Something I’ll never forget…

A personal story about trauma and depression

Just like for the post “How your feelings can sometimes feel like a prison”, I decided to translate this one myself, for the same reasons. Mostly because I wanted to be open towards my friends and colleagues. But also because the by google translated version really ridiculed my story. You can still read the original version in Dutch here.

A while back I wrote the blog post “How your feelings can sometimes feel like a prison”. It was my first step to open up about something that I have been struggling with for the last couple of years.

And actually, I do not want to stop there. For a while I have been gathering the courage to share this post.

It’s not like you wake up one day and you suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Horrifying events took place beforehand, things that I’m still having a hard time with. And because of that I still question everything every now and then.

The story goes as following:

Many years ago I met someone and not much later I fell in love with him. And eighteen months later we decided to move in together. Another decision we made was to go back to school and get a higher education. We moved to the other side of the country and started out with a clean slate, since we didn’t know a single person over there. We were both looking forward to it so much and planned ahead on how we could make this work.

After some time we found an affordable apartment not too far from the school. Now it was really happening. Moving and going back to school! And so we started out extremely motivated and with a lot of enthusiasm!

All went well, until about eighteen months later. I noticed that he began to behave differently. He said it was because of his studies, it was a lot harder than he expected. However, the first year went so smooth that he had super good grades. Which was a big contrast to me, since I had been struggling with school from day one. But we were still happy that we went through with it.

A little later I noticed that when he was making dinner he started drinking more and more beers. An average of 9 per night. And it was also the fact that he was very sneaky about it that bothered me the most. I confronted him about it, but without much result.

A while later he admitted that it seemed to be spinning out of control. And he decided to work on drinking less. Until he entered the living room really wasted one night. He said nothing and stared around, stood up and just crawled into bed. I was baffled and angry, so I decided to sleep on the sofa and wait for the next morning.

After a restless night, it finally became morning. The atmosphere was seriously tense when he entered the living room and before I knew all the words came out of my mouth: “What was that yesterday?! How could you be so drunk?! And so on…”

He didn’t remember a thing, total blackout… A lot of apologies followed, but I just could not leave it at that. That’s not who I am. I pushed him into quitting drinking alcohol and that he would admit that it really was a problem. What actually seemed to have succeeded after the enormous hangover he had and the fact that he couldn’t remember anything.

So, it went well for a while again, until the holidays began. Christmas, Christmas markets, gluwhein, gins, all those socially accepted events for drinking had tempted him to drink again. And pretty soon the next wasted evening, with a blackout and a severe hangover followed. But that was not all, his college education was confronted with a slope. I urged him to go talk to someone, like a counsellor at school.

The counsellor referred him to a local AA group and our physician prescribed him medication to stop drinking. Quietly I saw him fell into depression and eventually he quit college (In his 3rd year). That made me insist that he would look for something else to focus on. And he decided to start looking for a job.

AA meetings and quitting school seemed a step in the right direction, it all went a bit better.

Until one day I had to go to school for three hours. He was already busy with all kinds of house chores when I left. I had three hours of theory that morning and it was a pretty nice but cool spring day. Reason enough for me to skip the last hour and go home a little early.

When I got home, all the curtains were closed and it was really quiet in the house. I shouted that I was at home, but there was no response. So then I thought he was outside taking a stroll or something. I put my stuff down and sat at the table, when my eye fell on a stack of papers lying there. I took one of them and began to read it.

Dear Claudia, I’m so sorry …

It was a farewell letter! Overwhelmed and in total panic, I looked at the other papers. All goodbye letters! I rushed through the apartment checked all the rooms again … no one in sight. And everything was there, his wallet, his shoes were all there, even his coat …

I could not think clearly and could only remember the phone number of my parents. In so much panic I called my mom, who pushed me in turn to call the emergency services. Which I did immediately after. Crying and desperate, I stammered some words towards the woman on the other end of the line. She calmed me down a bit and kept the conversation going until there was a quick response team at my door. Which was within 10 minutes! I let the police officers in and showed them the letters on the table. Directly after that I went along with one of them to check all the rooms again. The first room I checked was the bathroom, and there he was. How could it possibly be that I had not seen him before?! It really was beyond my apprehension!

There his lifeless body lay in the bathtub, filled with water so red that it looked like pure blood. Without thinking, I grabbed him and began to shout at him. On this moment hell had just started.

I can tell you everything that followed to the smallest detail, but I don’t think it belongs here.

It was almost too late when I found him. And somehow it was already too late. Because he had lost too much blood and his brains suffered from the lack of oxygen. Yet the last bit of life in his body, has kept him here. And as if all that was not enough, a few hours later an unexpected open heart surgery and months of rehabilitation followed.

I was torn, devastated. I even think a part of me died that day. And even now, years and years later, those memories still make me cry as if it had happened yesterday.

His suicide attempt was the beginning of my PTSD. We are no longer a couple, because I somehow made the rational choice to take care of myself. Although I sometimes still have regrets, on the other hand I don’t. I know it would have been my demise.

Since I live from day to day and I often doubt myself and what I want from life. I feel a lot more uncertain since. But I want to live and living means not giving up.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. — Confucius