The next few weeks were the scariest of my life. There were plenty of friends, family and medical staff who weren’t happy with my wifeor shocked or disappointed or confused, all echoes of my own emotions. She apparently had started making a list of problems in our marriage dating back to high school and college which she was sharing with people, which frankly were all legitimate but no one could quite understand why she was walking away in this manner or at this timing.
Eventually, a couple of weeks after she left, I would tell her daycare because I wanted them to notice if Kiana was having any weird “side effects” from it. Kiana had apparently told them that mom had left but they had assumed from having interacted with both her and I separately and together with our family unit at school functions that divorce had nothing to do with it. One of the staff thought that the two were staying elsewhere just to give me space to heal and not be overwhelmed by a small child. They were just as confused as I was as the last thing I did on those tours where I visited everyone was give out a picture of our family, my life’s most meaningful thing and the happy hour had been about our dream book, the list of things that two kids had made of what to chase down during life.
Well, the giving space to heal wasn’t true butd I was overwhelmed by the small child and once it started hitting on me that this was a far more dramatic problem than I had initially internalized, I also started panicking. A few friends who thought I’d been putting on a front of bravery about brain cancer were reminded that I don’t have much of a poker face. I started turning to a variety of friends for help with Kiana both because 1) there were lots of things that I had done rarely or not at all that her mom had always done 2) my energy level was still much below my threshold and 4 year olds aren’t just easy to guard.
A few months before, I’d had a seizure and snuck out a hospital to run 8 miles and ran 14 a few days after a brain biopsy. I had gone back to running with less than 2 weeks after a massive brain surgery. It would be over a month after she left before I ran again. While I had problems because of them moving me due to the driving episode, I’d done well at work overall. But with and because I was working so hard to keep it together in front of Kiana, the director of my work department and his supervisor, both sat me down and told me that it was clear that my personal life was affecting my work performance and that if I needed to take some time off that I should immediately or I may well be putting my job in jeopardy. The doctor who had once been tickled to death about my results was now getting concerned about my health. Appropriately enough, I was having tension and heart problems and while the assumption that this was stress related, made some people nervous as I was nowhere near recovered from the surgery itself and the hole in my brain was refilling. My heart being in a different rhytm meant that two critical organs weren’t at their “normal” level. My brain was literally rewiring and both friends and medical staff were concerned that it would rewire around stress and grief. Most of our brains don’t wire as an adult but this is why they tell pregnant women to avoid those things because it could then become part of the hardware of their children.
My wife, in a mode I’d never seen her in, seemed incredibly indifferent about how any of this was affecting me. She made remarks that I can’t imagine saying to anyone I’ve always hated much less someone who I’d shared half my life with like “I don’t give a damn about your medical problems or your medical bills.” My friend Todd, as mild mannered as guys come, sent her a kind email to which she replied, “You don’t know me and you don’t know shit.” In an argument on another day, she stated coldly and flatly “Well I didn’t get brain cancer.” She would add that she’d talked to people who told her how the fact she left was affecting me wasn’t her fault and while I suppose we’re all responsible for our own emotions, I know no human who is an island and has them completely in control. I’d been with this girl for 14 years and I couldn’t recognize her.
I told my neurologist about all that was going on and he suggested that I let Kiana go with her mother or to get a roommate. As much as I hated the thought I tried to make this happen. I tried to call her but she wouldn’t take the call and texted me to turn to my friends and family for whatever I needed. Luckily, life had blessed me with some very good friends and family: people became aware and helped and came over for playdates, to listen and let me vent, to feed me, they came in pairs where one would babysit and the other would go run with me to try to help me reestablish a rhythm, to restore health. But my anxiety and stress levels got so high that I did something by medical recommendation that I never thought I would do, take a prescription without hesitation. I had not taken pain pills for my brain biopsy but now trying to not let my brain rewire incorrectly I accepted a prescription for an anti anxiety medication. I had accepted a death sentence a few months before that now looked that it may be avoided but for the first time in my life, I had to accept that circumstances had overwhelmed my capacity to completely control my emotions. For the first two weeks I was on it, my mother took time off to come and stay with me for two weeks and be a presence in Kiana’s life and mine. My heart breaking had echoed and expanded the cracks into my pride.