suicidal ex speaks incoherently, needlessly names me- do I warn his dad?
May 12, 2014 1:41 PM   Subscribe

My suicidal ex bumped into A, an acquaintance of mine, a few days ago and, according to A who later contacted me to warn me about it, he talked strangely, incoherently, in an evidently sick way and mentioned my complete name several times for no apparent reason. As when I last heard him (to tell him to stop calling me), three weeks before this, he seemed to be in a fairly good mental state, I am now debating calling his family to let them know about it. Should I do it or would it be out of place and maybe even open up a can of worms I've barely managed to close?

My ex bf, with whom I have had a six month relationship that ended a year or so ago, attempted suicide in June of last year and miracolously survived; after staying in a hospital for months, he contacted me through a friend, wishing for me to go see him, which, after quite a lot of inner debating, I did not do, also following the advice that Metafilter members gave me (thread about it).

Once he got out, he contacted me on his own again, calling me- I did answer and he talked to me honestly about what had happened regarding the suicide, his health issue following that and how he thought he had been a fool and regretted it all- stated he felt much better now, that he thought him surviving was a miracle etc. I was glad to hear he was better and left it at that. After this, he kept contacting him once every two weeks more or less (sometimes less, sometimes more) and the conversations were mostly updates on his life, his projects for the future (he seemed to make many of them, some regarding university, some about volunteering, or working part time), him meeting with friends (and he seemed to do that very often, much more so than in the past), or his new relationship. Along with this, though on a very minor note, came some questions about me, how I/my family was doing and the relationship I'm currently in (and have been since a few weeks after the break up). I always cut short on the answers about the latter, as i was not that comfortable talking to him about that.

During this time, my bf of course knew about every phone call- and he was very understanding at first, up until he felt my ex started trying to contact me too often. At Christmas for instance he called me twice a week to wish me happy holidays and such- and then attempted to see me a few times- inviting me for coffee with him, which I refused, to a party he intended to throw and, the only time he managed, in order to get me to give him back something of his he had lent me pre-break on a very short note, claiming he needed it immediately. On that one time, probably stupidly, I went and we ended up talking- again, pretty much like we did on the phone back then. Right after it, he found me on FB and added me and every single friend I had there- which angered my bf and made me feel quite uncomfortable. I told him about it and asked him to stop contacting me for a few weeks, so that both of us could have had some space; he waited a while and after this he called me less frequently, also since it coincided with his new relationship period. Problems started again in March, when his gf broke up with him and he resumed contacting me again more often- this time differently, with shorter conversations and messages that made it clear he didn't want to be just friends with me. Via sms he did ask me whether I'd get back with him, if he hadn't tried to kill himself and if I wasn't in a relationship, if I thought we were compatible etc. Needless to say I tried to turn him down, as gently as possible at first, but had to rephrase it, always more harshly, up until he got the message. At this point my bf was furious and wanted me to cut off contacts with him (something he had demanded in the downfall of the previous months but that I had put off doing, out of hope we all could have shared just a civil and friendly bond, hoping it would have been just a phase during which my ex was adjusting to his life after suicide attempt and would have ended up detaching himself from me on his own as he went on) FF a few weeks and he sent me a love quote written on a gift of mine- this time even I had to face the truth, it had been enough and I was no longer willing to put myself and my relationship under pressure for him- so I called him up and told him we needed to stop talking now, for a very long time, and that if he had contacted me prior to that (a year or so, to give an example), it'd have been forever. He tried to push my buttons, guilt tripped me (didn't I feel sorry about the way I ended things when he was sick?), started blaming me for not calling during the last weeks of our relationship when he was the one who asked me not to and refused to take my calls, etc. I was done, regardless.

It's been a month since then. A few days ago, A, an acquaintance of mine contacted me to tell me that he bumped into this guy at the hospital (the ex was there not to receive any cures, A specified) who talked a bit strange, a bit incoherently, who, prompted by A, told him about his suicide story and how now he wanted to take med courses (the reason why he was there). In the midst of this weird convo, the ex said my complete name to A a few times, out of context, or so he told me. (Stuff like 'then opalshards told me to...', in a really unrelated and weird way.) A thus decided to warn me about my ex, said he thought it was a good thing for me to stay away, that he looked sick and that by breaking up I had avoided very big issues in the future.

