Recently I've been struggling with thoughts (but not impulses) about suicide. How can I help my wife understand what's going on? How can I manage it when it happens?
To be absolutely clear from the outset, I have no intention whatever
of killing myself. None at all.
The way things tend to happen is as follows: I'll be in a stressful situation which is raising a lot of negative emotions in me - for example a row with my wife, or after the end of a long, exhausting day at work (I'm going through some issues in my work life now that are triggering this particularly acutely; I seem particularly to find these thoughts cropping up if I'm feeling worthless or trapped). In addition to feeling tired and wrung out, I start seeing images playing in my minds eye of me shooting myself. Typically this mental video plays through all the stages of loading a gun, putting it to my temple, and pulling the trigger. The whole thing is extraordinarily vivid; sometimes I can actually feel the barrel of the gun against my temple.
At best the thoughts are distracting; I try to acknowledge them and then return my thoughts to whatever else is going on. At worst, though, they're debilitating. I had an attack of them at a tube station recently and find that I had to shrink into the darkest corner I could find to get away from the noise of the crowds and the trains.
I'm working on all of this with my therapist. My lack of actual desire to act out these intrusive thoughts is a positive, and she thinks that it's more my brain's way of offering me an escape route when things all get too tough to handle.
Bringing the problem up with my wife has, however, been quite difficult. I tried to tell her as gently as I could, but naturally it still upset her greatly, first that I was having the thoughts and secondly that I might have talked about it with my therapist before I talked to her (there is a long-standing argument between us that I shouldn't talk to my therapist about stuff without letting her know first).
I promised to tell her if I'd been having these dark thoughts again, and so far I've done exactly that, because usually they happen when she's not around (the aforementioned tube platform incident, for example). However, yesterday, during a big row about my having to travel for work, the thoughts resurfaced. I didn't want to bring them up during the row because I thought that would seem like a manipulative way to end the argument in my favour, but it was clear to my wife that something was wrong. She asked, still angry, "what the hell is wrong with you?" and I replied "I'm having those thoughts again, about killing myself, and I can't get them to stop."
At that point I just wanted to be comforted, so I was rather shocked when she yelled "come on then, let's go to a bridge and jump off it together! Let's get it over with!" In fact it shocked me so much that the thoughts stopped completely, and I suddenly felt calm.
My wife later apologised for her outburst, and I apologised for bringing the thoughts up during a row; as I'd feared, they'd felt manipulative to her and she'd reacted out of anger.
I'd like you help, mefites to:
- Find a way to talk constructively about this problem with my wife.
- Find a way to address the way she reacted during the row (which, whilst it stopped the thoughts, doesn't seem like a healthy way to handle them at all)
- Find a way to handle the thoughts better when they happen so that I'm not brought to my knees by them
Any help would be appreciated.