Life with a suicidal spouse–seasons of private heartache

Anxious. Helpless. Panicked. Desperate. Exposed. Ashamed. Regretful.  Self-critical. Guilty. Misunderstood. Hurt. Rejected. Frustrated. Manipulated. Resentful. Envious. Discouraged. Pessimistic. Confused. Loving. Hating.

Living with a suicidal person floods me with disorienting emotions.  As I see my husband walling me off, anxiety, helplessness, and panic kick in.  During the search for my husband or after calling the police, feelings of our secret being exposed and a few blaming eyes bore deep shame into me.  After an attempt or an event of spiraling downward, I am regretful, self-critical and guilty over the last statements I said to him, that maybe those statements pushed him to the edge.  As he’s in the hospital sharing story after story of how I contributed to his pain, I feel hurt, rejected, frustrated, manipulated, resentful.

Envy.  What’s that doing on the list?  It was hard to list. I feel selfish and embarrassed to list it.  But the attention he gets from family, friends, medical staff, our therapist–can make me feel invisible and deeply hurt.  I think it’s important to keep in mind the trauma an attempt or his teetering to the edge can cause to those closest to him.

Tears spill down my cheeks as I wonder “Do I call for help now or will he be okay?”   Tears spill as I drive to visit him in the hospital.  Tears of fear, hurt, anger, and sadness.

I start doubting the relationship. Discouragement, pessimism fills my mind with thoughts of “This is never going to change,” and “Why me?”  Fears of “I’ll be left alone one day” and thoughts of “maybe I should get out now” swirl in my mind.

Confusion.  Love and hate.  Both exist at the same time.  I love him.  I do.  He’s caring, kind, thoughtful.  At the same time I hate his moods and actions–callous, detached, rejecting.

His suicidal ideation and depression affects our daughter–she’s been getting into trouble at school.  How does a tween handle the ups and downs of her dad?  We try to keep it hidden from her–but of course she senses something.  She’s expressing it the best way she can right now.

Invisible.  It is with my husband’s permission that I start this blog.  He understands how isolated and alone I feel.  Yet I post apprehensively as I fear my husband may read this blog and think that he is causing me pain that could put him on the path to “I’m a disappointment, I’m a failure” and send him spiraling closer to the edge.

In the safety of anonymity –I am trying to find a place to give myself a voice and not feel so alone.  Up until a few years ago no one knew the private pain I lived with. To the outside world my marriage looked ideal.   My husband and I hid our pain well.  But one night he almost took his life and our pain went public (to our families and friends).

This blog is an informal place for me to process my thoughts.  I’m beginning tonight, I hope at what is the tail-end of a couple weeks of uncertainty about my husband’s stability.

My blogging will probably be triggered by in-the-moment events, therapy sessions, feelings of falling apart, despair, lack of control, and helplessness.  But I also want to write about hope, faith, love, and grace.

I share my experiences but my way is not THE way.  My way is what works for me at this time.  Having an understanding/empathetic therapist, supportive/encouraging friends, and a strong church group has gotten me through the toughest times.

On the one hand, if you’re reading this blog and feel hopeless and suicidal then get help.  Call a crisis hotline (National 1-800-784-2433/1-800-273-8255) or 911, or check yourself into a hospital.  On the other hand,  this site is not meant to give out professional advice so if you’re struggling with dealing with a depressed/suicidal spouse, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, etc. then talk to a psychologist or marriage and family therapist or other mental health professional.  Speaking to a professional is one way I’ve taken care of myself (self-care) and I highly encourage it.

I take the first step today to making my pain a little more public.  Thanks for listening.

Daring to be vulnerable: Sharing My Story

Dave and I have been doing better.  Dave’s been working on finishing a post for my blog. I asked him about authoring a post when I first set my blog up.  I let him know, no pressure, only if he felt ready.

Making public disclosures, is hard, even for myself, it’s hard to self-identify as the partner of a person who made a suicide attempt, hence the “private pain,” as the key words in my blog’s name.  In my posts I don’t use my real name, or Dave’s partly to protect Dave’s identity, but also to protect my own.

I was on Facebook’s, American Association of Suicidology page, and found a link to this NY Times post

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/us/suicide-prevention-sheds-a-longstanding-taboo-talking-about-attempts.html?hp

about the hidden population of attempt survivors.  The article reported that one factor  in the “invisible” nature of this population was the stigma and shame in self-identifying as an attempt survivor. Another factor was the concern by mental health professionals of the stressors involved in sharing one’s story–that the negative reaction of the audience (or perceived negative receptivity of the audience), for example could trigger an attempt.

