When your spouse attempts suicide

Barbara was with her husband for 14 years and although he had been diagnosed as bi-polar and in treatment for many years, as he approached his forties, Barbara says his mental illness worsened.

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Things got worse and worse and worse. He was chronically depressed and made several suicide attempts. The one that was really the last straw for me was one Easter. The children woke up – they were still pretty little and they were excited about their Easter baskets. I realized he wasn’t in bed and so I went downstairs. He wasn’t there either and his car was gone. A few minutes later the phone rang and it somebody from a psych hospital. He was there.

He had gone to a park in the middle of the night and he’d taken a razor blade and cut up the veins in both his arms. He knew alot about this and that’s a  more effective way to kill yourself than if you cut across the wrist. He had called the health center from a pay phone and they sent the police and ambulance.

He had been hospitalized before but this time really made me think, ‘how can I be married to somebody who could do that in the middle of the night with no warning.’ He wasn’t having any particularly bad time so it was just so random and spontaneous.

I still didn’t initiate the divorce. I’m kind of sorry to say that now but I had invested so much I just couldn’t believe we couldn’t work it out. I did go with him a couple of times to his psychiatrist but I could see that he was not trying to work on his issues. He was manipulating, talking about which drugs he liked and which he didn’t and he would keep steering the conversation to that.

So that was another piece – he wasn’t trying. He didn’t want to get well and I really honestly didn’t know what he did want. I just couldn’t believe that after all those years that it didn’t mean anything  to him. That he had a wife who loved him and two cute kids who adored him.

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Barbara’s story saddened me deeply.  Suicide.org cites between 25 and 50 percent of people with bi-polar disorder will attempt suicide – the emotional trauma that must create on the family is hard for me to truly imagine. My mother-in-law was bi-polar. Thankfully she was never attempted suicide but we did have to deal with a few episodes of paranoia and those were challenging, demanding and draining days.  I was so impressed by the strength of the love Barbara felt for her spouse – her steadfast belief that their love could get them through the challenges of mental illness. Come back and visit tomorrow to hear what was the last straw for Barbara.

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