This is a blog post by Jo Jukes frrom. It was updated on Nov 19, 2019.
The Anniversary dates of the rapid decline in Dave’s mental health is upon me. Dates that will forever be emblazoned in my mind and psyche. For those affected by suicide, grief is complex:grief on its own is bad enough, but add to it the trauma involved in watching someone you love decline into a mental health crisis that will become fatal and its life changing.
I have always prided myself on being a strong woman, I have had many testing times in my life and have always, somehow come out of it. I suppose I liken it to a plant: it has to have a little bit of drought to make it want to grow towards the sun, to make it thrive. Now, I’m not holding a one man pity party, but I feel I have had more than enough misery to last me a 100 life times, let alone one.
In a nutshell, my mother was a single mother, she emigrated to Australia when I was 5, thinking that it would be a better life. After selling our worldly goods, including my recently acquired Christmas presents, we flew off under the Immigration scheme aimed at single parents. This involved children being placed in a boarding school at the notorious Pinjarra. We were met at the airport, transported to this strange place, 100s of miles away from Perth ( where my mother was to be housed) and after one night my mother left. I was left in the care of ‘Aunties’, in a strange country and on my own: I was 5 years old. I got to see my mum on holidays and every other weekend, if I behaved. I was bullied by my first ‘Auntie’ and had to be moved to another house at the boarding school. To cut a long story short, this carried on for a year or two and then I was reunited full-time with my mother. When I was 9 my Grandmother came over to visit from England, according to my mum, I made the decision that I wanted to return to England and live with her. I don’t recall making this decision and if I did, surely that shows you about the bond I had with my mother? I was 9 and making the decision to live across the other side of the world? I left with my Grandmother and I remember my extended family being told that my mother had sent me away because I was naughty and that I would not be returning until I was 18. I do remember my mum phoning me and me refusing to take her calls.
After a year, my mother had met and become engaged to a man. She decided that I should return to live with her. She collected me and I was met at the airport by my new ‘dad’ who had purchased an Old English Sheepdog for as a welcome gift. Their wedding went ahead, I was bridesmaid, but after only a couple of months I started returning home from school to my mother crying, or staying up all night phoning hospitals to find out where he was. It turns out my step-dad liked the ladies, lots of them. It was a miserable marriage for my mother, especially as she found out the sheepdog he had brought me had actually been chosen with his mistress and he had also purchased her the same dog. At one point we ended up looking after her dog ( don’t ask me how or why).
My step-father had a temper, he would throw glasses and break things if my mum reacted to his mistress phoning the house. It all ended with my mum going on holiday on her won to find herself, leaving me in the care of my step-dad. When we returned from the airport, he told me he was going out and would be back later- I think I was around 14. He didn’t actually come back, so I went to my best friends house and her mother refused to let me go back to the house alone, calling in Social Services. My mother returned, asked me if anything had happened while she was away and, not wanting to be the reason to cause any more arguments, I lied and said everything was fine. Of course she found out, and I suppose that was the nail in the coffin. Their marriage ended.
My mother decided that she would return to England again when I was 15. Of course I had to move back as well, but because of the school year differences, I had to return on my own and live with my Grandmother. I didn’t actually ever live with my mum for any extended amount of time after the age of 15. My mother has a very controlling, almost narcissistic personality and I found her personality very damaging. I never quite felt wanted, accepted or loved for who I was and I still don’t to this day. There was always some sort of fault with me, criticism of the way I was or how I thought. It is much more involved than what I write here, but we never had a real bond. I was unwanted and I knew that.
I met my first boyfriend around 16: of course madly besotted with him, but he didn’t treat me very well. Always critical, always wanting someone else over me or blaming me for things that weren’t right in his life ( seeing a pattern yet?)
I got in contact with my Dad, who I used to write letters to when I was younger, begging him to let me live with him ( I didn’t know my mum didn’t actually ever post them). I was never quite part of either family, always on the outskirts and never quite bonded to these people who I was related to. My Dad took me in when my relationship with my boyfriend broke down, but his wife accused me of taking a £1 off the table ( which I hadn’t), he then was ordered to chuck me out. I idolized my Dad, he was everything my mum wasn’t, and for him to also reject me took a long time to get over. I would like to say I am more like my Dads personality wise. He was a good man, with good intentions, who believed in loyalty and family.
Fast forward, I met my first husband in Portsmouth, at Johanna’s ( for my sins). He was in the Navy and I was 19, he was 32. He wasn’t a very nice man after the initial mask wore off. He was physically, mentally and financially abusive. To cut a long story short, that involved a lot of incidences that I don’t want to go into, we split up when he came out of the Navy and we moved to Birmingham. He was arrested for assault and for stalking, charged and went to Court. He had neighbours spying on me and reporting back to him during our divorce, he phoned anyone and everyone to blacked my name, accusing me of neglect, of prostitution, of anything he could to get under my skin. When we split, he turned his back on the kids, never paid maintenance and has never sent them Christmas or Birthday cards and for that I feel really sorry for. I made the wrong choice for my children and I have always carried that guilt around. We were married for 12 years in the end.
On being left with 4 children to bring up, I took myself off to College, then University and then onto Post-Grad school in order to get a career. 4 children are not cheap! I had relationships in between, from one man who only cared about his own children and their happiness and who inherited £50000 behind my back and even purchased a flat without me knowing, to a man whose fiance contacted me to ask me how long I had been seeing him for. You could say I was a magnet for anyone who wanted to use and abuse someone.
