No one is prepared for the moment that everything comes crashing down. All it takes is one sentence for a loved one to compeltely upend someone's life and make a lasting impression. The lives featured in these stories were never the same. All it took was one fategul day. THis content has been edited for clarity.
Threats And Sci-Fi
“My husband and I were going through a rough patch, I was discussing divorce and our options regularly. I cleaned out the spare room where he was sleeping, in preparation to move. I found a binder of his hidden Epic Sci-Fi novel in the works, complete with sketches and drawings. The premise of his story was that he was going to be the governor of a Prison Planet, in a post-apocalyptic society, and all females would be promiscuous, worker slaves, or prisoners kept barely alive in order to be a food source for others. I was immediately to be designated a prisoner saved as food for others. He named me, and, the sketch was of me. Pretty good one, too.
He then went on page after page of the various indignities he was going to visit upon me, and how he’d keep me alive, and how he’d eventually slaughter me for feeding time. When I sat the binder out on the dining room table that night, he saw that I’d found it, and he got very boisterous and loud, proclaiming it not to be a work of fiction. According to him, ‘it was a promise.’
‘And maybe it would be in the distant future, maybe it will be soon, and maybe it won’t even be after a war, maybe I’ll just want to kill you now and feed you to hogs. They’ll eat anything.’ He gravely told me.
I laughed and said, ‘I think it’s written pretty well, actually, and all your drawings are amazing! The sketches are wonderful, and I think you may have missed your calling. You should explore this as a hobby. One problem though — the mistakes and typos, there are TONS of them. I red-lined it for you, corrected all the various errors. Like, you want to sever my artery — the wound you’ve drawn up here, by my neck. But see? You wrote ‘femoral artery’ by mistake. That’s down by my thigh. I think you mean ‘carotid artery’, which is up by my neck. Is that what you meant?’
He got angry and stared at me and said, ‘Don’t think I can’t and won’t do it. I’ll sever every artery you have in your sleep, and it won’t be a story.’
He was now 6 inches from my face.
I told him, ‘Oh I know, Governor. But that story — it was good. You CAN write.’
And then I just turned around and cleaned up the kitchen. I heard him mumble ‘thanks’ as he left the room.
A month or so later, with similar shenanigans and one physical altercation (the first and last), I rented an apartment — for him — and moved him into it. I gave him the keys and said I’d paid first and last month’s rent, but then what happened after 60 days was entirely up to him. I gave him a bag of groceries, smiled, and said I’m sorry there was no human prisoner meat to give him. I drove away.
He had tried to remain menacing up to that point, but he fought nothing in the divorce, and seldom came around except on holidays, with flowers. I moved a year later. I’m not trying to make light of domestic abuse of any type, and my choice to handle it with humor and by not taking him seriously was a tactic to keep the harmony, while I was busy making relocation plans for him. I was fortunate that it worked exactly as I had hoped.”
“From a very young age, my son has ‘known’ things, ahead of time. As a toddler, he would express these incidents openly, like when out driving. He would excitedly point to the sky and say, ‘Pane! Pane!’ (Airplane), but there was no plane in sight. Until a few minutes later!
Walking home from kindergarten, he would sometimes ‘hush’ me because Daddy was sleeping. We would go home to find his Daddy back home early from work, and yes, you guessed it, sleeping.
Those are just a few things. Fast-forward to eleven years of age. He does not share much anymore. He keeps things to himself, though sometimes we get the occasional, ‘What’s for dinner?’ in the morning, with himself answering with the dish I thought of.
On a sunny Sunday, we went to the grave of his Grandma. We brought flowers, and as we were cleaning up, he pondered why we were doing this. I told him it is a way to remember, to think of the person you loved while you decorate, and maybe bring the type of flowers you know they loved. ‘And one day, you will do the same for me, that is how it is’, I said.
‘No, Mom,’ he said, looking me straight in the eyes, ‘it is you who will come to me.’
