Monday, May 10, 2010

St. Dymphna (7th century)

One night, nearly a decade ago, and back when there was a telephone at my house, I received a distressed call from an ex-boyfriend. It was a Friday night, so normally I wouldn't be home. But, by chance, I happened to be watching television.
In muffled and barely distinguishable voice, he said, "I just want you to know, I'm sorry for what I did to you."
It came as a surprise because he was the furthest thing from my mind and he could have been apologizing to me for any number of reasons. Besides, he was never one to admit he was wrong about anything.
Then, he said, "I've taken a bottle of pills," and dropped the telephone receiver.
Had I been a jerk, I'd have hung up the phone and forgotten about him. I'd have thought about his promiscuity and the time he said, "I'm not monogamous, but I don't sleep around" or when he broke my heart, the first time.
But, instead, I tried desperately to help. I thought, "he's a human being and I can't let him die."
I couldn't get a dial tone from my phone because he was still on it. So, I drove very quickly to the police station which was about 12 minutes from my house.
I was told to wait in the lobby, while an ambulance to his house. The dispatcher asked me if his dogs were violent. I said "no," and the EMTs managed to break open the front door to his house.
He was rushed to a local mental hospital where his stomach was pumped and he stayed there for a month under strict medical care.
He had pinned a suicide note to his shirt which his parents later told me about and, although he had a girlfriend at the time, he wrote that I was the only person who truly cared about him despite our differences.
I'm not even sure if that's true from my end, but I visited him for a week or so at the hospital (he refused to see his own parents or brother) until I couldn't take it anymore. All I could think of was what a waste of a life. Now I realize, he couldn't help himself. He's manic depressive bipolar.
I've got to give him one thing, he told me when we first started dating about his illness. But, since I knew him in high school, and he always seemed functional, I thought he was exaggerating. He was tall, dark, and handsome, so a litte bit of self-proclaimed craziness was fine with me.
We dated on and off for 9 years. We had a lot in common including no interst in marriage or children (although he did propose with an engagement ring in desperation at one point) and needing time alone.
Perhaps what I liked best about him was that he'd have sex with me whenever and wherever I wanted: at the top of Narragansett's Hannah Robinson Tower at the junction of Routes 1 and 138 in full view of traffic, driving in his truck on Route 95 in Connecticut in the high speed lane, and in a foot of snow up against a soda vending machine in the village of Harmony.
  Many years after I left him, he said, "I always thought we'd be together no matter what."
  Today, he celebrates his 49th birthday and is as confused as ever. May he find peace in some way.
St. Dymphna, who was born in 7th century Ireland, is the patron saint of depression and mental illness. Her father was an Irish pagan king and her mother a Christian.
When she was 14-years-old her mother died and her father searched far and wide for a similar wife. Since St. Dymphna was the only person like her mother, townspeople suggested to her father that she be the replacement.
The young girl fled to Belgium and her father found her a year later. He cut off her head with a sword. St. Dymphna died a martyr and her feast day is May 15.

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