Second Chances

Hello again. Sorry it’s been so long. A lot has happened since my last post and I needed to get my head around it all, otherwise I find it hard to write down. I’m always worried about how what I write will be received. Will it come across as I intended? Will I offend someone? Will you wonder why on earth I felt the need to share all this with you?

We’re the generation who open up every aspect of our lives so readily, intimate family moments, political opinions, baby’s bathtimes, and yet I’m conscious I’m over-sharing. I think it’s because no-one really talks about the deeper stuff. The problems and the grit and the ugly side don’t get posted on your timeline, but that’s what makes us who we really are. It’s what ties us together and makes us human. So here I go again with TMI about my life, which I write for you with love.

When Paige’s dad Paul was Seventeen he was in a car accident which killed two of his best friends. The car crashed into a tree at 80mph and he was thrown head first through the back windshield. One of his friends was killed instantly, and another friend died in the hospital bed next to him a few hours later. Paul spent three weeks in hospital with a fractured skull, a broken leg and severe internal bleeding which resulted in them having to remove his spleen.

When he was twenty six, Paul came home to find his mum had collapsed in the bathroom after suffering a brain aneurysm. Although he tried to revive her it was too late and there was nothing he could do. A few years later, Paul’s dad Vic became seriously ill with emphysema. After a stretch of hospital stays and being cared for by Paul’s sister Leanne, he let go and went to be with their beloved mum Sandy.

Just four months after the loss of their Dad, my former colleague/Paul’s sister Leanne set us up on a blind date. We met outside Covent Garden tube station and went for dinner, and we just clicked. Within a few months of being introduced I found out I was expecting Paige. It didn’t even occur to us to be concerned by the timing. We were surprised but genuinely over the moon that we were having a baby together. Everything seemed to fall into place, the momentum of what needed to be done swept over us and we were carried into furniture shops and Mothercare, on a babymoon, into our new home and finally through the doors of Darenth Valley hospitals Delivery Suite.

We were naive to think that we could live happily ever after. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to normal people, no matter how many Disney films you’ve watched. I knew the facts about what Paul had been through, he’d talked to me about the accident and his mum and dad, but never in any depth. He always seemed so together and matter of fact when he spoke, I didn’t realise how deeply these experiences had affected him. Nor did I think for one minute that our baby would be the trigger for his breakdown.

From the moment Paige came wailing into the world, things started to change. I was thrown into the depths of motherhood, and as many of you know, the waters can be dark and murky at times, full of uncertainty and hard-hitting emotions that threaten to pull you under. And Paul began a battle that neither of us were ready for. One that our relationship didn’t have the strength or maturity to withstand.

The difference in his personality was almost immediate. A steady decline into depression fuelled by anxiety around Paige’s safety. Paul became completely irrational. He couldn’t sleep or work properly because his thoughts were constantly interrupted by fear that he would lose her. He became preoccupied, stressed and distant from me and extremely critical of how I was with Paige. He didn’t want to go anywhere unless she was with us, and he treated me like the enemy because I didn’t react with the same level of concern as he did to every little thing. I felt like a bad mum, and I became more and more hurt by the way he was towards me.

For the first nine months of Paige’s life I watched him sink into depression like quicksand. I tried to pull him out, but he just sank deeper and deeper until I couldn’t hold on anymore. After months of struggling, I had to let go.

I can’t explain the feelings I had after I made that decision, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At the time I was trying to do what I thought was best for everyone involved. After months of neglect I honestly didn’t think Paul loved me anymore. No matter how many dinners I cooked, how much weight I lost or how well I looked after Paige I just seemed to make him worse. He couldn’t see how he was acting and I wasn’t strong enough to cope with it all, and it broke us.

Life carried on afterwards. I got a job, a place to live, I went shopping, bought Christmas presents and even brushed my hair. I told everyone that I was getting myself back on track and at times I almost believed it myself. But I could never leave the edge of that quicksand. No matter how messy it got between us, something in me would never truly let him go.

After ten months apart, with Paul needing help and refusing to see it, pushing all of his family away, making terrible decisions and causing so much heartache to himself and everyone around him, I’d almost given up hope. I started to accept that the person I fell in love with was gone. It became the norm for him to be irrational, selfish and volatile and it broke my heart because we’d been so happy just months before. But as out of the blue as the dark clouds of depression had closed in, they suddenly started to shift.

It took a good few weeks for me to even notice. Paul seemed calmer, more settled and he started to be kinder to me. I ignored it at first, I’d seen glimpses of this a few times before when he would attempt to get me back, but he could never be consistent. After a few weeks of getting on well, I asked Paul about the difference in his mood, and he told me he’d finally accepted that something was wrong and that he’d been diagnosed and treated for anxiety and depression triggered by post-traumatic stress.

I’ve been studying the surface of the quicksand, and over the last few months I’ve seen the old Paul start to emerge. He hasn’t got the hollow, troubled look in his eyes that he had during the worst of it all. He is more light-hearted and able to talk without escalating things. He’s being silly and laughing at me again. It’s like he’s remembering who he used to be.

One thing that comes out of going through a real shit-storm with someone is how well you get to know them. I’ve seen the darkest sides of him, and he’s seen mine. It’s certainly not been pretty, but it’s led to where we are now. He’s managed to pull himself out of the quicksand enough to reach me, and I love him, so I want to take his hand. I know now without a doubt that what we have is real, it always was, and to me that’s worth a whole-hearted second chance.

6 Replies to “Second Chances”

  1. Beautiful. I found this via my niece Nancy and I just want to say that I have had a similar experience as Paul and I am so happy he realised he needed help, but more importantly, that you realised and stuck with him. There will be ups and downs, but the understanding and love for each other will see you through. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I love Nancy ❤️ I hope you have lots of love and support around you for what you went through. Thank you for reading and for your lovely comment xx

  2. Wow what an absolute journey you have both been on and what a fighter Paul is to overcome such depths of darkness with a non surprising post traumatic stress diagnosis after the horrific events he has faced.

    I wish you both all the happiness. Xxxx

  3. Loved reading this blog, Nikki. So much to deal with for both of you… Paige is lucky to have such strong parents ❤ xx

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