Jim & Jane Get Married

I didn’t want to stand up here tonight and simply thank everyone, because I’m sure that not only will others do this in spades, but also that it would be inappropriate of me to have asked you here without offering an explanation as to WHY we’re all here.

I wanted everyone here tonight to know why I asked you to leave your homes, your states or for a great many guests – your countries. Why are you sitting here, a world away from your home at this beautiful venue surrounded by people who you may have not met before and may never meet again? The truth is, there’s a story. A story about an old friend of mine. A story that I have permission from said friend to tell you all tonight. In return he has asked me to relay one seemingly simple request – After hearing his story he has asked that you do not pity and most importantly, if you ever somehow meet him, don’t think any less of him.

Jim's WeddingJim was a guy who was at the top of his game both in terms of his career and his outside life. I worked with him in the Police Force for years and never knew of anyone who loved his job more. Jim had a girlfriend Jane ( unfortunately they aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend anymore) who was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. To many, they were the perfect couple, living the dream, with not a care in the world. Until one day. Whilst in the performance of his duties, Jim attended an incident that he was ill equipped to handle, physically, emotionally and most importantly mentally. Although he was blissfully unaware of this fact at the time the harsh reality was that this night would be the beginning of the end for him. At the time, Jim was a young man in his early 20’s. He was immensely fit and frequented the gym almost everyday of the week. Physically, although only standing at 5,10″ he could take it up to even the biggest of crooks. He felt bulletproof behind the blue suit he was wearing and protected with a 50,000 volt taser and a gun strapped to his thigh. In his MIND he was unstoppable, however ironically his mind was the one thing that did stop him.

The incident played out in a way that will forever be etched into the gray matter of his brain. Like many nights on the road he was somewhat scared. Not so much about the dangers that awaited in the community but more so about the suits that lay in waiting internally and externally if crap was to ever hit the fan. Alas he fronted up to the challenge and did what he believed to be right at the time. It wasn’t until after the job was done and the screams and cries were long gone that Jim started to think. He knew there would be repercussions but he was not mentally prepared for the months of internal and legal battles to follow. To make matters worse, he felt alone. Externally he was surrounded by his ever supportive family however internally he was expected to put it all away and lock the door. The culture of bravado and boys-own which he initially fell in love with, was toxic to his mental wellbeing when it mattered the most. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months and everyday the small seed of doubt in his mind grew like a cancer. He woke up with a doubt, the doubt turned into a “what-if” and the “what-if” turned into a story. By day’s end the story that had festered in his mind for hours turned to reality. He would be at work dreaming of the story and second guessing his present day decisions. He would finish work and drive home all the while wondering who was out to get him next. As he crawled into bed, he tried everything to turn the switch in his mind off. Medications , alcohol, relaxation, none of them worked and he’d find himself tossing and turning until he was too exhausted to think anymore. He’d sleep off and on for a few hours, however sleep was never the escape he craved. When he wasn’t dreaming up stories with his eyes open, he was living through the nightmare with his eyes closed.

Eventually it all became too much for him. He mentally checked out and his mind broke down. I remember the day he told me he got admitted into hospital. He was beyond embarrassed and I’m ashamed to say, so was I. To cut a long story short, Jim spent in excess of 6 weeks stuck inside a psychiatric hospital where he underwent an intensive drug regime based upon essentially trial and error. During The first 3 weeks I would pop my head in every now and then but my visits were fleeting at best. When I was there I was able to see the shell of man I once knew. He was sick in every sense of the word and was unable to eat or drink on his own because of the constant shaking caused by the cocktail of foreign drugs coursing through his bloodstream.

