When Karen crossed the finish line at the Glasgow Kiltwalk and saw her mum, she burst out crying. It had been almost three years since her husband died by suicide. She did the Kiltwalk with their daughter, in his memory, and was ready to draw a line.
“I’m finished now,” she told her mum. “I have to move on.”
Karen met Mark* when she was 18. They had a daughter three years later, and a son three years after that.
Then Mark started to drink. A lot.
Their second daughter came another three years later. And then the domestic violence began.
In the following years, Karen and the children were moved to safe houses and re-homed. Mark was charged and banned from seeing his kids. Mark promised that things would change, and they got back together, but it was always the same. He worked away a lot, but always came home with no money – a problem with gambling as well as alcohol. When he fell off some scaffolding drunk, he lost his job, and after that he didn’t work again.
Eventually, things got too much for Karen, and shortly before her 40th birthday she attempted suicide. For the next four years she was in and out of hospital constantly, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.
Karen was out Christmas shopping in 2015 when Mark phoned, clearly drunk. She’d had enough and told him she wanted him out of the house by the time she got back. When she arrived home later with her daughter, they found him dead.
Karen’s memories of this are hazy. She remembers trying to resuscitate him, even though she knew there was no point. Paramedics and police arrived and she was interviewed. The priest was called for his last rites. Then he was taken away.
Three days after the funeral, Karen was detained in hospital. A few months later, while on a day visit home, she attempted suicide again. She remembers her mum coming to visit the following day. “I looked at her and I thought, what am I doing? Why would I want to leave my kids and grandkids? I saw the effect my husband’s suicide had on the family – we were devastated. Why would I want to do that to them?”
Karen was discharged a few months later, and is determined that that was her last stay in hospital. “I’m not going back. I don’t want to go back, I don’t like it.”
Karen has a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN), a psychiatrist, and is on a lot of medication. She struggles to recognise when she’s getting depressed again, and relies on other people noticing it in her. She’s scared in case she gets back into that hole again, but luckily she has a supportive family, as well as a new partner, who she recently got engaged to.
She describes her new partner as a lovely man – totally different to Mark – but admits that she finds it hard being in a relationship.
“I feel as if I don’t deserve him. If he does something nice for me, I’m always looking for an ulterior motive. I just don’t trust people. I’m always apologising to him, and to the rest of my family, even if I haven’t done anything. I don’t know why I do that.
“But I think myself lucky. I have a great family. I’m so thankful. They keep me going.”
*Not real name