I was so taken back, so chilled to my bones, I do not even remember the rest of that day. Just the thought of losing him was devastating. How could he say such a thing? But it haunts me. He is still here, 19 years old now, a beautiful young man just out of school and now an apprentice. He has so much life ahead of him! But if he is late. If he does not answer the phone. If he goes out somewhere and I don’t know where. If he is on a weekend trip or just a sleepover with a friend, it haunts me. I always beg, not today. Please. Not today. It is always in the back of my mind, and I am unable to let it go.
I have never told anyone about this.”
A Powerful Survivor
“My father was a violent and controlling Jehovah’s Witness. He was very much into subjugating women. I was a top student in the college track, desperate to continue my education. He threatened to pull me out of high school. I planned to ask a family court judge to place me with a secret foster family until graduation. Believe me, everything I did was spied on. Lights were cut so I could not do homework. He threw me down stairs while I had a full body cast bc I liked the Beatles. I had no boyfriend. He intercepted phone calls and told friends how evil I was, and they supposedly agreed with him. I kept the ACLU phone number in my underwear. A social welfare agency was involved, but he never knew. We feared he would murder us.
I came home from school. He was asleep and had my brother’s FM radio tuned to a Yankees AM broadcast, it was our only FM source. My favorite station played Beatles and Bob Dylan. I carefully removed the radio, but the lack of blaring noise woke him. He punched and kicked me as I tried making it to my bedroom and barring my door, but he trapped me in the bathroom. I was in disbelief. He had already a few heart attacks and suffered serious angina.
He wedged his thick body so I could not escape. My father told me I was evil and no good. He hated me. I was killing him and I was going to watch him die. But my gut was screaming to escape. I tried to move his body many times. He sat and resisted. The man was beyond white. His breathing was very labored. I decided to screech with every ounce of my being. Somehow, one blessed neighbor called the police.
I heard the police siren after screeching for ten minutes. He was almost unconscious, but the sirens woke him up. My dad raced downstairs and grabbed nitro pills. He put on a robe. He lied to the police and told them how evil I was. Between heaves, I told them I was not safe from him. I had serious bruises. They said to stay away from each other. I said I was able to stay away from him but he would never stay away from me.
I knew he would murder me. So I disregarded all rules. I walked out of the house without permission. My aunt lived six blocks away. I was crying so hard, people from school and merchants asked if I needed help. I could not answer, all I could do was try to get to my aunt. She opened the door and had to give me smelling salts. My aunt said it was my fault. She did not want to call my mom and talk. I said my father will kill me. My mom came after work. I stayed with my mom and brother to protect me. My mom went to the social welfare agency.
They convened an emergency meeting of staff. New rules were made. I could never be at home without my mom or strong brother. They wanted me to go away to live with distant relatives. That wouldn’t matter. My father would still hunt me. I said I was an exemplary student enrolled in anti-poverty programs. Do not take me from my friends and school. They were all I had. Make him go away
He died in the hospital a few weeks later. The agency was so afraid he would pull another stunt. They helped me apply to top colleges. My mom said we could finally breathe. No more walking on egg shells. Feminism burst forth. We held workshops on domestic violence. I litigated gender equality cases.
It was my father’s shame. Not mine.”
Childhood Gone Awry
“When I was 24-years-old and married with my first baby, my husband and I were driving my mother home after she had visited us. A bit of an argument broke out between mother and me, over something inconsequential. She said, coldly and clearly, ‘I adopted you to save my marriage, and when he loved you more than me, I got rid of you. I sent you to boarding school.’
I was adopted at 2 years of age and packed off to boarding school when I had just turned 7. I spent the rest of my childhood and teenage years at boarding school, only coming home for school holidays.
She would do humiliating things growing up, such as putting a notice in the local paper that I was coming home for the school holiday. She would force me to wear my school uniform to town, so ‘that everyone can see what a good school I sent you to.’
Running into my school ‘mates’ dressed in my formal school uniform in the holidays ensured that I was totally humiliated and bullied. I never forgave her for this, and I never forgot what she told me that evening when I was 24. Even though I am now 75, it still hurts.”
‘How did you know to come?’
