ex tried to kill himself and now wants to see me: what to do?
September 26, 2013 6:19 PM   Subscribe

My ex attempted to committ suicide three months ago; I've come to know about this just today as I've been made aware of the fact he asked about me to a friend of his. I'm torn between not going and keeping him and our relationship in the past to protect myself or going and risking having him think that means we can become close again.

My ex bf and I broke off about seven months ago: due to his depression, he pushed me away and ceased contacting me and/or didn't want for me to call him, and, when he finally did, I told him I wanted to distance myself from him, because he needed to focus on himself and his healing process and I would not have felt free to ask him for anything in our relationship anymore. He called me again in May to know how I was and asked if I was dating somebody else- which I was and still am. Never heard from him since, until today a friend of his called me and told me he's been hospitalized three months ago due to a car accident, had had surgery and has atrophied legs, but that he's better and remembered my house number and told her to call me to see if I wanted to see him again. She said she felt guilty about it and that of course I didn't have to etc. Later I found out that was a lie: he actually attempted to committ suicide by throwing himself off a bridge and survived only accidentally. {my parents have known about it ever since, due to an article in a local newspaper; yes, they're sure} I'm at a loss as to what to do.

My parents are both completely against me going to see him at the clinic; my mother thinks he may attach himself to me again and end up playing into the guilt I already felt and now feel magnified to rely on me for comfort and help and assistance, for instance calling up at night crying or such. She feels like this may destroy my mental health and happiness too and also fear he may physically hurt me if he doesn't get his way. {Some said that he attacked his brother before the suicide attempt; I do not know how true this is.} My father on the other hand says that I'll only feed his hopes of getting back with me once I show up at his room there, because it will be like saying that I still care for him. My boyfriend is fine and supports my choices either way; he's willing to come with me to the hospital if needed {but not inside my ex's room, as he feels that would hurt the boy}.

I don't know what I want. I felt some slight guilt over the break up already, like I abandonded him in his time of need, and I fear that if I don't visit him, I'll feel worse. I feel like that would make me a bad person, because who refuses to see someone who's in a shape bad enough to kill himself? I'd go, if the suicide thing wasn't involved, likely... because it'd be the right thing to do. On the other hand, my parents' fear are getting to me and now I don't know...what if I just open up a can of worms here? What if I hurt him more than do good by letting him believe my visit means he has a chance? I don't want him to call me up and ask me to see him just to talk and cry, frankly, we've never been friends...if it was just checking up on each other every once in a while, I could do that, but I can't offer any more than that. I can't heal him, I know this, I couldn't even back when I was his girlfriend...But this feels so selfish of me. I wish there was a way of telling him 'hi, I'm sorry you've had it so rough, I wish you all the good in the world and for you to be well again- that's because I did genuinely care for you. Now, though, these wishes are all I can give you, so please understand that.' He's not alone, he has a family who supports him and a somewhat loose network of friends {who only came to know about this whole thing last week, 'cept for the two closest ones.}

I've contemplated not going to protect myself and my current relationship, going not to have regrets and feeling like an awful being, going with my mother/father to make it less 'personal/private', not going and just sending him flowers and a note...What do I do?

Other than this, it feels so weird, like it hasn't really happened. I'm having issues connecting the person I knew and I've been with, who, sure, had issues, but not issues that I ever foresaw taking this path, and the one who decided to throw himself off a bridge and only survived because he hit a car parked underneath. He must have been in so much pain...I keep re-reading the articles about it and I think 'what was I doing then, on this day?' and now every memory I have of us together is...leading back to this. In my mind it's like the person who chose to do this is not the same I used to know. And on top of this, I have to decide what to do and if I were to go, pretend I don't know anything and believe their fake accident story...It's too much all at the same time. Help me please.
posted by opalshards to Human Relations (24 answers total)
 
I think you need a second opinion from someone who's in closer contact with him. A parent, the friend who called you for him (though I'm hesitant on that, since it doesn't sound like they told you the truth about his suicide attempt.) If you can talk to someone who can tell you if they think it's a good idea based on what they know about him, well, I just know I'd feel a lot better about saying yes OR no if it were me in that situation.
posted by lemniskate at 6:23 PM on September 26, 2013


I don't think you should go for all the reasons your parents mention. He already lied to you through the friend, so he's probably not in a totally healthy state. The whole thing sounds precarious.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:27 PM on September 26, 2013 [30 favorites]


You are not responsible for anyone's happiness but your own. Let go of this guilt. You didn't do anything wrong. He hurt himself because he is sick, not because of anything you did. You had and have the right to protect yourself, to move on with your life, and to be happy.

