He had lost himself. Somewhere along the way, he no longer knew who he was. Did the depression come first, leading him astray? Or did the depression tag along, following the self out the door? Regardless of the order, he was left a shell. Rather than face the void and explore its dark depths, he chose to avoid by creating a facade of a man. It must have been exhausting, balancing on that edge, trying not to fall while maintaining the illusion that he was nowhere near the cliff. He was a master at that delicate act for years. Even when he left, he thought he could continue to pull a Copperfield on those around him, using mirrors of deception to hide the enormous truth. The fall was inevitable. For a brief period after his arrest, he seemed to see the precipice, the darkness surrounding him just beyond the lights he used to distract and blind. Yet still, he was unable to face the pain, and he chose to continue being a master of illusion. By denying the void, he allowed it to grow.
I also avoided the truth in those years, not consciously, but on some deep level. I didn’t give any credence to the physical symptoms of anxiety that coursed through my body in the final few months; I wrote them off as work stress combined with my Type A personality. It’s hard accepting that I didn’t see the truth. I feel bad for me, but even more so, I feel like I failed him. One of the few regrets I have is that I didn’t know that he needed help before it was too late.
I expected to face my own void when he left. I loved that man, adored him. He had been the driving force in my existence for half my life. How could I lose him and not face a gaping wound? The initial loss was too raw, too overwhelming to feel any sense of loss. As I settled in to my new state of being, I surprisingly realized I didn’t feel as much emptiness as I expected. It was more like the void left after a tooth has been pulled: slightly sore with the occasional shocky bit, but mainly just strange and alien. Like one does with the tongue after losing a tooth, I explored the hole, drawn to its strangeness. At first, it consumed all my waking thoughts, but as time elapsed, it grew less prominent. I became accustomed to his absence faster than I ever anticipated, consciously filling that void with friends, activities, anything I could get my hands on. I survived not by teetering on the edge, but by filling in the hole. I am still aware of the place where he was, but accept that he was the tooth that needed to pulled for healing to occur.
I hope that he is not still trying to walk along that cliff or survive the darkness beyond. I wish that he, too, can find a way to heal the void.