An Impossible Wife | Sneak Peak

An Impossible Wife
Sneak Peak

An Impossible Wife

Why He Stayed: A True Story of Love,
Marriage, and Mental Illness

Rachael Siddoway


Rock Bottom

Columbia, Missouri
December 13, 2015

Ambulance lights flashed through the windows of our house as my dad held my mom in his arms. Bright reds and blues swirled against the brick house, waking up our usually quiet street.

She’s barely breathing. He panicked as he frantically checked the labels of the empty pill bottles. Lamictal, Geodon, Ativan. What was she thinking? Her head lay heavy in his lap before the paramedics took her.

“She took these.” My dad’s shaky hands showed the medic the pill bottles.

“You the husband?” The medic glanced at the labels.

“Yes.” He nodded.

“Come with us.”

Neighbors stood on their lawns, watching paramedics rush my mom’s unconscious body out of the house on a stretcher. My dad stepped inside the ambulance and watched his wife remain unresponsive as two large IVs slipped through the veins in her hands. The sirens sounded as they sped down the streets, not stopping for red lights. The IV bags swayed with each bump in the road. Swallowed up in the chaos, my dad sought out his faith for a moment of stillness. He pleaded with God to save my mother’s life.


As they entered the hospital, he could hear the whispers from the staff: “It’s the CEO and his wife.” But none of their comments was registering. In that moment, he was stuck on the thoughts, Will my wife live? What did my son see?

My sixteen-year-old brother, Lincoln, and my mom had been fighting right before she had stormed off, locked herself in the bathroom, and swallowed hundreds of pills. Their fights had become habitual, but none had ever escalated to something like this before. My parents’ friends Dean and Lorie had their son take Lincoln to their house, but my dad couldn’t pinpoint when.

Once inside the ER, a team of nurses and doctors quickly surrounded my mom’s body on the stretcher. Nurses cut off my mom’s clothes as doctors promptly began pumping her stomach, trying to force out the hundreds of pills she had swallowed. They pushed charcoal down her throat, hoping it would absorb the rest. The medical team worked aggressively to save her, and all my dad could do was stand by and watch as they hooked up EKG leads to her chest and ran an intubation tube down her throat to keep her breathing. He had continually been the one she depended on to keep her alive, but in this moment, he had no influence on her ability to live or die. She lay motionless as every tube, needle, and lead went into her body. My dad stood like a man on a distant shore, forced to watch his beloved ship slowly go under.

“We’ll have to wait and see how her body responds to the overdose.” The doctor’s voice broke through his thoughts.

My dad reluctantly shifted his gaze from his wife to the doctor.


“We’ll put her in the ICU and do all we can to save her, but it’s hard to say right now what the outcome will be,” the doctor apprehensively admitted.

Even though she had talked about wanting to kill herself hundreds of times over their twenty-three-year marriage, he was utterly unprepared for the day she might die. He touched the scratchy hospital blanket laid across her legs, hoping to feel some sense of reality, but no matter what he touched, saw, or smelled, the present moment remained distant to him.

My dad had decades of experience on how to remain levelheaded during my mom’s episodes. He’d administer her medicine, brush her hair, and cuddle her while they watched a movie until she fell asleep. If that didn’t work, my parents made trips to the ER for an IV of Ativan, and suicidal ideations could lead to an admission to the psych ward. He knew how all those situations ended. But my dad had never dealt with this—an actual suicide attempt. This was a level of the illness he had never seen, and my dad didn’t know what came next. As he sat in my mom’s hospital room, unable to hold her without the fear of moving her breathing tube, he felt sharp cracks spreading across his heart, as thin and precise as pencil lines, and he knew for the first time his heart was actually breaking.

“Dad?” Lincoln stood timidly in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, Lincoln,” my dad carefully said.

Lincoln said nothing, but each time he glanced at our mom, unconscious and hooked up to multiple tubes, he would quickly look away. He refused to get too close to her. Lincoln must have been grappling with the fact that she had attempted suicide during a fight they’d had.

“Is Mom going to live?” Lincoln asked.


As much as my dad wanted to shelter him from the truth, he knew he needed to be honest. “I don’t know,” he answered quietly.

Lincoln started to cry, and my dad grabbed him, wrapping his arms tightly around him.

