After spending 15 years with “Mr. Wrong”, at age 36, I finally found “Mr. Right”. His name was Dann (yes, with two “n’s”.) It was love at first sight – we liked the same activities, the same foods, we had similar backgrounds and the same wacky sense of humour. We’d go running together, shared a love of all things chocolate, dark beer and we talked non-stop. He was my knight in shining armour and he treated me like I was his princess. He fixed things around my house without being asked, he’d buy me cute little presents, and he was always a gentleman.
He had a couple of skeletons in his closet, but who doesn’t and I decided it didn’t matter. He also had a history of depression and I “knew” if I loved him enough, he wouldn’t need to go down that dark road again. Everything was wonderful. Several of my girlfriends were envious that their partners didn’t treat them as well as Dann treated me.
After we had been together for just over a year, Dann suffered a workplace injury when he hurt his back while descending a ladder on a very windy day. He was holding the ladder when the wind caught it and he held on to it to stop it being wrenched out of his grasp and hitting overhead hydro wires. In the process, he herniated two discs in his back.
After this incident Dann was off work for a long time. He attempted many different forms of treatment, both traditional and holistic.
We were already engaged to be married and went ahead with our wedding three months after Dann’s accident. He was still very loving and we were so happy together.
Over the course of the next couple of years, after dealing with the bureaucracy that is WSIB (The Workplace Safety & Insurance Board), his herniated discs not healing, and being denied as a candidate for back surgery, Dann’s demeanor, and indeed his personality changed. He was seeing pain specialists without much relief and he was seeing a family doctor who did psychological counselling.
He was using both pain control medication, psychiatric drugs and alcohol to numb both his physical and emotional pain. He slowly stopped seeing all of his holistic practitioners, concluding that they weren’t helping (despite improvements in his physical condition) and that they were costing too much money given that he wasn’t working.
After the orthopaedic surgeon told him that he was not a candidate for back surgery (something that Dann had decided would be his “saving grace”), Dann went into a fast and deep downward emotional spiral. He was angry a lot of the time. He withdrew from friends and family and he started communicating with me less and less.
One Sunday evening after cleaning up the dinner dishes, I noticed Dann walking back up our driveway from the road. He had moved my car onto the road and was heading towards his car. I knew he shouldn’t be driving as he’d been “self-medicating” with a fair amount of beer that day. I ran out to the driveway and asked him what he was doing. He said that he was going for a drive to crash his car and kill himself. He’d had enough living with chronic pain.
I pulled his car keys out of his hand and told him that he wasn’t killing himself “on my watch” and chances are if he was in his car he’d hurt or kill someone else too. To say that he was angry is an understatement. He walked down the street with me in tow. I was so afraid he was going to throw himself into traffic or find “another way.”
He realized I wasn’t relenting so he eventually turned and walked back home. When we were walking up the front steps to enter the front door Dann turned and looked at me with such an anguished combination of despair and hatred that it caught me by surprise. He spat out the words, “F*&k you” and entered the house to spend the rest of the evening sitting in the living room with me and talking very little. In hindsight I maybe should have called the police to take him to the hospital for suicide watch. I really don’t know. I know I was in shock and in denial. A part of me thought he didn’t really mean it, he was just crying for help.
He actually got up for work the next morning almost as if the previous evening hadn’t happened. He had acquired a job as a manager of a self-storage facility fairly recently and he didn’t want to mess that up given I had foiled his evening’s plans. He promised not to attempt to take his life again.
After that, he continued to grow more sullen and withdrawn. His amazing sense of humour was gone. He told me on several occasions that I deserved better than him and that he really thought he should move out. He was worried that, with his anger level, he might physically hurt me some day. I never really thought that he would.
About a month later he told me he’d found a one bedroom apartment and that he was moving out in two weeks. Two weeks! I was dumbfounded. I didn’t think he’d actually leave. I thought it was just talk. The “old” Dann was going to come back to the way he used to be – I was sure of it. He just needed more time to heal and to return to his old self again.
Dann did move out and he didn’t return to his old self. We stayed in daily email or phone communication. I went to his apartment at least weekly for dinner and he would come to the house occasionally as well. After about six months I realized that he couldn’t handle the “stress” of being with me or anyone for that matter and that he likely wasn’t coming back. I felt like I had failed him and our marriage. I hadn’t been able to heal him or help him cope with his depression or his physical pain.
Over time our communication decreased to about once a week and then to about once a month. About two years after he left, Dann was at my house for dinner and he said that his back pain was worse than ever. He’d slipped a few months prior on an ice patch outside his apartment building. About six months prior to that, he’d been let go from his job – his anger had come out a few too many times. His family doctor had advised him to apply for Canada Pension Disability as she didn’t think he’d be able to work again. This destroyed his sense of self-worth.
Two weeks after this visit I received an email from Dann sent to numerous friends that read, “So long and thanks for all the fish.” This is a line from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” It’s a “departing” remark. By the time I saw the email, several hours had passed since Dann had sent it. It had an ominous tone and I called his cell phone right away. His voicemail picked up. I then called his girlfriend’s cell phone and left her a message. Yes, he actually had a girlfriend despite all of his “issues” – a woman he’d been seeing for about six months. I thought perhaps the two of them had had an argument or perhaps broken up given his worsened state. I hoped she could shed some light on the situation. I kept calling both of them the next day with no response.
On the second day I called his apartment superintendent and asked if they could go into his apartment to check on him. Of course, they couldn’t do that legally. I told them I was calling the police. I did call the police and, at first, they didn’t want to do anything. After all, I was the ex-wife. They also didn’t understand the strange email and how that could be indicative of someone possibly harming themselves. I convinced them to attend his apartment. When they reached his building, the police officer called me again. Was I sure there was the possibility that he could have harmed himself? Dammit, yes, could theyplease go in and check on him?!! They said that they would and that they would call me back.
They didn’t call me back. Two hours later, two uniformed police officers, a male and a female, came to my office. I met with them in a boardroom where they informed me that Dann was indeed in his apartment and he was no longer living. Part of me already knew he was gone and part of me was in a state of disbelief. I had to give a statement to the officers. They were very kind to me during the whole process.
I was numb for days following. I was also really angry at Dann. Not so much for killing himself, but for giving up. I realize now that that was a huge judgment on my part. I had no idea, really, what he was going through either physically or emotionally and it’s not my place to judge him or his actions.
The passage of time has allowed me to see that Dann chose the only option that he saw was available to him at that time to release his pain. He didn’t want to live in chronic pain.
I can also see that it wasn’t my job to “fix” him. I had always felt like I failed him somehow by not finding a way to alleviate his physical and emotional pain. I introduced him to different holistic modalities and after trying them and even having some great results, he had rejected them.
If only I had loved him MORE.
Now I see that I did love him enough. That love had changed after he left, over time, to the love that one has for a dear friend. I also see now that he loved me and wanted to spare me from being with the person he had become. He had loved me, but he hadn’t loved himself.
Something else I learned through this experience is that we can’t look to someone else to complete us or to make us feel whole. That’s something we need to do for ourselves.
I can now be grateful for the person Dann was, even when he “changed.” I can also be in allowance of his choices, even if they aren’t mine. I also learned to be grateful for me and not to make myself wrong for “choosing” him, and that is truly a precious gift.
Goodbye my friend, rest in peace…until we meet again.