This was said to me by my stepmom the day I went to their house to see my dad, after having gone over a year without speaking to him. I had been sitting at home reading, when I suddenly I dropped everything I was doing, stood up, got my keys, and left the house. I didn’t even tell my husband where I was going. This has happened to me a handful of times. I just know I need to be somewhere, and I shift into a strange autopilot state to do what has to be done.
I didn’t know why. Only that I had to go.
I had heard from my aunt that my dad was sick, but I was pretty fed up with our relationship, and his rumored illness wasn’t enough to make me reconcile with him. He had made it his mission to disrespect my husband and my marriage, and I’d finally had enough of it. So my stepmom was really shocked to see me there. She led me back to their bedroom, and when I saw my dad hooked up to oxygen with his face all swollen from the fluid built up in his system, I realized that he really was ill. Very ill. The kind where you don’t ever get well again.
We visited for an hour. I set aside all my feelings about what kind of father he’d been to me, and I just showed him the love I had left for him. I told him what he needed to hear so he could be at peace. He wasn’t perfect, but he was my dad and he was dying. That’s not the time for grudges, or to be a nasty about the past. I had to get home, so I told him I’d be back soon, and that I’d bring my son to see him. He perked up at that and looked so happy.
My stepmom walked me out and we chatted for just a minute, then I got in my car to drive home. Dad died before I even left the driveway. He was feeling so chipper after our visit that he got out of bed to go try to use the bathroom by himself, and that’s when his heart gave out. My stepmom found him when she went inside and called the ambulance. I SAW the ambulance go past me as I was going home, but it never crossed my mind that it was for him.
I didn’t know he was gone until hours later, when my stepmom finally had a chance to call me.
‘How did you know to come?’
I’m not sure how I knew. But I will always be grateful for that push I get that leads me where I need to be because it let me give my dad the forgiveness he needed to be at peace when he died.
My parents divorced when I was young, and I was the middle child of three. We saw very little of our father after their marriage ended, and he died 14 years ago. We all live in different parts of the US now: my sister lives on the East Coast, my brother lives in Kansas, and I live in northern Minnesota. Our mother lives in eastern Iowa, and each of us keeps in touch with her in our own way. We don’t see much of each other. Over time, we’ve all just gradually gone our separate ways. This is neither good nor bad; it’s just a reality.
When I was very young, I began to realize that I was gay. But I didn’t discuss it with anyone, because I saw no reason to. Which is not to say I didn’t ‘act’ upon it, but I didn’t talk about it. I was raised in a small town, and that, too, was just a reality. I assumed it was just a phase, and that I would eventually outgrow it. I never did, of course, but I’ve adapted.
I graduated from high school and went away to college. I’m still the only person in my family who has ever gone to college. I graduated, got a job, and moved out-of-state. One night, about three years later, my sister called. Several minutes into a dull conversation about nothing, right out of the blue, she asked me, ‘Are you gay?’
She had obviously found out (she never did tell me how), but I couldn’t very well deny it. So, I told her yes. I left it at that, and I assumed she would, too. Not even close. She was shocked, horrified, repulsed, and furious. I hoped she’d be OK with it, but I didn’t get a chance to say so. Within 30 seconds, she was a sputtering outrage and then CLICK: she hung up on me. Her reaction cut to the bone. But the chilling part was what she did next.
My sister proceeded to call my mother, my father, and my brother, and she told each of them. I don’t know if those calls happened in that order, but I do know that she called each of them and shared this news. I don’t know why she did this, nor do I know exactly what she said to them, but knowing my sister, I can just imagine how it went. It wasn’t just that she was a tattletale. She took a sort of wicked glee in providing full coverage and gory details, the gorier the better. It was several months before I found out how each of them reacted, which is itself rather painful.
My mother was definitely the most upset. She cried – and I know this is because of how she reacted the next few times I saw her. I asked her if she had spoken to my sister lately, and she burst into tears. I tried to ask her why she was so upset, and this only made her more upset. To this day, she refuses to talk about it, and I’ve given up trying. She can’t even talk about the subject itself. Several years later, when the movie Brokeback Mountain came out, I asked her if she’d seen it. She said no, got upset all over again, and that was the end of that. The poor lady. This didn’t need to happen, and I’m still angry at my sister for doing this to her.
