Living When I Wanted to Die
I kissed my husband Bob goodbye, and as we always did before I left on my business trips, we told each other “I love you” at the door of our Maine home. I was excitedly preparing for a promotion that would be the fulfillment of a professional dream, thanks in no small part to this man who had shared my life since I was 15 years old.
It was three days later when my attention diverted to a phone ringing and a friend telling me that I needed to call home immediately. Trying to keep my terror under control, I soon learned that my beloved Bob had committed suicide at age 49 in our cabin on the lake, forever ending our beautiful life together.
I felt like my life had ended, too. I had lost my best friend, my partner, my lover, my children’s father, my killer-of-icky-bugs, my welcome-home hug at the end of the day, my everything. I had also lost the only way of life I had ever enjoyed. I was now the primary caregiver: a single parent of young men dealing with their own unique sets of losses, while juggling a full-time job and adjusting to a new community after relocating from our family home.
But as a father-daughter incest survivor, my loss went deeper, for I had lost the person who had walked beside me every step of my journey. He was my protector, my rock, my mirror, my safe place, my shut-off valve, and the one person who really knew me and adored me, anyway. With Bob’s death, my world imploded. Again.
Some people say that they would die for their children; I believe I did more than that for mine. I lived for my children when I wanted to die. Twice. The first time was when I was only 28. My father, and torturer, had died and I was overwhelmed with what I later learned was PTSD. Fortunately, I had Bob by my side to help me recover as I went through hospitalization and intensive therapy. Now, 20 years later, I felt lost and alone, and my debilitating childhood demons reawakened.
What followed was months of nightmares with no one beside me to help me reconnect; I would literally find myself in a dark closet, terrified for hours at a time, in a childlike state. Until I found a way to connect to the adult me, I literally feared falling asleep so much that I forced myself to stay awake, which led to sleep deprivation and a further downward spiral.
However, with a new therapist and a dear friend, I was able to discover solutions to ground myself and bring me back to the present. I began to take PTSD nightmare medications. I set up speed dial for several trusted insomniac friends on my cell phone. I left photographs and a flashlight in the closet with pictures of my children and a stuffed animal from Bob that I doused in his aftershave.
In the process, I learned that it hadn’t been Bob who had kept me safe—it had been me all along.
It has now been six years since Bob died. My life is different from what it was and what I had previously envisioned. Yes, I was right, in that his death was an ending. But also wrong in that it wasn’t the beginning of my end, but rather, the end of my beginning. Today, I am happy, have fallen in love again (something I never thought possible), and I embrace all of life’s little moments.
I have also taken these experiences to heart and used them as a catalyst for action. I am now a life coach filling a resource gap focused on helping incest survivors through everyday life events beyond therapy. I host the Tail of the Bell podcast, targeting specific topics interpreted through incest survivors’ personal stories and expanded upon by experts as needed. My goal is that no incest survivor ever feels isolated, alone, and different the way that I did.
Things I have learned:
• Your life matters. If you are considering suicide, please get help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• Needing help is not a weakness. Ask for what you need.
• There is life after loss and trauma.
• Feel what you need to feel. Don’t repress it. It does get easier.
• Sometimes the best we can do is simply live minute to minute. That’s OK.
• If you are supporting someone through trauma and don’t know what to say, tell them that, but take care of yourself first. Ask them what they need.
• No matter the circumstances, you are not alone (YANA). To connect with a community of incest survivors, reach out to me at www.TailOfTheBell.com.