How did I get here? he wondered.

My parents’ love story is not the kind I grew up watching in Disney movies. Their love is a complicated love, and at times an impossible one. Yet I think their story is worth sharing, despite its absence of simplicity. It’s through great struggle that heroes are realized, and it’s through even greater sorrow that two young people can age into one. And that’s exactly what happened to my parents. This is their love story.



The Nemelkas

Mapleton, Utah
Spring 1991

Mitch Wasden stood at the Nemelkas’ large and intimidating front door, holding the strings to a dozen colorful balloons. For being in a small town, the Nemelkas’ house was opulent and by far the largest in the community. Mitch’s younger brother Jon was asking Allyson Nemelka to a high school dance. Mitch was both his chauffeur and delivery boy, given that Jon lacked the driver’s license and the courage to deliver the balloons himself. Jon waited in the car, and Mitch rang the doorbell. The long melody echoed inside the house, and soon after, the door opened.

“Hi!” A beautiful girl with long black hair and stunning green eyes stood before him. He stared at her, trying to remember why he had come.

“Um … I’m Mitch, Jon’s brother.” He suddenly felt awkward and pivoted on his right foot. “He’s asking Allyson to a school dance, and I’m his delivery boy.” He gestured to the balloons.

“Oh, that’s so fun!” She laughed. “She’s not here right now, but I’ll give them to her.” She took the balloons excitedly. “So, are you in school?” She fearlessly looked right into his stone-blue eyes.

“I’m a sophomore at Utah Valley Community College, but I want to transfer to BYU,” he answered, unable to look away.


“Oh my gosh, I’m a sophomore at BYU!”

“Would you recommend it?”

“Well, to be honest,” she said as she leaned against the doorframe, “I was forced to go there. I really wanted to go to Utah State. So, can I really recommend a place I never wanted to be at?”

“Good point.” He shrugged.

“But I can recommend a class. Do you like poetry?” She casually pointed at him.

“Actually, I do. Who’s your favorite poet?” he asked.

“Easy. Dylan Thomas.”

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day,” Mitch recited in his best Dylan Thomas voice.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” she chimed in.

“So, we both love a poem about death?” Mitch laughed.

“Well, that’s not all it’s about. I think he’s reminding us life is short, so we should not only embrace it, but fight for it.”

“Right! It’s like a call to carpe diem as his dad is dying.” Mitch paused. “So, who exactly are you?”

“Oh, sorry! I’m Sonja, Allyson’s older sister.”


Mitch’s family had recently moved to Mapleton, Utah, from Lubbock, Texas, but he still knew of the Nemelkas. Everyone in Mapleton knew the Nemelka family. They were one of the most affluent and accomplished families in town. They were patrons of the local art museum where a section of the museum was named after Sonja’s mom: the Ingrid F. Nemelka Christmas Lamb Gallery. Her dad was rumored to have worked with some very colorful and questionable business associates. A story he proudly told around town was of a business partner who took a chainsaw to his own desk, cutting it clean in half and threatening to take everyone down with him if the deal went under. Mitch had heard many stories about the Nemelkas but had never heard of Sonja.

‘Would you like to come in?” she asked. Mitch looked back at the car and saw Jon leaned back in the passenger seat.

“Sure,” he said, stepping inside.

The house was more than just large. Many of the windows were of stained-glass flowers or birds, and the wall moldings were carved with gold-leaf hearts and wreaths.

“I’ll give you a tour.” Sonja laughed, finding his wide-eyed reaction amusing.

She trotted up one side of the expansive staircase, her black hair swinging behind her. Mitch took one step before noticing the large gold chandelier above them. The vaulted ceiling itself was a work of art; the chandelier hung in the center of a sky-blue mural in which horses were sculpted right out of the ceiling, encircling the chandelier fixture. Each horse was painted to look realistic while also accented in gold leaf.


“Are you coming?” She stood at the top of the staircase, looking back at his head tilted up at the ceiling.

“Yeah, I’m coming.” He ran up the stairs.

She opened a door with a realistic etching of a horse in the glass. “This is my dad’s office.”

Mitch looked around the dark-wood office, at the bronze statues of horses and eagles on shelves and tables. “Your dad must like horses.”

