginning of a new one. Fortunately, there was a small glimmer of hope left inside of me that wanted to survive. What fired me up to change won’t be the same reasons as yours, but the negative emotions that you carry are an untapped source of unlimited strength if you channel them in a positive way.
(To be continued)