the smell of my desperation has become a stench

“But if you want it to heal, it just takes time”

Yesterday I spoke of my friend Stacia and the grief she has suffered after the suicide of her fiancé last December. In the ten years since I spent four days in the hospital with postpartum depression I have written extensively about depression, the havoc it wreaks on the lives of those who suffer from it, what it looks like and how it manifests itself. In all that time some of the most humbling feedback I have received from readers has been from the sisters and husbands and mothers and friends of people who suffer, people who have said, “Thank you for helping me understand that this is real. Thank you for helping me understand what they are going through.”

I have written about depression because its stigma is still too abundant and damaging. Too often we are written off as crazy, that what we experience is not valid, that it can all be cured with a better attitude and some vegetables.

I had hoped that sharing my story would help others who suffer from depression to feel less alone not knowing that an incredible by-product would occur: I was helping the people in their lives develop a little compassion. Those people have their stories, too, stories of coping with someone who cannot cope, stories of frustration and anger and confusion. Their stories are just as important in this narrative and deserve to be heard if we are ever going to come together to help each other.

Today I want to share some of the writing that Stacia has been doing since the death of her fiancé. She has been directly affected by the worst possible outcome of someone else’s depression, and what she has experienced candidly negates the lie that this condition can make you believe: that everyone would be better off without you. You do not matter. No one will miss you.

Please read this and give it to anyone you know who is believing that lie.

(NOTE: This is at times graphic. She uses some strong language from time to time. I left some of it in because it is honest and raw and real, it’s what she was and is feeling. It is her truth.)

……

Last December, my love, my everything, took his own life. He purposely killed himself. He had been visiting his children one very snowy evening in a town north of Salt Lake. He texted me to tell me he was on his way home. But instead of coming home to me, he pulled his car into an empty parking lot, opened the trunk of his car and climbed into it, shut the lid, put a 9mm handgun to his temple and pulled the trigger. He ended his life and, in so many ways, ended mine. Since that time, I’ve been writing to him. Asking the unanswerable questions. 

Our love was indescribable. Our psychic, emotional, physical connection was incredible. I just tingled when I was around him. He was my everything. We had so many things planned. And not planned. Because it didn’t matter what we were doing. As long as we were together. We just needed to be together. We were going to run and dance and shower and love and sleep. Hold each other forever. We used to say that we could die right then in each others’ arms and have lived a full life. We were so aware, painfully so, of the preciousness of our love for one another. We talked constantly of how lucky we were to experience each other and how very few people were lucky enough to experience this kind of love. We appreciated every single moment together. But even with that kind of love in his life, the pain of his existence, experience, depression, was so intense that he had to stop it. He HAD to stop the pain. 

No matter what I said or did, I couldn’t love it out of him. 

These last nine months there have been many times that I wanted to die. Losing my love to suicide has been the most excruciating and debilitating experience of my life so far (and I’ve had other losses in my life–my brother was murdered during a botched robbery, I lost my mother, my best friend from high school was murdered by her boyfriend, and my divorce–in other words, this ain’t my first rodeo). But still, I cannot fathom what his pain must have been like to cause him to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger. 

Heather asked if I would be willing to share some of what I’ve written, and without hesitation I said absofuckinlutely. 

……

December 23, 2013

With the love that you expressed to me always—every fucking day—I can’t believe that you aren’t here. I can’t believe you crawled into your trunk, shut the lid, and put a gun to your temple. And pulled the trigger. You pulled the trigger. How could you do that? How? And why? You could have just come home to me. And collapse into my arms. And let me hold you all night. And talk to me. Tell me. 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. 

I miss you so much. So much. I will never experience anything thing like you again. And 8 months was not long enough. I know I was lucky to have you for that long but the fact that YOU ENDED IT. 

YOU. ENDED. IT. 

Our future. Our plans. Our love. Fuck you. And you’ve totally messed up your kids. They will NEVER get over you killing yourself. 

