Before you read this, I want to explain something. This one was a dream I had. I withheld posting it because of the subject matter for a long time. I am not advocating for suicide. I am simply relaying a dream that deals with a very painful and personal matter to me. When my daughter was 6 she was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. Her last two weeks were spent in a chemically induced coma. You cannot imagine the pain and anguish she endured. Sometimes, you just can't take any more pain. If this one offends, I am sorry you feel that way.
Sometimes, it just doesn't get better.
She was in pain. She hated her job. She didn't want to go out. She didn't want to be around people. She only wanted to drink. And forget. To feel nothing. To have nothing matter. And that scared her more than anything. So, she called off work, and went to the doctor. She told him every thought, every feeling, every sip of liquid courage she downed.
He gave her three things. The number of a good therapist, a prescription for Asendin, and a warning about staying away from alcohol. She filled the Rx, placed the phone number on her fridge, and poured out the rum.
He noticed the change in her fairly quickly. Sheldon might have noticed sooner, but Penny had gotten out of the habit of visiting very much. Sheldon had enjoyed the increased alone time at first, but he was beginning to really miss her. So, he decided to ask her to join them for Halo. He ignored the glare Leonard gave him when he mentioned it. Leonard and Penny had broken up a month earlier. Leonard couldn't keep acting like a baby forever.
Sheldon knocked on Penny's door and it opened almost immediately. Penny gazed at him expressionlessly. Sheldon narrowed his eyes. There was something different about her. He couldn't quite place it. "Penny, it is Halo night. Would you care to join us?"
She shrugged her shoulders and walked across the hall. Sheldon looked at her with a bit of worry. Slowly he closed her apartment door and walked back into 4A. Howard was setting up the controllers and Raj was opening a beer so he could speak. Leonard was sitting in the armchair, facing away from Penny. Penny was sitting on the couch, on the opposite end from his spot. Sheldon frowned and moved to sit down.
He looked at Penny expectantly, waiting on her to move over into her spot but she only gazed around the room neutrally. "Penny, you will be my partner," he said firmly. She shrugged and reached for a controller. Howard and Raj looked at each other in surprise and then at Sheldon. Leonard continued ignore her.
"Okay," Penny said calmly.
They started the game when they realized she wasn't going to say anything else. After three battles Sheldon called an end to the game. Penny set the controller down and stood up. "Good night," she said simply and walked out.
All four men stared at the door in shock. Sheldon turned and glared at Leonard. "If you are just going to mope, Penny won't come over anymore. She is obviously uncomfortable because of your behavior."
Leonard glared at him. "She broke my heart! She can't expect me to just get over it! And neither can you!" Then he stormed off.
"I've never seen Penny play so badly," Raj said. "I killed her four times."
Howard smirked. "On the plus side, she didn't get mad when we killed her character."
Sheldon stared at the door again. Penny was obviously upset. As a friend he should try to cheer her up. Only, he didn't have the slightest clue how.
Sheldon didn't see her again until Saturday. He was surprised and disappointed to find her already in the laundry room Saturday night. Surprised because she didn't usually get there until 8:30. Disappointed because she was already folding her clothes. He quickly separated his loads and started the washers. He turned and watched her for a moment.
"Penny, how are you today?" he asked.
She shrugged, not looking up. "Fine."
Sheldon frowned. He moved to stand nearer. "Penny, are you upset with me? You are not usually this quiet."
Penny looked over at him blandly. "No. I'm not upset, Sheldon."
He watched her hands for a moment. There was something strange going on. She wasn't wearing make-up, not that she needed it in his opinion. Her nails were unpainted. Penny never left her nails unpainted. She was always a riot of pinks and reds.
"Penny, I can't help noticing you aren't acting in your usual manner. You are quiet and withdrawn. Is it because of Leonard?" he asked gently.
Penny paused and frowned, her eyes taking on a far-off expression. "No. I don't feel upset or anything. I don't have much to say, I guess. Sorry if it bothers you." She folded the last shirt and placed it on top of the others. Then she picked up her basket and walked away with a simple "good night".
On Sunday he tried to discuss Penny with his friends, but after a few minutes Leonard erupted.
