There’s enough potential shame here to swallow a person whole.
I remember the suffocating shame that washed over me immediately After Tony did what he did… it felt crippling. I remember the morning After, at the local shops, early, and I bought a magazine while my friend got me cigarettes, just because this glossy piece of tat had a huge, black pair of sunglasses attached to it… and I needed to hide.
It was the most awful, ugly quicksand, a shame that burned my cheeks and slouched my posture and licked flames at everything I held close. And I raged desperately against it, pawing at a current that moved too quickly. I chose to take this awful truth I’d lived through and spread it wide and far– to scream out from the highest points I could find that I was not ashamed, that this was not something I would be ashamed of. I made the choice to approach every second of this with unflinching honesty, to tell the world, and, eventually, my babies; the truth– that the man I loved took his own life.
But that doesn’t make him any less of a man.
There was a waiting silence on the fringes if my life… most of the people in Tony’s life would have been happy enough to grieve this quietly, to allow the method of his death to be diluted and ignored until, given a few years, it would be a story, unconfirmed fact and urban legend. The offer was there, unspoken in quiet declarations of “It wasn’t really a suicide, just an accident...”
And I could have taken that silence and run with it. In the face of no resistance, it would have been easy.
But I would have lived the rest of my life in a screaming, silent glass house of agony, all the horror and pain I’ve written out over and over again on this blog stuck somewhere in my soul instead… thick black tar that would eventually solidify into a on oily bitterness, I possible to wash out of myself.
I could feel it closing in. From the suggestion that maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone anything until we knew if he would live– we could pass it off as something other than a suicide attempt, perhaps; to the shocked reactions when I first posted what happened on a blogger’s forum, the suggestions that I should take it down (and an eternal thank you to Brenda from DP for allowing me to make that decision, and for taking steps to protect my privacy by moderating membership requests– beautifully handled, Lady B, and I am so grateful for your candor and love).
And so the choice became– yield. Give in to the sense of impending shame, hang my head. Lie– a heart attack, a car accident; but without that lie being my choice.
Live the rest of my life, suffocating.
Or the other– change the rules, change the game. Take full advantage of the fact that all bets were off, that my life had changed irrevocably. Blog it, write it down and publish it, every horrible ugly detail.
And decide for myself that there was no shame to be had here, not now, not ever.
There is no shame in mental illness. No more than a broken ankle.
I don’t feel that shame a lot anymore, and I’m eternally grateful that I allowed myself to make it a choice, and that I did what felt like the right thing to do. I still see that sense of embarrassment that I think I’m supposed to feel reflected in the slight drop of the eyelids of others when I tell them for the first time… those that haven’t read my blog already, anyway.
That reflected shame always takes me by surprise, now. I rarely lie about how Tony died anymore, and when I do, I don’t feel bad.
This Friday night, the 18th May 2012, there’s something happening at the Military College, Duntroon, in the ACT. entry is a gold coin donation, and kick off is at 6:30pm.
It’s just a rugby match.
But it’s named after my husband. The Tony “Toz” Dwyer charity shield match. It will be a yearly event.
And fuck that stigma. Fuck any shame.
I couldn’t be prouder.
To Darrell, who happened to come across my blog last year and made this amazing offer– thank you. I don’t think I’ve filled expressed how honored and full of gratitude I am– nor have I told you how totally stoked Tony would have been, having something so bloke–y and man-orientated named after him.
If anyone’s in the ACT and would like to come along, please do– I’ll be there, come and find me and say hello.
If you’re not in the area, you won’t miss out, of course– I’ll blog it all next week.
And I’ll do it with my heart swelling with pride for the awesome man my husband was.
I see you, stigma, and I say– bite me.