Fathers Day Without Him

Father’s Day 2015. The last Father’s Day my children had with him. 

We spent the morning at home relaxing and enjoying each other sharing our morning coffee and in the afternoon we took our daughter out on her two wheel bike for the first time. Our cat, Cooper, followed us to the park eager to see her try her bike. 

We spent an hour or so watching her and taking turns pushing her while she nervously and cautiously peddled forward. I remember how proud she looked while Anthony pushed the back of her bike. 

She didn’t notice how tired or sore he was. She didn’t see the slight changes in his personality at the time. I was and am thankful  for that. 

It was in June 2015 I began to pick up on the subtleties of his personality changes. His irritability, changing sleeping patterns and exhasperated pain. I didn’t know it yet, but he’d gone off his lithium. Cold turkey. 

Father’s Day that year will always be deeply embedded in my heart. It was one of the last days we spent together as a family happy and enjoying each other. Our daughter loved celebrating him and our son enjoyed the downtime with him. We ordered Chinese food that night and he opened our gifts of appreciation for him; his laugh, love, advice and comfort he brought to our lives. 

Our daughter painted him a picture frame with a photo of her – her hands shaping out a heart. I had struggled picking out an antique carver he had been talking about buying for several weeks from our son and I. When manic he would become almost obsessed with things and this carver was one of them… so was the antique store he  as eventually banned from after the mania took hold. 

At night we cuddled, and embraced each other.  “Happy Father’s Day Peter. I love you”. 

This is the second Father’s Day without him. No morning coffee, or family afternoon strolls, no game night, no gorging on unhealthy food infront of our favourite shows, and no night time cuddles. 

But he’s still a father.  Our children will forever have the better memories of him etched in their hearts of the teachable moments and skills he shared. 

Our son learned carpentery skills from the skateboard ramp Anthony helped him to build, and words of encouragement and love during his own struggles. He will always carry his father’s taste in music and TV, and will remember him helping him to tie his little tie our wedding day. 

Our daughter will fondley remember movie nights cuddled against his chest, and rides on his shoulders in her younger years. She’ll remember his creativeness and laugh.

I’ll cherish the earlier years and the pride he felt with each mildstone each of our children reached. Our daughter’s birth to our son’s school performances playing guitar and singing. 

This year we spent our day at Watertown with family and friends. It definitely helped to take the sting out of the day. We hiked to the waterfalls and ate giant hotdogs for lunch. We spent Father’s Day there when our son was 8 years old. I was excited to share those memories with our daughter while we were there. 

The Lookout on the hike where 10 years earlier Anthony, our son, and I stood on Father’s Day.

We all miss him dearly.

Happy Father’s Day Peter❤️️.

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Mixed Epsiodes, Mixed Feelings and Mixed Up Christmas’s

I hate this years Christmas.

I hate that he is dead. I hate that he died by suicide and bipolar got the best of him. I hate it. It makes me want to scream. And I have. Many times. Especially at this time of year.

The holidays were always interesting for us. Some were wonderful, others were messy, and some were downright difficult. I’m having a hard time trying to remember the good holidays; the one’s we were together, the one’s which weren’t tainted by a bipolar episode. It’s making this Christmas particularly difficult.

I’m trying to enjoy Christmas and participate in the holiday “spirit” as best I can. Maybe I’d be more pleasant with several shots of baileys in my morning coffee or a glass of straight up Appleton’s on ice. Atleast then I’d be better at faking it and cleaning the floors, making dinners and keeping up the appearance would be much more fun. For me… not so much for everyone else I guess.

To be honest… I hated last years Christmas, and the Christmas before that and the one before that. He had manic episodes in the winter. The stresses of finances, the grief of missing his mom, the excitement of Christmas  Parties and shopping. Throw in some alcohol and it was a wonderful season of bipolar mania mixed with some combination episodes that often left us saying WTF?

I will admit though, mania also made for a family spoiled at Christmas time!

But the down side was he usually left when manic. He always ran. It was hurtful, and brutal and each time hurtful words would be thrown. I understood too late it was the illness that made him want a whole new life. A different scenery, a more exciting world.

Early on, he’d leave for hours, then a weekend, then a few months. When he’d come out of it, he’d come home and we’d somehow make things work. Until one day all of the hurt became too much for all of us.

Mixed episodes were by far the most painful for me to watch him go through. I didn’t know this was what was going on at the time. It was like he had the energy of ten black horses bolting across an open field, but the pain of the worst depression weighed him down. He couldn’t sleep, and one minute he’d bawl, the next he’d be laughing and the next he’d be raging. I wasn’t sure whether to hold him, laugh with him or run from him. It was confusing to say the least and because of this many times I failed at being the supportive wife I promised him I would be.

