“I’m writing this in case I’m gone tomorrow. I’m writing this in case I’ve moved along. There’s something that I hope you’ll remember: That life is not a game, it’s a song. So take the best parts of me, locked away without the keys, and know that I’m forever by your side. When the lights go down, know that I am never far away. When the Sun burns out, I’ll be waiting on the brighter side of grey. If you’re reading this, I know you’re feeling sorrow. If you’re hearing this, I know you’re probably scared. Just know that all the things you want are borrowed, and all you get to keep is all you’ve shared. So wipe away the tears for me, know that we’ve made history. Remember no one ever really dies. When the lights go down, know that I am never far away. When the Sun burns out, I’ll be waiting on the brighter side of grey.” ~ Five Finger Death Punch
THIS PICTURE. One I sketched in my early 20’s using the literal ashes from both my father’s and His ashtrays. At the time I had no idea the impact this or any of my 32 Sketches would have on me down the road, yet as I look at them now I can’t help but notice that although I was in very dark place when they were born, something inside me was distantly hopeful. Still, this one. It begs the younger me to stay focused on the very bright future I couldn’t see through the fog I was in, yet was patiently waiting for and calling to me all the while.
If you know me well, you know that grey is my favorite color, which is evident in my predominately “black and white” or grey artwork. What’s interesting about this one is how poignantly it reflects upon the mental illness I fought so hard to overcome for the better part of my life and long before it was diagnosed. My illness imprisoned me in the dichotomy of “black and white thinking” and held me for ransom inside the compartmentalized boxes in my mind where I stored all my feelings, pain and trauma. Before I put my disease into remission, I was unable to accept people, situations, emotions, or behaviors as anything other than “good or bad”, “right or wrong”, or “one way or the other”. MY ENTIRE WORLD WAS BLACK AND WHITE AND THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR THE GREY! I had a defensive view of both the positive and negative qualities of myself and everyone else and there was no way for my broken psyche to allow anything in between to exist in one cohesive space. How did this happen? The general consensus is that my “splitting” was the result of severe emotional and psychological abuse from my childhood, and I do tend to agree. I was raised in an environment of conditionally based reward, praise, affection and acceptance. If I was “good”, I was praised, affirmed and rewarded. If I was “bad”, I was admonished, punished and rejected. They “washed their hands” of me too many times to count whenever I screwed up or simply failed to follow “the rules” and ZERO was the validation or consideration of my feelings. My mind would “split” as I desperately attempted to shield myself from the constant fear of being abandoned, betrayed or eviscerated by anyone who claimed to love me. For the record, I do not believe that these traumas were visited on me purposefully or with the intent to murder my soul, but the trauma indeed was real, as was the effect it had on my damaged psyche. For so many years in the wake of not only my broken childhood, but as much so in the wake of my own self-inflicted destruction and imprisonment, I felt alone and voiceless, regardless of the people who “appeared” to be standing beside me. At this point it is no longer a secret that I myself attempted suicide on November 8, 1996, but thankfully survived to tell about it. But I’ve digressed …
Music of all genres has been an integral part of my mental health journey and recovery, but one of my favorite bands, Five Finger Death Punch, has been at the forefront of it all. Their songs have not only helped identify some of my lost and broken feelings, but have also given my former “voiceless self” permission to either cry my feelings to the surface or YELL AND SCREAM THEM OUT LOUD! Several months ago I pre-ordered their new album and had been counting the days until it was released. I was stoked when it finally hit my library and just started from the beginning as I headed out for my day. Meanwhile, when THIS SONG cued up I literally had to pull my car into the breakdown lane on the highway as the words began to cut me in all the most bittersweet ways. I couldn’t stop the tears or the physical heartache and I literally couldn’t breathe. It was one of the most cathartic, awful and beautiful moments of my life and it was as if he were singing it to me himself. To me. To her. To Christian. To the very few people he left behind that he truly loved and let into his very private world and who loved him just the same. Someday when it’s time for her to read “the letter he wrote but never gave her I will play this song for her. Knowing God the way I do, when she’s finally able to receive these most beautiful lyrics of both our lives in conjunction with the most beautiful words a secretly dying father could have possibly written to his daughter, they will become as significant a part of her healing and journey going forward as they have been to mine.
HERE’S THE THING: Grey is not just a color to me. It’s everything in between! It’s the “grey-ce” I’ve received that is so undeserved yet given to me anyway by The One who has never loved me with black and white conditions. He “takes the best parts of me and locks them away without the key” and I know He is never far away. He’s the Light that shines ahead of my journey and dilutes the blackness of the abyss into the most beautiful shades of grey. For more than four decades I lived a “black and white life” with no room for the grey I knew I needed so much but didn’t know how to connect with. So, as I look back at this picture now I am filled with the most unbelievable hope, peace, balance and inspiration you can imagine. It reminds me of just how far I’ve come, that it was always supposed to be this way, and there is always a “Brighter Side Of Grey”. I’m not gonna lie … it is now my final wish that when it’s time for me to move along, this is the last song I hear as they say farewell. It means everything to me. Literally, everything.