In the meantime, my Mum and Dad had reconciled after not actually being together since before I was born. The birth of my first child brought them together as Grandparents. My daughter was born before my first marriage and was not his daughter. I was at a rebellious time in my life and I was out drinking a lot, not really caring what I did, this sort of behavior resulted in a pregnancy at 19. I found out many years later that the person I thought was here Dad, was not. This led to my daughter judging me and my decisions, and basically turning her back on me. The person I thought was her Dad, was actually never part of her life anyway, as that relationship had failed after only 3 months. My daughter could not forgive me for this and basically wiped me off after a lot of abuse, her swindling me out of money and many other things.
My Dad had a heart attack in 2006, which left him in a permanent vegetative state. He was put under the Liverpool Care Plan and all medical treatment was withdrawn. It took him 2 weeks to die with no food or water, while in hospital. I stayed with him every night and at every opportunity, except for when I was looking after the children or completing University assignments as I was undertaking Teacher Training at the time. With his death, our family unit died. My mother had taken on a more placid, caring role while he was alive due to his influence, but his death saw her return to the person she was as I grew up. We no longer have a relationship due to this and due to her inability to accept Dave and his problems.
So in a nutshell, I’ve not had it easy.
However, with Dave’s death I have found my old ghosts coming back to haunt me. I have found my mental health suffer to the point that I have felt suicidal and to the point that I struggle every single day to find a reason to get up. You see the one thing that Dave gave me that no one else in this world ever did was unconditional love and commitment. No matter how bad things got, no matter how ill he was, his love for me never wavered. In fact I would say that him taking his life was actually his last act of love that he felt he could give me. He wanted me to be free, to be happy and to live. He thought that his existence and his problems were stopping me from doing all that and they were. But that wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t mine, it was because of the lack of support and help we had. He shouldn’t have been my burden alone to carry, because any burden starts to wear you down and he saw that in my face.
So the anniversaries of that rapid decline, where his burden was becoming too much for him and for our family is upon us. You don’t ever get over these things, because your mind replays events and conversations that happened almost daily.
I want to share the email sent between us and TILS, this time last year and I hope you can see the absolute desperation in both Dave and I: I wanted him to live, I wanted him to get better, but I needed help in order to do that:
Is there any chance you could call me Monday or Tuesday please I need to ask your opinion on something as I seem to be getting worse and it is starting to worry me and I can’t see my family go through much more of this as I may lose them over this. This can not happen as I will have nothing,I think I need to be put away for a time before I lose it and do something I don’t mean to do. And it will give the ones I love a break before they totally give up on me. My reason is I’m finding it so hard to control my bad thoughts about suicide and hurting people I’ve never had to fight myself this much before and it’s hurting me, all I want to do is never wake up and let them be happy. But I know I can make them happy but it seems so far out of my reach. I love my family but hate my life I need help I’m scared know it hurts. Dave
On the same night Dave had threatened people in town, threatened people in the local Legion and came home threatening people on the phone. I sent an email to TILS on 16.9:
Hi *****, to follow this up in simple terms: Dave is no longer in control. He told the nurse on Thursday about his uncontrollable thoughts and once again the Doctor’s did not follow this up or arrange to see him after letting him down the previous week with an appointment where he was kept waiting for half an hour and ended up walking out because he got so angry. If he isn’t sleeping to get rid of his thoughts, he is hyper and everyone is walking on eggshells around him because of his unpredictable behaviour. On Friday, he threatened two people on a course re-sit he had to do and as soon as I came in from work, I was made to sit and listen to how everyone else is wrong and he was right. When I even moved to drink my tea, by turning around he told me I was pissing him off. I’m not allowed to speak or do anything but listen to his rants until he deems fit. Last week, I had messages calling me a ‘cunt’ and how I’m not giving him anything because he decided he wanted more money then and I had to listen to these at the end of my working day, while still at work. These incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. Saturday he decided he needed money to go and buy steroids ( which I told him is not advisable in his mental state) however because I dared to say no, I was abused and accused of controlling everything. He proceeded to put his earphones in and ignore me, and knowing that we had our youngest Grandaughter overnight) once again, he bullied me into giving him what he wanted. There is no respect for the fact that he actually has no job and that no one else in this house has anything near what he does, he is always the one who is being short-changed. He decided to go to town to meet this person, came back hours later and had switched to being nice because he had got his own way. On the night he went to join the Legion at 9.30 pm and came home at 1.30 am- drunk out of his head. Sat in the back garden phoning people and threatening them that he would kill them if they didn’t answer his call. Apparently, at the Legion, he also had many arguments and altercations. In order to calm him down, I had to listen to how he has never had the approval from his family until 3 am and then he went and sat in the attic to ‘sort his head out’ all night This was after he had told me he would happily hang himself up there. This is absolute torture. I have a pressured job and I’m the only one working, yet this is my nighttime and weekend routine as well. I am telling you that I’m a strong person but there is only so much that anyone can take and after 6 years of this, I need something done. He needs intensive help,I need respite because this is unfair, he is holding the whole family and more some hostage to his mental health and it seems he will not rest until he has destroyed everything and everyone. Jo
So when you think you know about how hard it is to support someone with PTSD, please remember my blogs and have some empathy for what they are doing to keep this person alive, what they are enduring on a daily basis because they love someone and ultimately don’t want to be in my position, they don’t want that person to die.