My counseling appointments were every Tuesday afternoon. I liked and trusted the counselor I was seeing, but did not experience much positive result from these visits. Some weeks I would leave and feel “okay”, but most weeks I would leave and as I drove home, I would replay the conversation of the previous hour in my head and feel certain that this marriage was indeed hopeless. Some days when I left, I would think about veering into the lane of oncoming traffic, particularly if a semi truck was heading towards me. This was not my planned way to die, and I feared it would leave me alive and in worse condition. That thought kept me from following through with the desire.
In the midst of all that was happening with our marriage, I still had the responsibility of homeschooling our youngest. She was sixteen years old at this point. Everyday, she had choir at the public high school in our town. Our school followed a block scheduling system; that meant that the day was broken up into four blocks, each about 80 minutes long. At this point she was in choir during third block which meant I dropped her off at school around 10:50 and picked her up at 12:25. A friend of mine lived two minutes or so from the high school, and while our house wasn’t that far, probably a seven minute drive, I found myself going to my friend’s house more often than not. Part of the reasoning for that was to save some time and gas. Mostly, though, I needed a friend in the most desperate way. It was also a break from being in our home. Even while Dave was at work, being in the house just reminded me that life was in a horrible place. We had very few groceries, there were papers all over the floor by his chair, and often I sensed that the very walls of the house mocked me–reminding me of how I had completely made a mess of my life. In visiting with my friend, I found a listening ear, an understanding heart, and someone I could trust. Friend (as I will refer to her from now on) and Pastor 2 became lifelines for me. Both encouraged me to be praying about my marriage. Pastor 2 went so far as to ask me to consider giving my marriage thirty days. During that thirty day time period, he would pray, Friend would pray, and he asked me to pray for this marriage–pray that God would do an amazing work in that time. He asked me to take some time to think about this before committing to it.
On February 5, 2012, we left for four days in Chicago. It is this week every year that our son’s college holds what they call Founder’s Week. It also coincides with my son’s birthday so I am excited to go. I knew by the time I returned from this trip, I would need to give Pastor 2 an answer about a thirty day commitment. We return on the 12th of the month and I tell Pastor 2 that I have decided to stay and work on this marriage and pray that God would work on it as well. The storm, though, is far from over.
As I learn to trust Pastor 1 more, I finally reveal just how day to day life is lived in our house–in fear. Dave’s anger has gotten progressively worse. He is constantly miserable and seems to not care about us at all. Every night when he would come home from work, he would look at the mail, throw any bills that came in a pile with all the other bills piled on the floor by his chair, turn on the television, and get lost in it for the rest of the night. He would take a break only for dinner and even then, did not turn off the television. After dinner was done, our daughter would go downstairs and close her bedroom door. She did not come up until the next morning for school. If she did come up, she would sit with headphones feeding loud music into her ears, essentially drowning out the world around her. I would go into a back bedroom and work on a puzzle or read. It seemed even God couldn’t do a work in my husband. I grew bitter toward God and toward life. Through all this, I am in contact daily with Pastor 1, Pastor 2, and Friend–many days, all three. The suicidal thoughts increase and I begin to believe that everyone, especially me, would be better off if I were dead. I began to write down how I would carry out the plan I had in place. I told no one what my plan was, although I had told Pastor 1 that I wanted to die.
One thing that Dave is adamant about is our sleeping in the same bed. I learned this the hard way just a month or so before going to Chicago. We had a fight and I grabbed my pillow and blanket to go sleep in our older daughter’s room. She was away at college and her bed was still in that room. Dave went crazy. He screamed at me and told me that there was no way I was sleeping away from him. He threatened to leave, even going so far as to grab clothes and begin putting them in a suitcase. I feared if he left, he wouldn’t come back. This is the fear that ultimately kept me from filing for divorce even when Pastor 1 said I should. I knew there was no way I could support our youngest daughter, and while she was under the age of eighteen so Dave would have to support her, I also knew there was no way I could keep our son in college. Dave was the main source of income. The part time job I worked from home a few months out of the year wouldn’t even pay the rent on the house, let alone a school payment. Rather than take the chance of him leaving or losing his temper, I stayed in the same bed as him. Most nights, when I was sure he was asleep, I would quietly get up and go sleep in the other room. There I could quietly cry with no one but my loyal cat to hear me. She would jump up on the bed and cuddle up next to me. I know the Bible says that God keeps count of our tears; I cried so many tears not only was I sure that God had lost track of them, I began to wonder if my body would eventually stop producing them. One thing I knew I could count on was Dave sleeping very soundly. I would set my cell phone alarm to go off at 4:00 AM. I kept the phone under my pillow so the sound would be muffled. I would then sneak back into our shared bed so that I was there when he awoke in the morning.
By early March, 2012, the suicidal thoughts were overpowering. My mind played and replayed the pictures of my suicide plan. Depression was a companion that had a tight grip on my heart. It was not a new friend. In fact, years before this, I had attempted suicide and was hospitalized. By this point in my life, I had lost track of all the different medications I had been on. I do remember at one point in my life, around the year 2000, I was on such a cocktail of meds that I spent my days in a fog. It seemed all my actions were done in slow motion. I would struggle to even open my eyes. I turned to alcohol as a way to escape the pain of depression and the reality that my life was a mess. It wasn’t unusual for me to have a drink in my hand by 10:00 in the morning. Looking back, I can see the hand of God protecting me from the devastation that could have stemmed from mixing so many medications with alcohol. Some of this time is still a blur to me. I know at one point I ended up back in the hospital for detox. Upon being released from that two week stay, I was given a drug called Antabuse. It’s job was to make me tremendously sick if any alcohol entered my system. This included alcohol in every day products like shampoo or deodorant. It didn’t take long for me to learn this drug meant business. I remember being on the couch thinking for sure I was going to die as the medication detected alcohol in my system. Having attempted suicide a few times, I knew what not to try. I was confident that this current plan would work. The more I thought about my marriage, the more I thought about how miserable life with Dave had become, and the more I thought about what a failure I perceived myself to be as a mom, the more power those suicidal thoughts gained. On March 7, 2012, I dropped Anna off at school for choir. Instead of going to Friend’s house, though, I headed back home. I pulled the van into the garage and closed the garage door. Leaving the van running, I got out and sat on the garage floor directly in line with the exhaust pipe of the van. I prepared myself to die. As I sat there, I thought about our daughter at the high school. She would be expecting me at 12:25. I wondered what she would do and how she would get home. Panic hit me and I quickly stood up. I don’t know how long I had been there. My head was pounding and I was very dizzy. I stumbled to the front of the van and turned off the ignition. I stumbled again up the garage steps and into the house. Struggling to focus on the clock, I realized I would need to leave soon to go get her. I sat for a few minutes in front of a fan, hoping the air from it would help clear my head. I managed to get to the school and get Anna home. I remind her that she has schoolwork to do and I quickly retreat to the bedroom and cry. Could I seriously be at such a low point again? I vowed to never let that happen after previous hospitalizations. My anger builds towards Dave. My mind tells me this is all his fault. If only he wouldn’t be so angry and mean and if he could get the finances straightened out our marriage would get better. Then, I reasoned, I wouldn’t want to die. But I knew that was not going to happen. In fact, Dave had only gotten worse with each passing day. I would as well.