“For the first time in years there’s a light up ahead. It’s calling. (It’s pulling me closer) Reborn within. Now I’m shedding my skin. It’s falling. (The weight off my shoulders) ‘Cause I can’t stay chained to my secrets. No I can’t stay. I’m bound by my regrets. I can’t erase all of my errors. Those days are gone forever. I can change, I can change tomorrow. I can change, I can change tomorrow. On my knees in the rain with my head hung in shame, just crawling, stalling. (All alone in my ways) Memories I can’t erase. Faces I couldn’t face haunt me. (My life lay to waste). ‘Cause I can’t stay chained to my secrets. No I can’t stay. I’m bound by my regrets. I need a break. It’s now or never. Yesterday’s gone forever. I can change, I can change tomorrow. I can change, I can change tomorrow. For all the years of emptiness. For all of my mistakes. For all the years I’ve thrown it all away. It’s not too late.” ~ Like A Storm
There is no way for me to properly express the depth of my gratitude for all of the love, support and faith all of you are pouring into me not only here in The Diary, but in other forums (such as Quora) where I am also sharing not only my journey, but the fallen king’s as well. My reach is growing stronger by the minute and I’m consumed by a burning fire in my heart when I open my statistics every morning to find that people literally all over the world are reading my words. I’m getting messages daily, from again, all over the world, and what is resonating loudly is that people are relating to all the best and worst parts of my life and being inspired to try and make some changes of their own and step out of their own silent darknesses. THAT’S ALL I’VE EVER WANTED … for other broken people to realize the power and potential of their own strong warrior hearts and find the courage to not only survive, but THRIVE!
…and neither can you! The secret pain, anguish, heartache and trauma we keep buried within our hearts is nothing short of a 30,000 pound anchor that not only keeps our ships bound to the turbulent seas that some of us end up drowning in, but also keeps us from ever reaching safe harbor. As for me? My most life-altering, traumatic and darkest “secret” has still yet to be revealed by the way, because frankly, I’m just not ready to reveal it. I’m working with God directly on that one and together we will both know when it’s time for my “biggest reveal”. But in the meantime …
All of YOU are helping me do that and I pray that my words will help you change your own tomorrow if that’s what you need to do. Again, THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR SUPPORTING ME. My best to everyone reading this … MAKE IT A POWERFUL DAY!
Tonight after “Batman” lit up our roof for the holidays Gia and I went to Walmart to get more lights for the shrubs in our pajamas, slippers and messy buns, looking quite ridiculous! We were “play arguing” over whether to get “all white”, “all red”, “all green”, or multi-colored. Before we knew it we were giggling up a storm and I said, “Man, this is tough. Do we match the shrubs to the roof, do a contrast, or what? Hmm, what would Jesus do?” Ever the consummate smart ass, my daughter says, “Well duh mom, He WAS Jewish so I’m thinking He’d go with blue.” (And she meant no disrespect by the way. Gia loves Jesus!) Meanwhile, this couple standing nearby started giggling too and the lady says, “You two are so sweet together, like a mother daughter comedy act! You just made me miss my two girls who are on their way home from school right now and I can hardly WAIT to hug them even tighter. I miss those days when it was us being silly at Walmart. Thank you for lighting up this aisle with holiday spirit!”
That was perhaps the greatest compliment either one of us could have gotten, esepcially considering our circumstances, and as they walked away from us she turned to hug me and said, “Mom, I think we’re gonna be okay!” Then I looked up at him and whispered, “Yes, we are!” And then we left just knowing what we know. Those people? They didn’t see it – all of our pain, grief and sorrow. And there’s no way they could have imagined that three months ago she was in a psych ward and I was laying in my bed, barely breathing and praying to God for the strength to walk yet again out of another living hell.
So yes we ARE gonna be okay. Never the same. Never EVER the same! Life without him is going to be, just, different. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be okay, and one day maybe even better than okay! In the meantime, we’re allowed to be excited and play argue and giggle about Christmas lights at Walmart, and if you knew anything about Zack it was this: He demanded nothing but the BEST for “his girls”! Did he throw us one HELL of a monkey wrench that was the exact opposite of “the best”? Um, yup. God’s grace has that covered though and he’s received mine as well. I’m so thankful for those people tonight. And my daughter. And my life. And the King who helped build me into the resilient woman I am today who’s still able to “shine” through all this darkness.
