A Good Heart
I’d been to the hospital for a check up; the pink wound screamed at me in the mirror. It was four inches long and above the left eyebrow. It had its own heartbeat: bang, bang! It was still fresh from the car accident we experienced at the end of February. I joked that I looked like the Elephant Man. My face was swollen beyond recognition, my eyes blackened, and my body whip-lashed. “It will scar,” they said. I was evidently self-conscious.
Times were hard; my brother was remanded in custody. In brief, he’d been ordered to shoot a criminal by another criminal who was owed cash - a loan shark of some sort. My brother was given a gun and a set of instructions. He declined, of course, but he insisted. Brian realised it was dangerous to dispute this.
After much thought and a little time, he took the gun along with incriminating tapes of conversations to the police, expecting appreciation and protection. However, instead of arresting the loan shark, they arrested Brian for, ‘Conspiracy to kill.’ Months in custody passed, his mood dropped and his useless council told him he’d be there for ‘a very long time.’
March 4 2004 our doorbell rang and the worse pain of our lives was delivered. It seems that after our car accident, my brother became suspicious, fearing for his family. He had two kids. He couldn’t retract his statement so he took his own life instead. The police said, “We’re afraid he’s dead. He hung himself earlier today. He left this note for you all. We’re very sorry.” These words still spin around my head on bad days. In 2005, the inquest said, “We must all learn from this sad case.” But do they?
My mum and I broke down, right there. Bereft, the year that passed was part blur, part torture.
I became dangerously ill with despair. Medication worsened my melancholy. In and out of hospital, I went. I became manic, then suicidal. I’d be manic and suicidal simultaneously. I hung out in dubious places with dangerous people, allowing myself to be used and mistreated. I felt ‘mislaid’ and friendless. Nothing made sense in my life, especially my emotions and moods. I slept little and lousily. I ate less and less. I drank too much alcohol, became hooked on codeine for incessant headaches, and I cried every single day, without exception. I wanted to join my dear brother and that was the only thought that gave any solace. I even tried.
Beyond all this anguish, I was also in my thirties and desperately alone. I’d always dated badly; sexual abuse had stained me. Dating abusive men was some kind of self-imposed torture. I cried about them, yet sought them out. It was an impossible situation as I longed for a love I felt I could never deserve.
In addition, even old friends began to vanish in a sea of their own normality, leaving me to my madness. I don’t blame them for this because I remember a little of how bizarre I had become. I was utterly unreachable.
Online, I met a guy from Florida. We chatted openly for a year and he visited me several times, whenever in England. There was no romance, just friends. On one visit, I’d recently buried my father, who’s greatest love – heroin – finally killed him. I’d left hospital after an overdose and was still quite ill, so I’d stopped smoking and was uneasy, socially. I was fragile but he dragged me out to a birthday party and introduced me to his pal, David. We connected immediately.
He was handsome and a year older than myself. He’d recently completed his training as a pilot and hated smokers. Luckily, I wasn’t one on that night. I remain a non-smoker largely because of David.
We talked all night and when the evening ended, numbers were nervously exchanged. We soon met again for Asian food in Birmingham. I was panicky but he seemed so grounded and gentle that he put me at ease. I relished his company. On our first date, we spent 48 hours together, talking! He had a truly good heart.
He’d been hurt by an unfaithful girlfriend and I was clearly damaged goods; we found it difficult to trust one another, originally. Arguments grew with our passion as vulnerability grew with our love. It was thorny for us both, but we recognised a lifetime partner within each other and pressed on. At Christmas, after only two months together, we exchanged ‘I love you’s’. After four months; February the 14 2005 with the bubbles from champagne and bath foam tickling our noses, in a hotel in London, he proposed. I was deliriously happy.
A year later I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It seems my brother had it too. It was tough to hear. However, David gives my life stability and meaning, so now I’m rarely ill. He has stood by me through some of the most agonizing experiences of my life, and he has made me happier than I ever thought possible.
We married in a chapel at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, September 2008. We ate at a fabulous Italian restaurant, overlooking St Marks Square. We rode the gondolas, and later we all danced at a piano bar in the Paris Hotel. It was the best day ever, though I missed Brian and dad.
I experienced so much in so short a time; losing my father and brother in awful circumstances, the self-imposed abuse, the discovery of our madness - acclimatising to the diagnosis and life-long medication – and finally, infertility. But with David at my side, I remain strong.
We are thinking about our third cycle of IVF - or getting a puppy? Wish us luck!
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