I don't know what I want. I felt some slight guilt over the break up already, like I abandonded him in his time of need, and I fear that if I don't visit him, I'll feel worse.

You didn't abandon him. You say he pushed you away, and in any case you didn't what you thought was best for you and him at the time. You shouldn't feel guilty about that.

I don't want him to call me up and ask me to see him just to talk and cry, frankly, we've never been friends...if it was just checking up on each other every once in a while, I could do that, but I can't offer any more than that.


If this is the case, if you don't want to be friends, then don't see him. It will only be heartbreak for him, anguish and guilt for you.

I wish there was a way of telling him 'hi, I'm sorry you've had it so rough, I wish you all the good in the world and for you to be well again- that's because I did genuinely care for you. Now, though, these wishes are all I can give you, so please understand that.'


Write him a letter. Don't put a return address on it if you don't want a response.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:38 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Send him a note wishing him well.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:46 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Please seek counseling for yourself. Being an ex of a person who goes on to commit or attempt suicide is known to be traumatic.

A professional impartial third party (who is a good fit for you, that part IS important) can help guide you through some of these feelings that you're expressing here. That process can help shed some light on whether you should contact the ex, and what kinds of contact you might be comfortable with.

Also, other kinds of boundary setting and maintaining.

It's a longer term process than deciding right now whether to call him. But your long term health is important, and while many will argue that you are not responsible for HIS health, you certainly can think of life in the oxygen mask way. Make sure you are healthy before trying to take care of others.
posted by bilabial at 6:46 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's kind of shitty that your parents et al. didn't tell you the truth about the suicide attempt.

That said, I don't think you should contact or go see him. He is not your boyfriend, and you didn't "abandon" him. Even if you had - in some way - done so, it would not change my opinion.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:52 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't go and don't contact him in any way. There is nothing that he or you can offer that will be a benefit to either of you. He has a lot of healing to do and involving you in any kind of fantasy scenario (anything from getting back together, to developing a healthy friendship, to trying to find closure) is a distraction and not good for him right now.

You didn't abandon him. He has a serious disease and it prevented him from being a good partner to you. You don't owe him anything and being a distraction at this point in his recovery could do real harm to both of you. Let his family and loved ones take care of him and provide him the healthy, stable support he needs. It's very possible that in confronting what lies ahead of him, he's been fixating on you, and has imagined you to be a magical ex. Reconnecting with you is not what he needs and don't enable it.

I'm very sorry for your pain as you deal with this fallout. Be kind to yourself and know that this is neither your fault, nor is it your responsibility to try to fix this, even in a small way.
posted by quince at 6:55 PM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is oddly close to something that happened to me. More than 10 years ago, I attempted suicide. The attempt was a few months after a breakup of sorts though our relationship was not very defined (as it was same-sex & neither of us was out). Afterward, I was in the hospital for little while, and when I got out I wanted to see her SO BADLY.

I did see her; it was awkward; then we didn't speak again for a very long time (and basically still don't, though due to mutual friends I see her now & then). I felt horrible at being cut off from her. It took months to mostly get over her, and years to really get over her. And eventually, I realized that the process of getting over her was all about me - I healed when I processed things, and had nothing at all to do with her. Her actions, including that last visit, did not really have much to do with the timeline of me feeling okay again.

So, from the perspective of someone who was in a similar place as your ex and made it through to the other side, he's either going to be okay, or not going to be okay, and it really has to do with his internal process. You won't speed it up or slow it down by visiting, and I think you can choose to visit or not based on what is best for you.

Regarding your own guilt - you sound like you have really healthy boundaries, and you sound like a very loving, thoughtful person. It's very normal/common to feel guilt when someone you care about does something like this, but it is not your fault.

Also -
I wish there was a way of telling him 'hi, I'm sorry you've had it so rough, I wish you all the good in the world and for you to be well again- that's because I did genuinely care for you. Now, though, these wishes are all I can give you, so please understand that.'

This is really lovely. If he's anything like me, he won't be able to hear/understand it yet - but perhaps someday.
posted by puppetshow at 6:56 PM on September 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


I bet if you contacted his doctors (or your own therapist) they would tell you the best way for him to have a chance at getting better is only if you stay out of it.

You might want to notify his doctors he lied and used a third party to get to you, though. They need to know where his head is at.

Why in the world would you disbelieve he attacked his brother or that you might not be in danger if you respond to this overture?? Don't be so naive from here on out.

Frankly, I think you should see a therapist and come to grips with reality. I'd be concerned that once you reject him this time, if his (permanent?) injuries start looking to him like they are your fault, what that might mean safety-wise for you and your new boyfriend.