Truly though… NO APOLOGIES whatsoever for my “breakout verbal vomit” presentation. It’s just that as you can now clearly see with the creation of my Highway 82 Survival Project, “secrets will make me sick no longer”. I’m gettin’ ready to get ready, and oh, by the way …
Dear Angelina Jolie:
THANK YOU for inspiring ME to “live a life of use to others”. I listen to your Jean Hershold Humanitarian Award acceptance speech every single day of my life now and have made my daughter listen to it as often as possible as well. Nothing will have meant ANYTHING if I leave this planet without having done just that, so that’s what I’m gonna do. You truly are one of my hero’s, and not because of “who you are” – because of “what you are”: A “Warrior. Motivator. SURVIVOR!” just like me. It is my sincere hope that before my lifetime is over I will be able to thank you in person. ~ CAT WILLIAMSON: Warrior. Motivator. SURVIVOR;
“Holding your breath. Holding your tongue. You’re only holding yourself back. So much to say. So far to run out from the shadows you have cast. Girl the best days of your life have yet to come. It’s okay, it’s alright, to open up. You don’t owe anybody anything. Life is yours to live anyway you please. No apologies. No promise left for you to keep. You can be whoever you want to be. No apologies. Closing the door. Closing your eyes. You’re only closing yourself off. So much to see. So much to try. Don’t be afraid of what you want. Girl the best days of your life have yet to come. It’s okay, it’s alright, to open up.” – Trapt
Yesterday I ran across an Instagram post that really struck me (pun intended, lol). It was a super cool canvas rendition of the fight between Rocky and Ivan Drago, and after having thought about it literally all day and night, this is what poignant thought I’ve now managed to correlate (paraphrasing my comment on the post):
Gia and I are both huge fans, as was Zack. Rocky IV in particular is my favorite, because, don’t laugh, in my mind I have always imagined it’s been “me against the Devil” in both the brightest AND darkest moments of my life, and he’s the one always saying to me, “I MUST BREAK YOU”! Yet I absolutely refuse to let him take me down! Consequently, one of my favorite songs of all times, “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper is from the Rocky IV soundtrack. The Sunday night before he killed himself it was playing in the car on our way home from the gym and he was crying as he squeezed my hand three times (“I-Love-You”). Five nights later he was gone. I’ve listened to it over and over the last 62 days, just thinking, reflecting, remembering and “wanting to know why”. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Zack’s fighting days are done. He lost. Went down. Tapped out. IT’S OVER! But mine are not, because I’M STILL HERE, and quite clearly, I’m still standing. Am I bruised? Sure. Fat lip, bloodied nose, black eye, some scars here and there? Absolutely!
There have been so many days this last twenty years, EVEN when I was in my most broken, lost, bent out of shape, completely incoherent, mangled and twisted of mindsets, that I have looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Good grief woman, how in the HELL are you still standing? Why HAVEN’T you given up yet? WHY HASN’T THAT MISERABLE EFFING DEVIL BROKEN YOU?” The only answer I can ever come up with is this: “It’s Him. Not me.” And PLEASE fully understand that I do NOT believe I am more special, gifted, blessed or talented than any other person. It’s God. I just know it. There is NO other explanation as to why I have NOT taken the “easy way out”, other than, IT’S HIM! I just feel it. In my heart. In my bones. In my soul. All around me, everywhere, all the time. When I’m happy. When I’m sad. When I’m angry. When I’m grieving. When I’m crying, smiling, laughing, screaming or just feeling like punching someone in the face. It’s. Just. Him.
God just handed me this heavyweight belt I wear for what reason I will never understand. Zero did I earn it. Zero do I deserve it. But damn am I honored to have it! It’s the best and most valuable thing I possess that cost Him everything, and me NOTHING, other than complete and total blind faith in “the process”. I realize of course that some people don’t understand this, and, in fact, actually think its lunacy to believe in something you cannot touch or see. But hey, you can’t touch or see the wind, can you? Nope, you sure can’t. But it’s real just the same, and we sure CAN see the effects of it. I mean, hello? We KNOW what a strong windstorm can do, do we not? So, with that, I am Rocky. The Devil is Ivan Drago. The God I serve is the referee. And I? Am. Winning. Even when I’m losing. Have a good day everyone.
~ Love Cat
… that moment your friend of a million years, who’s known you through some of your darkest hours, finds and sends you THE SONG OF YOUR LIFE. I’m literally thanking God right now for the very kind strangers who picked me up off the floor after losing it in the middle of my workout. LOOK AT THE NAME OF THE ARTIST! It’s like this song was written just for me – AND for my husband. Regardless of how he left us and what many people believe about suicide, I know the merciful God I serve did NOT forsake him in his last breath and was waiting with His hand reached out to finally rescue and take him “Home”. Thank you Dee Holley. I love you!
So, here’s what’s on my mind today. After my sister’s birthday dinner last night, she wanted to go see The Joker. We’d both assumed it was just a Batman prequel, and in a roundabout way it was, inasmuch as it was set in Gotham City and the Wayne’s were front and present. I haven’t been to the movies much lately and was completely uninformed as to the plot, but I’m a “Batgirl” so we went with it.