So here I am now. Knowing all of this sort of threw me off balance. It's not as though I did not think that depression could have been reoccurring- I hoped not, of course though-, but it was such an abrupt change from the way I had heard him just three weeks prior to this...He always sounded fairly normal on the phone, for months, so I was persuaded I had cut contacts with someone in that state of mind, but now all of a sudden he seems to be so unstable again and in such a short period of time too! It just...caught me off guard, I guess. I feel smothered by this situation, like everytime I think I've closed it it comes back to haunt me in some form- and like I'm kicking him while he's down again and that's not what I had seen nor expected. Don't get me wrong, I'm not stupid enough to think I can save him or heal him, but I've been wondering if maybe I should warn the family of his state- which likely they know of, because they live with him, but maybe a wake up call from a stranger would be useful? I know it's likely not my place to do it and I don't even know if by doing this I'd just open up the contact I so struggled to close again, but what if I don't do it and he tries to kill himself again? Both my mother and bf are opposed me calling his father for the reasons I mentioned above...Likely they're right, but a part of me stupidly thinks that if I did it it would mean I did everything I could, if anything happened to him...What would you all do in my place? I know I'm likely being selfish here and making my bf suffer in the process, and probably what I'm debating to do would just be a reiterations of my past mistakes...but I'm so tired with all of this and can't help being the flawed way I am.
posted by opalshards to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Stay out of it. It seems like you managed to make yourself clear after a long struggle and if you get involved in any way it will seem like a mixed message which is not in anyone's best interest; the last thing he needs is to latch back on to someone who can't and shouldn't be able to support him the way he needs. I'm sorry he's doing badly and I'm sorry you had to hear about it but it's not your responsibility. Do not engage with this.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:48 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

No. You need to step back hard. I know you've cut off contact but only temporarily, and that's a bad idea. He lives with his family, they see him, they know. He was at the hospital. And you're getting this secondhand anyway. And odds are he did it on purpose to weasel his way back into your life via your friend, who he knew would tell you.

You have cut off contact now. Make it permanent -- not by telling him, of course, just by knowing in your heart that you are done and you will no longer speak to him. Throw out emails, don't answer phone calls (don't listen to voice mails!) If you see him in person, get yourself to a safe space either locked away from him or somewhere with lots of people around.
posted by brainmouse at 1:50 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

If he lives with them, as you say, they know about his state. I would focus on taking care of yourself.

You ALREADY did everything you could, and more. And if his parents say you called, you are right that would start the whole cycle again.

I know it feels pitiless, but it's not. He's not in a place where you are any help to him, and frankly, I'd be a little worried that he might be a bit dangerous to you, if he's not in control of himself.

There is nothing you can do, except to be careful. He has family; this is on them, not you.
posted by emjaybee at 1:50 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I were you, I'd be more worried about my saftey than his. He's unstable and seemingly fixated on you. Please take precautions.
posted by spaltavian at 1:51 PM on May 12, 2014 [26 favorites]

I'd avoid all contact with him -- and I mean all, as in block all electronic, personal, and phone contact -- but yes, I'd notify his family. Just in case they didn't hear this already.
posted by bearwife at 1:52 PM on May 12, 2014

all of a sudden he seems to be so unstable again and in such a short period of time

From your description, he sounded pretty unstable when you were talking a month ago. His family knows he was suicidal in the relatively recent past. If they have any sense whatsoever, they'll be watching him pretty closely already. If you did contact them and they were to mention this to your ex, the situation could well become worse (for both of you) rather than better.
posted by karbonokapi at 1:55 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Continue to stay out of it and ignore any of his attempts to contact you. It's not like his family isn't aware he's at risk of self-harm or suicide. You don't get over that like a cold and you're not telling them anything they're not on-guard for already. If the dude wants to kill himself, he'll do it regardless of whether you're in the picture or not. If he doesn't want to kill himself and wants attention from you, then it's no good for either his or your mental state to give it to him.

