by – Sheri de Grom
Compiled from journal notes, April 26, 1996, Washington, DC
Burdened by my bulging briefcase, I’d hoped to get a jump on the day. We were celebrating our tenth anniversary tonight and I wanted to arrive home early.
Tom wasn’t in bed as I prepared for work but many mornings he’d be up early working in his shop. That morning would soon prove to be an exception to the rule.
I slowly made my way downstairs from our bedroom and paused at the second landing to adjust my heavy load. Looking down into the small sitting room, I had a clear vision of Tom as he sat in an easy chair. There was no mistaking the pistol in his lap.
I knew not to startle him. His finger played with the trigger. I held my breath. My mind raced. My briefcase slid to the floor. I moved cautiously down the remaining steps and into the sitting room.
Tom had been in and out of the hospital five times in the past two years. Sometimes I thought the hospitalizations helped and other times they were puzzling. We’d gone through two additional psychiatrists and tried three new hospitals. Doctors and hospitals alike were proving to be of separate classifications. There were the ones that were more or less okay, the ones that were indifferent and then the ones that just didn’t seem to give a damn about anything other than our insurance coverage.
Our anniversary plans were defeated, again. I had to retrieve the gun and keep Tom safe.
I lowered myself to his feet. He’d retreated to his secret and secure inner space, that place where suicide knocked again and it then became my responsibility to whisper to him, “Darling, it’s me, Sheri. May I please have the gun?” Tom continued staring straight ahead. In a calm and soft voice I repeated, “May I please have the gun?”
It seemed hours had passed but only moments had trickled by. He kept his hand on the gun.
“I feel dead. I don’t care. Do whatever you want with me,” he said in that all too familiar monotone voice I’d come to despise.
“I love you. You’re going to be safe. Tom, please give me the gun and we’ll get you help. First, I must have the gun. May I please have it?”
He shook his head yes. Holding my breath, I carefully removed the gun from his hand, put it in a closet for now, helped him into his coat and we slowly made our way to the car where once again I buckled his seat-belt for the ride to the hospital.
I’d admitted him to yet another hospital. The facility was one of the highest rated in Virginia. The psychiatrist interacted with Tom during the admissions process and this gave me hope.
I talked briefly with the psychiatrist and he explained that Tom would probably sleep for at least two days but, I was welcome to stop in any time to see him. After looking at Tom’s meds, he told me there were some he would like to discontinue. He said that Tom might not know I was there that evening and if I wanted and most importantly needed to go home and rest that was understandable.
“Thank you doctor. I appreciate your kindness. I’ll be at my office if you need me. I’ll plan to come by on my way home.”
The doctor told me he would still be on the premises and that if I didn’t see him I should have one of the hospital staff page him.
The day seemed an eternity and I’m sure I looked exhausted before I reached my office. Driving the extra two hours required on the beltway to get Tom to the hospital before work, surviving the admissions process, driving another one and one-half hours on the beltway, bumper to bumper, to get to my office, depleted my negligible reserve of stamina. I was on autopilot, again.
As I drove, I peeked into other cars and all the drivers wore the same stoic expression. We were five lanes of traffic moving at eighty miles an hour with nowhere to stop in an emergency. It always amazed me that on the opposite side of the concrete dividers, another five lanes of bumper to bumper traffic traveled eighty miles an hour going in the reverse direction. It appeared we were all going round and round on some pointless, endless amusement ride.
Some mornings during my commute I’d watch drivers working on laptop computers on the seat beside them with a phone glued to their ear. Other times I’d see a young woman removing rollers from her hair and applying makeup. I’d brood angrily, while these young professionals were working or sending e-mails to lovers. Why had my life become so intolerably chaotic, always directed by the unstable requirements of Tom’s disease?
I’d gotten out of bed on a cold morning to rush Tom to the hospital, again. It distracted me and time passed faster when I fantasized that the young woman applying her makeup and fluffing her hair in the car next to mine stayed a moment too long in her lover’s bed for one more lingering caress. Maybe a baby or toddler stole those few precious moments from her?
Now that I was at my office, I wanted to stay in the car and go to sleep. It didn’t matter that it was cold. I simply didn’t want to see anyone or interact with my deputy or the staff. I didn’t care about the appointments scheduled for a full day.
How was I going to get through this day? I had to focus but I couldn’t stop yawning. Of one thing I was certain, today would not proceed as planned. Would I ever learn? Plans had no place in my life. Other people made plans, I could not. Some day the cumulative disappointments would destroy me.
THESE THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE
- Suicide will knock again.
- No one is exempt from suicide.
- A correct diagnosis is critical.
- Bipolar disorder is a progressive disease.
- Clinical depression can and does manifest without warning and it must be treated aggressively, and at once.
- Firearm availability increases the risk of suicide.
- Miracles happen with the dawning of each new day.
- Unconditional love will see you through and the reward of beginning each new day together is the reason you do what you do.