I was 20 years old when the twins’ mother and I began dating. Up to that point in time I had never been in a long-term relationship. I didn’t know how, didn’t know what one would even look like.
The twins’ mother, whom I shall refer to as Lynn (no, that’s not her real name) from here on, was recently divorced and battling some particularly nasty demons. She was also struggling to pay the bills as a newly single mother. Finding a sitter for the kids so she could work was a daily struggle. There were days when coworkers watched her children in the break room while she worked. It was tough. I felt for her, and want to help as best I could.
Her struggle to pay the bills is the primary reason I moved in with her. I was uncomfortable with the idea from the get go, but her insistence that I do so, along with her perpetual complaints about not being able to pay the bills, guilted me into it. (Yes, in hindsight I realize there were many other ways to help her, but in my defense I was 20 and didn’t know any of that then.)
It didn’t take long to realize that things were dysfunctional. Not only was she emotionally recovering from an abusive relationship, but we were (and still are) completely different people. The first time I brought this up to her she told me she was going to jump off the I-75 overpass, which was less than a mile away. She stormed out the front door, leaving me alone with her sleeping children, who were 6 and 2 at the time. I couldn’t chase her, lest I abandon her children. Being 20 and completely naïve and ignorant, I sat there and waited. I didn’t know what else to do.
This exact scenario played out two more times over the coming weeks. It began to happen a fourth time, but this time we were in our bedroom instead of the living room, and I was between her and the door. She tried to physically force her way past me a handful of times, but I was able to restrain her. I was able to keep her on the bed and safe.
Or so I thought.
When she realized she couldn’t force herself through me, she told me she needed to go to the bathroom. I went out to the hallway and made sure I was between the bathroom and the front door so she couldn’t try to escape again. When she emerged a few minutes later she informed me that it was all over and that when I woke up tomorrow I wouldn’t have to worry about her anymore.
When asked to elaborate, she informed me that she had ingested an entire bottle of Benadryl. I had completely forgotten that we kept all medicine in the bathroom. I was raised in a home where all medicine was kept in the kitchen since, you know, that’s where everything you need to wash the pills down with is located.
I checked the waste basket in the bathroom and sure enough there was an empty Benadryl bottle lying atop the wadded up tissues and empty toiletry packaging. I went into shock. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t react. There are a million things I could have and should have done, but all I could do was curl up into a fetal position on the bed and cry. Dialing 911 never occurred to me. Taking her to the emergency room never occurred to me. I was too completely dumbfounded by her actions for those thoughts to pierce the clusterfuck of confusion enveloping my brain.
Lynn laid on the floor next to the bed and took my hand in an effort to calm me down. There was a single tear creeping down her cheek from her left eye as she soothed me and told me how all my problems would be gone in the morning. I was paralyzed. Tears gushed from my eyes like a fire hydrant run over by a car. Eventually, I cried myself to sleep.
When I woke in the morning, Lynn was peacefully resting on the floor where she had been the night before. I timidly looked toward her belly, and released the biggest sigh of relief in my life when I noticed it rising and falling. Lynn’s suicide attempt had failed, but her goal had been achieved. I became completely submissive to her at that point. I stopped trying to leave her and caved to her every desire from that moment on. When she said she wanted to get married I readily agreed even though it was the last thing on earth I wanted to do. When she said she wanted another child I didn’t put up a fight even though I didn’t want to be anchored to her for the rest of my life by having a child I was not ready to have. When she told me she wanted to leave Detroit because her family was in Cincinnati I terminated our lease and rented a moving truck even though I would be leaving my family behind to do so.
I was her slave.
It took almost 10 years to disentangle myself from the emotional monopoly she’d created over me, but I’d do it all over again to ensure that I get my twins. That being said, I walk because no one should ever be put in a position where they have to give in or watch someone die. I walk so that awareness can be raised, and young men and women will know how to get help for suicidal people instead of caving to their manic demands. I walk because I want to know that when/if the time comes, my children can help a lost soul like their mother without compromising their needs and sacrificing their happiness to do so. I walk because no one should be stuck fighting their demons alone.
I have supported the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for several years now, and participate in their annual Out of the Darkness walks which raise funds for research into mental illness, which afflicts 90% of people who commit suicide. The funds also support programs for survivors left behind by those who have committed suicide in addition to folks who have survived suicide attempt(s).