Another hidden population not identified in the article, are the people whom are are  the primary audience for this blog–the partners of the individuals that attempt suicide.

I myself believe in the
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A quick update

I haven’t written a piece for awhile.  I’m going through an intense professional period in my life, and spare time is hard to come by. But I do want to make a quick report that things have been going well for Dave and I.  There have been ups and downs for both of us, but we’ve weathered them well.  We’re still going to couples therapy once a month, and we both go to individual.  Right now I would say–that the individual sessions have really helped us to grow ourselves, and that helps to strengthen us as a couple.

I’m trusting him more now.  I didn’t think there would ever be a day that I would say that.

But even though this has been a pretty rough period for us, as I’ve gotten very busy, and Dave has had to do a bit more for our family–Dave hasn’t tanked.  There were times when we felt overwhelmed, but we got through them.

Dave still went to his automatic, “I should kill myself,” thinking, but he disputed those thoughts quickly, not allowing them to escalate into increased berating of himself and decreased self worth.  Those thoughts will probably always be the first thoughts he has, they’re so ingrained, his knee-jerk response–but he seems to have developed some skills to fight those thoughts off (more later about the deeper changes he’s made regarding his value).

I’m almost through this intense period in my life and it will be nice to be able to give Dave and Beth more attention.  Even though Dave misses my attention, we do quickly kiss each other on the forehead and reassure each other of our love for each other. That Dave can feel tired, overwhelmed but not tank is increasing my trust in him.  I don’t feel as scared and panicked anymore.

That’s my quick update.

Take care.

Suicide education and prevention in the church

Suicide education and prevention in the church.

Above is a link to an important blog by Phil Monroe (Musings of A Christian Psychologist).  I agree with Phil– churches need to address openly the topic of suicide. Dave and I have been blessed to attend a church where the pastor is authentic and invites members to be authentic and share their struggles.

After more than 7 years of growth in therapy we recognized that we needed a church where Dave and I could share about our struggles. For him to share about his journey in overcoming suicidal thoughts as his main coping strategy, and for myself to find a place where I could talk to others about my challenges living with a spouse battling depression and suicide.  Dave says that he feels at home at this new church, and I understand it as being able to be real, and talk openly about his struggles.  We both see the Pastor and congregation as genuinely desiring to offer compassion and grace to address whatever brokeness a person is struggling with.

To get a feel for the church, Dave and I attended a mid-week bible study where Dave felt safe to share a couple of times in his small group about his journey, his attempts and his process of overcoming his long-ingrained suicidal thoughts.  He was able to talk about this topic because the study looked at Judas, in not a condemning way, but from an empathetic, compassionate stand point.

The Sunday following that study, the pastor preached about Judas in a sermon entitled “Why Jesus Couldn’t Reach Judas” Matt 27:1-5, that was a little before Easter.  A couple of weeks ago he preached on depression using Elijah as an example (1 Kings 1:11-19). At the end of his sermon he said the church was going to start a support group for people to openly talk about their psychological/emotional challenges.

Dave said he wants to join the group. And I will too.  It’s my heart to find ways to decrease the stigma around suicide–which I believe keeps people from seeking the help they need. This group may be one way for Dave to start talking about and receiving acceptance, grace and compassion. Dave and I are looking forward to this new journey and to see what God has in store for us.

Ups and Downs of Trust Building: Trust earned and lost over time.

Yesterday, I spoke to Beth about trust. Recently Dave and I allowed Beth to stay in the house alone while Dave and I went for walks in our neighborhood.  She’s been irritated toward me and I asked her why and she said because I didn’t trust her to stay home alone for longer periods of time.

I told her that trust was something that could go up and down depending on what a person did.  Trust could be earned and lost over time.

Backstory:
The other night we Continue reading

Do I Stay or Do I Go? (Round 2)

Dave and I through the years have both struggled with the question –Should I stay? Should I Go?

There have been a few critical pieces that contributed to us staying together, 1) our Christian faith and values 2) engaging in couple’s therapy and 3) engaging in individual therapy. By engagement I mean taking to heart what we learned about ourselves, each other and our relationship style; applying strategies; taking risks to do new things; bottom line–doing the hard work to change things for the better.

I just wish we got help sooner.  By waiting until we desperately needed help, our marriage had Continue reading