The Elephant in the Room Pt. 3...

In a flash, my Honey was gone. The future I thought I had was gone. The hope of my fairy tale ending was done. My life was over as I knew it.

I had never experienced death of a loved one before. Friends, extended family, yes, but never up close and clearly nothing THAT close. Suicide always seemed particularly tragic as well. To be so deep in the pit that you can't see another way out was so sad to me. That summer the football player Junior Seau killed himself and I told Bret about it in tears. And when a member of our doll family, Melissa Windham, died the previous August, I cried for days even though I'd never met her. It has always shaken me in a way that I can't explain.

My family rallied around me while I curled up in bed. I managed to pull it together enough to get my son and myself to counseling. We attended all kinds of meetings and even had some volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention come and talk to the family. I was going through the motions in deep shock with a large case of PSTD as you can imagine.

Of course a number of people reached out to me. They let me know they were available to talk, to be cried on. But I was coming off a year where I basically had one adult to talk to regularly and he was gone. I didn't know how to communicate or even what to communicate other than huge amounts of pain, and to strangers? I couldn't so I retreated even further.

Everyone told me it wasn't my fault but how could it not be? I pushed him to see the doctor. I was mean to him that weekend. I didn't want to sell my doll. I was his wife, his best friend! I was the only one standing in between him and the door (as if the door would have held him back). How was it not my fault?? And why didn't I know he was that deeply depressed? I should have known! I felt I failed him on every level with every fiber of my being.

It was a few weeks before I got the reports from the pharmacies about which and how many pills Bret was taking. He was prescribed enough to cripple anyone and without a doctor's intervention he never had a chance of surviving on his own. And yet I still blamed myself for not knowing. But we trust: we trust our loved ones to be honest; we trust their judgements; we want to believe them.

Resoundingly, everyone who learned of Bret's death was in shock. No one, and I mean NO ONE, would have believed he did this if I hadn't been right there. In his right mind, he would NEVER have done this to any of his friends or family. He didn't let on to anyone that he was in such a dark place. This gave me a few things: it momentarily gave me a reprieve in knowing he hid it from everyone, not just me; it made me even sadder knowing he felt he had no one to turn to; and ultimately I took on the responsibility of his death even more because I was the one person who could have stopped it. I know now, if someone wants to do it they will do it but at the time and for months to come I would replay the incident and scramble to find something I could or should have done differently.

My own depression set in December 2012. Nothing mattered. I wanted out. And for the first time I understood how suicide isn't "personal". I was in so much pain, all I could think about was ending my life every minute of every day. I learned that tricky line of what I could and couldn't say to my therapists so they wouldn't try to talk me into commitment and oh, how they wanted to. They would bring up my son, tell me I had to be around for him. In my sickness, I was convinced he'd be okay. Of course now I see how very wrong it would have been but back then I was so so damaged. I truly thought I didn't deserve to live for letting Bret down so badly. It had nothing to do with anyone else. It was a black hole that I was ready to be swallowed up by.

Looking back, I don't know how I functioned other to say I was on autopilot. My son's 18th birthday was almost 2 months to the day and I managed to pull it together and play with him and his friends for the day. I remember going on the doll board and buying dream dolls in the hopes they'd make me "happy". Of course this was absurd considering I still had so much guilt tied up in my ultimate dream doll, the Enchanted Doll. I would get a box and take it directly to the closet. I didn't even open them. I met with friends and family but in the back of my mind it stayed...life holds nothing for me anymore.

I didn't stop being actively suicidal (I say that to mean constantly thinking about doing it) until almost April 2013. I wish I could tell you the exact formula for how I got well but I think it was a combination. I was in therapy once, sometimes twice a week; I was on a heavy dose of antidepressants; I cut out alcohol; I had an amazing friend come into my life, get me exercising and out of the house; other friends would make plans and give me things to look forward to; and very slowly, very subtly I began to feel better. I still cried a lot but I no longer wanted to die. I had hope. Tiny hopes but still.

I'd start to feel better then "first anniversaries" would knock me on my ass. Our dating anniversary, Bret's birthday, etc. It was also our son's senior year so he had all sort of milestones he was hitting without his dad...prom, graduation, first year of college. It was a never ending rollercoaster of false starts, unrealistic expectations and frustration with myself. I just wanted to be better already. I was so over being sad all the time but I couldn't help it. I had to learn and accept words which previously repulsed me: gentle...easy....patient. I had never been anything but down right evil when it came to my expectations of myself so you might as well have asked me to accept becoming left-handed. But I surrendered. I didn't really have an option.

Throughout 2013, I avoided the office like the plague. I didn't so much as look at a doll, let alone have the capability to paint. And if I got close to them, my body would tense up and I'd start to cry. The actualization of Bret's absence was never more acute than when I thought about painting because with each step I'd have to face his loss. He couldn't advise me or praise me or reassure me that I was on the right track even. Oh, how I longed to hear him say "You know what doll you need to do...". It got so bad that I thought about selling off everything and never looking back. Often. I was convinced I couldn't get back into it. The pain was too much.