My dad, who had long since remarried, had an interesting reaction, given the kind of person my dad was. That Christmas, as usual, I got a Christmas card from them. But his wife, who I’ve always liked a lot, had tucked a little note inside the card. In it, she told me not to worry about my dad – he had handled it all quite well. She also mentioned that he had scolded my sister for this, telling her it was, ‘None of her business!’
His wife’s note was a very kind gesture, and it meant a great deal to me. My dad and I never did discuss it, but to me, it was enough that he knew.
My brother, too, had an interesting reaction, and about a year later, that reaction had another reaction. I got the full story from his wife, who was only too happy to oblige. Phyllis has never liked my sister (and still doesn’t), and the feeling is mutual. My brother was not pleased about her call anyway – after all, she had just tattled on me – but when he realized this was the ONLY reason she had called, he went totally ballistic. My brother has a strong sense of moral justice, and I’ve refereed enough of their fights to know.
And so it was that, a year later, the three of us were at a family funeral. As we were waiting at the cemetery for the rest of the mourners to arrive, he wandered over, stood next to me, then he slung his arm over my shoulder. I looked at him, and he grinned. Then, he leaned in, and said softly, ‘Don’t ever take no nonsense from her.’
Even in the double-negative, I knew precisely what he meant.”
Bizarre Violent Husband
“This guy I used to date (for over 6 years of torment), we’ll call him G. He used to have this RV that we would meet up at, which I actually lived in it at one point. He was really mentally abusive, sometimes physically abusive too. He could do and say some really mean and creepy things. Nonetheless, I was somehow in love with this guy.
G was VERY OCD. Things should always be put back EXACTLY how they were found. His things were always kept in pristine condition, literally things he owned for 30+ years always looked and were kept in brand new condition. He let me borrow a 15-year-old cell phone that he owned, since it was new in the box when he bought it. The phone came in it’s original box, original packaging, it even had the little ties for the charger, and the original plastic resealable bag the manual came in. Like I said, OCD. To ruin or even change something of his ( even a tiny scratch) accidently or on purpose, is like a reflection of his worth to him, because in his eyes, you are lucky to be around him.
One day at the RV he was being particularly mean. He had a way of berating a person. It was overwhelming and very difficult to deal with. I couldn’t say or do anything right ( and it didn’t matter how hard you tired, or how long you thought about what you’d say. He would fault you somehow), so with no way to express my frustration at how he was treating me, without risking verbal or physical abuse, this is what I did.
On this particular day, we were in the RV, and I could see the windows were closed, the curtains were down, and he went outside for some reason. I waited until the door was completely shut, glanced at the windows again, making sure they were closed and he couldn’t see anything inside. I spit on the carpet and quickly rubbed it in with my foot. This was completely to spite him without him knowing, because I knew he’d HATE me for it.
So immediately after rubbing the spit into the carpet, he burst into the door, sat down right next to me, and looked at me like he could kill me. Then he spit on the carpet and rubbed it in with his foot, glared at me again, didn’t say a word, got up, and walked out. I was in shock. I double-checked everything, and there was no possible way he could have seen me do this. I have no idea how he saw me do what i did.
Things like this always happened with him. Sometimes he would relay whole conversations I had with random people when I was gone. One time, my back facing him, in the pitch black dark, I rolled my eyes at something he said. He responded, ‘I saw that,’ meaning, he saw me roll my eyes, even though I wasn’t facing him and it was completely dark.
After attempting to get away from him, about a year or so later, I was no longer living in RV, nor was I living with him. I moved without telling him, and I hadn’t seen him for like 3 weeks. One night I had this very intense dream. It was a dream that I knew meant something important I still remember this dream word for word. For about a week after the dream, I thought about it night and day trying to understand it. Then I got a call from him and he talked me into meeting him at the RV. I met him there, and the very first thing he said to me was, ‘It seems that we shared a dream the other night didn’t we?’