After 3 weeks, I visited once again. Nothing was working. The hole he was in was beginning to look like his grave. I remember him telling me about his darkest day. They day he made his father cry. Nothing was working, no amount of drugs made him see clearly. He ran out of the hospital crying, feeling helpless and above all worthless. Among the collective brains of the hospitals myriad doctors the next and possibly last resort was clear. Electro convulsive therapy, or ECT as it is more commonly known. When he eventually returned to his room after storming out of the hospital he was placed on a strict 24 hour watch. He wasn’t allowed to do anything without being watched by hospital staff. He couldn’t go to the toilet on his own and when time came for sleep, that too was in company with a hospital nurse. The next morning he was woken at 5am sharp. They instructed him to swallow some medicine and said it would help with the pain. After about an hour they wheeled him into a white room no bigger than a small office. Electrodes were stuck on his head and although he was scared to death at what was about to happen, he remained as calm as he could trying to rekindle the sense of bravado which had been stripped of him many moons ago. They told him he wouldn’t feel it. They said he’d wake up with no recollection of what was going to happen. Count down from 5 they said. 4, 3, 2. Gone. The draconian procedure of inducing a seizure by way of direct electrical currents has come along way over the decades. It is considered a final and last resort for people diagnosed with severe depression, psychosis and or suicidal tendencies.

They were right, he didn’t feel it, how could he? He was under anaesthetic. What they failed to say, or perhaps he had forgotten, was that when he woke up, he would be in excruciating pain. Naturally, the seizure had contracted every muscle in his body, the most affected however were the muscles closest to where the electrodes were placed – his head and face. His head was pounding, his jaw was locked, but in that moment the most painful thing was the guilt, the embarrassment, the shame.

I popped my head in shortly thereafter before Jane even had the chance to come in herself. Jim told me he was nervous as to what Jane would say, what she would do, or even how she would look at him. He described it as feeling like he was taking the walk of shame back home after a heavy night of drinking and frivolity, he wasn’t sure how she would react. Later that day however she came to see him – like she had done, every single day since his admission. Jane walked in without a second thought, smiled at him and embraced him whilst he let out an outpouring of emotions.

It was at this point that Jim realised how lucky he truly was. You see, Jim’s family, his parents and sister HAD to be there regardless of whether they wanted to or not. It was incumbent on them to provide unwavering support regardless or their personal opinions or beliefs, which to be truthful were questioned at times. Fortunately for Jim, his family were the type of family that would do just that. He owes them more than he could ever repay. However, here was Jane. A girl he had met on a night out in a bar 3 years prior. They weren’t engaged or married, they had no dependents or financial ties. They were simply boyfriend and girlfriend. Personally I thought their relationship was doomed to fail the moment he went into hospital. Alas, something quite rare and extraordinary happened. She chose to stand by him. She chose to commute over 100kms nearly every day to sit hours upon hours next to him. She put her life on hold and even kept this ordeal a secret from her own family for weeks after being asked to do so by Jim out of embarrassment. Jim could tell it was tough on her, he knew her well enough to know when she was having a bad day herself and yet admirably she never admitted it in front of him. During this time the two became closer than ever before and when I went to visit Jim a couple weeks after he first started ECT I was gobsmacked at the progress he had made. For the first time in many months Jim appeared happy, he laughed and smiled and joked and wasn’t a prisoner to his own thoughts. For all the pain it had caused, physically and emotionally, ECT had seemingly done it’s job.

Jim spent another 3 weeks in hospital receiving the treatment he so desperately needed. Eventually however the time came to leave. Jim had stumbled into hospital as a broken shell of a boy and walked out a far stronger man both physically and mentally. The last I saw of Jim was on the day he left hospital. When Jim’s parents and Jane were out of the room finalising the paperwork, he turned to me and uttered the words “Never again”.

I rarely see Jim these days, in fact the tables have turned, instead of going to see him, every so often he visits me. I know when he’s coming though, often on days I’m most stressed out and suffice to say his presence is extremely unwelcome.

As I said at the start, unfortunately Jim and Jane are no longer boyfriend and girlfriend. They are however married. Yes it’s true and most, if not all of your here tonight would have already worked it out now, the man who was Jim became a husband today, at around 4 o’clock, at a place known as Mason Mill, to the girl who showed him that through good times and very bad she would never leave, she would stay, not because she HAD to, but because she wanted to. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together. For Jane, also known as Zoie.

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