“He loves them. He races, mostly Appaloosas.” Sonja pointed up a narrow stairway, where racing trophies sat on the second story of the office.

She continued the tour through several bedrooms, living spaces, an indoor swimming pool, and an enormous game room. Sonja stopped to sit inside a telephone booth inside the house.

“And that’s our racquetball court,” she said, pointing at an opposing glass wall.

“As one has,” Mitch said with a casual, dry wit.

“You’re funny.” She smiled. “Come on.” She tugged him. “I want to show you something really cool.” She walked into a closet, motioning for him to follow. “I don’t normally show people this room, so consider yourself lucky.”

“Interesting …,” he said as he looked around at the coat hangers. “No offense, but this is one of the more underwhelming rooms of the house.”

“Just wait.” She slid her fingers around the wood-paneled walls, looking for something.


“Please don’t tell me you have secret rooms too,” he said sarcastically.

“Ah, here it is.” She grabbed a wire hanger and touched it to a metal bolt holding a coat hook to the wall. Guzzzzzzzzz. A soft vibration buzzed through the wall—and then a single click. Sonja pushed the wall open. Mitch’s jaw might as well have fallen to the floor.

“You’re kidding.” He ducked his head under the hangers clinking on the rack and stepped inside the secret room. Stacks of paintings were leaned against the walls, and a giant safe sat at the back of the room.

“What is all this?” Mitch looked around.

“My dad’s art collection. He loves to rotate the paintings on our walls.”

“So, what’s in the safe? Must be pretty important if it’s in a secret room.”

“I don’t know exactly, but my grandpa has some silver bars in there.”

“Silver bars?” Mitch said, raising his eyebrows.

“My grandpa turned his money into silver and then buried it in his backyard. He doesn’t trust banks. But when my dad got a safe, he dug them up and brought them here.”

“I think I need to meet your grandpa.”

“Okay, last room. And then maybe I’ll let you go.” She winked.

Sonja took him into an all-white room with white furniture. A large oil painting of her parents hung over a marble fireplace, and oil paintings of the seven children, some with their spouses, lined the surrounding walls. One by one, she introduced him to each portrait, and it was clear to Mitch she deeply loved her family.


Her energy was contagious, and he found himself drawn to her. She seemed happy to be with him, even though they had just met. Sonja was full of light and laughed easily, whereas Mitch was calm with moments of clever wit. She asked him a million questions. Did his family like Mapleton? What were his plans for the summer? How did he like college? And Mitch happily answered each one. The two of them lost track of time, talking like lifelong friends whose paths had finally crossed again.

“If you transfer to BYU, you have to let me know,” she said, casually dropping her hand on his arm.
Mitch’s heart stopped.

He looked down at her hand lightly resting on his arm and chose to say nothing. Mitch really wanted to ask her out, yet he felt unsure. Sonja’s dad was very proud of his children’s accomplishments and often shared those accomplishments with people. Mitch had heard that Sonja’s older sister had married the son of a prominent political family from Arizona who was number one at his law school. A brother had married Miss Georgia Teen, while another brother was going to Wharton’s MBA program, which was ranked number one in the United States. This set a high bar.

Sonja walked Mitch to the front door. “So, should I be expecting more deliveries from you?”

“That all depends on how well the dance goes.” Mitch smiled.

“Well, then I hope it goes well.” Sonja crossed her fingers.


He walked the stone steps back to his car with his heart and logic conflicted. In high school, Mitch was a straight-C student. As a natural-born pragmatist, he only pulled up his grades his senior year because that was the year colleges would care about most. With no prestigious bloodline or high-powered career in the works, he reasoned he and Sonja wouldn’t be a fit. By the time he got in his car, he had talked himself out of ever asking her on a date.

“Where have you been? I have been waiting in the car for like two hours!” Jon was furious.

“I just met Allyson’s sister; she’s really cool.” Mitch started up the car.

“Jeez, by how long you were in there, you better have at least asked her out.” Jon leaned back.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t think I’m her type. Plus, she’s going to Switzerland for the summer.”

Just put her out of your mind, he told himself as he drove away. Despite this being their first meeting, it was harder to do than expected. Sonja was a girl one didn’t easily forget.


“Will very likely touch a readers’ soul.”Hollywood Book Review