John's Story

“She worked her way up in her career to the top of her game very fast. The more she was promoted, the more different she became. Our evening discussions centred on how to beat men at work, which she did easily. We had three children, now 21, 19 and 14. She went back to work within three months of the first two. After the third we decided I’d become a stay at home dad. I lost my identity. As she battled with her own anxiety it came out she’d had an affair with a partner at work. I tried to support her saying, “let’s sort out your anxiety and fix the rest later.” However, when I did the maths I worked out she’d had the affair while we were trying to conceive our third child. I sank to my knees. The children were in bed; I started sobbing on the kitchen floor. That was the last time I made an effort to maintain my marriage. When we separated she went for the jugular and alienated my children from me. We went to child focus mediation and agreed on a deal to take it in turns looking after our children, week about. We’d just signed the agreement when she pulled out some other papers. “I know you’re sick, this is so you don’t have to worry about the mortgages,” she said. The next day I went to the ATM, my card was declined. The papers I signed had blocked me from all our joint accounts. I had no money.”

John is a father in his 50's living in NSW. This is his story in his words. Alterations have been made solely to preserve confidentiality.

“My wife was 21 when I met her, I married her when she was 24. I loved her innocence and great life ethic.

As time went on, she became a different person to the one I married.

She worked her way up in her career to the top of her game very fast. The more she was promoted, the more different she became.

Our evening discussions centred on how to beat men at work, which she did easily.

We had three children, now 21, 19 and 14.

She went back to work within three months of the first two.

They went into day care very early.

After the third we decided I’d become a stay at home dad.

In hindsight that was a mistake. I lost my identity.

When I was 19 I was diagnosed with major depression, generalised anxiety disorder and OCD. Combining the three gives you a picture of what hell on earth looks like. From the moment we started courting, my wife was very supportive of my illness.

Then I found myself at home with a 7-year-old, 5-year-old and a newborn.

She had postnatal depression.

As she battled with her own anxiety it came out she’d had an affair with a partner at work.

I tried to support her saying, “let’s sort out your anxiety and fix the rest later.”

However, when I did the maths I worked out she’d had the affair while we were trying to conceive our third child.

I became paranoid they might not be mine.

My depression, anxiety and OCD all kicked in.

My mental health was destroyed.

I was incapable of any clear thoughts to make any decisions.

My marriage was in a lot of trouble.

I’d been going for ECT before we separated. I’ve probably had ECT 40 times. It never worked for me; I would wake up sobbing and hysterical.

Once, I was in hospital having treatment, she came in and discharged me because we were due to fly to Hamilton Island for her work conference.

We would stay on after the conference for a few more days with one of her partners and his wife.

That partner is now her husband.

Looking back it made sense, he would often be invited to family functions I thought he had no right to attend and come to early morning personal training session with her at my home.

Other times I was really sick in hospital, she would make excuses to not come and see me.

The greater her sun shined at work, the worse things became for me at home.

After our separation many people I know made comments like she was made for the corporate world not motherhood.

One night I called her work colleague and begged him to stay away.

We were trying to save our marriage.

His reply was, “I’ll do whatever she wants to do.”

I sank to my knees.

The children were in bed; I started sobbing on the kitchen floor. That was the last time I made an effort to maintain my marriage.

When we separated she went for the jugular and alienated my children from me.

We went to child focus mediation and agreed on a deal to take it in turns looking after our children, week about.

We’d just signed the agreement when she pulled out some other papers.

“I know you’re sick, this is so you don’t have to worry about the mortgages,” she said.

The next day I went to the ATM, my card was declined.

The papers I signed had blocked me from all our joint accounts.

I had no money.

My brother is a lawyer and gave me money to survive.

I got sicker and sicker.

I wasn’t able to have my children; I was too sick and money was tight.

She was earning over $550,000.

I got a call from the police saying I needed to go in as they were going to arrest me.

When my brother arrived they were trying to fingerprint me, which they didn’t have the right to do.

I had a 6-month intervention order placed on me.

I may have sworn during the conversation that triggered it, but it wasn’t any worse than arguments we’d had before.

The judge made it as hard as possible for me to see my children.

I once wanted to pick up my child from school but when I asked, the judge said, “If you do, the police will be waiting for you”.

I wasn’t a threat. I was a very sick man. I simply didn’t have coping mechanisms.

My brother kept me alive for eight years.

I woke up every morning and was close to the white line; the white line is the final stop before suicide.

I was at that white line for eight years.

Sometimes I could work, sometimes I couldn’t.

My brother would ring me every evening on his way home from work; his words would keep me alive until the next day.

Around six years ago I met Amy, if my brother kept me alive, Amy has given me the gift of life.

Two years ago I was experiencing psychosis. It was terrifying.

I had a voice in my head saying I should end my life in the most horrible of ways.

The voice told me I was worthless.

When I finally confessed this to Amy, she immediately made arrangements to check me into hospital. After two weeks in hospital and lots of counselling I was heading home with a heap of leaflets.

One of those was for DIDs. I called the number and got to speak to a guy called Pete, who later became the CEO.

He told me a bit about what they did.

The next day he called and asked if I’d be going to the meeting on Wednesday.

I couldn’t believe he’d called.

I thought, “This guy must really care about his job”.

I’ll never forget my first meeting. There were 13 men in that room; four of them were sobbing uncontrollably.

Men were talking without judgement. It was incredible.

All these men had been smashed by their wives.

They’d all been alienated from their children.

They have circle of chairs in the meeting room; in the middle is an orange chair for the men who haven’t made it through their breakup alive.

No one sits on that chair.

I kept looking at the chair thinking, “If I become that orange chair what will that do to my kids?”

Suddenly, I had clarity.

My son turned 21 in earlier this year.

A year ago I would never have imagined I could host his 21st. At his request I hosted it and spoke for an hour about what my son means to me.

At 16, my other son got involved with drugs. His mother kicked him out. I brought him home to live with me.

Two years later he still lives with me and is achieving in life.

As for the youngest, I keep all the birthday and Christmas cards he writes to me because I am his hero.”

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