……

December 25, 2013

Very early on Christmas. Still wondering where you are. Listening to our playlist. I wish you could have been truthful with me. I would have understood. I would have loved you anyway. And we would have got through it. 

Now I want to die. 

The pain of your suicide is killing me. KILLING ME. My heart that used to want to burst at its longing for you wants to stop beating because you cease to exist. You are dead. Fucking dead. 

I saw your dead body. I held you. Cursed you. Told you how much I love the engagement ring. And how much I love you. And asked the unanswerable question, Why? I don’t think I will ever know. Because it cannot make any kind of sense to me. I know what I can’t keep asking that question but I can’t help it. It seems different than other suicides. We had so much to look forward to. So much planned. So much. 

Every date that passes kills me. Today is one of those days. You were so excited to begin our own traditions. With our kids. All our kids. We knew that we’d be alone on Christmas Eve. But we didn’t care. At least it didn’t seem like it. I couldn’t wait to just be. Just be with you. And instead you had to put a gun to your head in your trunk and pull the trigger. You put a fucking gun to your head. And you pulled the trigger. And ended my life. Fuck. 

……

January 11, 2014

It’s finally hitting me. I think the shock is wearing off. This is so fucking awful. I’ve never been so fucking sad in my entire life. I can’t believe this is my life. I don’t know what I expected. I do not know HOW I am ever going to get through this. 

I used to feel like I could handle pretty much anything. But this. This is unbearable. And I haven’t lost a child. I can’t imagine that pain. But god, this has to be close. I just lost my shit on my kids. The best things in my life and I yelled at them because I couldn’t take the bickering. The tattling. The teasing. Fuck. I’m so fucked up. So fucked up. How do I get beyond this? How? Fuck fuck fuck. 

……

January 12, 2014

So. Here I am. By myself. In a room full of people. I feel like my life is over. But I know it’s not. But I do not know how I’m going to get past your suicide. 

I know that I will figure it out as I feel my way through this blinding storm. I keep replaying it over and over in my mind. Your actions, but also the days leading up to it. And I wonder if you knew you were going to do it. The idea that you were in such psychological pain and I didn’t know you felt that way just floors me. How could we be so close yet not? 

I never would have suspected you were thinking about putting a gun to your head in the trunk of your car and pulling the trigger. Or that you even had a gun. Or that you had even contemplated leaving me. And your kids. To live with this devastating decision you made because you thought there was no other choice. Did you know what you were going to do when you left work that day? I’ll never know the answers to all of these questions. And I suppose it doesn’t really matter. 

You are dead. 

You are not coming back. 

I will never again see your face, hear your voice, feel your touch, look into your eyes, hold you all night, make love with you, laugh with you, watch you build Ikea furniture. NEVER. Because you decided to take a gun and put it to your temple in the trunk of your car and pull the trigger. You blew your fucking brains out. 

……

January 23, 2014

I’m at work. But I feel abandoned. No one dares to talk to me. 

People want me to be done grieving. I think I am burdening my friends with all of my crying and sadness. I can’t concentrate. I want to die. This pain is unbearable. I’m trying to work. But I still cannot reconcile your purported love for me and you killing yourself. 

Purported. Professed. Dedicated. 

I look at myself in the mirror and I have no idea what you saw in me. Was that all fake? It didn’t feel like it at the time. It feels like it now. 

……

February 15, 2014

There are so many things I wish you were here to share with me. And laugh about. Things I want to tell you but I can’t. Because you are dead. By your own hand. And I do not know or understand the pain you were in. Because you didn’t fully share that with me.

You were so afraid of being YOU. I tried to love all of you and show you that it didn’t matter to me that you were “broken” or “not worthy” because I did not care. You were the most amazing and loving man I had ever known. Maybe your love for me was not true. And maybe you were so good at putting on a show for me that I did not challenge your “vulnerability” or your love for me. 

But what I do know is this: I get to LIVE. I am still here. And I get to experience all of the things that you and I were going to experience. And things you and I had not even come up with. I get to have those experiences. And your experiences ended in the trunk of your shitty ass fucking car because you couldn’t deal. 