This was NO superhero commentary. Was there a connection? Absolutely. But within seconds of the opening scene I began to wonder, “Do I stay, or do I go?” Every alarm in my psyche was screaming that this movie could potentially level me. He was “painting on a mask” but behind his eyes you could clearly see that whatever road he’d walked until that moment he had lost connection to both the world and himself. Yet I was compelled to watch this six degrees of separated version of not only Zack’s story, but at times mine and SO many other people I’ve known. As we cringed our way through Joker’s “Hell on Earth” I watched him bring a gun to his head six times, and if that weren’t bad enough, though we’d all anticipated him blowing his OWN brains out in the end, brains indeed were blown out on the screen. And I just sat there like an iron wall. I could see my sister panic every time the gun went to his head as she’d lean over and ask if we needed to leave, but I kept assuring her I was okay, because I was. I don’t know what in my own “Hell on Earth” this says about me, but wait, I think I do …
I AM ONE STRONG BITCH! “Warrior. Motivator. SURVIVOR!” The longer I sat there the LESS I wanted to cry and shake my fists all up to the Heavens screaming “WHY?” I already know why ALL too well and no amount of screaming or fist shaking will change my own plot line or erase the things I’ve “gotten to learn” so far. Do I still cry? Every. Fucking. Day! I’m only human after all. But I believe that every tear I shed is being counted by a Power INFINITELY higher than me and I absolutely trust it. So, I welcome those tears, then simply “let them go”, as my most effective form of mental health therapy.
Here’s my takeaway from both the show and my visceral reaction to it: Much like my husband who often felt isolated in even the most crowded spaces, The Joker eventually lost connection with not only himself but humanity as well. He’d been stepped on, overlooked and bullied by life in general, which process led him to an internal mental madness that most people couldn’t fathom. Like The Joker (and many of us) my husband wore two faces: The very happy “I’m okay” mask he dawned outwardly each day while secretly living inside the invisible, solitary prison where he wore the other “sick, dark, tragic one” that led him to his fate.
One of the most poignant scenes in the movie found the mentally ill Joker sitting in front of “a system” letting him down, just as pretty much everything and one he’d ever known had done, and he said something to the effect of, “Have you even listened to a SINGLE thing I’ve said? All these times I’ve sat in front of you – have you EVER really seen or heard me?” Such is the story of so many of our lives and then we too “slip through the void” into our own darkness. Which is why I think I could NOT bring myself to leave the one movie I probably should NOT have seen in the first place. Last night, sitting through that show like the ROCK I know I’ve become? I did NOT crumble. I did NOT cry. I only became further convicted in my desperate need to touch as many “Joker’s” lives as possible with what time I have left here on Earth. Self-pity, sorrow, screaming and “fist shaking” will accomplish ZERO but “reaching the unreachable” just might. Okay, that’s all. Thanks for listening. ~ Cat ❤️
I AM ALMOST AT A LOSS FOR WORDS! Seeing you for the first time in so many years was so much more than a blessing. My daughter is already in love with you and seeing her open up and share with you the way she did was an even greater blessing, as she simply doesn’t do that very often. As for my birthday gift? Again, NO WORDS! The best gift you gave me however was something even more precious than this quilt. It was in how you pointed out that somehow, buried deep beneath her STILL burning ashes is her DAD, their memories and the countless unconditional gifts he gave her after HER own dad made the conscious, selfish, decision in his very stable mind to “throw her away” as well. He didn’t put her in a trash can, and yes, he is still physically present for her. But he emotionally abandoned and vacated both of my kids’ lives in favor of some pretty face five years ago, as did he abandon ME when I needed him the most 20 plus years ago. I know it. Her brother knows it. SHE KNOWS IT. Her “dad” is gone now, having left her in the most egregious way. But, he’s not. Last night every fear I’d had that she was going to “forget the truth” faded into the wind just like he did. “My dad” she said. My. Dad! Their bond will somehow survive through all her pain and suffering, I just know it will forever. Thank you for paying attention and THANK GOD she felt so comfortable talking to you. All her walls came down and she was just “Gia”. It was exactly what I needed and the BEST gift I got for my 50th birthday! I love you.
