The Worst Day(s) of My Life
January 21, 2015 was, as far as I can remember, the single worst day of my life so far. This week has been a rough one for me on many levels, but the memories of that day and the weight of feeling my husband grapple with that anniversary, have unquestionably deepened my own struggle.
So in the spirit of sharing and catharsis, I think it is time for me to tell my story of that day.
About 9 months prior I had gotten a Facebook message that led to many conversations, then and in person meeting and then the realization that I had fallen deeply in love. We lived two states apart so we had to work hard to plan our time together and my love was scheduled to fly to MN to visit me that day. My company holiday party was that coming weekend and I was looking forward to introducing this amazing man to some colleagues and friends.
The day dawned like any other. We wished each other a good morning and asked how the other had slept via text. I got myself ready and headed to work. But as the morning went on, he was overly quiet. Normally I would expect to get all sorts of little messages with updates. He was heading to Detroit. He was at the airport. Whatever. Instead he was quiet. And even stranger, when I messaged him I got no response. I knew he had been telling me that he was having a really hard time. I knew that he had taken a leave of absence from work. But it hadn't dawned on me until it was actually happening just how desperate he was.
At first I thought I might be overreacting. But as the time for his flight grew nearer, my concern grew stronger. I messaged his ex-wife to ask if she had heard anything. She hadn't. She checked with his mom. His mom said that she'd gotten a message from him saying that he'd decided to drive to MN instead of fly so he no longer needed a ride to the airport. The pit in my stomach grew. He was a logical guy and there was no logic in him deciding to drive when we already had a plane ticket. Something was horribly wrong. I knew he was lying. And I feared that this meant that he'd decided to take his own life... that he was trying to do so that very moment.
The next day or two were just a blur of pain and grief for me. He was missing. No one had heard from him. Not his parents. Not his ex. Not his girls. Not his best friend. And not me. I left multiple voicemails begging him to come back to me, promising to help and all the while fearing that it was already too late. I spent countless hours talking to and messaging with his ex. We tried to track his phone. She contacted the police and they interviewed both of us. Finally we looked at his call history on his phone bill and found one that didn't fit. The call was from the morning he disappeared. I called the number and tried to explain what was going on. Asked for any information at all. The girl I reached was horrified. She said she'd seen a post the day before on Craigslist from someone that had indicated he was planning to kill himself. She had responded and encouraged him not to. She had offered her number. He had apparently called that morning to thank her for caring.
It was clear that my gut had been right. He was in crisis. He had reached out to strangers for help but not to those closest to him. Because maybe he didn't really want us to help. Or maybe he didn't know how. For me this discovery was just another reason to sob uncontrollably, to not eat and to be afraid of being alone. I wasn't worried about hurting myself. I was just so fragile and scared. My kids stayed with my ex during that time. He was supportive -- and I didn't feel like I could be a mom to them in those days. My sister came over and spent as much time with me as she could. She stayed over so that I wouldn't have to be alone.
And then finally there was a message and a call. He'd been found. He was alive. He was in a hospital. Dave was headed there. That was about all we knew. But it was enough. My sobs of anguish and loss turned to tears of relief. At least I hadn't lost him. At least there was a chance. I immediately made arrangements and packed my car. I was going to Michigan. I had to see him. I had to touch him. My friends and family asked if I should wait until we knew more, or until he was out of the hospital, or until he was better. For many of them, I think they wondered if it was wise for me to continue in a relationship with a guy who had caused me that much pain and who clearly had significant issues. For me there was no such question. Those two days of fear made it crystal clear to me just how much I wanted and needed him in my life. His issues are an illness. If he'd been diagnosed with cancer, I wouldn't be running away. I sure as hell wasn't going to run away because he has depression.
The drive took most of the day. I got an update from Dave along the way. There had been an overdose. There was something about a possible seizure. He'd been found in a grocery store and an ambulance had been called. As the day progressed he was moved to an in patient mental health program from the hospital. If I recall correctly, visiting hours were from 7-8. So now I was racing against the clock. I arrived in the town and then at the address, but there were multiple buildings and it took me a few tries before I found the right one, the right entrance. There were 15 minutes or so left in the visiting time. I didn't know if they would let me see him. But they did. They made an exception and gave us some time when they learned that I had driven all day from MN. I got to see him. And hug him. And verify with my own eyes that he was physically OK; that he was still alive.
I knew then that this was the start of a long and difficult journey. I knew that he wouldn't magically get better. I knew that he would likely never be "cured." And a journey it has absolutely been. I've had days of deep worry. I've learned afterwords of ongoing thoughts he's had of harming himself. I opened a hotel room once scared of what I might find when he had once again been unresponsive. I don't know that my fear and anxiety about going through that day again will ever fully dissipate. But he is still here with me and I treasure that. I know him and love him even more today than I did then. So we continue to work together each day to try to help him manage his depression and to help him feel better. And we celebrate each passing year as a victory against the darkness that haunts him.