I met Jack the summer I was falling in love with my children’s father. They were friend. It was a Summer of headiness, music festivals and a fair share of hedonism. Jack was quick, charismatic, hilarious and a little bit manic. He would think nothing of climbing into our tent and cuddling up between our naked bodies, reading poetry to us, then singing us an aria or two. He was lots of fun. He also helped to ease the awkwardness between myself and my new love. Where we didn’t meet, Jack created a bridge. I loved him for this.
Jack was what would be called a drug pig. Never content with one high, he would piggyback them one on top of the other until he came tumbling down. Self medication can seem fun. He did everything to excess.
My new love and I moved pretty quickly into parenthood, and with that the crashing sobering reality of how incompatible we were. Childhood trauma and differing attachment needs exacerbated our disconnection and differing world views. The silence between rolled on. Except when Jack would pay us a spontaneous evening visits which always ended very late and involved too much of everything. Still breastfeeding and sober, I lapped up the excess conversation and ideas. His visits refuelling my emptying tank.
At some point during this time, Jack and his long-term partner had a son. Like us, I guess the birth of a child can illuminated some truths. I’ve read that the birth of a child can be one of the most stressful times for a couples relationship. Not only does two become three with 24/7 high attention needs, but childhood ghosts can surface with ninja like stealth. Jacks drinking and drug taking escalated with his need to self-medicate the pain from his past. With fatherhood, he became more manic and his drinking and drug taking increased. The stress of wanting to be the best father, unveiled the inadequate feelings underneath.
Like Life, we all seemed to hobble along over the next few years. Jack would still turn up but less frequently and with more concern from us. I remember saying to my partner after one of these nights; that I could imagine in 10 years time; Jack being an eccentric well loved academic or him becoming homeless and spotting him selling the Big Issue at parliament station.
At some point his relationship with his wife fell apart and he started couch surfing at friends. Slowly and systematically, he managed to burn every bridge he had. Jack tried, he tried so hard to get his life back on track. He wanted to be the good father he felt he did not have. He would get a new job, just to lose it 4 weeks later. He would move house again. At some point in this cycle, we also got notice on our rental and had to move. Putting off the inevitable; as our relationship was crashing on the rocks; we moved into the last place we would share as a couple. Jack, by this stage was living in his car. He had also just found out his mother was dying of cancer.
He came to live with us under the proviso that he would not be intoxicated around our children.
Maybe we all knew that this was the last stop for us all? Propel us into a honeymoon period of equanimity. Jack stabilised somewhat. My partner and I felt less lonely as we both had a friend in Jack. He became my kids and my companion, sharing our park visits as we talked. Jack admitted his fears around mental illness. I suggested maybe knowing the beast you were dealing with helped in the taming of it. He had moments of clarity and then the mania would take over. With the clarity came a deep unbearable shame and remorse which would plummet him into a nightmare of self – loathing. The escape from this was a grandiose fantasy world, full of big ideas and little grounding in reality. He sea-sawed between planning world festivals and weeks of not being able to get out of bed. He would seek help, but when he didn’t like what he saw, he would switch doctors and try a new psychologists. Then the self-medication started again. First in secret, slowly creeping into daylight.
Lots went on during this time as Jack descended further into his own hell. Too much to tell. Alongside this, my relationship was falling apart. While Jack, played the part of Iago, splitting and ‘supporting’ us both; I attribute no intent to his actions, beyond the mental illness he was grappling with. Our bridge was now burning, we were all starting to sink. We hit the wall one night when my partner was away. Jack fuelled by alcohol and pain, pushed our now tenuous arrangement beyond repair. Threatening me physically and verbally, and cornering me in the kitchen, I admitted defeat. I told him he had to go.
Over the next few weeks, we heard he was living in his car. That his car got clamped. Then he moved in with his dad. Then we heard his mum died. I felt no desire to reach out to Jack. He had wanted to severe our support, I truly believe this, and it was all too fresh. His spiral amplified the more we tried to hold him. He pushed it to the point where we had to chose our children. Meanwhile, the chasm between my partner and I widened. Three months after Jack moved out we had the fight to end it all. This time we would separate. We decided to wait till my partner had secured a place before we told the kids.
Three weeks later we officially separated, no longer living under the same roof. I had a low level of anxiety the day of the first night he would not come ‘home.’ I took my youngest to her swimming lesson, knowing that from now on I would be the only parent on duty. That if there was a night time emergency, the responsibility was all mine. I started to think of Jack. It had been nearly 4 months since I had seen him. I knew he was struggling as the grape vine is always accessible. I decide it was time to reach out. I would send him a text, a gesture of repair. I had left my phone at home, so it would have to wait till I got home.
When I made it home that afternoon. I received a phone call from my now ex-partner. The phone call we all secretly knew would one day come; that Jack had taken his own life. He had gassed himself in his mothers car. The possible inevitability of something doesn’t make it any easier to reconcile. The symmetry of our combined beginnings and endings, sent me into a spin. My ex-partner and I comforted each, through these conclusions.
My mind could have gone many directions that day; and while it did; I knew that self- blame and bargaining with the past would not have changed Jacks trajectory. He had struggled with mental illness and to find his right way up. He had made a decision, he couldn’t do it any more. It made me so sad that it couldn’t have ended differently, but I have to believe that as alone and desperate as his final moment must have been, he truly believed this was the best outcome for all. As devastatingly wrong as this was, it speaks to the level of suffering he was and had been enduring for years.
The older I get and the more death visits me, my belief in reincarnation grows. I don’t believe Jack has to come back and suffer again. I don’t believe suicide is the answer, but I don’t believe it’s a a cop out either. I hope Jack, reincarnated quickly and my blessing for him would be that he is safely in the arms of someone giving him the love he felt he didn’t get in this lifetime.
Suicide call back service Australia 1300 659 467
Lifeline 131 114