… that fourth Friday night in eleven years without him and “God only knows how many Friday nights” since Friday, November 8, 1996 when I attempted suicide myself. There’s no telling “how many more Fridays” will have to pass by before my baby girl will be out of the danger zone with “ideations” of her own after the virtual Hell she is still living through for reasons I cannot say! So from this point forward I will be here for as many nights as I’m allowed to live to faithfully remind the masses THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEONE TO LISTEN by doing exactly as Zack would say: “Catherine, USE YOUR WORDS!” Goodnight everyone. ~ Cat
Zachariah Lucas Williamson:
If you can hear or see me from wherever you are, and I’m surviving right now due in large part to my true faith that that you can, I want you to know that I love you. I Miss you. I FORGIVE YOU. I would NOT have made it to this crossroad in my journey without you, and you and I both know it’s true. I will never forget you, or replace you, nor dishonor, disgrace or disassemble the infinite trove of tools, gifts, strengths and beauty that you and ONLY YOU had the patience, courage and foresight to help find buried deep within myself. You helped me find my reflection inside a mirror where I once only saw a faceless monster, and that, my prince, is something you and ONLY YOU shall get the credit for. You refused to give up on me no matter how hard I made you try, and not a day will go by while I’m roaming this earth without you that I won’t pray to God that you’re STILL behind me silently pushing me like only you can do. There is so much work to be done here now, and I’m GOING to make you proud. Every day for the rest of my life I will count these darkened ashes piled beneath our feet and rise so far above them that it will be IMPOSSIBLE for them not to hear “our” voices.
If my wish has come true, you’ve safely made it Home now with your broken heart in one piece to The One parent whose intention was never to forsake you through all the lonely pain and heartache you suffered in your lifetime. And last but not least, I’m hoping that not only have you gone and found my daughter by now but that you’ve also caught up with that handsome Cajun boy you heard so much about who stole the first real piece of my heart and rode off with it in “the blaze of glory”. Don’t think that I will EVER forget how you not only welcomed him and everything he was but even more so embraced him for all that I was because of what he’d brought into my world and let me carry him on our journey together. Few are the men that are capable of such selflessness and “living with my ghosts” the way that you did was one of the things I thanked God for the most every day of our life together. I just know that you’ll all be waiting for me hand in hand when I get there … I can picture it in my mind! So, until that day comes when I can see you all again, I love you more than words. Forever. Eternally. Unconditionally. ~ Catherine
“For all those times you stood by me. For all the truth that you made me see. For all the joy you brought to my life. For all the wrong that you made right. For every dream you made come true. For all the love I found in you. I’ll be forever thankful baby. You’re the one who held me up and never let me fall. You’re the one who saw me through through it all. You were my strength when I was weak. You were my voice when I couldn’t speak. You were my eyes when I couldn’t see. You saw the best there was in me. Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach. You gave me faith ’cause you believed. I’m everything I am because you loved me. You gave me wings and made me fly. You touched my hand I could touch the sky. I lost my faith, you gave it back to me. You said no star was out of reach. You stood by me and I stood tall. I had your love I had it all. I’m grateful for each day you gave me. Maybe I don’t know that much, but I know this much is true. I was blessed because I was loved by you. You were always there for me. The tender wind that carried me. A light in the dark shining your love into my life. You’ve been my inspiration.Through the lies you were the truth. My world is a better place because of you.” – Celine Dion
So a friend of mine of 20 years urged me to get out and meet her at Choctaw in Durant last night. I spent all day going back and forth as to whether I was going or not and must have picked my phone up at least a dozen times throughout the course of the day and started texts that looked like, “Hey, I’m not sure I’m going to make it …”, but then kept deleting them and walking away from the phone.
Eventually I made the decision to go for what I thought would be overnight, so I packed my bag, took Walter to my mom and headed north up 75. The quiet drive was nice and I hadn’t really cried yet all day, as I was planning on trying not to. But right around the Highway 82 exit in Sherman I just about lost it. Zack and I had this whole “Highway 82” thing that I won’t go in to, but let’s just say that if you’ve ever heard the song “Take Me There” by Rascal Flatts, that road was a part of his story, and thus ours too. So yes, it was a moment, and yes as I began remembering all the times we’d taken that exit for our Oklahoma adventures I was flooded with emotions. I swear I could feel the “one, two, three” squeeze (I-Love-You) that we would always share to quietly express the deep connection between us, and EVERY time we made that exit? He always squeezed my hand.