Sorry to be so cautious, but you are not a mental health professional, and you need to stay far far away from your ex and leave him to the professionals.

Worryingly, you seem to be down-playing the violent aspects of what you ex did to himself, and what he might be capable of down the road. This lethal level of violence coupled with the lie he had his friend tell you? Wow. Bright red neon flags are flashing, but you're too transfixed by the trauma and shock of his actions to see the Danger.

Please see a therapist for some perspective and support.

Stay safe. Stay away.
posted by jbenben at 7:15 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry if the above reads a little obnoxious. I'm worried for you and I hope you re-frame this phone call you received.

It wasn't an invitation or a plea for mercy. At the core, this overture contains a threat, and you will be wise to disengage and take precautions.

You're not to blame, so you don't need to get hurt.

Stay away. Stay safe.
posted by jbenben at 7:19 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


It doesn't sound to me as though going to see him would help either one of you. The whole thing has already brought up a lot of complicated and painful stuff for you. He's obviously so lost in his own misery that you going to see him will, at best, make no difference and at worst, feed the misery.

I think it says a lot about the kind of person you are that you want to help. But there are some people you cannot help, not because they are beyond help, but because you are the wrong person to help them. If you came across someone who needed CPR and you didn't know how to do it but there was another passer-by who did, you would step aside and let the person who knew what they were doing get about it instead of insisting you wanted to help and getting in the way. I think your desire to visit him comes from a really good place, but it just doesn't sound like a helpful thing to do. For either of you.

Look after yourself. This is hard and upsetting news and make sure you are getting the support you need. Sounds like you have many people who can provide it, but don't rule out professional help.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:22 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


You may have been part of his internal dialogue, and maybe you still are. He may have reasons to associate you with the feelings and thoughts that compelled him to attempt suicide. However, those thoughts and feelings are all his, generated by him and they don't have anything to do with you. You might as well think that, just because he sees the Moon, that it's the Moon that causes him to like cheese.

Logic, however, isn't the only thing going on here, though. I'm sure you feel some connection with him. He was a part of your life, and you were part of his. It could easily be the case that some of his issues identify themselves with your relationship. That will never go away. Feeling compassion for him is normal. What happens to him isn't happening to some theoretical person.

But your relationship was severed. That's a big deal, and it's what your life has been about. He went a different direction with his life. If he hadn't attempted suicide, or you hadn't heard about his suicide attempt, you wouldn't be likely to try to rekindle to any kind of relationship with him.

There's no reason to think that you can actually help him by getting back in contact with him. His issues need to be addressed by him, with the help of competent, trained people, who can try to help him sort out the issues driving him, or, if it's appropriate, assist him in getting medication to help offset a chemical imbalance that affects his well-being.

You seem to me to be a caring person. By your eloquent narrative, I take you to be intelligent and well-spoken. Please realize that what he needs is beyond the scope of what you have to offer. You are not turning your back on him...that would be the case only if you refused to give him something he could actually use.

Your parents probably were trying to shelter you, which, in my view was a mistake. They perhaps were worried that you would try to carry your friend's load for him, and wanted to spare you any more heartache. Anyhow, you can't carry his load. You need to let some professionals help him sort that out.

A sweet note seems like a good idea on the surface, but I believe it softens the ground on which you stand, and leaves the door open to needless wear and tear on the both of you. Should your friend enter treatment, it may be appropriate to contact his care-givers to see what they think about you offering him a platonic shoulder to lean on. Or else consult a professional of your own choosing to discuss how this works. My concern is that your friend is in deep psychological waters now, and you are not equipped to deal with it.
posted by mule98J at 7:31 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


i am really sorry this has happened. please don't beat yourself up over breaking up with him. he wasn't in any shape to be in a relationship and he needed help. hopefully, with this tragic turn of events he can get the help he needs and on a road to healing. looking at your post from a few weeks ago you were feeling at that time very conflicted about the end of your relationship with him. i am assuming this was before you knew about his attempt? either way, it doesn't sound like it would be a good idea to visit him, especially with him lying about what happened. it probably would be a good idea to talk to a counselor to get an idea on how best to handle this and to process your feelings about it all. part of me says go ahead and send him flowers and a nice card saying what you did here,

'hi, I'm sorry you've had it so rough, I wish you all the good in the world and for you to be well again- that's because I did genuinely care for you. Now, though, these wishes are all I can give you, so please understand that.'

but i don't know if that would be in his best interest. if you do contact him do not go along with his lie. pretending won't help him at all. all you'd have to tell him is you know what really happened. no big explanation or discussion on that is needed and you can just convey how much you do care for him. again, i'm really sorry for your ex and this situation. be gentle with yourself as it is a difficult situation.
posted by wildflower at 8:02 PM on September 26, 2013


