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Husband recently attempted suicide - Carers UK Forum

Husband recently attempted suicide

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
My name is Charli, I'm 33 and I live with my husband Steve (38) and our two children of 4 and 1.
Steve has suffered with depression for many years and before we met, 9 years ago he had made several attempts on his life. I knew all of his history before we married and as an Occupational Therapist myself I have an understanding of Mental Health.
We have enjoyed 9 happy years with minimal 'wobbles' with his mental health and it is on the whole well managed with medication.
This all changed 3 weeks ago - he had a sudden decline. He was admitted to A&E overnight and help was sought - the process started for psychiatric review. He was allowed home (I do feel this was the right decision at the time) but 24 hours later, he took a massive overdose of all his psych meds.
I found him having come back from taking the children to nursery.
What followed was two weeks of pure hell - he was in a coma in intensive care, ventilated and very poorly. They couldn't tell me he would survive.
One week on - he was brought round successfully and is now in a psych unit as an informal patient.
He accepts what happened but is yet to fully comprehend the enormity of the situation.
Me - I'm just surviving. I've been forced into single parenthood while dealing with all these emotions. Family are helping with childcare so I can see Steve but splitting my time is so hard.
I'm exhausted, broken, grieving and lost - so much to heal and think through. Life won't ever be as it was and I'm fearful of the future.
Had anyone been through or going through anything like this that can offer advice or words of wisdom?
Thanks in advance
Welcome to the forum Charli.
What a dreadful difficult time you are having. Am so sorry.
I, unfortunately am unable to help. My lovely husband has dementia, in a nursing home, so I have empathy with the feelings of loss and grief etc. Don't give up on hope. Am sure someone will be along with support and advice. Just wanted to let you know I'm listening ((( hugs)))
Wow Charli, my heart goes out to you. I am especially impressed at your ability to verbalise (write) so much and so level headedly so soon. I think that and your training bodes well for a good outcome for you all. It must have been a great shock.
Now your husband is safe and being treated your most important tasks are to focus on the health and well being of your children and yourself. Your visits to him must take second place for the time being.. You cannot cure his mental health so don't waste your previous energy trying, leave that to him and his doctors. It will be a long haul.
Be gentle on yourself and give yourself time.

Sorry I should have said I had a relative who did commit suicide leaving a pregnant wife and young children. Supporting them was so so heartbreakingly difficult, I also have another relative with Asbergers and mh problems so my experience is second hand but heartfelt nonetheless.

You've hit the nail on the head with identifying exhaustion, grief and loss. The answer to all of these is time and gentleness. . Don't try to be super woman all alone. Find and use support wherever you can. That may be accepting practical help with the children, counselling, exercise, whatever.
It's very early days for and I don't want to bombard you with too much too soon and I'm sure others will be along with sympathy and advice too.
Just take a few deep breaths, stop feeling guilty and give yourself some space and time.
Ps Pet66 who has responded too has much wise input on here from her journey through grief and loss as her beloved hubby suffers dementia. Her posts are well worth reading even tho the circumstances are different xx
Just to say, if you feel 'angry', then this is also a 'safe space' for that anger. You don't have to 'feel bad' about feeling it, or hide it, or worry that it upsets us, or that we won't understand, or that we will criticise you for feeling it, or anything of that nature.

You can feel 'angry' about anything you want - including your husband. (NOT saying you are, just saying you are 'allowed' to be angry here, for any such reason.)

(Anger is 'part of grief', so it is natural. When my husband died - not suicide, but terminal cancer - I was very angry indeed. This is why I write what I've just written above.)

I'm not sure if this helps in the slightest, but it could be said that suicide is the 'terminal stage of depression'.....as in, it isn't an act of 'volition', any more than having terminal cancer was an act of 'volition' for my husband.

Many apologies if this seems 'out of line' for your very, very difficult situation.Which I hope is both improvable, and that it does improve.