It was an out of body experience drifting through that venue without my husband, and my friend didn’t arrive for a while so I was solo for 30 minutes. Several times I looked up and whispered, “Umm hello? You of all people KNOW how much I fucking hate this! What are you doing to me Williamson?” I kinda wanted to kick his ass, but not in a violent way. It was more so, “This is ANNOYING and it kinda really sucks and I wish I could punch you in the face”. It seemed like people were staring at me, which was probably all in my head, but it was just so extremely uncomfortable. I haven’t taken my wedding rings off by the way, and don’t foresee that happening any time in the near future. To be quite honest, I don’t know that I ever will. First of all, even though “death has parted us”, in my heart we are bonded for life, and also, I just don’t see how it’s possible that any other man on the face of this planet could possibly live with the immensely profound shadow that Zack has cast behind me eternally. No one will EVER be able to fill his shoes. Zero. Not that it’s a competition, and not that it’s even of relevance at this point because the thought of giving “all of me” to another man ever again makes me want to vomit. Aside from Christian and Gia there has been no other person who has had 100% of all I am. It was only him, and maybe it was only EVER supposed to be him, just as I was HIS “one and only everything”. I was Zack’s first love, and his last love, and everything in between. We were eachother’s miracles and the answers to the prayers we’d both been praying since probably before we were born. So what are the chances that a love like ours could happen twice in a lifetime? Right now I just can’t see that happening, but whatever. My focus at this point is my kids, me, and my steadfast determination to take whatever steps are necessary in the direction of improving the human condition. I’ve decided to become a life coach people. It happened on the drive BACK from Oklahoma, right around that Highway 82 exit. It just hit me. Not like a ton of bricks, but a mountain of them. I’m GOING to become a life coach, and I’m GOING to get out there and start talking to people about all the things I’ve been through and all the ways I’ve survived.
Now I remember where I was going when I started this post. So let’s go back to the end of the night when we were sitting in Gilley’s listening to the band. Two guys walked up to check out our situation and asked to buy us drinks. I rolled my eyes SO far in the back of my head that I’m still not sure how I couldn’t read the signs on the wall behind me. I said to myself, “Oh God, here we go. I FUCKING HATE THIS! I don’t want this guy, that guy, or any guy EVER to buy me a drink EVER! I just want to go home, and for my husband to be waiting for me when I get there, and for this to all not be real!” My poor friend was doing all that she could to protect me from this scenario. After all, her intention in getting me out was never to get someone to buy me a drink, only to get me out of my head. And I’m glad she did because THIS is what led me to my “Highway 82” life decision …
So the one guy asks about the drink, I was rolling my eyes, and my friend put her arms around me and turned to look at him and said these EXACT words: “Look, we sure do appreciate you but I’m going to kindly ask that you give us some space. Without going into details, my sweet friend here just lost her husband and I needed to get her out for the night which is the only reason we’re sitting here. This week is her birthday, it’s just not a good time for her, and I need you to leave us alone now.” “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that” he said then he turned to me. “Do you mind if I ask what happened?” Really? Ummm, yes, I do mind, but since he had the nerve to ask, I turned to look him straight in the eyes. “He shot himself in the head 23 days ago.” Then I turned back around and rolled my eyes again. To which, he then replied, after five or so awkward seconds of silence, “Oh wow. Just wow. How could he do that to you? Why would he? I just don’t GET IT! Such a permanent solution to a temporary situation. It’s just so selfish when people go and kill themselves. Man that’s just a shame. I’m so sorry for you darlin’. Really. Good night.” Then he left. Thank. GOD.
So here’s what’s wrong with what that guy said: ALL OF IT! Honestly, for a split second I really wanted to punch him in the face, like, violently, not the other kind of “funny” way I wanted to punch Zack earlier that night. And I wanted to scream at him, “NO! YOU’RE WRONG! He didn’t DO THIS to me. He didn’t even DO THIS to himself! He was sick. And in pain. He’d been seeing things. And hearing voices. He had split apart at the seams. He was suffering. And tormented. AND WAY TOO MANY THINGS YOU COULD EVER POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND BECAUSE YOU NEVER WALKED IN HIS SHOES!” But selfish? HE WAS NOT! And I refuse to let that be his legacy. Yet therein lies the problem. The stigma. The misgiving. The untrue truth that so many have to speak to make “the S word” easier to digest.
And thus my “Highway 82 Life Coaching” decision! So many people just don’t get it. THEY SIMPLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND! Because unless you’ve lived it, survived it, or have watched someone dying this way out loud? You CAN’T! It’s “only been 24 days” since my husband died by suicide, and by no means am I professing to be an expert. But I know what I know, and frankly, I’ve BEEN down that dark road Zachariah never made it off of. so I’m GOING to help people understand.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2019: At 8am this morning we were supposed to be taking off on our flight to tour Switzerland for my 50th birthday. Lucerne was to be our first night, and our last, and one of the things I was most looking forward to sharing with him was ”the lion in the wall”. The very one that I myself stood before some 14 years prior while having the first of my many to follow “moments”. At that time, I too was trapped inside the dark and lonely prison of my own mind, a secluded chasm where I was alive but not quite living. So many of my realities back then were nothing more than lies and I but a walking farce. I vividly remember that day as the group I was with headed up this tree-lined path towards something magnanimous our guide was excited to show us. I was looking down at my schedule, not paying much attention, and almost ran in to the person standing in front of me when the group suddenly stopped and turned to look across the pond at “him”. My Lion.
