So it's about time I buy a return ticket back to reality and writing seems to be the only vehicle that knows the way home. After all the fighting to stay true to who I am and not lose myself, I suppose I will admit that it was a forgone conclusion the entire time. I was never going to win. I was never going to be the same person I was before becomming a doctor. There is no way to learn the true nature of the human spirit, the miracles and horrors, and then walk around the supermarket like every one else. You are all walking trauma victims, heart attacks, and ICU players. I don't see you in front of me. I see your veins and gauge how easy it would be to start an IV. How quickly I can crack your chest. I look in your cart in line as we wait and try to guess whether its your diabetes or cholesterol that will initiate our first meeting. Your buying your grandparents 50th wedding anniversary cake and I am wondering which one of them will walk out of my ER alone. Lets face it, the chances of them dying together is fairly slim. One day Nana is going to lay down in her bed, and for the first time in her adult life there will be no one beside her. Although she can stretch out, she will curl up on her side of the bed, unable to break a habit that it took a lifetime of companionship to learn. His silver hair will still rest on the pillowcase, she will smell him in the sheets. And as her heart breaks and an empty house fills with anguished sobs, she will picture my white coat and hear those simple and inadequate words. "I'm sorry, he has died". When people think of the worst moments of their lives, they see my face. So lets stop pretending that you and I are the same.
So this particular free fall starts and ends with a popcorn ceiling and a pale pink room. I am starring up, and the light is streaming through the window in such a way I can see the dust dancing. It s early morning and I can't move. Like a trauma patient strapped to a backboard I can only look up and side to side. I hear my colleagues voice in my head, a very unexpected source of comfort. "Its okay, your going to be alright. Your safe now". For the last year I have heard this particular surgeon whisper these words to every terrified MVA and GSW in the trauma bay. And for the last year I've always wondered how no one, not even him, noticed that the most injured person there was the one at the head of the bed. I takes a second to piece together what has happened, a little anoxic brain injury I imagine. I have been lying unconscious on my daughter's nursery room floor because my husband just finished strangling me.
I was almost seven months pregnant when I got a call from another hospitals emergency room that he had been brought in to after having a psychotic break. In retrospect he has been unraveling for years, I was just too busy reaching for my dreams to realize he was uncoupling from reality. I blamed myself, my unwavering pursuit of the dream I thought being a doctor was. Our daughter was my last attempt to prove to him that I loved him more than medicine, more than myself. I thought it would give his life purpose again but it simply accelerated his demise. I just didn't see it then. I see it now.
I have spent the last year trying to reach him. Being the good wife and refusing to accept the diagnosis and all that it entails. Going to the doctor's appointments, the group therapy, counting out his pills. I've been chasing him down the rabbit hole that true mental illness is. This potion makes you bigger and this one makes you smaller, but I'm looking for the one that makes you my husband again. And it has taken until this moment and this morning to see that the man I fell in love with no longer is. He hasn't died, he didn't leave. He just no longer exists. Perhaps one day I will be able to explain it better then this, but not today. The loss is still too great and the wounds too fresh.
It starts with my daughter crying in her crib and me not getting there fast enough. I had just opened her door when he grabbed me by my hair, threw me down and began to strangle me. I trusted this man with my life and I have now learned the hard way, the hardest way there is, that I made a mistake. He easily overpowered me and the whole time I clawed at his hands, fighting for air, waiting to wake up from this nightmare, I looked at him. I looked deep into the eyes of the man who I have loved since I was seventeen, the man who I chose to walk to on my wedding day. I looked at him and realized that the man I was looking at was a complete stranger. He had no sorrow in his eyes, no regret, no remorse. He was and remains completely untethered from reality. He just gripped tighter and tighter. So tight I never had a chance to scream or get a tear out of my eyes. So brutal and quick I never got a breath in. I never got to reach him, to pull him back from the cliff and bring him back home. Back to a time when the world was ours and we were going to grow old together. To celebrate our 50th wedding aniversary. I looked into is soul and saw a madman there. One who didn't recognize me anymore. The last thing I remember as blackness began to envelope my head was thinking "Oh my God, he just fucking killed me"
Then I came to on the floor, staring at the popcorn ceiling in the pale pink room. The most violent moment of my life juxtaposed with the serenity of my child's room. A shattered life in a Mother Goose nursery rhyme. My life ended in that room that morning. I keep walking and breathing but I will never be the same. I am desperately trying to get out of my marriage right now. I walk through these hallways terrified most days, waiting for that madman to come out again. At work I see him in every 5150 that rolls through those doors, raving against unseen henchmen and pursuers. I am afraid to breathe wrong, to commit some unknown crime and suffer the punishment. I am struggling to be a good doctor and a good mother. I still hold true to my vows and be a good and faithful wife, but it is to a husband that no longer exists. I know I have to start over, to start somewhere. But I don't know how to get this train back on the tracks. I am lost, but I am trying. Everyday I put on my white coat and navigate through the sea of humanity that is the ER and wait for someone to give me comfort, to heal the healer. Someone to walk into the quiet room and tell me "I'm sorry, he has died". To let me be the griving widow and you be the bearer of bad news. I want to cross back over that invisible line that seperates us and be one of you. But we are not the same. And its about time I accept that.
So here's to starting over again, just as messy and painful as you remember. I had hoped to make myself something more, to make you all, my dear readers, proud. To tie everything up in a neat little bow. But if I keep waiting for that moment I will never get my feet under me again, never halt this year long decent into madness. So I will have to make my new begining here, from the floor of a pale pink room, instead. But as I heard someone once say: It starts where it starts...