Kindest wishes, at darkest times, Jenny
Hi again Charli
I've just done a quick search for threads that were similar and may be useful to you This one doesn't have young children but will at least show your are not alone and the sort of advice received. Hope this helps
https://www.carersuk.org/forum/specific ... -turn-2449
Xx MrsA
Thanks so much everyone.
It's such a terrible time for all involved. I do feel anger but not towards Steve. I feel saddened that he felt there was no option but to leave us and that his mental health had declined so terribly in such a short space of time.
I'm angry at his parents - I do blame a huge proportion for the way Steve is on them. Never nutured and mothered properly, instead focussing solely on academic achievement being the marker for success. Because of this Steve has never felt good enough and puts a huge pressure on himself to perform above and beyond normal expectations. When not achieved he feels a failure.
His parents have also been terrible in this crisis - they refuse to accept he has a MH problem and are sweeping it under the carpet. Even saying stupid things like 'I can't live here anymore if the town knows what happened, I shall have to move' - I mean seriously? They would rather save face than save their son. I can't bare to look at them.
So yes, I'm angry!
The other thing I strugggle with is being a mum right now! As I write this, I have been up for two hours in the night as my 4 year old is feeling unsettled and now my 1 year old is crying despite me getting up at 6 and giving him milk and breakfast! I'm exhausted enough and just can't catch up on the sleep I need!!
OK, I say this very carefully, in that I am wading into VERY delicate waters, so please always bear in mind I'm just 'an ordinary person' with NO psychiatric qualifications or expertise in the slightest....so dismiss anything and everything completely if you feel it out of line....

I would say that the kind of pressure his parents have put on your husband is, in its own way, a form of abuse. They probably (almost definitely!) don't see it that way, and maybe your husband doesn't either (he 'can't' - he's not been allowed to by his 'abusing' parents), but to constantly exert 'demands' on him (all their expectations of him) is exactly as you say, non-nurturing (and therefore, by reciprocation in a way 'abusive') (because it didn't have a 'neutral' effect on him, did it - it had a malign effect).

now, it might be said they 'only wanted the best for their son'....they wanted him to excel for his own sake! BUT, from what you say about their 'shame' (God give me patience!) about his 'mental collapse' it doesn't sound like they wanted him to excel for HIS sake but for THEIRS. This was about THEIR ego, not his! HE was supposed to make THEM proud of him, not himself proud of himself. He was there only to SERVE their egos...

So, how to free him from those chains? I wonder, if one enters the term 'parental emotional abuse' into the frame of all the toxic cocktail in his head, would that mean any change in the way his therapy proceeds? I'm wondering, at a stretch, whether for example the NSPCC's approach would have any validity? (assuming that they are experts in remediating abuse - and that some of the techniques for 'freeing' victims can be applied to your husband).

The dreadful logic of constantly having to 'excel' is that there NO upper limits! Your husband could win the Nobel Prize every year, and yet STILL feel he hasn't achieved 'enough' - because the pressure to 'still do better' is infinite. No wonder he's cracked catastrophically.

I have to say it must surely be good for him that he is in a psych ward now, 'insulated' from the outside world where all the endless pressures are. I hesitate to ask, but are his parents allowed to visit him? I do hope NOT (since they seem to be a major root cause of all his grief!). They would be the very last people he needs to see! (Does he have siblings, or was he an only, and what relationship does he have with them, if so, and how were they treated by his parents?)

In a way, would it not be that 'time out' is what your husband MOST needs now - a step off the treadmill that was his life of endlessly trying to climb up a never ending escalator to reach the 'true goal' which was the final approval of his parents (which of course, never came...)? (In a way, suicide could also be seen as the ultimate way of 'stepping off the treadmill'.....).

I do hope that the most important 'good thing' of him being in psych ward is that they will keep him physically safe, so I do hope that that takes out a major fear, ie, that he will attempt that ultimate 'step off' again.

As for his wonderful parents, look, call me a bit cynical, but if I were you, I would STRONGLY agree with them that really, it's quite 'dreadful' what they are going through, and how hideously embarrassed and ashamed oft their son they should be and yes, you QUITE understand why they can't possibly go on living here, and that, in fact, they should move, straight away, to Timbuctu......... (!)
PS - Just wanted to add that what you describe in your husband is very similar to what happened to a friend of mine. She was married to a man who was constantly expected (and expected himself, too) to 'do well' by his ambitious parents. He was therefore very 'driven'. All went fine, until pressures mounted - not only did he have a young family (my friend stopped work), but he found two small children difficult to cope with after a punishingly long day. He applied for a senior post - and didn't get it.