The Lion of Lucerne is rock relief carved into the cliff face of a sandstone sculpted during the early part of the 19th century to commemorate the Swiss Guards who lost their lives in 1792 during the French Revolution. But as I paused to gaze upon him, I saw more than just a fallen soldier. It was in that very moment that I began feeling the plethora of emotions I’d been suppressing behind a fraudulent smile to protect not only myself, but my children especially, from the wreckage to come when I finally started letting it all go.
The Lion. Just look at him lying there slain inside that wall. A beast of many burdens, lifeless and alone with only the precious secrets he’d been carrying within his heart. Weak and weary. Tired and spent. Worn out, solemn and vacant. Life had its way with him and now he’s but a corpse of some unknown past he’d once lived, the demons that had devoured him and the countless private dreams he’d dreamt that never were to be. Despite his years of his perceived magnificence, he is, ”no longer”. Connecting with him in that one still moment screamed to me in ways and volumes that I have yet been able to fathom, but what I can tell you this. That was indeed the turning point when I truly began to “feel” the pain from the broken, jagged pieces that had been cutting me within all the while. Both my stomach and my heart were aching so badly that I literally couldn’t breathe. But to be very honest, it was without question one of THE most beautiful moments of my life.
The Lion is me. And he’s my husband. He is any and everyone who is now or has ever had the daunting task of wandering lost inside their own lonely head and heart just waiting for the day that they’re finally allowed to die. So, with that, as I finish this post, I think that I’ve made a decision: Soon I will go on to Lucerne and offer some of his ashes to that pond beneath my Lion. It’s what I need to do.
“The waters rise. The light declines. But I’m not turning back from here. Voices are crying. Corpses remind that most don’t make it to the end. Look to the sky. Take back what’s mine. This life can be a cemetery. This life can be a shallow grave. I’ll never be a casualty. I’ll never bow before I break. I’ll stand and fight. Until the day I die. I left the known to walk alone ’cause to remain was suicide. The “could’ve been”. Stood up again ’cause not to try was just to die. Maybe I’m wrong. But it’s my right. I’ll face the night. I’ll find the light. Look to the sky. Take back what’s mine. I’ll stand and fight. Until the day I die.” – Like A Storm
As you can see I am desperately trying to be as transparent as possible as I journey through this nightmare I’m living out loud, as I refuse to sit back and let the broken roads each member of this family have traveled thus far have been in vain. My story? HIS story? Gia’s? My son’s? They WILL have made a difference somehow in the life of least one other broken human soul that is lingering in this world somewhere if it takes my own last dying breath to do it. People. Matter.
I have often likened Zack’s personality to that of Robin Williams, one of my favorite comedic actors and icons. Like Robin, my husband was so much larger than life itself. Always smiling. Always positive. Always the biggest presence in the room! He couldn’t stand to see anyone sad, so, he would make us laugh until our effing sides hurt. Yes, he was the biggest clown I’ve ever met! At the same time though, he was “all in serious” about everything he tackled in life, and as witty as he could be, his timing was always perfect. With him? There was a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to play, a time to dig in deep and get to work, but always a time to just “Good Morning Vietnam” it!
Thursday, August 8th, 2019 things truly seemed to be looking up. It was Zack’s day off, but we’d decided to split for the afternoon so that I could take Gia for school shopping and lunch while he went and ran some errands of his own. When he walked out the door he seemed to be in genuinely good spirits, and as you can see from our credit card statement we’d had a productive day. Me? Shopping. Having lunch with our daughter. Living life in the moment and excited for the double date later that night with our sweethearts. We were happy. We had a family. A home. And a daddy and king waiting for us back at that home who loved us more than words could say. He was. Our everything. Our ROCK.
But what about him that day? What DON’T we see in this picture of him smiling at Pinstack? “Our rock” was crumbling right before our eyes and had already made the decision to end his life. The charge you see at “CAB STORE ALLEN”? While we were eating lunch he was at Cabella’s buying the Springfield he put to his head 14 days later. The Parker police have it on video …
So, there you have it. What you see hiding behind another one’s smile isn’t always joy, peace and happiness and these two pictures are a sobering example of this truth. Although we knew he was struggling, no one knew JUST how close to the end of the story he really was. He was dying a slow, painful, agonizing death within the confines of his mind … we just couldn’t see it. He tried not to fall, trust me when I say this, and I’m sorry, not sorry, if this post upsets anyone because perhaps it’s “too transparent”. But there’s a poignant statement being made in these pictures that I felt was too important not to share. “The saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that”.
… when you open up his phone for the first time looking for anything you can possibly find and this is what you see. His “daily affirmation”. He was “doing the best that he could”. I know in my heart. God please let him finally be resting in peace.
Can’t believe I’m finally putting this out into the Universe, but, here I am doing it. As my past mental health issues are multi-faceted, I’m also in my 8th year of recovery from anorexia/bulimia. So on a more personalized note, if you have a daughter or know of a girl struggling with body dysmorphia or an unhealthy relationship with food I WOULD LOVE TO SIT AND TALK WITH HER. No one better understands how to slay a dragon than someone who has done so herself!