...and can't help being the flawed way I am.

You can't help being flawed, sure, but you are certainly and completely in charge of your actions. I can practically guarantee that opening a line to this guy is going to put your current relationship at risk, and for good reason.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

maybe I should warn the family of his state- which likely they know of, because they live with him

This should have gone up toward the top, because it's key. His parents see him every day, so they know, and know quite a bit more than you at this point (since whatever you know is only second-hand).
posted by Houstonian at 2:03 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

No no no no: Warning bells are going off for me. Stay away from him. Do not contact his family. He's trying to reel you back in, and you've already reinforced this idea by meeting him at Christmas, calling him to ask him to stop calling you, etc. And he told it to another person, who then in turn told you. Why doesn't that other person reach out to his family? Why does it have to be you to call them? (this is a slightly rhetorical question.)

out of hope we all could have shared just a civil and friendly bond

That horse has left the barn. There is no hope for this. Please, be careful, take care of yourself, and stop ALL contact with him. And I mean all: do not call him to tell him not to call you. Cut off ALL contact. Tell your friends to NOT mention him to you. Get a restraining order if you have to.

And get therapy, if you feel it will help you get clarity on the situation.

Best of luck to you.
posted by absquatulate at 2:03 PM on May 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Your current bf is totally right --- you need to go absolutely, completely No Contact Whatsoever with your ex..... delete AND block him from fb (plus lock down your privacy on there, so he can't peek in sideways from your friends' pages); tell your friends and family that you do not want to hear about him, nor do you want them to discuss YOU with HIM; delete him from your phone lists, block and texts/calls/whatever. 'No Contact' means exactly that: NO contact. And not just for 'a couple weeks': at minimum make it a full YEAR.

As for his threats of suicide: not your business, not your responsibility.
posted by easily confused at 2:18 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been in dark holes similar to your ex.

From my experience, it wasn't her I was pining for per se, but a romanticized (figuratively and literally) version of her. A version where she is closely associated with the warm, happy glow of potential, hope, and budding love.

More importantly, a choice in selectively remembering how she made me feel when we were together.

Whether that memory is entirely accurate or not, it didn't matter to me. I was so certain, that as it was so clear to me that she was right for me, that the converse must also be true, and that she just was operating under some kind of denial or influence of someone else (family, current SO, etc.) that was keeping us apart, but if only I could somehow rekindle that fire, she would be mine again. If I could just talk to her, spend time with her, and let her re-know me, that she would be mine again.

The fundamental issue at hand is that I had no interest in what she was feeling, or the current state of her affairs, including significant others. I only knew that my life was terrible, things were incredibly fucked up for me, and in some weird, distorted grasp of hope, I pinned my happiness on her presence, and thought that the universe had to deliver because it was intrinsic to my continued ability to survive in this world.

Looking back, it's incredibly unhealthy, and obviously causes terrible anxiety and stress in people's lives.... And, furthermore, it doesn't work.

On one occasion, due to timing, persistence, and being a manipulative twat, I managed to con one my exes back into a relationship. The whole thing came crashing down again, as I soon realized that the pretty picture I had painted of her when we were apart was a complete fabrication, and I unfortunately discovered that she had her own wishes, desires, and a disappointing lack of a psychic connection to do and say exactly as I thought she should.

After therapy and ton of other work on myself, I don't feel this way anymore. It is important to state that it had nothing to do with the presence (or lack thereof) of a single person, no matter how important I thought our connection was.

Go with the advice in this thread. And go with a clear conscience.
posted by Debaser626 at 2:23 PM on May 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

He has a disease. It is HIS disease. It is not yours.

If he had a broken leg and kept telling people that you had suggested doing XYZ about it, but didn't do it... or if he did something crazy like cutting off his cast a week into healing based on some offhand comment you made, not because his doctor said something... would that be your fault? Would that be because you had somehow failed him?

