With the gap growing between my wife and I and my seeking support online, I made fast friends with a few people on the support channels that I frequented. This is where I’d meet whom would become my best friend over the coming months. Her name was Dee.
Dee had an equally difficult childhood, if not mores. For those that aren’t abuse survivors, it’s tacky and kind of condescending to compare abuses to see who had it worse. Everyone responds to trauma differently than the next, so what may have been soul-shattering to you may have barely registered for me, and vice-versa. All I will say about her abuse is that we were much in the same place with the PTSD. The constant nightmares, flashbacks, triggering sounds, smells, situations, intrusive thoughts, intrusive memories, intrusive urges to self harm or commit suicide either from feeling less than worthless or to escape the hell inside our heads. We’d speak of this at length over several months.
Though I had been with my wife for several years leading up to when we’d be married, I had never let her completely in. She didn’t understand, and in an odd way, I didn’t want her to. She saw the world as a much better place than I did, and I certainly didn’t want to take that away from her, even if I did think it was naive. Dee on the other hand, I did let in. I didn’t need to explain things to her. I didn’t need to tell her the unspoken rules of how one abuse victim speaks to another with sensitivities to certain things, or honesty about things that happened that others simply coouldn’t handle. There’s few things worse than someone wanting to support you genuinely, you telling them the brutal truth of the matter, then watching their world temporarily collapse, then you spend time making them feel better about your fucked up past. The desire to help someone may be entirely genuine, but sometimes, for th sake of both you and them, you don’t get into details.
Dee lived in the UK, and I in the central US. We’d not meet face to face, though we had exchanged pictures and talked weekly on the phone. Dialup was the best internet speed regular people could afford at the time, and it simply wasn’t good for VOIP, so I’d buy calling cards online from whatever website had the cheapest rates each week. My wife at the time would become jealous of these conversations, but not condemn them. She was that it seemed to level me out a little, so she accepted it. I’m guessing though that it also made her feel inadequate in some way. I’d find out later that sometime toward the end of our marriage that she started cheating on me with a mutual friend. I’d find this out, by the way, about 6 months after the divorce was final when she called out of the blue to tell me she had HPV. I was bewildered by this knowledge at first – we were the only people that had been with each other from school until the divorce, but then I asked her if she was telling me because she just wanted me to know, or if I needed to know. Apparently I needed to know. After a long silence, I hung up the phone and was tested at my doctor’s office later that afternoon. I didn’t have it, luckily.
There were times that Dee was doing better than I was, and other times where I was doing better than her. There were times when we were both hellishly plagued by the condition that we were in from the hands of others. We had an agreement, though. If one of us came close to going through with our rather idealized view of suicide, we’d call the other and we’d do whatever it took to get the other through. Survival – we made a pact of survival. We rarely made those emergency calls, but I had a few times, and so had she. We’d scheduled to talk weekely regardless – Each Sunday, noon my time, 5:00PM her time. We never missed those calls, until one day when she didn’t answer.
Dee was several months pregnant with a baby from her ex. She had really been conflicted about what to do, but she decided she wanted to have the baby, which meant for her, going off from the medications that made life inside her head somewhat bearable. She was eating right, not taking any controlled substances, not drinking and taking prenatal medications. She was dedicated to having a healthy baby.
Dee was an English Lit teacher at a middle school. She had one student in one of her classes the she could see something was seriously wrong with at home. She befriended the girl and eventually she’d tell Dee that she was being sexually abused at home. Dee took her in, but told her not to go to school for a couple of weeks while she figured out how best to legally remove the girl from her home. Apparently Child Protective Services is about as effective in the UK as it is here in the US – a roll of the dice at best. Anna was the girl’s name.
So, Dee didn’t answer her Sunday afternoon call, and oddly, for once she didn’t have her answering machine on. I found this a bit concerning because she had been very depressed in the weeks leading up to that day. I’d continue to try to call until mid-evening, then decided to go to bed. The next day at work I received a collect call from the UK; it was Anna. Anna told me that Dee had killed herself the night before. She was hysterical and hard to understand between all of the sobs. She told me that Dee had locked herself in her room and had been drinking for hours. She had tried to get the door open, but didn’t have any luck. Anna said that she went into the bathroom and she heard Dee’s bedroom door open and her run out, grabbing her car keys on the way. She wasn’t able to stop her. She drove into the countryside without her seatbelt on, got going at what police estimated to be around 100MPH, then drove off the road into a tree.
The paramedics arrived on site rather quickly, but Dee had lost a lot of blood and was pinned in the vehicle. The paramedics told her that she’d have to answer quickly, but she had to choose which she wanted them to try to save, herself or the baby. The blood loss was too great for both to make it though. As what I’d assume any parent would do, she chose to have them try to save the baby. Unfortunately, the baby died in the ICU an hour or so after arrival. Anna told me all this as it had been relayed to her by the police and emergency workers. I don’t know the logistics of all that – but 16 years ago, things may have been different than now as far as relaying information like that to a minor. I know for myself, hearing that information left a sunken feeling in my chest. I asked Anna to keep in contact with me, mainly so I could know how she was doing and have some loose connection to my now dead friend.
I told my manager that I needed to go and mentioned that my best friend was dead. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I had only been at that job for a couple of weeks. He said to take as much time as I needed and not to worry about my income; he’d make sure that my pay continued to come in. Rare compassion in an American company. Instead of taking time off, I threw myself into my work, often working 70-85 hours per week. I slept little, ate less and overall was a wreck when not at work.
That’s enough for now..