A life changing moment by Roger Knight
Certain friends I have had, subscribe to the view, that during the course of one’s lifetime, we should enjoy at least one decade trouble free, where our ambitions, longings and aspirations are fulfilled.
I might just qualify for this, during the decade I spent in Sydney, during the 80’s. Recently married, we were living in the inner west of the city, in a Victorian weather board cottage, with views of the harbour bridge. We were both enjoying an ascendency in our careers, enabling an indulgent social life, which included dining out, outings to the theatre and overseas travel. Any thought of this lifestyle coming to an abrupt end, would have been considered anathema at the time.
My wife then, always wanted to have children close together, resulting in our two sons being born only 18 months apart. Her justification for this, at the time, was to consolidate the chore and inconvenience of child bearing and rearing, so she could focus more fully on her career and enjoy her life style. We were both completely unaware at the time, that the seeds of marital destruction had been unwittingly sown, with this ambition.
Returning one evening from an interstate business trip, I noticed that my wife was in an accelerated state, with some pressure of speech. I attributed this to the fact that she was overtired and was in need of a good night’s sleep. In retrospect, it was a very naive assessment of her mental state, and not realising, that we both, were already on the threshold of a life changing crisis.
At around 3.00 am the following morning, our worlds would suddenly change, both brutally and irrevocably. My wife awoke, and in a blink of an eye, I knew, sinkingly, that she was in a florid, psychotic state.
My first thought was to get her to a hospital, but with two small children asleep, this would have been difficult. I thought of calling a friend, to ask them to come over and baby sit, so I could take my wife to hospital, but I was reluctant to disturb anyone at that hour of the morning. I decided to try and contain the situation until daybreak, but in the meantime, my wife had called her parents in Bowral, about a three-hour drive from Sydney and had asked them to come and collect her.
Without any discussion, as I had already been judged as being responsible for causing this crisis, my wife and youngest son were hastily removed and taken down to Bowral. Given, the limited psychiatric facilities there, it wasn’t long before my wife was on the run and at risk. Fortunately, she had notified a friend as to her whereabouts, who had in turn told me.
On arrival in Bowral, with my older son in the back of the car, I reached the health food shop where my wife has sought refuge. By this time, it was more obvious as to her distressed state and the need for specialist psychiatric care. Having dropped my son off at my in laws, I proceeded back to Sydney, having arranged an appointment for my wife with a psychiatrist, that I had worked with at the Prince Henry Hospital. On the way, the police, who had been looking for my wife, pulled me over. After a lot of convincing, they let me proceed on my way. Once again, I was made to feel the perpetrator of this crisis, which only darkened the nightmare that was unfolding in front of me.
My wife was admitted to a private psychiatric hospital in Woollahara, where I had to assist in containing her, to avoid being transferred to a more secure facility. Sleeping on the floor next to her bed, like a beaten dog, was perhaps the nadir of this entire experience.
Despite the diagnosis of post partum psychosis, my wife’s entire family continued to demonize me, as to the cause of her illness. Ironically, I knew then, that this would result in the eventual demise of our marriage, despite my wife’s recovery.
I still reflect on whether this was the price I paid, for enjoying that idyllic decade, or perhaps, this was just some whimsical rationalization to help soften the blow of that life changing event.
Decades on the speed at which an established life can unravel never ceases to astound and sadden me, a reminder that the last act in many a play is often bloody. Although my life has moved on, to a different hemisphere and another marriage, one cannot help but wonder had that life changing moment not occurred, where I would be now and in what circumstances. Life has for me been changed in the blink of an eye which I was thankfully able to recover from. I doubt that I could withstand such sudden change like that again.