He is a human being who has resources that he may or may not use based on where he is. But you are not one of the best resources for him -- not now, and potentially not ever. Of course you care about what happens to him, but there's nothing you can do to help him heal unless he decides to let himself do it.
posted by Madamina at 2:28 PM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Steer clear of this person, entirely and forever.
posted by Pudhoho at 2:45 PM on May 12, 2014

This isn't about you, and this behavior isn't reserved for you. I know it has spiked your adrenaline to hear that he said your name, but people who are cognitively compromised (which is almost inevitable after a near-miss suicide attempt, and then there is the blessing/curse of heavy duty medication as part of his treatment, which can cause additional instability) can have a lot of neuro-verbal tics including perseverating on a word or phrase that has symbolic meaning. He saw your friend, it brought your name to mind. It could have just as easily been the name of your cat or a movie you saw together.

You're panicking, which I understand, and the helplessness sucks so bad, but that's how it is. You're not responsible and you cannot rewrite the situation to be responsible and therefore have control. There may be a big scoop of grief in this for you as well, which is understandable. The person you once knew is probably gone for good, or at the very least has a long slog of healing ahead.

If he lives with his family they are aware of his state of mind. (Tip: he was not at the hospital to go to medical school. That's an excuse that only makes sense if you're spending a lot of time inventing alternate narratives and also trying to preserve some shred of dignity.)

The only reason to tell your friend to contact this man's family (as you have no firsthand information to share) is if they are unaware of his whereabouts and are looking for him. This does not appear to be the case.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:02 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been in a similar situation, though not nearly as extreme. A short term relationship became much more serious than I intended, and I ended it when I realized we were not on the same page. He'd call me multiple times to ask me why I ended it (we were never even at bf/gf stage), and ask me to repeat things that I'd just told him the day before.

Not long after, his mental state and life in general started deteriorating. I would hear about it through mutual friends. He had a particularly bad episode where he showed up at a friend's house 8 in the morning, had not slept, and just spoke incoherently, on and on. My name was mentioned in these incoherent rants (if it had worked out with...)

I felt awfully guilty about it all. I felt like I'd been irresponsible and was one of the reasons he's in this state. I thought about contacting his family to see how he was. But in the end, I left it alone.

His issues and mental state are part of him and you didn't put it there. You're just what he chose to stay fixated on. It would've manifested itself regardless. If you maintain contact with him, he'll be "trained" to see that each tantrum or outburst can bring you back, and it'll be harder for him to move on.

I've thought about the potential of suicide from the guy in my story, but there's really nothing I could've done to help him. He's gotten better in the past year, and we just got coffee not too long ago (after about a year since we last talked). I hate putting it this way, but it's kind of like rewarding a kid for good behavior. I didn't want to completely shut him out forever because I wanted him to feel progress in himself, and that if he was chill and want to be friends, then that's fine. But it was really necessary to stay away for a long while for him to realize that.
posted by monologish at 3:18 PM on May 12, 2014

Not my area, but it's my understanding that it is not helpful to meet or communicate with anyone over-clingy or with stalking tendencies. You may see it as a chance to reiterate "no, not interested" but to them it's a meeting, and therefore a win.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:34 PM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

The fact that the ex is living with family is really important here. I would be much more tempted to get in touch with someone if I knew/suspected that the person in question lived alone/far from family/was isolated, because it would suggest that I MIGHT have private information that others needed to know but didn't have. Since his family sees him every day, they in fact have much, much more information about his mental state than you have from a second-hand conversation. Leave it be, and take whatever steps you have not yet taken to cut off all contact. Personally, I would change my phone number, block on FB, etc. etc.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:56 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is not your problem. It is not your drama. Stay away.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:23 PM on May 12, 2014

His parents see him every day, so they know

This is so much not necessarily true. My upstairs neighbour, who I see every day, had no idea how suicidal I was recently until she had to let the EMTs into the building and unlock my door because I was already virtually in a coma, nor did she know that I've been cutting myself (a situation which is now under control).

Those of us who are high-functioning but nevertheless severely mentally ill (as your ex seems to be, on both counts) are incredibly good at hiding our problems; the usual metaphor is that of a duck looking like it's peacefully gliding across the water, but if you look below the waterline their feet are going going going going.