“Take a breath. Hold it in. Start a fight. You won’t win. Had enough. Let’s begin. Never mind. I don’t care. All in all, you’re no good. You don’t cry like you should. Let it go if you could when love dies in the end. So I’ll find what lies beneath your sick twisted smile as I lay underneath your cold, jaded eyes. Now you’ve turned the tide on me ’cause you’re so unkind. I will always be here for the rest of my life. Here we go. Does it hurt? Say goodbye to this world. I will not be undone. Come to life. It gets worse. … Don’t carry me under. You’re the Devil in disguise. God sing for the hopeless. I’m the one you left behind.” ~ Breaking Benjamin
It was the second Friday of November 1996 when Jay excitedly asked me to meet him at a church in Sachse where he had been invited by one of my new Christian friends and mentors, “Abby” (who he had also befriended) to attend a Power Team Christian evangelism presentation where he would also later be baptized that as well. He said that he had “something very exciting and important” to tell me that night, and based upon the tone and context of the recent conversations we’d been having I had every reason to believe that he was actually going to propose to me! Imagine my surprise then when after the baptism I was led into a room in the back of the church, where there he was standing, beside Abby and her entire family, a couple of whom I’d really come to admire and respect. It was then that Jay told me “he was so sorry”, but over the last several months, and completely unbeknownst to me, “God had called them together”, they’d fallen madly in love and had been hiding their relationship from me. There I stood, just as I had 20 years before, numb and sick with the same stinging, disconnected pain just beneath the top layer of my skin on the day of the “Spic and Span”. I walked out of the church, heartbroken and alone and just started driving … to Oklahoma City and back.
When I got back to Dallas it was already morning and I had convinced myself that I just needed to LET IT GO! “Pull yourself together Catherine! Shrug it off! Suck it up! Don’t be weak! DON’T FALL!” I proceeded to the regularly scheduled Saturday morning meet with Christian and Him at the mall parking lot for our weekend custody switch, wrecked beyond belief but fervently trying to keep myself from coming unhinged for Christian’s sake. I needed not to let the night before breaking me down completely and at this stage in the game I was already an old pro at “stuffing all the painful things” as far down as possible and pretending they just didn’t exist. But despite my best efforts to keep it all together, I consciously decided to pick a fight with Him so that I could just run away and avoid having to mottle through my weekend visit with Christian. I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, had just experienced the second biggest bombshell of my life, and although I didn’t know it, was less than 15 minutes away from the first of my nervous breakdowns. I went back to my parents’ house where I’d been living at the time and proceeded to swallow every single pill or capsule, I could find in my bathroom cabinets. I JUST WANTED TO “GO HOME”!
The details of that morning were never very clear, but I do remember laying there rocking back and forth and crying that I wanted to be with God. My sister heard me and quickly realized what I had done and called 911. Meanwhile, He and Christian had followed me home because He was concerned that something was “off” with me at our meeting and was worried. My parents were ballistic, and Julie had frantically pulled me out of the bed in a desperate attempt to drag me to the bathroom and make me throw up all the pills. There were flashes of light, like neurons snapping on and off, and fuzzy, swooshing sounds that I can’t really describe with words. Then my Christian, a mere five years old at the time, managed to slip through the chaos and come to me. He too was crying but had taken hold of my wrist and was patting my back as though he were the parent consoling their child. Up to that point, I had been unable to focus on anything in the room, yet I could clearly hear what my son was saying: “Mommy, God’s not ready for you to go home. He wants you to stay here and be my Mom.” It is imperative to note that, although I could see his mouth moving and hear the words he was saying, it was not Christian’s voice that I was hearing. I firmly believe and will never be convinced otherwise that God Himself was speaking to me through my son that day.
I stayed in the hospital for a few days and from there the State had committed me to Green Oaks Hospital where I went underwent intense treatment for clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and also the much needed but sorely delayed rape counseling that I had never actually gotten. My entire family, including Him, was involved in this process, which was something that by then that we were all in dire need of. Looking back, I realize that I didn’t want to die that morning, but I just couldn’t pull myself out of the black hole that I was in. I was lucky. Very lucky. I made it home in time for Christmas that year, feeling lighter and happier than I had in years, clear-headed and focused. And despite the unbelievably selfish horror I had put them all through, my entire family welcomed me home again.
As for him? He never turned back to look and see what he had done to me. It was such an easy choice for him that I should be set out on the curb as mere “unwanted baggage”. For me? He was everything, because I loved him, and I trusted him, and had given him every piece of my already broken heart that I could possibly give. His betrayal “in Jesus’ name” literally murdered my soul. It was indeed my darkest reality and I actually wanted to die.