BUT there were times I was the wife he needed, his companion, his best friend and cheerleader, often his voice of reason. And this Christmas, I’m choosing to remember THAT.

I’m going to honour him by remembering the good we did together and the happiness we created together.

I’m going to remember how we shared the best hugs, and laughs. How we loved the shit out of our children and each other. How we cried with each other when we were were both at our lowest and lifted each other up when we were both at our best. How we stood together at his mother’s funeral and my grandmother’s memorial. Our long conversations on the porch sharing a coffee and making plans. How he loved every part of me, even the parts that drove him nuts. I loved all of  him too.

I’m going to remember those  moments instead. I’m going to let go of these mixed up feelings, and the fact that he is dead, and I’m going to allow the good memories to replace the mixed episodes and arguments, the dark Christmas’s and cruel words said by family.

I’m letting that all go so maybe this years Christmas won’t hurt so bad.

Maybe bit by bit, I will enjoy Christmas this year by honouring the good in our marriage and remembering all we did right. Instead of giving Bipolar the spotlight, I’m giving it to us. To him. Maybe the void of him being gone, can be replaced by joy because he lived, gratitude because he chose to share his life with me and we lived as husband and wife with our children and we loved as a family; Peace in knowing his mind is now at rest, and his soul free. Maybe, just maybe, this years Christmas won’t suck after all.

 

Who am I mourning?

I wake up everyday still with him on my mind. When I go to bed I find myself going through the motions of the last three years of our lives together in my head…. then the entirety of our marriage. 

Who am I mourning? My husband. Our life. My children’s father. The hope we had for recovery, for  better treatment of the brain, and mental illness. Yet I am stuck with the anger of his decisions of the last years of his life and the hurt he caused dying the way he did. I am wrestling with the guilt.

I’m aware his decisions were not necessarily his own, as his mind was being driven by illness. But the pain and anger is there none-the – less.  

By the the time he was diagnosed, his caring, compassionate, hard working and creative personality had been scrambled and warped into a cruel, condescending and confused man, who pushed boundaries and shattered his family… the ones he always promised to protect. 

Looking back the illness was always there. My heart ached with regret one evening after a night out with friends. I had turned to look for him and saw him standing in the middle of the road, tears streaming down his face. I walked up to him to ask what was wrong and all he said was that he needed to go home and promptly departed in a cab. He refused to answer my calls until the next day. I had no idea what I had done wrong. All he said was sometimes that happens to him and he was fine. What had I done? 

Then, as the years passed, there were many times he would suddenly turn cruel with no provocation or reason. One night we had made plans to go for wings with his best friend. I decided to call a coworker and friend to join us when he blatantly yelled “No!” And turned to walk away. 

I was left confused and hurt again. I didn’t know what I had done. He came back into the living room and apologized for his reaction noting he had no idea why he had just done that. There were many moments like this in our marriage, and the moments seemed to  blend into days sometimes, weeks. And eventually months. 

I recall times when I’d see him laying on the couch or working on a project and I would think to myself “There he is! There is the man I fell in love with”. And months would go by without a hitch. I assumed these ups and downs were the normal part of marriage. Turns out, most healthy relationships aren’t like this, at least the downs are not as low, and the ups are not as high. 

Who am I mourning? 

All of him. His presence, his laugh, his intelligent mind that once was able to look at something and see a solution and create it when no one else could. 

Who am I mourning? 

The man who was able to be there for us when he was well and stable. The man who loved the kids and I more than anything in the world. The man who was gentle and caring and put his family first. 

Who am I mourning? 

My children’s father, mentor and my best friend. 

Who am I mourning? 

The TV fanatic who loved the river, sushi, and card games. The man who took my son as his own and helped to create our daughter. 

Bipolar disorder affected his brain. It change my husband’s personality and the person it made him is not whom I’m mourning. 

I won’t mourn the man that brought the homeless and drug addicted street people into our home; who put the kids and I at risk.

I won’t mourn the violent man that was rare but still alive just under the surface. 

I won’t mourn the man that destroyed our home, that left our children, that became a homeless person who lied and manipulated. 

I won’t mourn the man that lied about and became paranoid towards me and became delusional. The one that lied about his drug use and self medicating. 

I won’t mourn the man who used his friends, and lied to get his way. I won’t mourn the sleepless, arrogant asshat who left us in order to have a better life. 

