The hotel receptionist said she would contact the out of hour’s doctor and they would ring me ASAP, the wait felt like an eternity and I was worried that Niall would get back to the room before the call.
When the English speaking doctor finally rang, my suicidal feelings dispersed, I just felt stupid and guilty that I may have taken him away from his family Christmas.
“I can’t sleep” I said. “I’ve been travelling and the insomnia is making me depressed.” The ‘elephant in the room’ non-wedding still not mentioned.
“I’ll write a prescription for something to help you sleep,” he said calmly. “You can pick it up at reception in the morning.”
“Thanks” I said, concerned that although Niall may not find out about my call from the doctor, there would likely be an extra bill when we checked out.
I felt better knowing that if I didn’t sleep tonight, I could take the pills in the morning. I tried to step outside of my experience, think about what I could do to feel better, I had so much experience now as a counsellor and my Samaritan volunteering, but why was I such a ‘wounded healer’? I thought, what a good idea it would be to have multi lingual Samaritans on duty 24 hours at every hotel in the world, I wondered about the many celebrities and business people who were found dead in hotel rooms. I wondered whether Princess Diana felt suicidal at times, I’d watched her documentary the month before on Panorama, she’d had bulimia too and had put the disorder on the map so others didn’t feel so shameful, she was alright, maybe I was too? But she had kids , more to live for …. and so it went on. I wrote down my thoughts, using up all the hotel stationery, I would read these out to Ian on my return, so he could really understand how low I could get. I tried to get to sleep again, counting past boyfriends in my head, it seemed more interesting than counting sheep but left me feeling like a failure again.
A few hours later and Niall still hadn’t returned, remembering it would be daytime in England I slung on the purple and green ‘non’ wedding beach dress and walked back to the empty reception. I asked the night receptionist if I could make a call to England.
“Gill, it’s me”
“Happy Christmas!” she said. “Or was yours yesterday? This is gonna cost you a fortune”
“Just wanted to hear your voice”
“You not having a good time?”
“It’s just shit. I think we’re splitting up” I sobbed, not caring what the reception staff thought of me.
“Ok, you’re back soon, try to make the most out of it. Do you want to stay at mine for a bit when you come home?”
“Maybe, thanks. I’m gonna check flights home in the morning. I’ll ring you again when I’m home.”
“Bye darling. You’ll be fine. Christmas is shit anyway, wherever you are.”
I don’t know what time Niall came to bed but I slept through. In the morning I went back to reception to see if I could get flights back to England sooner but it was practically and financially hopeless. I didn’t feel the need for the prescription so mentioned nothing of it, neither did the receptionist. Back at our room Niall was up and we packed to go to our honeymoon destination, both in a lighter mood. Now the ‘non’ wedding day was over we could move on – a little.
On arrival at Treasure Island we were greeted with garlands and a welcome song by the authentic Fijian clan who owned and worked the land and the resort.
“Congratulations” said the Treasure Island receptionist as he took our cases and showed us to our bure on the beach.
“Thank you” I said. “They’ll be free bubbly.” I nudged Niall, my humour returned. He had forgotten to tell the resort about the ‘non’ wedding/honeymoon, the bed in our bure was covered in rose petals, a congratulations sign, origami towels in the shape of a heart (no birds this time) and the expected bottle of bubbly with two champagne glasses.
“Let’s get fucked” I said, popping the bottle.
The ‘non’ honeymoon wasn’t nearly so bad as the ‘non’ wedding, just a few wobbly moments and arguments when we were left to our own devices. I quickly got into The island lifestyle, I loved the large and beautiful Fijian women who soon had me measured up and making me a grass skirt, bra and headdress to flaunt around the beach in. The men were fit as fuck and played their light reggae sounds at every available moment, as their music lifted my esteem with ukulele and mandolins, the heaviness in my legs lightened and I was able to jog in and out of the little aqua waves, meters away from our bure.
With a Barcardi and coke from the minibar I saw in the new year of 1996 alone on the beach in the front of our bure. I watched fireworks from all over Fiji touching the stars, the coloured explosions awakening my creativity, why had it left me? Why hadn’t I got my ukulele with me? I was determined to be more creative this next year. Niall had always said he needed space, I would give him all the space he needed, or maybe it was just me he needed space from? Maybe I was too much for him? Maybe I was too much for anyone? I was never far away from darker thoughts.
