It was a Tuesday night in late September 2007 when I awoke to swirling blue lights whipping across the bedroom ceiling. I opened the front door to two uniformed policemen asking if my husband lived at this address. They told me he had just taken his life. Time stalled for me yet kept moving. I was sitting on the couch holding a glass of water without knowledge of how I had got it. I couldn't process the tragic news and I was experiencing the most catastrophic form of heartbreak. I wouldn't accept that I was a widow at 29.
On our wedding day less than three years before, I remember looking into the twinkly blue eyes of my new husband and feeling happy, content and loved. My job in the city of London working for an Investment Bank seemed like it was in another life - a different universe.
I was married to a man who was supportive of my burning ambition and relentless drive to succeed - a stark contrast to his own aspirations. He was a dreamer, and I loved that about him, but now wondered if that was his way of coping with melancholy. To fail was unacceptable, so better not to even try.
We were both sensitive souls and easily hurt. When a fight was brewing, we preferred to absent from each other than go headlong into conflict. On the sunny days of our relationship, we were true love's young dream. When the clouds threatened, communication became something we both avoided.
We met on a train bound for Edinburgh in November 2001. Within a few months we were living together. Apart from my unwavering commitment to my job, he was the centre of my world. Less than two years later, I came home to find two dozen red roses and tea light candles burning all over our lounge room and him on bended knee. I didn't hesitate to say yes to be his wife.
I loved telling him that out of everything in the world, he was my favourite. He was my rock as I tried to validate myself and grab at any chance to climb the slippery corporate ladder. I wish that I'd spent more time with him rather than at my desk, doing monotonous hours of what I now see as meaningless work.
I now know that my husband suffered from depression. He was unable to communicate about the pain he was in. I knew when he wasn't happy, and as a problem solver, I tried to make life better for him. When he confessed that he hated his job, we agreed that he would resign and take six months to renovate our house. At first it was fun for both of us, stripping wallpaper, pulling up the carpet and choosing paint colours. However, it became another source of unspoken conflict when I'd get up for an early alarm and he would roll over.
Over several months, he began to withdraw and our relationship spiralled downwards. Coming home to find him sitting at the computer, he would ignore me even when I put myself into his line of vision. Attempts to get him to open up widened the rift till we were barely speaking. I asked him to move out. I wanted to help him, but I felt like I was a cause rather than a comfort. I threw myself into work and he slept on a friend's couch. Time slipped by until that night of cataclysmic irreversible action.
The days and weeks following his death are forever etched on my consciousness. Identifying his body, my eyes could not believe I was seeing the lifeless form of the man I had promised myself to. The shock and denial quickly turned to volcanic anger and the slightest thing would set me off. People at work who avoided my gaze like grief might be contagious. Other people would want comfort from me for their heartache when my world had been smashed into a million tiny pieces.
I had no road map and at best I felt like I was acting in someone else's movie. I wanted to scream at everyone. I sought grief counselling and can swear that the only reason I maintained my sanity was due to purging the ugly thoughts consuming me, and crying until my eyes, head and body ached.
I tried just about everything to cope. Blocking the grief, obsessing about the loss, falling into a deep depression of my own. I forgot to eat. I spent money on things I didn't need. I drank to numb the pain, woke up in clothes from the night before, and forgot how I got home. I didn't care. I was tormented.
They say time heals - but you have to give time, some time. I am still not sure, eight years on, if that is true. It may lessen the intensity. I have to believe that he took his life. He hadn't taken mine. I know I am living my life again when I think I see him in familiar places and I smile rather than cry. He travels with me as I go throughout my days.
I eventually got to a point where I could develop healthy habits, from eating cleanly to exercising regularly. I started to realise that substances were making me sick, and whilst they may delay or mask the anguish, they were ultimately not helping me.
In 2012, I moved away from the career I had spent so long building and took time out to write a book. I lost myself, in a good way, to the process of creating a manuscript.
Depression is a pervasive all consuming disease. It remains overlooked and stigmatised. Cancer patients are not told to get well yet this seems to be the approach to depression. If I had my time again I would ask for more help, be patient with my support and just let him be. Rather than changing everything around him, I would sit with him so that he would know that it was okay to feel the way he did.
The words from my eulogy to him remain true: I made those promises to be his wife with every ounce of my soul. I miss him terribly and he will always be in my treasured memories. He tolerated my sadness and internal monsters. He never really understood them in the same way I didn't understand his. God knows I wish I could have, and prevented him from taking his life. Our wedding rings are inscribed 12th March 2005 till forever. He loved me for his forever. I will love him for mine.
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