I won’t mourn the man that slept 16 hours a day and would get angry at anyone who woke him. 

I won’t mourn the man that tried to take his own life and the one that succeeded in the end. I don’t mourn him because he was not my husband. 

That man was drivin by an illness that twisted his thoughts, impulses, and actions into an unknown person. I did not love that man. I did not love bipolar. In fact, I hated it. 

So when I cry, I will cry for the good man. The well man. The man I called Peter, and the man I loved and married and chose to have children with. When I cry I will cry for the creative fun loving man that taught me not to take things so seriously and to laugh. When I cry, I will cry for the man who would gently put his hand on my shoulder and rub the nape of my neck with his thumb and tell me “everything is going to be ok”. 

God I miss that man. Every. Single. Damn. Day. And that is who I am mourning. 

The Call that Changed My Life – The Day My Husband Died By Suicide (Part 1)

First, I have to say, I have a hard time saying the word “suicide”. It makes my stomach turn and I always fear people’s reactions. No one wants to talk about what makes them uncomfortable or sad, and survivors often fear judgment, especially those closest to the deceased. It took me several minutes of staring at the title of this post to put that word in there; suicide.

Suicide. Suicide. Suicide.

Maybe if I keep saying the word, I’ll become desensitized to it. Maybe my stomach won’t turn every time I say it, maybe my eyes won’t swell with tears as much and maybe the pain will stop. Probably not. But not talking about it or acknowledging suicide as a symptom to an illness doesn’t stop it from happening. So the word needs to be said even if it feels uncomfortable. 

The day my husband died by suicide, was like any other day I’ve had for the last year and a half. Simply put, fucked up. I’m not kidding. Our story with the existence of untreated mental illness in our lives was devastatingly fucked up.( Please excuse the language, but if you do not like cursing, I don’t recommend my blog!) I’m not meaning to cause stigma, it’s the exact opposite. We need to talk about it. Our communities need to acknowledge it; the worst needs to be acknowledged too; not just the ups and downs; the whole picture. The psychosis, the rages, the scary parts, the good moments, and the bad. But this is a post for another day.

Where was I? Oh right. Fucked up. It was fucked up because my husband had come out of a severely long, mixed manic episode that consisted of delusions, psychosis, losing our home, numerous police calls, numerous calls from the fire department, and random homeless people coming in and out of what used to be our safe place. No communication for several months to amicable text messages and me waiting for him to file for the divorce he so desperately wanted(which I believe was a result of the earlier mania) and I wanted to contest until he sought treatment.

After a seven month period of mania, mixed mania, five of which were riddled with psychosis, suddenly, he was “better”. According to his sister that is. I had lived with him for 11 1/2 years. I’d seen the ups(that’s an understatement) and had experienced what it looked like for him to become “better”. Due to his playing around with his medication, and marijuana use, his better didn’t last long, and after this episode, I needed him to commit to treatment and have at least 6 months stability. The pendulum usually swung quickly the opposite direction; a severe dark depression also riddled with psychosis. I was being cautious with the children, and skeptical with his sister’s claims that he was better. But I was still hopeful and responding to him with kindness and love, because when you love someone with mental illness, you love the person they are, not what the illness makes them.

I was hurriedly making chicken, calling for my daughter to get her soccer gear on. It was a warm day, May 16th, 2016 and I was co-coaching her soccer team. My husband had messaged the night before, and usually had been calling on Mondays. You see, we were separated for 3 days short of 11 months and he was now living with his sister and dad out at his family farm. Our home was foreclosed on in March because he wasn’t paying any of the bills or the mortgage(poor money management is a symptom of mania). I was wrought with fear and guilt as I had temporarily set up visitation through a local safe visitation program due to his unpredictability and anger towards me during his manic episode. It was a temporary arrangement until he stabilized, was attending regular counseling and on proper medication. He’d never hurt our children intentionally, but his behavior was confusing and scary for me, and he refused to stay sober. How would our then seven year old daughter interpret his behavior…

I was anticipating the call, or a text. Just hearing from him brought me relief he was ok. Or at least re-confirm he was safe. When the phone rang, I picked it up not expecting to hear the strange voice on the other end of the line. It was 5:02pm.

” Hi, Kerri?” “Yes? This is she.” I replied.

The next sentence was a blur… something about George from victim services, blah blah blah … All I kept thinking was “How did these people get my home number?” I had assumed it was a work related call. Suddenly, my heart started beating faster and the room felt like it was spinning. I heard him say Vauxhall and my mind started racing. 

