I’ve almost done it. The last big “first” without Jesse that we have to make it through is almost here. Twelve out of twelve first holidays/birthdays/anniversaries DONE. Yes, two weeks after Jesse died I actually picked up a calendar and counted them out, because if there is one thing my parents taught me that stands out it’s PREPARE FOR YOUR FUTURE AMANDA, so that’s just what I did…and to my dismay there would be at least one (sometimes 2!) EVERY F’ING MONTH until July. I had no idea how I was going to survive the next 9 months, but I knew if I found a way and somehow made it through them all, then I would magically feel better and be back to shitting rainbows and unicorns like my old self. It’s that simple RIGHT?!?? (Breathe if yes. Recite the alphabet backwards in Japanese if no).
It’s ironic to me that Jesse’s birthday happens to be the last of the firsts, because I actually dreaded his birthday every year. I know that’s going to sound terrible and bitchy and selfish…and maybe it is, but I’ve yet to sugar coat anything when it comes to his death and our struggles and as hard as it can be to talk about, I’m not about to start now. Who Jesse was at his core was a good, good man, and I loved him fiercely, but during the times that he’d hit rock bottom there were sides of him that came out that I hated. And every year on his birthday, that is exactly what seemed to happen.
Before I go any deeper into this, I just want to say that for a long time I felt completely alone in the fact that my grief often feels very complicated. I miss my husband terribly, and I’d do those 10 years with him all over again to have known and loved him. But our relationship was far from perfect, our difficult times were REALLY difficult, there were lies and betrayals and in his death I was left with a lot of questions that will never get answered. On top of my sadness has been a great deal of anger and resentment, and I know now that there are many others who have experienced a similar grief journey. So if that’s you too, with the extremely mixed emotions, the unanswered questions and the closure that will never come, please hear me when I say, you are not alone, and this post is for you.
Jesse and I were a rollercoaster from the very beginning. Our connection was just as much a shock to us as it was everyone else. I was your typical conforming, people pleasing, good girl with the happy childhood and perfectly planned out future. Jesse was the rebellious bad boy with a dark past and sexy AF sometimes brown/sometimes green eyes, who drove a crotch rocket and assumed he’d either be dead or in prison by the age of 25. (Literally his own words) He showed me a side of him though that only a select few, special to him, people got to see, and I knew under that tough guy image was a silly, kind hearted man just trying to find his place in this world.
We fell in love fast and hard, and at 21 years old I was completely naive to what loving someone with addiction struggles and a traumatic childhood actually entailed. I knew about all of it from the very beginning, but in my mind I was going to be the one to “save” him. He’d change, just as he promised he would, and we’d live out a normal life that met the societal standards of grown up jobs, white picket fences and 1.5 children. I laugh and look back now at my young, dumb self, and think HOLD ON HOMEGIRL, because you’re about to go for a ride!
Our entire relationship consisted of extreme highs and lows. When things were good, and Jesse was sober and in a good place mentally, they were really, really good. He was kind and attentive and made sure that we knew how much he loved us. We’d go on adventures as a family or as a couple and laugh and make fun of each other and talk about our future, which always planted in me a seed of hope. But when times got tough, they were really, really tough. Jesse would sink into deep depressions for weeks and even sometimes months, and random dates like his birthday would trigger it. I’d find him in tears in the shower or on our back step. He’d tell me he knew that he had so much to be grateful for and that he loved us, but he still couldn’t escape the pain and the thoughts of wanting to end it. To this day I don’t think he felt he actually deserved any of the good that he had in his life. He also often turned to alcohol to escape and numb the pain, and it made him distant, irritable and angry. I’m not sure at what point I accepted this as my normal, but I did.
You hold on through the lows with the anticipation of the highs.
I did eventually decide that I wasn’t going to be a victim of my circumstances, and I learned how to take responsibility for my own happiness, despite which version of Jesse was going to show up that day. I had to in order to survive. For a long time I was also close minded and thought mental illness was easy to fix if the person just tried hard enough, and addiction wasn’t a disease but a choice. But after living it long enough I realized I was wrong…so fucking wrong. I could see it in his face and hear it in his voice every time we talked about the negative things going on inside of his head. I wanted so badly to help him, but I too was drained and finally realizing that I couldn’t give him the help he needed.
Six days before Jesse completed suicide, he came home and confessed to me that he had been using drugs off and on again. He had finally admitted to himself and to me that he had a problem and he couldn’t do this on his own. He said he wanted to seek professional help and take his life back. I was COMPLETELY BLINDSIDED…how could this be happening and I not know it? I was so dumbfounded, and he actually begged me to get mad..to yell and to scream and to let him have it. But all I could do was look at him and say “I’m just so tired babe.” I had no idea what I was going to do, and it honestly didn’t matter, because three days later Jesse’s brain would begin to fail him and the psychotic breakdown would begin, and three days after that I would lose him forever.
Jesse was a complicated person who had a very complicated past and an even more complicated death. He was an addict. He was someone who struggled immensely with mental illness. And those two things could bring out the worst in him. But he was also the type of guy who would go out of his way to be kind to the elderly. He had a unique connection to animals that I believed truly showed the kindness in his soul. He volunteered hours of his time and energy to help our friends build a memorial garden for the baby girl they lost to SIDS. He believed in doing the right thing and always giving 100%. He was the hardest worker I’ve ever met. He loved his mom. He showed a side of him I’d never seen after our kids were born, giving everything he had to make sure they were taken care of. He was my best friend, and he knew me better than anyone.
We want things to be black and white, especially the difficult things, because it makes them easier to understand, but rarely is that the case. I wouldn’t wish this pain of losing someone you love in this terrible, tragic way on even my worst enemy, but if I can use it to help someone else I will.
Life is so much harder and messier than we ever imagined it would be. But inspite of this, I know there’s still so much good to be found.