The night before, Dave was getting his tax papers together for the accountant. He was late, very late with the taxes. This was his secret. And he had been carrying it for awhile, alone. Financial issues like this set the stage for attempts in the past, so it should not be a surprise that Dave made a gesture. Nothing life threatening but it’s a red flag. (I didn’t know about the delayed filing of the taxes at the time, but it makes sense, if he was struggling with that, no wonder he was so sensitive as he was already spinning negative thoughts that can lead him down dark paths).
Seeing him make a gesture, flooded me with my own fears and put me in my own cycle–that he’s tanking, that he’s going to kill himself. I went numb. I froze.
As Dave ordered us out of the car after driving us home, Beth asked me if I called the therapist. I did. Beth, 13, had been informed in family therapy of Dave’s previous attempt, is well aware that Dave could be suicidal.
As he drove away, it’s just wait and see, as I don’t know where he is going or what he is doing. I’m spinning and unfortunately not handling it well. When Beth didn’t know anything, I kept the secret, and hid my feelings. But now that she knew, I started talking aloud, what do I do? I hope he’s okay. I wasn’t thinking at the time how I was impacting Beth.
Beth dealt with the situation by playing songs like “How to Save A Life,” “Say Something,” “My Immortal.” As I was sitting on the sofa spinning, my mind racing, Beth said you need a hug? And she gave me a hug. She said I hate human contact, but she hugged me tightly. It’s true she usually spurns human contact but maybe she needed a hug too, but she’s a teen and didn’t want to seem like she needed one.
She also said “this is why I don’t get close to people.” I said to her, the kind of reaction Dave has is not normal.
Beth said, let’s go to church. I wasn’t sure. Should I stay home, wait for him? No I decided, better to go and and do something rather than ruminate on my fears and things I can’t control.
While in the service, I texted Dave that we were in church. He replied that he was okay (replying is a good sign for him) when he’s deep in his tunnel vision of planning an exit strategy, he would not have replied.
In a family session, I learned that Beth telling me to call the therapist was not for Dave, but for me. She wanted the therapist to handle my fears, and panic. Smart girl. In therapy I realized that I was having an effect on Beth, that in those moments of panic, I needed to be the parent, toughen up and be there for Beth, not the other way around (the therapist didn’t say that, I realized as Beth shared, the she needed me). It will be hard at those times because it’s a PTSD moment for me, I’m re-experiencing all the fears, thoughts, and trauma that I went through in the previous attempts. It feels real, that Dave is going to take his life. I need to have a plan in place, support people to turn to in moments like that to support me and more importantly provide Beth with a sense of protection, safety and stability. I need to be for Beth what I want Dave to be for me.