Sheesh, what a busy week I’ve had. Please pray for me. I wish I had more time to connect with all of you. I hope to meet you at our 2108 CONQUER Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska in October. I appreciate so much how loving and wise you all are on this blog and the trust and truth that is shared back and forth continues to bless me as well as the entire blog community.
Question: What are signs of suicidal thinking or other destructive thinking? After leaving him years ago, he went for counseling but then he stopped and has given me many bogus reasons why he refuses to go to counseling again. He believes that I was lying to the counselor making the counselor believe lies about him, that the counselor said that I'm the main problem and that I don't want to change so there's no use to continue.
I know for certain this is a lie. The counselor has told me that my husband is like a broken computer and can't handle talking through issues and that I need to focus on staying well or separating (I haven't told my husband any of this).
The counselor wisely counseled us separately and told me that my husband is using manipulation techniques due to deep-rooted fear. He quickly saw through my husband's charm and efforts to blame me for almost everything. He has helped me to detach from manipulation and to stay well.
One of my husband's problems is talking to himself loud enough for my teenage kids and me to hear. He blurts things out without knowing he's doing it until we ask him why he said what he said. He makes statements like, I hate you God; I want you to be my God; I just want to go home (meaning heaven); I didn't mean to kill her (after a dream about killing a woman by accident).
He sometimes doesn't remember what he's blurted out and has repeatedly told me that he gets millions of thoughts a minute rushing through his head. He's being treated with hormone therapy for a non-cancerous pituitary adenoma. I've mentioned some of this to his/my doctor and she said that sometimes individuals with baggage issues will resist healing.
The testosterone he's taking is no doubt “waking him up” out of a sluggish physical state and so his mind is now more active. He recently watched a documentary with our kids of a man who tried to murder his girlfriend. In the presence of our 15-year-old, he told me that I'm controlling like the man on the documentary and asked me, “Do you want to kill me?”
After our son went to bed, I asked him about these statements and expressed my concern about his thinking, how he said it and that he said it in front of our son. I was calm and not angry, but very concerned. My husband denied saying it and used many manipulation techniques to avoid my question. So I ended the conversation and prayed about how to approach it again. I tried talking to him again a couple weeks later. I emphasized that our son had heard his statements so he couldn't deny it. He immediately told me about how hurtful and controlling I am and how I need help and can't see the truth, etc.
I calmly told him that I found it troubling that he was unable to hear my heart and discuss my concerns and how concerning it was for me that he immediately had to change the discussion to focus on me. I added, “I'm being counseled that when I have a concern to place it on the table to see if you're willing to discuss it. If you are unwilling to hear my heart and consider and discuss my concern, then my best approach is to end the conversation since you are unwilling to have an adult conversation. But I am left considering how best to handle the fact that you are unwilling to discuss my concern.” Since the conversation was going nowhere, I quietly left the room. He becomes inward and sullen. I'm left wondering if he is deflecting his own thinking on to me.
How do I know if he is suicidal? God is helping me to stay reasonably well in the relationship. I'm working on an exit plan. The counselor we saw is now over 1 1/2 hours away. Your articles continue to give me wisdom and conversation tips. I'm not aware of a good counselor in our present area so don't have a sounding board at this time. I'm still developing friendships in our town and have not yet found a lady to confide in. The two ladies I've shared with in the past are no longer able to help carry my burden and be a sounding board due to cancer and their own dark times. Your wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
Answer: Wow, you are carrying quite a load on your shoulders. You are trying to take good care of yourself by detaching and working on staying well. You are also trying to be a good mom to your son and are concerned that your husband’s mental health is deteriorating and may be delusional and projecting some of his feelings or thinking onto you, such as “Do you want to kill me?” You are also concerned about the possibility of him being suicidal and are asking me, how would you know?
My concern is not mostly for him, but for you. Suicidal men can also be homicidal. We read every day in the news about a man who killed his spouse and even his children before killing himself. Please take the proper precautions to ensure the safety of you and your children. If you don’t have a safety plan, please call your local domestic violence shelter, or 1-800-799-SAFE to get help to develop one ASAP.
I remember a woman at a speaking engagement running up to tell me that I saved her and her kids lives. She told me that her husband had been increasingly angry and weird. His communication starts to sound a little “off,” ruminating about hurting himself and she felt scared. One night when it was especially bad she decided to take her kids and herself to a hotel for the night. When she got home, she found her husband dead. He had committed suicide. She felt quite sure it would have been both a homicide and suicide had she not left.
Over the years I’ve worked with a number of women whose husbands have committed suicide. Some saw warning signs and others did not see the warning signs ahead of time but upon reflection understood that his mental health and ability to think clearly was deteriorating.
However, if there is any direct talk of suicide, please tell someone and call 911 and ask for help. Simply say, “My husband is threatening suicide and I’m afraid for him.” Someone will come and take him for a psychiatric evaluation at your local hospital. You don’t have to make that determination yourself and it is always better to be safe than sorry. If he is angry that you called, just say, “You are scaring me with your talk of suicide and I care too much to let you do something stupid.”
But here are some things that will help you assess.
Is he a high risk for suicide? People who have depression, mood disorders, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, substance abuse, low social support, family history of suicide or previous history of suicide attempts, and hopelessness are definitely at higher risk. Some big days for higher suicide rates are New Years Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
If your spouse or someone you know is struggling with depression or making some statements about wanting to die, here are some things to listen for or even ask.
Does he have a plan? For example, you might say, “Gee, you've mentioned you wish you were dead. Have you ever thought about actually doing something to yourself? What have you thought of doing?”
If he answers yes, listen to whether or not he has a specific plan. Time? Place? Method? For example, maybe he says, “I’ll just shoot myself.” Or, “I’ve been saving pills.” Or, “I remember a woman telling me when I asked her saying that she had a hose in her trunk that she was going to put in her tailpipe and car window and just go to sleep.” A specific plan elevates the risk of suicide.
If he has access to guns, that alone elevates the danger not only for him killing himself but also killing you and your kids. If there are guns in your house and he keeps them loaded, you are in high danger. Please make a plan to get safe.
How determined is he? For example, he may say, “I feel like killing myself but I would never actually do it.” What are his deterrents if any? For example, he may be afraid he would go to hell if he killed himself. Or he may say, “I could never do that to the kids.” Or, “I’d probably fail and end up a paraplegic.”
What are his typical coping abilities? Does he have any history of suicidal attempts? How does he cope with stress? How does he handle frustration, internal pain, and anger? Does he have any other friends or relatives that he is close to or has a long-term relationship with? Those who are less connected and less able to tolerate their negative emotions and stress are a more high risk.
Assessing hopelessness. The turning point for a person who becomes suicidal is when he has lost hope. That’s why a woman who separates from a destructive or abusive spouse has to realize that she is at the HIGHEST risk for danger for herself because her spouse has lost hope that he can control her or keep her in the marriage. It’s from that place that he might think, “I’ve already lost my marriage, what do I have to live for?” Or “If I can’t have her, no one else will have her either.”
You are not his therapist or his doctor but please inform both about his behaviors and statements. You are at high risk of being a victim of his bad decision making in a moment of extreme pain or anger. He’s already shown he’s not thinking clearly. He’s already demonstrated that he isn’t willing to talk about what’s really going on internally, and your goal of staying well at this point might not be possible. Please reconsider what your most important role is right now. Perhaps it’s not to stay well but to get yourself and your children safe until he submits himself to more comprehensive treatment so that he isn’t scary or suicidal.
Friends, when you have feared someone might kill him or herself, what have you done both to help the person and/or to get safe?
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