In August I was finally able to say it wasn't my fault and mean it. I still carry it, ever torturing myself with guilt, but even that one day I hope to be able to put down.

The last few months of 2013 brought a turn. I started to talk to other artists about regaining my creativity and how to do so when your partner is involved in your art. My friends all gave me the sweetest words of encouragement which somehow stuck with me. And somehow I was able to remember what I loved about painting and dolls in general. After many false starts during the year I finally resolved to pick up the brushes after the first anniversary of Bret's death passed and somehow made it happen.

It wasn't the same as the last time I "came back". I didn't have to remember how to paint as much as relearn the steps...the little intricacies of brush strokes...the techniques of 3d painting you acquire over practice...and each day I was able to go a little longer. Sure, my back was aching and my hand was cramping but I was creating again and that was all that mattered. And every day I started to notice something else; a hair style that would look good miniaturized, a pretty color to work with, an inspiring spattering of freckles, a great outfit similar to something I had created once. All of the elements that made my style "mine" were coming back to me and I was finally feeling...happy.

This isn't to say I won't have bad days or that I'm "normal". Unfortunately I doubt I'll ever be able to use that word to describe me again. And I'm still not great with people, especially in large groups. But I'm on the road.

Again, I'm not sharing all of this for pity. And please don't feel badly for not knowing what to say. I wouldn't know what to say to me!! Don't worry about it. But if someone reads my story and it helps them get through a tough time then all this turmoil means something. You CAN get out of that dark place. You CAN get better. You CAN reclaim your life. There IS hope. For Bret's birthday I donated enough money to the AFSP to train a volunteer much like the ones that visited us after his death. And one day, when I'm strong enough, I hope to become a volunteer myself and help others through their own journey.



Kristy Tucker said...

All I can say is that you are a strong, brave woman. I am so, so sorry for your loss and I think of you often in my prayers. Big hugs.

mydollfamily said...

Thank you so much for sharing your innermost feelings & thoughts.

I believe that anyone reading this will take something away from it.

I hope you continue to grow stronger and though you will never be quite the same person again, I hope that you can see how much you can offer to other people by sharing your experience.

Lots of hugs to you


Anonymous said...

You've been through so much, but yet have come so far! I am proud of you that you've come this far in your journey! One step at a time, ok? Know that you are never alone and that you are loved!

Sending healing hugs and prayers to you and the family!

Mario in SD

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog looking for something to read, anything that had to do with dolls, a distraction I use... I suffer from depression, debilitating life long depression and once started, I couldn't stop reading your story as you articulated, so well, what it feels like to wake up every morning realizing you're forced to go through the motions of yet another day...

I'm very excited for you, glad to know you've got something to grab on to, something to wake you from the grogginess of depression... your story is inspirational and uplifting and heartfelt. You write well...

I'm sorry for your loss. I'm thankful for your blog... it isn't much but, in a kindred kind of way, I'm thinking maybe I'll pull out my sewing machine and make a new doll outfit... amazing, how, when least expect it, we can find motivation in the most unusual places... I was looking for distraction and found your blog. Just what I needed on this dreary rainy day... you give me hope and reaffirmed that getting back to life is one step at a time, one foot in front of the other... one task at a time... thank you.

Now, I'm going to explore the rest of your blogs... wishing you all the best.

nancy Alfred said...

HELLO to my friends out there i am testifying about the good work of a man who help me it has been hell from the day my husband left me i am a woman with two kids my problem stated when the father of my kids travel i never help he was living but as at two weeks i did not set my eye on my husband i try calling but he was not taken my call some week he call me telling me that he has found love some where easy at first i never take to be serous but day after he came to the house to pick his things that was the time i notice that things is going bad i help he will come back but things was going bad day by day i needed to talk to someone about it so i went to his friend but there was no help so i give it up on him month later i met on the the internet a spell caster i never believe on this but i needed my men back so i gave the spell caster my problem at first i never trusted him so i was just doing it for doing sake but after three day my husband called me telling me that he his coming home i still do not believe but as at the six day the father to my kids came to the house asking me to for give him the spell work to said to my self from that day i was happy with my family thanks to the esango priest of (abamieghe)esango priest he his a great man you need to try him you can as well to tell him your problem so that he can be of help to you his content email is this esangopriest@gmail.com indeed you are a priest thank you for making my home a happy home again. remember his email is esangopriest@gmail.com

Sam said...

Thank you all so much for your comments. This is the first time I've been back here since writing this and I had no idea they were here.

Wow, March Anon, you pretty much made my year. Knowing I might have helped someone else in any way possible makes reliving it here worth it. Clinical depression is real, physical as well as emotional, and nothing short of hell on earth but there is hope. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and best wishes.