But I am so so so sad you aren’t here to celebrate life with me. I wanted to grow old with you. And dance and make love and raise our kids together. And we were so close to having that. But you checked out. But I am going to live. I am not going to wallow in my grief anymore. I love you and I miss you with every fiber and molecule of my being and I will until the day I die. But I have to carry on. I have to live without you. And truly live. 

We used to say that this was our one go around and we’d better make it count. My go around is going to count. 

……

February 21, 2014

So I am here and you are not. 

Which I still can’t wrap my mind around. You should be here. And I miss you so much. I don’t know how this has happened. I just want to cry all the time. I miss you with all of my being. 

I’m wearing my ring. And I was ready to never wear it again. Because I was strong and had “turned a corner.” Fuck that fucking corner. That corner lead to a dead end. And here I am back to just aching for you. Aching. Willing you to return to life. With all of my being. 

I just screamed at the top of my lungs and sobbed. You did what? You killed yourself. I miss you so much. I want to die. I wish I had the courage that you did. Because living without you makes me want to die. How can the will to live be so strong and then in you, not so strong? That you would kill yourself. You killed yourself. 

You put a gun to your head. You put a fucking gun to your head. And then, wait for it, you pulled the trigger. 

I just want to be okay. Today. I am trying so hard to move on. So so so hard. But my heart is broken. Not just broken. Split wide open and stomped on. Gutted. Decimated. You can suck it. Fuck you. 

……

March 5, 2014

It’s been a hard week. Especially today. I’ve really been struggling with how you felt about me. Wondering if you really loved me in the way that you said you did. I want to think that you did. In the moment, I believed it all. With three months passing since you killed yourself, I’m now not so sure. 

Even though you always told me to never doubt your love for me, I am doubting it. And I hate that. I don’t want to doubt you or us. I know that I get to decide what to believe about you and me and I am going to do my best to remember us in the throes of our love and passion. We were so good together. So so so good. God, I miss you. I love you so much. I just wish you had come home to me. I would do anything to make you come home. You brought me so much joy. I just wanted to be with you. 

Just be. 

I wish you had been really honest with me about your pain. You were happy with me. I wish that you had believed that I would have been there for you no matter what. I know you had doubts about my love lasting. 

I did not. 

You were my forever. And now I need to figure out a new forever. 

I love writing to you. Even though you will never read it, writing makes me feel closer to you. Or makes me feel less alone. Because now I really am alone. I realized that this week. That my “person” is gone. I have my dad and my boys and my friends but I don’t have you. 

I registered for a marathon today, and for the emergency contact I put my dad. I wanted to put you. When my dad is gone, who will I put? I have no family. You were my family. I will probably put Tanya but I want to put you. I want YOU to be my emergency contact. But since you put a gun to your head and pulled the trigger, you can’t be my emergency contact. Fuck. 

……

March 14, 2014

I’m alone. I mean really really alone. My whole life was you. Not really but my plans were all wrapped up with you in them. And now I am alone. 

But that is okay. In reality, we are all alone. Even when we feel safe and secure with our families, friends, relationships, we are still alone. You were alone. You died alone. I couldn’t do anything about it. How is it that you are dead? 

Didn’t you know I wouldn’t be able to go on without you? You said you couldn’t go on if something happened to me. Maybe you were trying to tell me about the gun. I wonder how many times you nearly told me. And why didn’t you? You thought I’d turn away? Reject you? There is no way I would have done anything remotely rejecting you. And if you ever felt rejected by me, in any way, I am so so so sorry. 

I tried to love every part of you. The darkest parts. I meant it when I said that I wanted you to show me that dark part, the vulnerable man. That was the man that I loved. That sweet, sensitive man. The man who wrote me a song. A song you were so nervous to play for me. A song that made me cry and shake. A song that vibrated the core of my being. A song that died when you did. A song I will never hear again. 