"Penny's depressed? Good! She tore out my heart. I didn't deserve that. I hope she regrets it for a long time!" he said before storming out of the paintball shed and promptly getting eliminated. Howard and Raj were a bit more concerned, but they were of the opinion that it was just fallout from the break-up. Sheldon wasn't convinced. Penny and Leonard had broken up badly before and Penny hadn't been this way.
He tried to talk to Amy, but all she wanted to do was hold hands and cuddle on the couch. Sheldon even tried to talk with Bernadette, but she said Penny was fine at work. She smiled and acted normally. So, on Tuesday, he elected to go to the Cheesecake Factory while the others went to Big Boy. He watched Penny move from one table to the other. Bernadette was half right. Penny smiled, but not her real smile. This one was bland. It never reached her eyes. And she didn't flirt back with the two guys who hit on her. Both of which were her usual type.
Sheldon left without eating. Something was wrong. Badly wrong and he was going to find out what it was.
He let himself in with the spare key and looked around. The room was fairly orderly, which worried him. He was used to chaotic messes from Penny. This wasn't right. He walked into the kitchen. His eyebrows shot up when he noticed there were no liquor bottles. He made his way to the bedroom and found everything hung up, shoes lined up neatly. Fear settled in his stomach and he began to twitch. Sheldon stepped into the bathroom and finally found what he was searching for.
When Penny came home three hours later, she walked into the bedroom, changed out of her uniform and stepped into the shower. She washed away the grime from work and pulled on old sweats and a tee-shirt. When she stepped back into the living room, he was there, waiting patiently.
He had heard the shower running when he walked in and went to make tea. He was certain they were both going to need a warm beverage before the night was through. He watched her enter the room and take a seat on the sofa. She turned on the television and surfed until she found a Star Trek rerun. Sheldon placed two cups of tea on the coffee table and sat down beside her. He pulled two small pill bottles from his pocket and held them out.
"Penny, how long have you been taking Codeine and Asendin?" he asked carefully.
She looked over at him and shrugged. "Since whatever the dates on the bottles are."
"Do you know the side effects of these drugs?" he asked.
Penny nodded her head a couple of times.
Sheldon was growing more and more worried by the minute. "Some people have severe mood swings from this drug," he said gently, holding out the Asendin. "Penny, you are not your usual self. I am concerned you are having an adverse reaction to this pill."
For several seconds he waited, but she didn't make any response. Sheldon reached out and lightly touched her shoulder, drawing her attention to him. Her eyes were like a doll's eyes. Empty and wide. Sheldon leaned forward and grabbed her wrist. Her pulse was sluggish, and her skin was clammy. Sheldon snapped his fingers in front of her face, and she only stared. Fear surged through him and he jumped up and raced to the bathroom. Pill bottles sat on the sink. She had re-filled the prescriptions that morning. They were almost empty.
Sheldon ran back out to the living room and found her laying across the small sofa. He lifted her head and checked her breathing, which was faint and erratic.
"Penny! Say something!" Sheldon whipped out his phone and dialed 911.
The damage was irreversible. Four hours after she overdosed, she was gone. Sheldon refused to let anyone help him clean out her apartment. He knew his friends were hurting, especially Leonard, but he didn't care. None of them had cared enough to be concerned when she was alive. Leonard blamed himself. He played the martyr well. Howard and Raj were forlorn, having never lost a friend before. Bernadette and Amy spent a lot of time crying. He alone understood.
He had found and read her journals that day, after he came home from the hospital. It wasn't Leonard that caused this. It wasn't her job. It wasn't even the pills. She hadn't been depressed because of the drugs. She had gotten sick and went to the doctor a few months . Neuroblastoma. It was in her spine, her kidneys and spreading to her lungs. Inoperable. Untreatable. The next day she broke up with Leonard. She hadn't wanted him to watch her go through any of this. She hadn't wanted any of them to know. She had tried to protect them all from it.
She had already planned on that night being her last. It would have been an anniversary of sorts, she wrote. Six years to the day since she moved in. She had left them all notes. A final goodbye, reminding them of good times, asking for understanding. He never read his. But he carried it everywhere for the rest of his life.