At that point I was creeped out, so I totally ignored him and never brought it up until a year or so later. I finally asked him what he meant by us sharing that dream? I asked him to prove that we had the same dream. He then proceeded to tell me detail by detail the dream that we shared, and he even described how I felt when I woke up .
I never started telling anyone really about my now ex-husband until I got away from him. Like the time when he had both hands around my throat. I could hear the horrible sound of me trying to breath. It was one of the scariest moments of my life, and I’ll never forget that sound. My neighbor heard him yelling at me that he was going to kill me and leave my dead body for my son to find when he came home from school. My neighbor burst inside my home to find me being strangled and saved me.
I thankfully haven’t seen G for about a year-and-a-half now. Last I heard, someone burned his RV down.”
“My family grew up in an old Victorian vicarage in rural Wales, it’s easily hundreds of years old. You can still see in the architecture the servants and the masters quarters! When I was around 7 and my sister around 5, she came out of the pantry muttering under her breath. She seemed annoyed, so I asked her what was up. My sister said, ‘That woman in there keeps telling me to wash my face, but I’ve already washed my face today. She keeps telling me to play with my train set. I don’t even have a train set. I told her, but she carried on annoying me!’
My sisters always been a little kooky and had imaginary friends, so at the time I didn’t think anything of it. Months later, at school we had a ‘Victorian week’, where some classes were merged together. My sister came and found me with a picture in her hand of a woman, in a long skirt, with the word ‘Nursemaid’ written underneath. ‘This is what the woman in the pantry wears!’ she exclaimed.
I’ll admit I was a little freaked out at this point but just kind of swept it under the rug, as my sister could sometimes get bullied in school, and I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to pick on her.
That evening I mentioned it to our mom. She looked at me wide eyed and turned very pale. She then told me about a similar experience she’d had with my sister. My step dad’s parents died many years before we were born, and we obviously had never met them. There’s two old oil paintings of them above the fireplace in the office. Mom was working in there one day and my sister came in and sat on a chair facing the fireplace. She said, ‘That’s nanny nelly, isn’t it?’‘
‘Yes it is sweetie.’
‘She planted the big pink bushes in the garden, didn’t she?’
‘Yes I think she did.’
My mom at this point thought our dad had been telling her about his mom, so wasn’t really paying her too much attention.
‘Those are her favorite flowers,’ my sister said. ‘And her favourite cake was lemon drizzle. She really loves you, Mom. And me and my sister.’
At this point she started paying a bit more attention. ‘Oh that’s nice sweetie. How do you know all this?’ she asked.
‘She sits in the chair in the room next door and talks to me’, my sister replied.
Mom got the biggest chill down her spine and stopped working. She took us both out of the house to the park, as she was so freaked out. That chair my sister mentioned was the chair that grandma had passed away in years before.
I’ve always felt ‘presences’ in that house as well, even to this day. When I was a teenager and started staying out later with my friends, my parents would leave the door open for me (it was rural Wales, so very little risk leaving your door unlocked). Every night when I got home, the door would be locked and no one would have done it. Our theory was it was Nanny Nelly keeping us safe! There is never any bad feelings there. Just when you’re home alone, you know you’re not home alone.”
That Fateful Night
“I lived with my husband for years. It was an emotionally abusive marriage, but I had no idea. I just knew that there was something very wrong with him, but I put it down to a lack of childhood love, poor social skills, or perhaps Aspergers. We separated, and I went travelling, but we always planned to get back together. While I was away, he met a young, vulnerable woman and moved her into our home, but did not tell me until many months later. When challenged, he said, ‘It must have slipped my mind.’
I know now that she was his tertiary victim, but I didn’t know that at the time.
He love bombed this woman, but then something happened and he threw her out. She went missing, and he refused to report what he knew until I told him if he did not, then I would. She was found a week later, dead in the sea at the bottom of a cliff. She had taken her own life.
It was then that I saw him for what he really was. I saw all his manipulative tricks in action. The triangulation, the projection, the word salad, the gaslighting. For the first time in many years, my eyes were opened and I saw the truth.
