‘Not this one, Mau thought, as loudly as he could. Not now. No one goes alive into the dark. I served you, Locaha. I walked in your steps. You should owe me this one. One life, back from the dark!
And a voice came back from the gloom: I recall no arrangement, Mau, no bargain, covenant, agreement or promise. There is what happens, and what does not happen. There is no ‘should’.
Does not happen, he thought, and the words became a declaration of triumph and defiance. ‘Does not happen,’ he said, and the words got bigger and dragged him to his feet, and ‘Does not happen!’ he shouted at the sky. ‘DOES NOT HAPPEN!'” – Terry Pratchett, Nation.
This is me, standing in front of my husband, refusing to let him die.
When he tells me to stand aside, because he does not want to hurt me, but he can’t take the pain any more.
When I think about telling our little son that his Daddy is dead.
When I think about telling my mother in law that she will never see her son again.
When I think of a life spent next to an empty space in the bed, a ring on my finger with no match to it, a daughter who doesn’t remember ever having a father, a son who grows up wondering why his father left him behind.
Does not happen.
So I stand outside in my bath robe, leaning on the car door, calmly telling him that I will crush his fingers if he tries to pry it open again. He will have to hurt me. He will have to push his pregnant wife to the ground, knock me unconscious maybe, because I can not stand aside.
In the veterinary world we shake our heads at the owners who love their pet selfishly, keeping them alive through months of suffering in a terminal illness because they don’t feel ready to say good bye. We understand that love, we empathize, but it is selfish, and we don’t approve.
My love is selfish.
My husband is not stupid enough to think that he is not loved or needed. He knows that without him I would probably have to leave my vast support network in BC and move back in with my mother, because I can’t pay the mortgage on my own. He knows that his son loves and needs him. He knows that when I am overtaxed I become waspish and irritable with Owl, and this is the mother he would be leaving Owl with if he dies.
But PH’s depression is not the kind of depression that is cured with a couple of weeks on Welbutrin and some tweaking of diet and exercise. It is an endogenous sort of depression has resisted all treatment, and which seems to come in waves out of the blue, washing away his personality with it.
And when the waves get too deep, he can’t help but sink under. He can’t help but be afraid, because so many drugs have been tried on him with no success, because therapy doesn’t seem to reveal any demons that can be exorcised away, because sometimes he feels that he will live in anguish forever.
I have dipped a toe in that kind of pain and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Many people I know have told me stories of loved ones with terminal cancer begging their loved ones to kill them, because when the pain is so bad and there is no chance of relief, the only alternative left is to end it all.
One of depression’s hallmark symptoms is hopelessness. So when the pain is bad, PH doesn’t just fear that it will last forever, he thinks he KNOWS that it will last forever.
But I don’t know that. In fact, I know that chances are he that WILL improve eventually. I know that he has improved before, and that most people do improve eventually, even if they occasionally have relapses. I know that the last time he improved, he was glad that he had fought through it. I know that it isn’t cancer, that it isn’t uncurable, that there are still treatments out there.
So I am not willing to let him go.
And that’s how we came to be standing in the rain, begging each other.
Google searches on what to do if someone you love wants to kill themselves are remarkably unhelpful. Call a suicide help hotline. What good is that going to do if they’ve already made the decision? Ask the person to put the items he/she plans to use in another room while you are talking. Talking? What is there to talk about? He’s past talking. He’s grabbing keys and walking out the door, and all he has said is “good bye”. Get a friend to help you. Well, sure, if I had one to hand.
The last time I read through a list like that, only one suggestion seemed remotely useful, and that was call 911. Except I was outside in my bathrobe, and my phone was inside, next to the bed.
Which left the only alternative, something you won’t find on any list, probably for liability reasons: physically interpose with your own body and hope to God they are sane enough to stop themselves from hurting you.
This is not a smart idea.
The person I was struggling with was not, in many ways, my husband. The man I love was buried, hijacked, by the pain. The man I love would never attack me, but who knew what this person would do.
Still, the only option would be to step aside and let both of those people go.
Does not happen.
Not when there are still medications he hasn’t tried. Hell, there’s even electroconvulsive therapy. Better that than this. Not when he has spontaneously improved in the past, with occasional relatively minor bouts for almost ten years. Not when I have to face a little boy and tell him he no longer has a father.
Not when I think of the person I married, and how I willing I am to struggle like this every day for years and years rather than give up even the slightest chance of seeing that person again.
Not when I think of what life would be like if he succeeded.
Does not happen.
Lucky me, there was enough of my husband left that he couldn’t face hitting his pregnant wife. And so he gave up in a fury, and stormed inside, with me close on his heels. Once indoors I slipped past him and called 911.
And with the threat of forcing him into a squad care, I managed to get him into the passenger side of our own and to the E.R.
When you’re facing the possible loss of someone you love, everything else becomes small potatoes.
Stuck in the ER with someone who is furious with me for bringing him there but also keeps falling asleep, while I frantically text and call everyone I know with a car seat and some without a car seat to see who can pick up my son from daycare in fifteen minutes? Small potatoes.
Suffering from a horrible wracking cough that pushes the baby into my bladder causing complete incontinence? Small potatoes.
Informed that my husband is going to be kept in care for up to a week, leaving me a (sick and coughing) single parent in the mean time? Small potatoes. Because it isn’t forever.
Son sobbing for hours in the night because he misses Daddy? Small potatoes. Because I can tell him that Daddy will come home.
The important thing is that the psychiatrist in the ER agreed that there was no reason why PH shouldn’t try the drug he has been wanting to try, which his regular psychiatrist (a resident) kept saying no to. We don’t know if this one will work either, but it is a totally different class of drug from anything they have tried him on, so at least we’re trying something new.
A good thing is that I have a massive support network of friends who will drive from across town to pick up my son for me, to bring me chinese food, change light bulbs, take out my garbage, and bring my son to their house for an all-day play date so I can sleep.
The better thing is that my husband is no longer openly angry with me. He wants to come home, he wants to take care of me, and seems somewhat encouraged by the prospect of a new medication.
The best part is that he is alive.
DOES NOT HAPPEN.