Night shift was the hardest. Ralph would start drinking in the early afternoon, soon after starting his day. He expected me to sit with him. His jealousy extended to any activity which took me out of the room he was in. His anger would propel him to bring the rifle out of the cupboard terrifying me as he sat loading it or he’d roar off on his bike in a state that put both him and others at risk. As a result not only did I repel friendships but I let the housework suffer. Going to work was my only activity that I crossed him about. It made him feel small that I worked and paid the bills whilst he sat around the house. Night shift was the most difficult, however, as he’d be well on the way to being sozzled and get increasingly angry at my departure.
Tonight was no exception.
“If you go I’m going to top myself.”
“I’m sorry but I have to go. It’s too late to ring up sick.”
“But I need you.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll be home early.”
“You bitch. I won’t be around when you get home. You’ll be sorry.” Ralph was worse than normal tonight. He’d had a letter from his Father which had set him off into a depressive rage early in the day and it hadn’t given up. Alcohol only made him worse and tonight he was smoking dope as well. I left for work worried and feeling guilty for leaving him.
The feeling didn’t leave me. It was difficult to concentrate on my patients. I tried ringing to check that he was okay and tell him again that I was sorry I couldn’t stay but the phone had rung out. When my supervisor came to do her rounds she found me with tears rolling down my face as I performed my duties. Luckily my patient was unconscious and unaware of my distress. For the first time I told someone what was happening at home. Before I knew it she had me down in the psychiatric ward having a consult with the nurse on duty.
“You don’t have to feel guilty and there is no need to apologise.” the nurse said. “If he does put the gun to his head and pull the trigger did you place it there?”
“Exactly. It is his choice. You are not responsible for the choices he makes in life. They are his responsibility and his alone. There is no need for you to apologise for how he acts. You may feel sorry for him but you are not responsible for the actions he takes. You do not need to feel guilty as you are doing nothing.”
For the first time I felt my will to live return. I was not responsible. If he did something it was not my fault. I did not have to apologise or feel guilty. Finally I was capable of making my own choice.
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