Predestined to Greatness

About two years ago, my girlfriend, Cathy, suddenly passed away. The choir of family and loved ones—she had many—all were shocked and dismayed as to the what-and-why that led to her death. Just how in the hell do you explain major depression or other mental illness to someone who doesn’t have a clue?

It was a fucking terrible surprise to wake up and find her lifeless and unresponsive while attempting to revive her as 911 coaches me on the phone while paramedics were in route.

Although I sympathized with Cathy’s suffering, especially during the last few months of her short life, I had no idea her crisis was as severe as it had become. I fucking regret that I didn’t intervene more long before she got to her breaking point?

I happened to be at an appointment in Harrisburg recently, directly across the street from the psychiatric hospital where Cathy had spent the last three weeks of her life as an inpatient. Earlier, when I was setting up the appointment I was on my way to, I knew it was near the hospital; hell, I did a five-day stint in this particular facility in 2011! It didn’t phase me at all, other than “Oh yeah, the psyche hospital.”

This entry is about the love of my life. She didn’t deserve to feel so hopeless, alone and in pain.

I took the bus to my appointment, which dropped me off a block from the hospital and required walked right by it to get to where I needed to go. As I approached to hospital’s front entrance I became froze and trapped by the shivering, 1930-ish building, now an institution for the insane. I broke down crying. One crying spell interval of a few in the past two years. I often feel like opening the valves so I could flood the whole god-damn Cumberland Valley I live in full of tears, but I can’t make it happen.

This entry is about the love of my life. She didn’t deserve to feel so hopeless, alone and in pain.

Prior to checking in, she told me she wanted to check in because she was mentally exhausted, her psyche meds weren’t working and she was beginning to feel suicidal. Four months prior, she went on short-term disability for both her epilepsy was getting worse and her neurologist wanted to run more tests.

This put a strain on an already hectic role of being a single mother, career woman and dealing with a selfish, belligerent and psychotic alcoholic boyfriend who fed her constant false promises. Needless to say, my intrusive presence was an unwelcome burden and a scourge to a loving, dynamic and beautiful woman who was also a great friend, mother, daughter, sister, employee and lover.

Her own destiny

Cathy had the odds against her from the get-go. Growing up in a Baltimore working-class neighborhood, her upbringing was riddled with challenges at home. I believe that’s where she beat incredible odds and possessed an almost supernatural desire to succeed on her own merits. She was completely self-taught in computer programming, web design and developments and earned her way through her own merits; she never depended on a man financially (just wanted an honest, decent man for a companion, you know, what normal couples do). Despite being surrounded in an environment of mental health issues, addiction and inner-city strife, she overcame what for many would have been “destiny” and became master of her own.

Sure, life happens. Like all of us, there were struggles with this and that. But Cathy always seemed to overcome anything life threw at her. A great, wonderful and loving mother to her two great daughters, she basically raised and supported on her own while holding down full time employment. I suppose like me, she had a habit of ending up with unhealthy partners; relationships not really working out too well. Maybe that’s the big reason we sparked a forest fire that spread into a multistate disaster. Also, we both dealt with depression and all the baggage of self-loathing and lack of hope.

Unlike me, however, Cathy didn’t with an addiction problem. She never experienced someone with such ferocity like myself and that did nothing but exacerbate her fragile emotional state. It also intensified a delicate and tense relationship she had with her eldest daughter. I was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My actions not only destroyed a woman and likely contributed to her death; they also hurt and tore apart a family. This was a family dynamic that Cathy and I had even established together; one I waited 40 years to build.

Perhaps I am grieving little by little through this entry. I haven’t fully been through the five-stage process, since my life during the past two years has been self-centered, destructive and full of consequences. After Cathy dies, I went on a months-long bender and behaved in a manner which I am not proud of. Within five months of her death, I would be arrested and eventually incarcerated for 13 months. Anyone who’s either done time or has watched enough TV about prison knows what I’m gonna say next: You don’t show emotions in jail. I stuffed my grief and feelings for 13 god-damn months.

I was paroled to York, PA, mission immediately after jail where I entered a Christian-based recovery program for six months. I opened up slightly about Cathy, but didn’t connect fully enough with anyone to really share my thoughts, feelings.

Today, I am closer to where Cathy and I shared a short life together. Her gravesite is less than five miles from where I currently live and haven’t visited here there since my release. Some days, I feel like we were together six months ago; other days, it feels like 10 years ago. I miss her. I was a real asshole, a terrible boyfriend, father-figure to her daughters and a pathetic excuse for a man. Today, I have severe consequences for my past transgressions, but doing the next right thing. Hoping that before my time on Earth ends, I’ll at least have contributed something positive.