On return to our bure after our final breakfast on Treasure Island the maid had made an origami elephant with our towels. We’d already showered and the towels remained intact as a centre piece in the honeymoon bure, we propped an envelope on the elephant’s trunk with our tip, the elephant to remain in the room, perhaps as a symbol of our difficulty in communicating with each other.
Back in England our relationship rubbed along until my birthday in the June when Niall got a job out of London and moved out of the flat. We’d lasted two years. He wrote me a letter the following week, a kind, honest, well thought out letter, admitting that the decision to split was his own, not his parents. He apologized deeply for hurting me, he listed my attributes that he envied, he told me there were times I’d intimidated him with my strength of personality and he acknowledged that was coming from his childhood stuff. He reassured me he wouldn’t leave me stranded financially re my job as his company secretary. But ultimately, I wasn’t for him, he didn’t want me.
I wrote back, with a kind and honest, well thought out letter expressing sadness and frustration that we weren’t able to work things out, “I too felt intimidated at times with our differences, especially financially, that was my stuff, I did always pay my way and had we got married I know my father would have contributed greatly to our wedding and trip around the world. I feel so sad that all the work we did put into our relationship and this new-found honesty will not be used for us as a couple, of course this work will not be wasted, but that does not feel relevant at this time of grieving. I deeply care for your well-being and happiness.” I tagged an M. Scott-Peck quote at the bottom of the letter, corny I know, but I hoped it had meaning for us both.
‘If you are determined not to risk pain, then you must do without many things: having children, getting married, the ecstasy of sex, the hope of ambition, friendship – all that makes life alive, meaningful and significant’
For Niall, my requests for more intimacy were met with rejection, I was too much for him and I was needing to be needed and so frightened of rejection I would go along with anything and everything, I had serious work to do on myself, despite all my therapy, but how could I change who I was? I’d already tried to do that. Was it just my personality? I was who I was surely? I was confused as fuck.
A few weeks later my father made an unexpected visit to my flat. This was the first time either of my parents had visited me in any of my london accommodations. Despite Niall’s financial generosity I was in some difficulty and it seemed my parents were actively concerned about me now I was living on my own again, and disabled. I had sorted out some social benefits and was in the process of looking into getting a motability car with disability living allowance. Ian had told me he was retiring as a psychotherapist and we were working towards ending our relationship. In the light of my struggle in communicating with Niall, I felt I wasn’t ready to end, I had so many things I needed to talk with him about, there were pieces of the jigsaw yet to be found, but at least I had some time to work on my puzzle.
“I see a woman with MS” said Dad, having a rest from mowing my small yet large garden for a one bed council flat. My Dad had recently retired from his job as a welfare officer but was continuing to visit pensioners as a volunteer. “She’s a lovely woman, a spinster, she lives alone, she’s quite happy with her life.”
I knew Dad was trying to be kind, but it irritated the fuck out of me and I wanted to tell him to fuck off, instead I cried. He carried on with the mowing, he couldn’t cope with my tears, or any upset, but he knew he’d said the wrong thing.
“I want a family,” I said, unplugging the mower and chucking the lead at him from the kitchen window. He put the mower away in my tiny shed and I made us a cup of tea. We sat on my wooden pub type bench in the garden.
“I don’t care about your spinster old lady, that’s not me, I want to be normal, like everyone else, I want a husband, kids, all that normal stuff.” I sobbed and sobbed.
My father did what he could only do and gave me some money to tide me over and pay for Ian’s next therapy bill. Ian was doing my parents job, my father right now paying for it, literally – ironic.
Another few weeks later I did what I should have done years ago, and perhaps this was partly what Niall had meant re him needing space from me, I needed an outlet to explore MS, come to terms with it in a way I hadn’t before. I got in contact with the MS society (ironic again as my parents had a standing order for £20 a month with them). The Society directed me to a local MS group in Bermondsey where I met two women I grew to adore, for the first time I had friends who I could talk with, outside of my therapist, friends who were up for talking about mortality, relationships and MS. Friends who I could call upon to talk about the basics of life with MS, they understood and we laughed and laughed.
Friends however could not take away my longing for a relationship. I was 33 now, every time I got a period it was like a tick toc, tick toc, a time bomb, if I didn’t sort out my shit I feared I would become that spinster in a one bed council flat being ‘quite’ happy.