“We don’t usually do this over the phone, it’s, um, it’s not protocol, but it was insisted I call you….”

First what the hell is this you don’t do? Second, if it’s not protocol then why are you doing whatever this is? “OK” I said. I wanted the call to stop. I wanted this man to either spit it out or shut up. It’s funny how in those moments you know the trauma is coming, but a part of you just can not wrap your head around it. I thought maybe my husband was finally in the hospital, getting help or maybe his dad died or something. I did not expect the blow I was about to receive.“I’m sorry to tell you this, but Anthony, your husband, he’s well, he’s dead.”

I now understand why being told over the phone by a complete stranger named George from victim’s services that your loved one is deceased is not protocol. I had no one to fall into, no one to touch me, which is especially important when something traumatic happens. I am thankful my daughter was in the basement and the TV was on at the time. It was the only time I was grateful she didn’t listen to my instructions to put her soccer uniform on. To this day I do not know how she didn’t hear me; maybe she did and ignored it, or maybe she was just zoned in on the TV. I don’t know. But I’m grateful she was not in the kitchen at the time.

The scream that escaped me in that moment still haunts me. It hurt. Everything instantly hurt. “Nooo! No! No, No!!” I screamed, as if screaming no, as if my not agreeing with what this stranger just told me, would be enough to bring my husband back. “What happened!!!???What happened!!!???What happened!!!???”I continued to scream over and over as though this guy was an idiot(which he was not, but at the time I didn’t like him much) couldn’t understand what I was saying.

“I’m sorry. He committed suicide.”“What?!Suicide? WHAT?!” By this time, I somehow ended up in my bedroom, on my knees, on the floor. Between sobbing and screaming, I do not know how I didn’t pass out. I don’t remember how I got there. I can only assume I was trying to run away from what had just become my reality.

When trauma hits, your mind goes all over and then freezes and then all over again. Your body doesn’t feel like your own, and you don’t think clearly. I stood up, and demanded to speak to my sister-in-law. I needed to speak to someone who was not a stranger and could confirm what this guy, George, had just told me. I didn’t have much respect left for her after the years of criticism, lying, blaming and pointing the finger. They believed his illness was my fault. Truth be told, there were times I believed them. “What happened Les? What’s going on? Where’s your dad? What happened? How did he do it? Who found him? Where is your dad?!” The questions just came, and I don’t think I took a breath or paused, nor did I have much control at this point.

” He hung himself in the barn. I found him.” Oh god. How awful.. As much as the years had brought me to a place of strong dislike for her, I never doubted her love for her brother, and I certainly wouldn’t have wished this on her. You see, shortly after my husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a rift was caused between them and I. We had very different views about mental illness, and when manic, my husband could cause a storm of arguments. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”  We sobbed together for a brief time. She said he had been crying a lot, and that he had asked to go the hospital on Friday, only three days before. “What? Then why didn’t you take him!?” I was still screaming out of control. I now realize this statement was accusatory, but at the time, I was in shock, and hurting. She didn’t cause this.

She went on to say something about me and the voice recording she had sent my best friend as an attempt to “reach out”. I had to cut off contact for a while from everyone to save my own sanity. To save myself so I could help and support my children in a healthy way. So I had little to no contact with her since Christmas. In February sometime, she sent a voice recording to my girlfriend that was, in my opinion, completely uncalled for, and crossing some significant boundaries. My response to her was just that “It’s not the right time to discuss this. That recording was unnecessary and cruel..” click. The line went dead.

What the hell? I froze, staring at the phone. Did any of this really happen. Please tell me this is a night mare.

I ran outside, and the world kept spinning. I didn’t know what to do next. I started to hyperventilate. My son was at work, my daughter still going about her day watching TV thinking she was going to go to soccer. Oh god. Oh no. What do I tell my babies? I ran behind the house and began to vomit in the garden. I couldn’t break their hearts. How could he have done this to them?

What happens after that moment was very much a blur. At some point I called my best friend and between sobs, managed to tell her my husband was gone, and she needed to come over now. She did. In fact, she got there before victim services called me back. Before the police showed up at my door. Before anyone else. I called my parents. They immediately said they’d come down.

My best friend has been there for me throughout all of the trauma. The first time the illness completely took over my husband, she was there. She seen his delusions. She sat with me when I cried about our separation, she helped me move the week after he had brought homeless people and drug addicts to the house while the kids and I were away. She seen the way he treated me when the illness was at its worst. She knew our story. She seen my pain, and I am ever grateful for her making it to my house that day. She had tears too, we hugged, we cried, and I began to get sick again.