I also hope he didn't feel as alone as I do now at times. I feel as if I've been in constant "flight or fight" mode since I found him hanging. Survival instinct took over nine years ago and it's burning me out now. I've fought for my kids to turn out well--which they have--and I've fought to keep the house that is falling apart around me as I type. Fight, fight, fight.
I'm tired of the fight.
Was he tired of the fight, too? Was he worn out from battling an addiction that had him in and out of rehab? Was he tired of pretending to be okay for his wife and family? Was he tired of trying to maintain a lifestyle that maybe he didn't really want but thought I did?
I understand the darkness he felt because I feel it now. Despite working seven days a week and approximately sixteen hours a day, I'm broke. I've gone from being a well-off woman to one who has $18 in her purse---only $18. And I'm damned grateful for it!
Life as a single mom isn't easy and it isn't something I chose or envisioned for myself. Every day is a scramble and I still come up short. It's frustrating to look into my kids' faces--children who have already been denied a father and the secure life we once led--and see disappointment time and time again.
I'm scared to even talk about 'what-ifs' with my kids around because I've started feeling like a delusional fool. We once took fabulous vacations, now we can't go to a movie. What-ifs and talk about anything new now seem like false promises.
I'm an educated woman with a strong work ethic, yet I can't make ends meet. Just today I crumbled onto the ground in a heap of despair and wondered why I even try. I cursed Sean for leaving us at one point, but more so I chastise myself for not doing 'enough' even though I'm burning myself out doing too much.
Sometimes I find myself thinking Sean took the easy way out--and I envy it. No, I'm not advocating suicide! Not in any way! I wish he would have fought harder to stay here, but in this dark place I'm in with the constant struggle and despair, I understand him better than I ever did. I say easy way out because he never had to deal with kids' hormones or tantrums. He never had to deal with bills being overdue. He never had to deal with being shunned by a community of married people who needed to blame a surviving spouse for the death of the other. He never had to deal with not knowing what to do to earn a living when hard work and talent weren't enough. But then I remember that he had his own battles--things he kept hidden to protect his family--and forgive him his despair.
I think about how sad he must have felt--the aloneness, the sense of helplessness, the frustration at being unable to kick his addictions--and am overcome with compassion. I relate to him now on a different level...the lowest one...in the dark, on the floor, raging against the sadness. I never witnessed him doing that, but know that he did from notes I found following his death. If I had seen my strong husband falling to his knees overcome with sorrow like I did this morning at the realization that my loosely tied together life is unraveling, what would I have done?
Would I have shown him compassion? Would I have hugged him and told him how much I loved him? Or would I have scoffed at the weakness and been afraid of what that meant? I hate to say it probably would have been the latter.
There are friends of mine now that have no idea how scared I am or how alone I feel. I smile because I hear their comments about people who don't have money "at this age" or who have "drama" in their lives "at this age." I see their posts about avoiding toxic people full of negativity and think--is my real life situation of fearing losing my home being negative? Is my burn out from working nonstop and still not earning enough being a 'downer'? So I fake being okay and remain silent about my struggle.
Sean faked it. He took his family on a vacation, went body surfing with his daughter, danced with me...all the while knowing he intended to kill himself days later when he returned home.
I once could not understand that. I beat myself up for not knowing, but now I understand because I'm putting on that face, too. I'm pretending all is well despite being on the precipice of losing it all. I smile while inside I am silently screaming. I tell people I'm cool with being alone despite crying over pictures of all those who've disappeared from my life over silly misunderstandings or lack of compassion. Why? Because my friends don't want to know my darkness.
But I keep getting up from that floor, sitting back down at the computer, working until the wee hours, sacrificing everything for a career that has yet to deliver, questioning if I've lost my mind along the way...Yes, here I am. Trying. Crying. Refusing to give up despite the darkness creeping into my heart.
I knew Sean's darkness, but only on a superficial level. I knew his mood swings scared me. I knew he battled with sobriety. I knew he worked his ass off night and day. I knew he loved the kids and me. I knew he tried really, really hard to be the kind of husband he thought I wanted. I only knew what he allowed me to see--and perhaps I didn't dare look deeper for fear of what I'd find.
Do we all do that? Do we all hide from the deep darkness because we may see ourselves reflected back?
I forgive Sean because I love him. More than that, I forgive him because I finally "get it."
The real question is, can I forgive myself for stumbling and unraveling? I'm not sure yet. I'm here. Trying. Crying. Refusing to give up. That's all I know for now.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.