I loved watching you play. Your heart was open, tender, and pure when you played. Every moment with you was beyond amazing. I don’t want to idealize or idolize us but when I remember us, it is usually those memories that come up. 

I guess that when you said you couldn’t live without me, and I said the same to you, I was lying. Because here I am, living without you. And on some level I knew that to be true because of my previous experiences. I remember thinking that I couldn’t live without my mother. And the idea of her death was incomprehensible to me. But, over time, I could imagine living without her. I could imagine her dying. 

Because of that experience, and the death of my brother, I knew that I could get through losing you. But I figured if I lost you, it would be many years in the future, and it would be of natural causes, accident, etc. I didn’t ever think that it would be from you actually choosing to die.

Choosing to leave me. 

Putting a gun to your temple. Pulling the trigger. In the trunk of your car. 

The trunk. Of your car. In the cold. After getting all of my text messages. The ones where I am pleading for you to answer me. To come home to me. You got those. I don’t know if you read them but they were delivered. And you still killed yourself.

……

March 26, 2014

You decided that we’d all be better off without you. Or whatever. I don’t know what you decided. 

And you must have loaded the gun. You knew where to put the bullets. And how to do whatever you need to do to get a bullet in the chamber. And then actually decide that this is it. That you are done.

I’m guessing that you parked your car, got the gun out of the trunk (assuming that’s where it was), got back in your car, loaded the gun, got out of your car with all of your belongings, locked your car, put your backpack into the trunk, held the gun in one hand and your phone in the other, climbed into the trunk, shut the lid, laid on your right side with the gun in your right hand and your phone in your left, placing the gun to your left temple, and pulling the trigger. 

What must that have felt like? The barrel of the gun against your flesh. The flesh that I used to caress, kiss, massage. Did you push the barrel hard against your temple? Or was it just resting there? Did you quickly pull the trigger without thinking about it? Or did you have to build up the courage? 

Did you hold it to your temple several times while thinking that no matter how hard you tried, you could never be everything to everyone in your life so you should just give up and pull the fucking trigger? Did you back off, pulling the gun away from your temple and wonder what the fuck you were doing? Did you think about calling me? Texting me? It’s been hard all along. Every moment has been hard. 

But right now–this juncture is unbelievably hard. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop crying. If I’m alone, I’m crying. Or trying to hold it in. 

You seemed to listen to me and agree with me when I was trying to give you strength and confidence. You would say that you knew I was right or how lucky you were to have me. What I said resonated with you. You knew it in the moment. You just couldn’t internalize it. You needed me right with you, holding your hand, talking you through it. And you knew that. 

Why would you not call me to let me do that for you? You thought I’d be okay. Better off without you. 

Right. Look how much better off I am without you. 

I cry every day. I ache for you. Your touch. Your smell. Your presence. I want you to be here to hold me and tell me that we’ll get through this. 

……

A couple of weeks ago the Band Future Islands opened for Beck at the Twilight Concert Series here in Salt Lake. I was able to get photo passes that allowed me to stand inside the pit for the first three songs to take photos of the band. Those passes also came with two tickets to the show, and the person I was working with at their label told me that my plus one could join me in the pit. 

Stacia was unfamiliar with this band that has become a constant fixture on every playlist I listen to (I’ve talked about them here and here and here, but I asked her if she’d like to join me. She’s always up for live music, and so in preparation I told her to watch their performance on Letterman, a video I have linked to twice already on this website. A third time won’t hurt:

A few days later she sent me several texts with multiple exclamation points talking about the way the lead singer Sam Herring grabs his shirt, his guttural delivery of certain refrains. She called his delivery her “soul twin” and some of the photos I got that night explain why: the rage, the passion, the sorrow, the confusion, the doubt and ultimately the fragility. His performance is everything she has been living this past year:

Stacia dove into their whole catalog and within days of watching the Letterman video and became, perhaps, a bigger fan than I am. I loved getting to see the band live again, but even more than that, I loved watching Stacia witness the show. It was as if some invisible live wire stretched out from Sam into Stacia’s gut, and every movement he made wrenched out all the emotion she has been suffering and gave animation to it, let it fly in the air. I watched all the aching and pain she’s experienced in the last year dance on that stage.

