So many widows and widowers have had to experience the loss of their Beloved by watching them be taken away by some cruel, all-consuming sickness.
My story is different because I lost Bret to suicide. The events leading up to it though were most definitely a sickness, however. Mental illness is just that – an illness.
Some years earlier, though, I thought I was going to lose him to a horrible sickness as he had been given less than two weeks to live.
In early August 2010, Bret began to constantly be ill. He drank daily, sometimes straight vodka out of a tumbler – it looked like a glass of water – and he would chug it.
We had been under a lot of stress with our jobs and other circumstances, and Bret’s preferred way of dealing was with drinking. At first, I thought that he was just taking longer to recover from the alcohol. He was 39 at the time and not 21 anymore. Hangovers take longer to go away the older we get.
But this hangover never went away.
Of course, it didn’t help that he’d feel a little better for a time, then would head to the store to buy more hooch, and do it all over again.
Soon, he was throwing up all day. He would pass out on the floor and there really wasn’t a way for me to move him, so I would make sure his head was turned to the side, so if he vomited, he wouldn’t aspirate in it. I’d cover him with a blanket and go back to caring for our toddler.
He would wake up hungry and demand that I do things like run two towns over for these specific burritos he liked, or to another town to get Indian food to go.
I was the only one taking care of our daughter, and still trying to work from home, and now take care of him on top of things. And now this man wanted me to take several hours out of my day to run around for food that he was probably going to throw up anyway.
I demanded that we go to the ER.
And he viciously refused.
He would somehow get these weird bursts of energy at night and would yell for hours. Yes, yell.
The only reason that the cops never got called for all the nightly yelling, was that everyone in that neighborhood yelled at different times, as well.
He would yell about how I wouldn’t go get him food and that as soon as he felt better he was divorcing my ass and taking full custody of our daughter.
The next morning, after he had screamed himself asleep, he would have no recollection of the night before.
One day, after a night of no yelling, he woke up feeling better.
He ran to the store and bought ingredients for biscuits and gravy. We put it all away and took a quick trip to the beach because we hadn’t been in weeks. (We lived right by Pismo Beach.)
He ran into the water like a kid and I just knew he was getting better.
We went home and made those biscuits and gravy, but within minutes he was throwing it all up again.
I told him that we really needed to go to the ER and although he resisted that time, he acquiesced the next day.
He was back in his terrible frame of mind and told me that he didn’t even want me there with him, so I left and took our daughter to get a quick snack.
Less than an hour later came the call.
I needed to get back there ASAP because he had been given bad news.
The next thing I remember was being told by the doctors that he had less than two weeks to live, as he was in full-blown “Fulminant Liver Failure.”
They suggested he be transported to Stanford, and maybe he could be treated; maybe he could get a transplant.
True to his stubborn nature, though, he refused and checked himself out AMA.
He told me he’d rather go home and listen to the sound of the ocean while he transitioned on, in his own bed.
Unwilling to accept this, I started looking for Ayurvedic doctors in our area – Bret was one of those who was pretty resistant to western medicine, always preferring alternative methods first. I thought if I could find a practitioner that he would be willing to listen to, maybe we could make him more comfortable.
Instead, we found an MD who integrated eastern practices with western medicine and to make a very long story short, Bret made a completely miraculous recovery, and he started getting better the same day of our first appointment.
I know that a lot of people don’t believe in alternative methods, and at times, some of them can be very dangerous. I appreciate many of them and still utilize natural methods when I can, but I also know that our modern medicine saves lives!
All of that said, I won’t go into detail about everything we did, but I know that less than 2 months later, he was given a 100% clean bill of health.
His situation had been so unique that no one really knew what the long-term prognosis was, and everything we could find pointed to a 5-yr life expectancy, if not longer.
Well, we got nearly 8.
Liver failure is so hard on the brain.
Bret had also had a few concussions in his very active life, which can also be a contributor to mental illness complications.
Even though he thrived off and on after his miraculous recovery, he could never stay on track.
And in hindsight, it became apparent that he had truly been carrying out what’s called a “slow suicide.”
As devastating as losing him to his demons has been, I do feel an odd sense of comfort when I think of his recovery from liver failure.
I specifically remember him saying one day, a few days into his recovery that he wanted more time; “I want more time with you,” he said to me with the utmost sincerity.
We got that time.
It was borrowed.
But we got it.
No one way of dying is easier to deal with than another. The important thing is to just cherish the time we do have because it can be gone so quickly.
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