Life got really chaotic for me so I haven’t posted in a while. The main purpose of the blog–was for me to share my experience. I felt so alone. If you’re a spouse with a partner struggling with suicide–you’re probably feeling alone too. My hope is that through the blog, and the comments from readers–you will see you are not alone. Because our couple’s struggles deals with life and death situations–it is especially distressing.
To update my current situation. My husband and I separated in April 2015. It was hard, lots of tears shed on both sides. Fortunately, we both had therapists to help us. After about 6 months of living separately, the crisis of the transition dissipated. Early in 2016, Dave asked for a divorce. Another round of tears on my part, as I had hoped we could work things out. April 2016 made one year of separation. After working through the grief regarding divorce, I am now okay with it. I can see that the separation was a good thing. Dave, Beth and I are happier, and psychologically healthier. Dave and I are working on our own issues. Our daughter, Beth is doing better. Her attitude has improved. She’s doing better in school and socially. She’s thriving. We all feel safer. We’re all working on awareness and identification of feelings, tolerance, coping, and healthy expression of anger (and other uncomfortable emotions).
I apologize if I just approved an old comment and this reminded you of an old situation. I struggle with whether it’s better not to approve the old comment, but then I wonder if the reader might wonder why I approved some and not his/hers, so I approved it. If you changed your mind let me know and I’ll take the comment down (I think I’m able to do that). If I haven’t approved a comment–I’m not dismissing your experience, minimizing your pain, or favoring certain commentators. I may not have gotten to it yet (I’m really behind), I missed it, have deemed the comment to be too personal, or there was another reason. I apologize for this. Readers–please know that you are not the only one going through this, if that helps. Your experience is real, hard, scary, upsetting, confusing. Love, hate, fear, hope–whatever you feel, it’s so painful, it’s so hard to go through and you wonder how much more you can take. We need support too. Find a friend, family member, therapist who is willing to really understand your experience.
As I skimmed the comments, there were a few things I thought I might address that might be helpful to readers in general. (Keep in mind—I don’t know the complete situation so I am not offering you advice. My concern is that you read this post and then run out and apply what I say, don’t. One way to get help for your unique situation is to seek out professional help so you can share your complete story.).
Involvement of police.
On November 6, 2016 a reader wrote “Tonight I called the police where he was and explained what he had said to me and they went searching for him. I’m not sure if it was the right move…Did I overreact?” On April 2, 2015, a reader wrote, “I had no idea they would send police and cuff him. He was taken to ER and released but was treated like a criminal. I feel so horrible. Now he is furious at me. I don’t know what to do.” This really is hard to witness. I recall my own struggle to make the call, knowing that Dave didn’t want me to call, and knowing he would be upset during and after either openly or passive aggressively. I needed a lot of support from my therapist to make the call and after the call—and I got the support. The cuffs or plastic ties that’s used–keeps your partner and the officers safe. A person in a state of mind needing to be taken to the hospital for an assessment has intense emotions and obsessive preoccupations with dying. S/he is probably desperate, hopeless, and not thinking rationally. In that context—S/he is unpredictable and could do something in the moment that is permanent and irreversible. The humiliation of being cuffed can be processed in treatment. It took a little time, but Dave said to me in couples therapy, that my calling the police saved his life, and he was grateful. I can’t promise that outcome, but if saving a life is a goal—then calling the police may be the only option, when the person struggling with suicidal thoughts/behaviors does not and will not help him/herself.
As for over-reacting or under-reacting—this is the hard thing in dealing with our spouses/partners. I too felt helpless, and powerless, confused, conflicted as to how best help. The emotional charge that’s between the couple, family member, friend, can make it hard to see clearly, objectively—what’s the best path to take. A professional can help with this.
Duty to report.
A comment from a reader: “But I’ve always heard that if a professional like that hears of someone at possible risk of suicide, it’s their duty to report it to the authorities“–I thought it might be useful to clarify this–the therapist’s duty to report relates to the client in the room. So if you see a therapist and report your own suicidal thoughts–the therapist will assess for your safety. The therapist does not have a duty to report for your spouse. So you will continue to be in a hard position and have a tremendous sense of responsibility for your spouse’s safety, it’s hard not to, (even though in most cases, your spouse is an adult and responsible for him/herself). To take this responsibility off of you–calling the police or a crisis assessment hotline (in Hawaii we have a 24/7 hotline that will send someone to your home, to assess the safety of a person (808) 832-3100) is an option. In Hawaii the police relays the information gathered to an on-call psychologist and the psychologist makes the decision to take the person to the hospital to get a formal assessment of safety.
On March 3, 2015 reader wrote, “I have thought about crashing my car, just so that I can be in hospital and have someone look after me for a while. To not be the strong one, just for a while. To have people asking if I’m ok, just for a while. I know that sounds insane, but I don’t know if I can keep being the strong one when I feel so weak.” We can have thoughts that might seem “insane” when we’re feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and desperate. When I start getting preoccupied with my own scary thoughts, this is a sign, that I need support/self-care/see a professional. We need someone to hear, get, support and help us come up with coping strategies, self-care and our own resources, support network.
On April 2, 2015 a reader wrote, “We had an argument Wednesday and I lost my head. I did scream snd (sic) say hurtful things. Everything is bottled up.” One of the dynamics of living with a suicidal spouse is this bottling up and censoring ourselves. I remember holding my hurts and anger in, not wanting to upset Dave. But this bottling up, took my anger and hurt to escalated levels, and I too, when I couldn’t hold it in any longer—would unleash it. The couples therapist helped create a safe environment to share our hurts/upsets in a more timely way and not let it build up.
That’s all I have time for right now. Take care.