Nthing. You can't help him, but you can certainly hurt yourself, by renewing contact with him. Don't.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:24 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


You aren;t his mom, you aren;t his sister, you aren't his wife/significant you aren't his doctor. Thus, you have no obligations other than your own kindness... which, sadly, in this case will lead you/him into more trouble than it will heal. No contact is almost certainly the best way to go here. The nicest thing you can do is not enable him. Again no contact is the way. Your sanity and kindness are working against you and his unhealthy mindset. Sorry.
posted by Jacen at 8:48 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't go and don't contact him in any way. There is nothing that he or you can offer that will be a benefit to either of you. He has a lot of healing to do and involving you in any kind of fantasy scenario (anything from getting back together, to developing a healthy friendship, to trying to find closure) is a distraction and not good for him right now.

Yes, I agree with this. You two are on separate paths in life now that shouldn't cross for the protection of both of you. It is not healthy or appropriate for you to provide emotional support to this man in any way and it is not healthy or appropriate for him to do or engage in anything that will let him think he can still have any kind of relationship [including friendship/acquaintance] with you.

Maybe instead of contacting him/his family, you could do something like donate to a suicide prevention charity and do some kind of symbolic thing privately, like light a candle or plant some flowers somewhere.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:51 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please don't go. This is the best for you AND for him.

Yes, he's hurting, but it's not your fault. And you can't fix it. And that has to be okay. Because that is reality.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:55 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


No. Don't go. No contact.

There is a certain subset of people who are likely to use a suicide attempt to manipulate others emotionally. I'm not saying he is one of them, but don't put yourself in a position that it could impact you.

Put the emotional energy into making your relationship with your boyfriend stronger.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:04 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd tell you what I really think, after finding the body of a college roommate who did it, and supporting a multiple suicide attempt person with a 30+ year history of schizophrenia for more than 5 years, and a drunkard wife who "tried it" on 2 separate occasions, but AskMe isn't really geared for that level of personal recitation.

In lieu of all that, I recommend you never contact your ex, by any means.
posted by paulsc at 12:56 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I feel like that would make me a bad person, because who refuses to see someone who's in a shape bad enough to kill himself?"

Speaking as someone who has survived a couple of suicide attempts myself, I'd like to absolve you of any guilt you might feel over this.

Unless you're planning on getting back together with him and staying with him long-term (which you're not) then it's probably actually better for him not to see you at all. Sporadic contact with someone you love and want to be with is painful and confusing and often worse than no contact at all. Even completely healthy people struggle with being friends or acquaintances with exes so it's really not a good idea to introduce that kind of emotional rollercoaster into an already volatile mental health situation.

Meanwhile, it sounds like no contact is best for your own wellbeing as well.

If anyone tries to give you shit about not going to see him, I suggest saying something like "I wish him well but our relationship is over and we are never getting back together. Giving him false hope would be cruel and I don't want to do anything to disrupt or distract from his healing process."
posted by Jacqueline at 3:09 AM on September 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


This guy is a mess, he was a mess before he met you and you were wise and kind to leave him so that he could work on his mental health.

As others have said, don't go see him. He THINKS he needs you, but in fact it's the last thing he needs.

Don't trust a person with serious mental health issues to know what he needs. He thought he needed to throw himself off a bridge.

Pray for his well being, donate to a suicide prevention organization, and leave it alone.

This is best for you, and best for him in the long run.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:44 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just don't even go, Christ. All I read was the title and the answer's obvious. Why are you even thinking of it?

The urge to emotionally rescue others is something a person needs to overcome, it's one of the more pernicious - and pervasive - relationship fallacies. Basically it's just a mechanism for making two people miserable instead of just one. If misery were a virus, that urge would be the vector.

Your boyfriend sounds like a hero. But he too, needs to be a bit more self-interested about this. He must love you a great deal - don't take advantage of his good nature, if that's an easier way for you to think about your way forward.
posted by glasseyes at 12:29 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't talk to him anymore. It's the only way any of this makes sense. You don't deserve to get folded into someone's serious problems.

None of his problems have to do with you; they have to do with himself. You'll just be an excuse for him not to deal with himself.
posted by discopolo at 3:16 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


You must stay away. His craziness drove you away, and you have no intention of getting back together. It's unfair to you, and equally unfair to your ex, who wants something you can't and shouldn't give.

You can send him a short note making it clear that you're sorry for him, but making it equally clear that it's over. "Dear ___, I was sorry to hear about your crisis. I wish you a quick recovery and the best from here on out."
posted by KRS at 3:44 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


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