In this instance, my propensity to fail was perhaps a good thing.
The first thing I became aware of was the feeling of something being bumped against my lips. Puzzled, I struggled to open my eyes. When I did, I could see that I was in the same old bedroom with the Bird of Paradise shades drawn. Why am I still here? In the worst-case scenario I had envisioned, I should have been awakening in a hospital room. In such a case, that would have meant that my suicide attempt had failed.
I realized that the thing bumping against my lips was a glass of water. Looking up from the hand holding the glass to the face of the person who was propping me up in the bed, I saw my husband Ernesto, and realized that even my worst-case scenario hadn’t been this bad. I had not escaped at all!
“Here, drink this,” he said gently. “Go ahead, it’s only water.”
“What happened? What day is it?” My voice was croaky.
“It’s Monday night. You’ve been asleep for more than 24 hours.”
“Why aren’t I in the hospital?”
“Why would you be in the hospital? I just thought you were sick with the flu or something.”
So that’s how he wanted to play it. I knew that he knew that I had tried to kill myself. When I had closed the bedroom door around eight the previous evening, I wrote a note to him to say I just didn’t want to be alive anymore and left it on the bedside table, along with the empty pill bottles so he would know that I had intended to leave him in the most hurtful way possible.
“Didn’t you read my note?”
“What note? I saw your pill bottles on the table, but I didn’t see any note.”
“Where is everybody?”
“Oh, I told Eleanor and the kids that you weren’t feeling well, so they should just let you rest. I just came in from working in the garden all afternoon, and I thought I should wake you up.”
I had imagined him finding my lifeless body, reading the note and realizing that he would have to deal with everyone knowing that his wife had wanted to die rather than go on living with him.
My plan had been foiled by my own ignorance – the sleeping pills I had taken had recently been prescribed for me by my psychiatrist, Dr. Harding. I had begun seeing him because of my inability to sleep. I knew it was due to depression and anxiety, so my family doctor had referred me.
The next day, I saw Dr. Harding and confessed to him what I had done. I was fearful of what he would do about it. I knew that if I had been back home in Canada, I would likely have been committed to a mental institution. This was the usual procedure when a person attempted suicide.
However, Dr. Harding only asked me one question: “Did you want to die?”
“Not really,” I answered. “I just didn’t know how else to stop the pain.”
“It’s as I thought – I don’t think you really wanted to die. But my dear, do you really think I would prescribe something for you that would hurt you? Those sleeping pills are not harmful – the worst they would do to you would be to give you a nice long sleep.” The painkillers you took were not sufficient to do you any harm. Do you have any more stashed away?”
I had taken all the painkillers that I had been holding on to, there were none left. I reassured him of that. But I was very embarrassed that I hadn’t known that the sleeping pills would do me no harm.
“But your husband didn’t know that!” Dr. Harding allowed his anger to show through now. “He had no way of knowing they weren’t harmful to you.”
“He said he knew I was okay because I was still breathing and I had stumbled out of bed to go to the bathroom at one point, although I don’t remember doing so.”
“He couldn’t know that you hadn’t suffered organ damage as a result of the pills! My dear, I’m sorry to tell you that your husband would rather that you died than have to explain to emergency room staff why you took an overdose.”
That statement struck me dumb. I sat there like a rock, not even blinking as the realization crept through me that Robbie’s macho pride would have allowed me to die. I had no doubt that was the truth. I could no longer ascribe to my husband any loving or even empathic feelings towards me. I only realized at that moment what a truly dangerous man my husband really was.