Trigger warning: self-harm
Last night I dreamed about my fiancé. I’ve mentioned him in passing on my blog before but I’ve never gone into much detail. Today, however, he’s haunting me and I feel it’s time to write everything down as he’s had such a profound effect on my life. I expect this will be quite a rambling post so my apologies if it confuses or bores you.
R and I met in our first year at university. We were both 18; he had recently ended a long relationship and I had not long before broken up with an unpleasant boyfriend. We had friends in common and he lived in the flat above me but we had never really met. We were drawn to each other but it was never intended to be a relationship, just some no-strings fun. However after a while we both admitted how we really felt about each other and some time after that decided to get married and have children (although we kept it secret at the time as we were both young and our parents would have thought we were nuts!).
He made me laugh, so much. He rebuilt my self-esteem, he made me feel beautiful, he made me very happy. We had a very relaxed but fiercely loving relationship and when the university term finished we missed each other terribly. He had returned to his parents’ house in Birmingham; I to mine in Sussex before embarking on a 5 week university placement in Romania. We spoke every day while I was in the UK and I texted and wrote to him from Romania. When I returned he came to visit and we arranged that once I had returned from visiting my grandfather in Spain I would stay with his family for a week or so.
A week into my fortnight in Spain he died.
He had a congenital heart condition that he had had several operations to treat, and he had a pacemaker. I knew this, he was pretty open about it and it wasn’t a big deal. But what he had never told me was that his heart’s defects were life-threatening, that if he didn’t receive a heart transplant he would be dead before he reached 21. As it happened, he died 3 days before his 19th birthday. I had spoken to him that night, filled with an irrational fear that something had happened to him. I spent hours trying to get hold of him; when I eventually did he laughed and told me not to worry as he was fine. We had a long chat, said our goodbyes and our I love yous and hung up. Less than 2 hours later he died from massive heart failure. His poor mother, who I had never met, had to call me the next morning and break the news.
To say I was distraught is an understatement. I was hysterical. My grief was suffocating. The next few days were a blur. I had to contact our friends to tell them. His family and I had to wait for the post-mortem results before a funeral could be arranged. I had to contact our friends again, while still in Spain, and tell them the funeral arrangements. A couple of days after I flew home from Spain I was alone on a train to Birmingham to meet my beloved’s family, just as we’d planned. Except that the following day we would be burying him.
Just a few short weeks later, still numb, I returned to university for the start of my second year. My parents and my tutor thought I should take the year off but I wanted to be there, where we had been so happy, surrounded by friends who had loved him and were also mourning him. They helped me through my darkest days. One even turned up at my flat unexpectedly one night, just in time to stop me attempting suicide. I shall be forever grateful to him for that.
For months I drank to excess, filling the water bottles I took to lectures with neat vodka and spending my days in a numb haze. I barely ate. The only time I felt anything was when I self-harmed, cutting myself until the physical pain penetrated the fog of emotional pain. Eventually my friends persuaded me that I needed help and my GP prescribed anti-depressants.
In time I learned to accept R’s death. I scraped through my second year exams, passing by a hair’s breadth, and spent the summer working 2 jobs so I could focus exclusively on my uni work in my third and final year, knowing how hard I had to work to make up for my second year. A few months before the end of my third year I met DH. Although it nearly destroyed me, had it not been for R’s death I wouldn’t have the wonderful DH and children that I do now.
And yet R is still reaching out to me, he still affects my life. I still miss him, although after 13 years the pain has become a faint ache rather than the blinding pain from the early days. However I am still angry with him for never telling me the full extent of his illness, even though I understand why he chose not to. I am still angry with myself for all the wasted days, the missed opportunities; had I known how ill he really was I would have done things differently, spent so much more time with him that summer. The ‘what ifs’ still wound me even now.
And of course this is the probable cause of my anxiety about DH and the children, and to a lesser extent family and friends. The terror that someone else will be snatched away without warning, that once again I will lose someone that I cannot even imagine not being in my life. But my treacherous, anxious brain does the imagining for me. I constantly see images of DH or the children dead or dying, through accident or illness. I catastrophise – is DH late home? Straight away I panic, he must have been hit by a bus or collapsed somewhere. I have to check on the children at night to make sure they’re still breathing. If I can’t get hold of family I am terrified that something has happened.
I suspect that this is the shadow of R’s death, still reaching out from my past to touch my life. Because losing him nearly killed me. I doubt I would survive losing DH, DD or DS.