I am lucky enough to have an amazingly emotional and stunningly brave guest post on my blog today. Please please go and visit Helen at Attempted Suicide. An Attempt at Recovery. Her writing is so poignant and honest and she will bring a tear to your eye I promise. She is an extremely talented writer and has shared an important story with me. Please show some love as I know this was quite difficult for her to write.
“Hello, I’m Helen. Apart from being a playful mother to my active little one-year-old and a problematic wife to my long-suffering twenty-nine-year-old, sadly I am also a young woman dealing with the aftermath of a very traumatic event: my attempted suicide. It happened last December at the climax of my battle with Postnatal Depression, and since then my family and I have been struggling with the carnage that followed. Needless to say, my blog deals with a very bleak period in my life. But my hopes are that by sharing my experience with others I’ll be able to both help fellow-sufferers by giving them someone to relate to, and those not affected by imparting some form of understanding. So this is the story of our path to recovery.”
The Coin Toss
Last week I aspired to write about the past four years of our married life in order to reflect on the path our lives together has taken. But with the devastating news we received on the day I’m writing my belated anniversary entry now.
You hear almost too many times as a courting couple the tiring question “How are the plans going?” or “Are you nervous?”. Almost as many times as you hear that you are also advised by many that “Hard times are ahead” “There’ll be tribulation in the flesh” or “In our 25 years together we’ve had some great times, but we’ve also gone through our fair share of rocky patches”.
Up until last year, I was naive enough to think that dealing with my hypothyroidism and the utter dependency on Wayne that resulted for a time counted as Rocky Patch I. I thought that dealing with his relapses into porn-viewing and the insecurities and injured trust that resulted from that was Rocky Patch II. I thought that the day we had a particularly bad argument and Wayne disappeared for hours while I waited on the steps of our apartment was Rocky Patch III. There are many aspects of our newly-wed days that I classed as “hard times” and I couldn’t help feeling a huge sense of superiority to all those veteran couples who had forewarned us when I thought of how well we’d dealt with and recovered from them.
But then December 1st 2009 happened. After 23 hours of sweating, panting, frantic punching of the “boost” button on the TENS and a hell of a lot of pain, our wide-eyed, purple, slightly-smelly but utterly enthralling 7lb 12oz boy came into the world. We looked at him, he looked at us, and in that moment our world was perfect.
And at first Wayne and I drew a little closer even though we spent less time together. It felt great to see my husband in his new paternal role, being affectionate with someone other than me. And I often caught Wayne smiling sleepily as he glanced across at Ben and I nestled in the rocking chair at 4 in the morning. He would often hug me and whisper in my ear “You’re doing a great job.” in those early weeks, and it made me feel fantastic.
About 3 weeks post-birth that things started to deteriorate. The sleep-deprivation began to take its toll and instead of relishing my new role and the responsibilities that came with it, I started to despise them. Instead of adoring my new son as he fed during the night, I began to see him as a leech that was purposefully and sadistically draining me of all energy. I would scowl across the softly lit room at Wayne’s sleeping figure, seething with jealousy and anger that he couldn’t help me out. This anger festered and grew until it turned me into a despicable creature who desired to harm her own baby. One night that stands out most is when I refused to feed Ben. My baby, starving and hysterical, in the arms of my perplexed, angry and disgusted husband as I sat on the bed and simultaneously pitied and hated myself.
Ergo, we had Rocky Patch IV. It was definitely the rockiest of rocky patches thus far. You don’t witness your wife hating your child without coming away from that kind of experience burned and wary. Just before The Incident we were doing a lot better, but still not great. But things had picked up for a while and once again an air of pomposity grew as I thought we were over our fourth Rocky Patch. However it was nothing compared to what our marriage would turn into after my suicide attempt.
It is with a heavy heart, stinging eyes and damp cheeks that I think back to those initial months of aftermath. In a way, I had succeeded in what I attempted that night in December because to Wayne I was dead and his cold actions toward me afterward were a testament to that. Maybe when some more time has passed I’ll be able to think back on it and scrutinise and dissect things a bit more coherently, but for now I think what sums it up best is that we both hated and loved each other at the same time. My hatred for him came from the situation he put us in, the freedom he stripped from me and the sadistic way I felt he treated me after what I did. His feelings (or lack thereof) toward me came from the obvious: his wife had tried to abandon him and his son. It’s not something I would have thought was possible; hating and loving simultaneously, but I now know better. That’s what makes love such an odd thing when you think about it. That it’s capable of making you hate someone because of how much you love them.
We came so close to the end of our marriage in these past months. So close that at times I thought it was a certainty. To say it was “hanging by a thread” would be being extremely generous. But we’ve stuck with it, we’ve somehow managed to pull each other part-way out of the wreckage I caused. And I feel a massive pang of remorse and shame for that wreckage. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve looked at Wayne and thought “If only you hadn’t married me.”
He knew I was sick early on in our relationship. I have battled with depression throughout my entire life, even childhood, though none of it matches up with the type I’ve been wrestling with these past 18 months. My first suicide attempt was when I was 15. My second a year later. During the time Wayne and I dated I had grown up a lot. I thought I was better, but my self-harm demons resurfaced when the stress of trying to please him and my parents simultaneously became too much. I think I thought that he was my cure and that when we were together all my issues would magically disappear. “Love can conquer all” etc. But I was wrong and stupid. My illness is far more entrenched than that.
There are times when I have seriously regretted marrying Wayne. Times when I fantasise about what direction his life could have taken if I were never a part of it. He could have a lovely little wife who’s biggest fault was spending too much money on clothes… instead of me – whose biggest flaw is being me, I’ve often thought. I wish he’d found someone else, someone who cared more about him than I do. Of course I love him. I’m so deeply in love with him that I did what I did in December in an effort to save him. But looking back on our past four years together, snapshot images of Wayne leaning over my broken self seem to surface more than the pictures of us being happy together. He doesn’t deserve any of it, but I’m grateful for the super-human strength he’s shown in dealing with it, in dealing with me and in being the rock for Ben that I can’t be yet.
When all those experienced couples warned us of the hard times to come, they also tended to add that these tribulations can make you stronger as a couple.
Has it made us stronger? I fear it’s too early to say. But if nothing else, we understand each other a lot more now. I just hope that if nothing else, this experience has strengthened us to face any future rocky patches. After all, if we can withstand this, surely we can get through anything?
I heard a good quote today:
“When I said ‘for better or worse’ I knew it was a coin toss.” – Shepherd James Walker
So I like to think that when we faced each other and vowed on that overcast June day four years ago – young, fresh and naive as to what lengths this union we were undertaking would be tested – Wayne knew it would go either way, but loved me enough to risk it.
Sometimes I just wish I had loved him enough to say “I don’t”.