He had a mental breakdown, and left. My friend, like you, thinks that the 'root cause' was the pressure his parents had always put on him to 'do well', which he then put on himself as well.

His mother thinks the problem was caused by my friend - she was obviously 'the wrong wife' for him......

Have you been able to identify any 'immediate' cause of his recent crisis? With my friend's husband, it seems to have been a 'perfect storm' of having two young children at home (one was ill, including a spell in hospital, at the time he 'cracked catastrophically' and walked out), plus having failed to achieve the promotion he desperately wanted (so he could continue to 'prove' how high achieving he was).

Apologies if none of this is relevant.
Hi Jenny!
Thank you for your spectacular reply! I concur with most (if not all!) of what you said about his parents.
Question is, how do I change things? I will never change them and he would never disown them - as much as I would like him to.
He didn't want to see them when he first came round from intensive care but had seen them since.
I didn't want them to see him alone but circumstance with the children meant I couldn't be there to ensure they didn't say anything stupid.
As it happened they didn't but it's a matter of time. They now try to go everyday - I mean he wouldn't see them everyday normally so why would he now!? Especially now!?
I asked him if he minded and he said 'I guess they need that reassurance right now' I said yes, but what do YOU want!?!?
I'm just sick of them - I actually hate them.
Charlotte, hi - just a quick response for now, but hopefully this might possibly be something 'helpful'???

If his parents are visiting daily, and you are worried about the effect they are having on him (you know, if there is anything at all in my 'emotional abuse' theory - if! - then letting his parents near him is the equivalent of letting a wife-beater near his wife after he's put her in hospital! ie, it would NEVER be allowed....)

I wonder, therefore, whether it would be an idea for you to write a letter, outlining what you feel is the role his parents have played in contributing so significantly to his mental breakdown, and then sending it to his consultant psychiatrist? That would, perhaps, put the psychiatrist 'on alert' that his parents might not be the best people to see right now.

Do you feel, I wonder, whether if, say, you managed to sort baby-sitters for the children, and made sure you were with your husband while his parents were visiting, that you might firstly be able to see how they were with him (it might be a 'bracingly critical approach' full of 'Come on, buck up your ideas, goodness knows what nonsense you were thinking about taking all those pills - it's just ridiculous - we didn't raise you to be such a ridiculous failure' (etc etc), or it might be a 'passive aggressive' approach inducing more guilt in him 'Oh, darling, we're so, so upset by what you did....' (emphasise on WE are upset....), or any other non-helpful attitude).

Secondly, you could discover whether they actually don't WANT you there while they are there with him?? (What is their attitude towards you anyway - are they critical of you?)

I suppose the kindest thing one could say about them is that they genuinely 'haven't a clue' about why they have contributed to his breakdown. Many, many people in this world live in total ignorance of their own mental interiors, and blunder blindly around the world, causing mayhem with their family, because they are SO unaware.

But it's revealing that he's saying 'THEY need that reassurance' - it's the other way round, HE needs reassurance that he is loved and valued.

I also think it could be revealing he didn't want to see them initially.

As well as/or instead of, writing to his psychiatrist (writing can be helpful as it gives you time to organise your thoughts, and also can go into his medical notes etc), can you talk to him/her directly? He/she may not be able to discuss your husband with you, for patient confidentiality, but he can 'receive' input from you which surely would be helpful when he makes his/he assessment of your husband, and figures out the best way forward. (An maybe even stops his parents visiting - he could cite all sorts of reasons.)

I do think that there may be a strong argument for letting your beleaguered husband 'get away' from his parents, both physically and emotionally, at least until he has resolved his issues - coming to terms with what they do to him, and understanding that the fault is in THEM, not him.

Again, please please please read all this as just from 'an ordinary person' - wishing all the best at such a frightening time for you, Jenny