“It’ll be OK Ker”

The holidays have come and gone again. It’s a new year… I’ve not made any significant changes or resolutions because each time I do, they fall through. I’m disappointed again, and give up…. hence the empty bag of chocolate chips sitting on my counter.

I have decided to continue to work on the goals I set nearly four years ago when my life fell apart after Anthony’s second psychosis and then again three years ago when he took his life. Saving for a house and paying off my (our) debt. Two things I hope to have accomplished by July, 2019. The third, to register for my master’s degree. All three I’m incredibly proud of and horribly sad about all at once.

Bipolar, suicide and more significantly the loss of my goofy, loving, caring and kind husband, changed the trajectory of mine and my children’s lives forever. We were supposed to be together in our finished self renovated home. Me working on or finishing my masters degree and him a supervisor at Daytona still, or running his own business. We were supposed to be celebrating our son’s achievements at college, and dancing with our daughter in the kitchen. Instead, Almost three years out and I still can’t think clearly or plan ahead very well. We dance in the rental kitchen without him, and celebrate without his laugh or hugs. We talk about him daily, we remember his warm spirit and presence. Yet, we ache because he should be here with us. I am rebuilding my life still, as I promised I would; but not by my own choice.

Every tiny step forward feels like a giant leap away from when he was here with us. I have to keep moving forward, I know this, but some days, I still just want time to stop so I can breathe, and know he’s closer to us than he will be tomorrow.

Grief is not linear. It’s not a step by step process in which you go from a to b to c and you are healed. It’s more like a bouncing ball stuck in a glass container bouncing around chaotically with no real ending to the bouncing. You may not notice it as much as the bounces become further apart, as time goes on you keep fumbling through and finding ways to move around the ball, but it’s kind of always there.

This was the hardest lesson for me to learn in year two. I won’t completely heal from this. I will live. I will move forward. But it’s always going to be a part of me.

Anthony would always tell me “it’ll be OK Ker. Everything will turn out OK”. When I worried about getting the house Reno’s done, or if our son was going to make friends in middle school, or if our daughter was ok at pre-school, he’d say those words and I would believe him.

I wish he would have listened to his own advice when he felt so low he couldn’t see any other way out. I have more empathy for him now though, as losing him has sent me into some of the darkest places I’ve ever been. If he felt that way for days and weeks, I can see why he felt that was his only choice. I hate that he suffered from such dark emotional pain that he felt the only way out would be to take his own life. Though I’ve had days where I didn’t think I would make it; where I’ve taken out his picture and sobbed so hard because this life without him is so lonely and dark sometimes, I picture him saying “it’ll be ok Ker” and I have the strength I need to keep moving through.

So I keep trying to rebuild our little family’s lives keeping his simple phrase in the back of my mind.

just before Christmas I had a good hard sob while laying in my bed holding his picture. So many traditions are changing now that the kids are getting older, and we are creating new ones now. I ached for some of the familiar this year with him and am tired of all the change and loss of self since he died. I needed to release some grief and I kept telling myself “it’ll be ok.” “I’ll get through this hiccup too” while I ugly cried into my pillow. As I wiped my face and got up to straighten my pillow as I had to get on with my evening, I turned and noticed my tears had formed the shape of a heart on my pillow.

I believe in signs. I believe it was him letting me know he was near, sending his love. I believe it was his way of letting me know the changes are good and we will be ok. I believe he was telling me “It’ll all be ok Ker”. I believe him as I usually do.


My Life….then everything after

I had my life. I had a home. I had a beautiful yard. I had a husband. I had my best friend. I had a small little family I loved and cherished. I had a dream of what our future would look like. We had fun. We laughed. We fought. We made mistakes. We did good. We loved. We played. I had my life, and now that life is gone. 

And now here I am. Me and the kids. Here we are living in a rental duplex that I truly thought would be temporary. Here we are trying to navigate this life we have now. Here we are without our complete family; us without him. 

We struggle together, and separately to determine our future and to try and honour our today. To discover what it is we are supposed to do and who it is we are now without him in our lives. Without him in this world. This is now the everything after part. Everything after our person died. 

It’s been just 6 months since he died. Yet it’s been the longest 6 my life. Since his death, well, honestly nothing much has happened, yet so much has. 

I’ve focused on trying to get my mind back in order while helping my children to move forward. My son is to start college in January and he has worked hard at getting more shifts at his place of employment all the while treating the silent epilepsy that caused him so much havoc over the last year. I’m so proud of how far he’s come and hope he continues to grow. He rarely speaks of his father, but when he does, you can tell he’s been thinking of him for a very long time and is trying to sort out his own emotions. 

My daughter has grown alot all physically, emotionally and mentally the last 6 months. She has become more empathetic and compassionate. Yet is insecure of her place in this world. She is turning into such a little soccer star! It’s healing, and daunting to see all at the same time. She misses her daddy so much. 

I’ve been so focused on the children and trying to keep up in my career, I haven’t been thinking of much investment for myself. All I’ve been able to get through up until this point has just been the day. All I can do is just today and I can’t plan for tomorrow or worry about yesterday. I can’t. It’s overwhelming still and scary, and lonely. So fucking lonely.

I feel stuck in what feels like a strange place; a foggy unknown between my old life, and my future life. Everything here in this place feels fragile, unknown, vulnerable and unsure. As I process his death, the entirety of the loss for my children and myself, of our future and all our hopes and dreams, I realize, I cannot stay in this place for much longer. Or the fog will overwhelm me and I might drown. 

I feel guilt. Whenever I get excited about a plan I have, there is this neauseas feeling in my stomach and my toes and legs go numb. That pang that starts in the middle of my gut moves through my limbs and soon tears are streaming down my face. I feel guilty because I am trying to move forward, and heart broken to be doing so without him with me, or him even existing in this world. 

Because he felt things in his life were unrepairable, and he had no choice but to leave us. That we would all be better off without him, and could move on just fine. I feel guilty because though I fought like hell to get him help, and damn near made myself ill, it still wasn’t enough. He still died.  I still feel like I failed him and in a way, moving forward feels like confirmation that I did. 

Then there is the pain of knowing as we move on, the days he was alive, the memories we all shared, are all moving backwards away from us. He’s slipping out of my reach… again. 

Yet I know I must move forward and make those life investments in order to survive and hopefully live again, and in order to show my children that life, even when it’s hard and messy and cruel, can still be full of opportunity, beauty and connection. That life goes on and we all deserve to create happiness for ourselves. 

We can’t live in this fog covered hell space forever. 

So I’m planning. For whatever our everything after and our new life is going to look like. I’m going to start making better investments in me. I’m focusing on me now and am trying to look forward a little more into tomorrow. Though it hurts, I have to let go of my past in order to get out of this space.

I know it’s not going to be easy. I know it’s going to suck. But it’s also going to be freeing and healing. And either way, it has to be done. 

So bring it on everything after …. 

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.