Overnight, he turned himself into the hero. He had lost ‘his best friend’. He got permission from her parents to empty her house, and he arranged her funeral. The events of that night were all forgotten, and I was the only person at that point who knew the truth. I pleaded with him to report what had really happened. Without emotion, he told me, ‘She was a very vulnerable woman, and there was always every chance she would take her own life at some point.’
I told him that he had already told me what happened that night. He put his face so close to mine and spat, ‘You have NO idea what really happened that night Jackie!’
I walked away, and from that moment on I was done. Any bit of love, understanding, or sympathy dropped away. I had incredible support from the police, from the Domestic Violence Unit, the Crisis Team, and many other professional services. Still, it was a struggle, and I lost just about everything except my home.
My ex-husband still plays the victim and still has a multitude of sympathisers. I lost all but my closest friends as I became the ‘mad one’. The one who, without any reason, had blocked him on all devices. The cruel one to ignore him at his time of greatest need. The one with the crazy ideas about this wonderful man who just needed to be loved.
My victory is in surviving and and not becoming the victim. He is irrelevant to me now. As chilling as that parting sentence was, it almost certainly saved my life – in more ways than one.”
“After 19 years of marriage, my then wife starting behaving cruelly. She began telling me our marriage was no longer working, that she was growing as a person through her work in AA, and that I was stunted. I didn’t understand. I was a tech executive, played music with friends regularly, did a lot of domestic chores, did wood working as a hobby, bicycled regularly, and engaged in intellectual discussions. But she kept insisting I had become boring and predictable.
This continued for about five months: horrible castigation, vilifying everything I did, telling me she would likely want a divorce, but wanted to wait until our then 16 year old was off at college. It got worse and worse until one day, I hacked her emails. Yep, there were the love notes, back and forth.
I confronted her, she lied about it, admitted to some ‘making out’, all based on the iceberg tip I knew. She was contrite and wanted to reconcile our marriage, but a couple weeks later, she was back to her old cruel ways. I did a deep dive into her tech and found hundreds of texts a week, including ones sent when she claimed she wanted to reconcile with me. I re-confronted her, but only told her I knew she was lying and that she had to confess everything.
Turns out her lover was an opiate junkie she met in AA – estranged from his children, bankrupt, lots of small to medium lawsuits, uneducated. I couldn’t believe it.
She wanted a third chance and we tried to work through it. Unfortunately, our daughter had known about it for some time, presumably by reading her mom’s emails. On horrific night, our daughter got very wasted, popped pills, and flipped her car, miraculously escaping injury to herself and others. She was written up and cost us tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Our daughter was extremely distraught. She was suicidal and had to be hospitalized a couple times.
My then wife couldn’t handle all this. She snapped one day, screaming at our daughter, ”Eff you! ‘Eff you! ‘Eff you! YOU’RE the reason I want to get wasted. You’re the reason I want to end it all!’
My then wife stormed out of the room and drove away at a dangerous speed. It didn’t get better. We divorced, after 20 long years of marriage.”
“My Head Hurts So Much”
‘My head hurts so much.’
I met a boy, M, in 2011, when I was 13. We fell in love pretty much immediately, and even though we ‘broke up’ a few times, we both agreed every time it was always temporary. We knew how young we were and knew we would be changing a lot as we grew up and sometimes needed to be apart. We always got back together, even after I moved 600 miles away. We spent all our Christmas and birthday and first job money on plane tickets. Our parents knew how much we loved each other, and we always spent holidays and summers together. They were convinced we were going to get married. So were we.
When I was 17, he was 19. In March of 2015, he started acting very strange. We would text constantly, but his texts became oddly repetitive and somewhat fractured. It’s the only way I know how to describe it. We didn’t talk on the phone much, but one day we decided to Skype. We had been arguing about some very silly stuff, but it felt so serious at the time. During the call, he just held his head in his hands while crying and said, ‘My head hurts so much.’
I don’t remember what I said back. I just remember how much pain he seemed to be in. Even though I noticed that, it didn’t seem to be super important at the time. He had always struggled with mental health. He had been hospitalized before, he’d been on medications, he was sad a lot, and he couldn’t get through high school. So it was after the Skype call where he seemed to be in anguish, that I started to think I should tell his mom about how odd he’d been acting. I didn’t. He mentioned he’d been drinking a lot of water to try to help his headaches. I almost told him not to drink too much.