I asked her if there were any particular songs of theirs that I should share that demonstrate the love she shared with her fiancé and the pain of losing him to suicide.

Here are her top four picks:

“Sun In The Morning”

Stacia: “Sun in the Morning is the song that reminds me of the love that he and I shared. It makes me smile when I hear it because it reminds me that he was my everything and I was his. I thought he was coming home. But he didn’t. I’m so fucking sad.”

Mine all mine
Wander
Away we go
Over lines
I won’t let go, she knows why
She feeds my soul
She feeds my mind

Sun in the morning
My sun, every morning
My star of the evening
My moon, always beaming

She loves to watch me go
She hates to watch me go
I hate to watch her go
I love to watch her go

That’s cuz I always know, she’s always coming home
That’s cuz she always knows, I’m always coming home

Sun in the morning
My sun every morning
My star of the evening
My moon always beaming
Sun in the morning
My sun every morning

She feeds me daily soul, she feeds me daily soul
She talks right to my soul

She feeds me daily soul, she feeds me daily soul
She talks right to my soul

“Light House”

Stacia: “Light House is sad and makes me think of the signs I missed with him. It is also how I feel now. ‘Nothing hurts this much.’  I don’t know.”

When I couldn’t see you for the wall
What was that you said?
What was that you said, before you called?

And when I couldn’t catch you for the fall
What was that you said?
What was that you said?

“Nothing hurts this much”

But I’ve seen the way
That bodies lie
And bodies tend to break

And I’ve been away
I’ve been away too long
Too long to be afraid

But you know
What you know is better
Is brighter

And you know
You know
What you know is better
Is brighter

And this is where we were, when I showed you the dark
Inside of me, in spite of me
On a bench in the park
You said to me:

“This is not you.
This is not you..
This is not you!”

But I’ve seen the way
That bodies lie
And bodies tend to break

And I’ve been away
I’ve been away too long
And I don’t know a better place

And this is where we are
In your bed, in my arms
Outside of me
In spite of, ‘we’

I showed you the dark
And you said to me:

“You know
What you know is better
Is brighter”

“And you know, you know
What you know is better
Is brighter”

“A Dream Of You And Me”

Stacia: “‘This is what I feel now. And also what I imagine he was feeling at times. Asking for peace and never getting it.”

I wrestled by the sea
A loneliness in me
I asked myself for peace
And found it at my feet

Staring at the sea…

All that glitters is gold
Don’t believe what you’ve been told
People lie, people love, people go
But beauty lies, in every soul

I wrestled by the sea
A dream of you and me
I let it go from me
It washed up at my feet
Staring at the sea

All that glitters is gold
Don’t believe what you’ve been told
People lie, people love, people go
But beauty lies in every soul

If you wait, if you wait for the morning

How long, how long

I asked myself for peace

I asked myself for peace
And found a piece of me
Staring at the sea…

“Balance”

Stacia: “Balance is my journey through the shitshow he left me with. And it could also be my song to him if he had just let me in. I would have waited forever for that man. Goddamn I miss him.”

You can clean around the wound
But if you want it to heal
It just takes time

And you can call up to the moon
But if you want something to change
You’ve gotta change your life
And take your time

It just takes time
It just takes time
It just takes time
Hard work and your time

The sun will leave the room
Will leave you to the night
And that’s alright

Because before the morning comes
There’s a certain calm
And then there’s light
It just takes time

It just takes time
A little trust and your time
You can change your life
It just takes time
A little trust and your time

And I can sit and talk
Because I was just like you
So arrogant and brave
Impetuous and blue

But trust me as a friend
And I’ll do all that I can do
And I’d do anything for you
Because I want to see you through

It just takes time
Hard work and your time
You can change your life

It just takes time
A little trust your time
A little trust and your time…

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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