Because if we don't, that usually means we get hospitalized and you're not getting out until they say you can. For me personally, that actually should have happened in March; I'm glad it didn't, but if it had it would have driven me right round the twist. He may need to be compelled into a hospital for psych evaluation. There are ways to have this happen without your name being involved.

I mean, think about how many times you've heard "I had no idea she was an alcoholic," or "He was such a nice neighbour" about serial killers? Families also have a vested interest in telling themselves that their child isn't really that sick, etc. On the other hand it's entirely possible the family knows and has no idea what to do.

Now, with all that being said:

This is his life, not yours. His (and his caregivers') responsibility, not yours. You should take some safety precautions, perhaps a self-defence class. (I am not linking mental illness to violence, I am linking creepy obsessive stalking behaviour to violence).

And, obviously, No Contact. At all. Block his (known) emails and FB profiles and whatever. Keep his number in your phone though, so you know not to answer it when (I doubt it's if) he calls again (unless you have the ability to block him from calling your number, in which case block, delete, forget. A new phone number may also be a good idea for you, though an annoying and inconveniencing one). But No Contact by any means through any media at all. Especially do not succumb to anything involving meeting him in person.

You should probably also lock down all your profiles on the web as tight as possible, so he can't contact you/find you through them. You might also want to ask the mods to anonymize this thread (via the contact form listed at the bottom right of every page), since I'd be willing to bet he knows at least some of your online handles and probably checks up on them.

You may also wish to consider talking to your police and at least giving them a heads up that you are concerned about his obsessive, stalking behaviour. And to retain distance, it might be a good idea for your friend to make a separate report, asking for a Health and Wellness check. It's also possible that such a report could get him picked up and remanded for psych evaluation, which may not be a bad thing for him, notwithstanding what I said earlier about being committed against your will. I'm guessing he's in his early 20's? (you referred to him as 'boy' in your previous question) which is prime time for onset of schizophrenia, which can often start out as weird disordered thinking and conversation.

It sounds like he's in a really bad, dark place, and has been for quite some time. I feel for him (that doesn't excuse his creepy obsessiveness at all) because I have been in very similar mental places more than I care to discuss at length here.

You're not kicking him when he's down. You're preserving your own rights to your mental health and well-being. Continue to do so, and wipe him out of your life.

I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:48 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you really feel you have to, then send his family an anonymous note, obscuring the identifying details but including whatever might be relevant / helpful. Or encourage the friend who called you to call his family. Most likely they don't know how to help him feel better either.

But what you don't want to do is to inadvertently reward his suicidal or depressed behavior by giving him what he (may think he) wants, YOUR care and attention. For whatever reason, it may be that you have a toxic impact on this guy. He may even subconsciously believe that if he just gets sick enough, you'll be moved to come back to help him. You need to leave him alone not only for your own well being but so he can learn to deal with your absence. Your concern will give him false hope.
posted by salvia at 6:47 PM on May 12, 2014

Yeah, I was going to say, if anyone's going to contact the family it should be the friend, the person who witnessed the behaviour first-hand, and who knows the history.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:21 PM on May 12, 2014

He has a disease. It is HIS disease. It is not yours.

I wish I could favorite that more than once. He's your ex. His diseases are no longer your problem, no matter what they are, and no matter how much he thinks about you. His problems are his own problems. His problems are something for his friends and family to worry about, not for you. No-contact is not necessary in all breakups, but it is necessary in all breakups wherein it is plainly apparent that one party is remaining obsessed with the other long past the breakup point.

If you cannot stay in contact with him without continuing to take personal responsibility for his mental health, if he cannot stay in contact with you without continuing to contact you inappropriately, then you guys need to not be in contact with one another. For both of your sakes.
posted by Sequence at 8:45 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

A thus decided to warn me about my ex, said he thought it was a good thing for me to stay away, that he looked sick and that by breaking up I had avoided very big issues in the future.

Listen to A.

A didn't call you up to tell you to get involved in your ex's life, to call his family, whatever interaction A had with your ex made him think that you need to protect yourself and stay the hell away from your ex.
posted by inertia at 11:50 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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