At this same time, my best friend, K, had almost died of a freak medical problem while he was in basic training for the Navy. He had been hispitalized during the whole time I’d been noticing M acting strange. K had lived with me for a year before that, because his mom had kicked him out. So on the 17th of March, when K came back from basic, he came straight to my house.
I had fought with M that day. I told him he wasn’t making any sense, because he wasn’t, but he kept arguing with me and I kept getting upset that he wasn’t making sense. I, for the first time in the four years we had been together, didn’t tell him I loved him before I went to sleep. K was there and I had to be present for K. He’d almost died. I would deal with M in the morning.
At 5am, my mom came downstairs to my room and woke me up. She told me M was in the hospital. I said, ‘Oh what did he do this time?’ and she just looked at me.
M biked everywhere, but he never wore a helmet. There were a hundred little things it could easily have been. She just looked at me and said, ‘It’s not like that. They said he’s braindead.’ and I screamed. K was next to me and didn’t move. He had just met M the previous summer. I screamed and screamed and didn’t know what to do, and K just laid there, facing away from me.
I drove up there with my mom. It took 11 hours. The plane would be so expensive, and I wasn’t sure I could handle being on a plane, even for the hour and a half.
When we got there, we found out that M had been in the process of being diagnosed with schizophrenia. He hadn’t wanted to worry me, so he never told me. He took his meds irregularly, he smoked a lot, and he was under so much stress. He stopped eating so his mom wouldn’t have to buy as much food (they weren’t that poor, but he was thinking irrationally at this point, plus his mom and brother were both chronically ill and his dad had died of cancer five years earlier). He started getting headaches, so he started drinking more water to make them stop. They just got worse. So when he told me, three days before he died, how much his head hurt, he was telling me his brain was swelling up against the inside of his skull. Because he drank so much water, he depleted his electrolytes so his body couldn’t control itself. On the evening of the 17th, M lost it completely. He had a meltdown of which I will not go into detail. He was taken to the hospital and suffered heart failure and brain swelling so bad it cut circulation to itself by herniating from his skull and crushing his brain stem.
I didn’t realize how important his headache was until then. I realized I could have done something. One simple text and he could have been okay. I was so distracted by K. The repetitive, spiraling, fractured way M spoke to me. I can still remember his crying and his voice telling me how much his head hurt. It was a truly chilling foreshadowing of an incredibly unlikely death.”
“It Will Be Quick”
“My husband had a terrible mental breakdown. He developed psychotic depression very quickly and without warning. We had been happily married for 40+ years by then. One of the manifestations of his illness was that he thought we had no money, our house would be repossessed, and we would be on the street. All of this was completely untrue, but he was convinced that it was so. He could not bear the idea of us having to suffer this humiliation, and in his poor deluded state decided that it would be for the best if we both died.
Obviously I disagreed with this suggestion, and I tried very hard to convince him that he was mistaken about our financial position,. Even if he was right, it was not something to die for. To try to talk someone out of a strongly held psychotic belief is completely futile, even if you can change their mind for a little while. The psychosis comes back quickly.
My bone chilling moment came one evening. I was in the kitchen when my husband appeared in the doorway. He was holding a knife. He quietly said, ‘It will be quick.’
I am not one to panic easily, thank goodness. I really believe that had I run, he would have come for me and stabbed me. Instead, I reached into the drawer in front of me and found a hammer. Looking him in the eye, I said, ‘Give it your best shot.’
He must have thought better of his plan, because after a short stand-off, he put down the knife and walked away. I spent some months with him as he planned to kill us both before he finally got too dangerous and had to be placed in a secure mental hospital. That first threat was for sure the one that chilled me to the core.
My husband finally tried to strangle me. After this, he was confined to a secure mental hospital, and I was told that it would never be safe for me to live with him in the future. He was in hospital for two years, then he absconded one day and walked into the sea. I loved him very much, but I can understand that for him, death seemed the only escape from the nightmare his life had become.”