From a Lost Wife to a Lost Husband

 

To my husband,
This is incredibly hard to write but I am doing it because I understand that it’s easier for you to know what’s going on in my head than not to know. I will be completely honest and I am sorry if that makes it difficult reading.
I am going to explain how my day went from beginning to end yesterday as that will give you an idea of how I have been feeling over the last week.
I woke up with the feeling I have every day: my stomach feeling cramped and hollow, my mind feeling overwhelmed at the thought of a day ahead to fill. Determined to distract myself, I tried really hard to focus on the girls and their early morning chatter and demands – including a last minute change of lunch. Although it’s always good to be with them, their noise is hard to bear. Whether it’s the scraping of a chair or the slamming of a door, or a never-ending description of a dream they have had, I have to work really hard on not getting irritated with them. When they left, it felt like an achievement that I had managed to stay tuned into their conversations and not get visibly annoyed with them.
You all left the house and the silence I had been longing for was suddenly deafening. I sorted Bruno out straight away for a walk, knowing that I needed to distract myself. At the start of the walk, I tried hard to focus on the small things around me rather than think about the day, weeks and months ahead that loomed threateningly in front of me. I listened to the chirping of the birds, the splashing of the ducks and Bruno’s paws pattering behind or in front of me. As the walk progressed, I reached the part of the path where a canal is on either side and you can see the windmill in the distance. The path suddenly looked never-ending. Perhaps that reflected how I felt about this whole nightmare. I could feel my legs weaken and tears started to pour down my face. Within seconds I was sobbing uncontrollably and I had to pause on the bridge to try and pull myself together. At that moment, the only thing I could feel was that this was never going to end. That I would never feel normal again. That I would never get pleasure in even the simplest things. Had I had a box of painkillers in my bag, I would have taken them and curled up in a corner waiting for them to take effect. I just wanted to forget, for the pain to end, for it all to be over. And when I feel like that I lose all sense of who I am, of you, of the girls, of the unbearable consequences of what that would do to everyone. I just want it to be over and I am not me anymore. I really need you to understand that. Please don’t ever feel that I could act on these thoughts because I don’t care about you all.
After maybe ten minutes of standing there in that state, Bruno actually barked at me, bringing me back to where I was. I put him on the lead and slowly walked back to house. Every step was hard and I just wanted to come home and curl up on the sofa. But hearing your voice as I came in through the front door made me realise that I couldn’t. I had to get myself moving and distract myself until I was feeling better. I went to the chemist to collect my prescription. That wasn’t such a good move. I wasn’t ready for that at that point and, for the first time, I was strongly tempted to buy some painkillers and to take them. The chemist was busy and that, bizarrely, stopped me. Perhaps having people around me is a reminder that life goes on and that I need to be a part of it.
Coming home again was agony. I so wanted to curl up and try to block it out with sleep. But I knew you’d never leave me to do that in the morning which is why I proposed gardening. The sun was shining and I knew it would do me good to get outside and enjoy it. It worked. For an hour I pottered in the garden. Every time I began to feel overwhelmed, I forced myself to focus on the specific task I was doing: to feel the soil in my hands, to enjoy the warmth of the sun on my back. When we sat down to lunch together, I was feeling a lot better than I had been all morning.
Lunch over, you started to work again. That sense of hopelessness welled up inside me again and this time I didn’t have the strength to fight it. I curled up on the sofa for a couple of hours, trying to sleep but battling butterflies for every second of it. Leaving the house to collect Sofia, gave me a lift again. I was looking forward to spending twenty minutes with her and was pleased that I had managed to give them both some nice things for their orange day at school. Our argument flattened me within seconds. By the time I dropped her off, I felt like I was a complete waste of space. She’d been argumentative and difficult but ultimately she was right. I could have popped home to get her hoverboard on the way, we weren’t going to be late as I feared.
During my session with Katy, for the first time I was able to explain how I had felt throughout the day. It was incredibly hard. It actually felt physically painful to say the words out loud when I described how I felt on the bridge; and it was only with her gentle questioning that I managed to do it. The only reason I can speak to her more easily than to you is that I know she won’t be emotionally affected by what I say. It breaks my heart to have to tell you all of this and I can’t imagine how it makes you feel. She made the point, however, that it must be harder for you to have to guess what is going on in my head than to know it exactly. That is why I opened up to you last night and why I am writing this now. But you must let me know if it’s too hard for you to hear.
For the last week, every day has been similar. I have good moments but I also have moments of extreme crisis. I would like to promise you that I will never take an overdose again but I can’t do that. When I am completely absorbed in how I feel, like I was on Bruno’s walk, I lose all sense of rationality and it’s at those moments when I could potentially do it. What I can promise is that I will try harder to open up to you. As I find this so difficult, here are a few points that would help:
• If I seem distant or distressed, ask me specifically if it is a ‘butterfly moment’
• Don’t expect more than a ‘yes’ if it is because I find it hard to speak
• Gently try to distract me and please don’t leave me on my own
• Remember that my energy levels are low so don’t choose an active option for distracting me
• If you can’t distract me or if I just want to lie down, hug me and let me cry it out
• When you need to leave me on my own, ask me if I’m ready
I’m sorry if this has been a tough read babe; and I hope it’s been helpful in some way. I will do my best to be more open with you but gentle questioning from you will help. I find it very hard to start any conversation about this.
Lots of love,

Your Lost Wife

My Raw Truth

Until a year ago, mental illness was something that happened to somebody else. Something that happened to people who’d had a really tough life or who were weak in some way. Something that didn’t happen to people like me. People who are strong, active, energetic and full of purpose. Something that could be avoided or resisted; or, if all else failed, fought against with pure determination.

Then, from nowhere, in this great forest of life, I was bulldozered over by PTSD and severe depression. Bulldozered, flattened, trampled on and then trampled on again and again if I ever dared to try to get up. There was no avoidance or resistance; and determination…well I didn’t even know what determination was anymore.

It has been Hideous. Horrible. Horrendous. And I’m still in that forest, gradually finding my way, but still aware of the bulldozer rumbling in the distance.

My Raw Truth will not strive to share a journey in a chronological and ordered way. That’s simply because mental illness doesn’t happen in a chronological and ordered way. There have been many times when writing has been my saviour. A thought has occurred and it has evolved into a piece of writing that has exposed one tiny element of the Raw Truth of my personal experience. The writing process has helped me understand myself  and has helped those around me understand what I am going through too.

I would never dare to suggest that my stories will explain the true nature of mental illness. There is no true nature of mental illness. It is different for every person it affects and, actually, it has been different for me too…day to day or even minute to minute.

But what I do hope is that through my raw, honest and candid stories, I will contribute towards lifting the stigma, the fear and the mystery that surrounds mental illness. Those who suffer from it, and we are many*, are just normal people who are unable to avoid, to resist or to fight it with determination and who simply need our care, compassion and support.

* 1 in 4 people will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime.