SUICIDE, MENTAL HEALTH AND THE CAREGIVER

Mental Health/Suicide
by – Sheri de Grom

Compiled from journal notes, April 26, 1996, Washington, DC

Burdened by my bulging briefcase, I’d hoped to get a jump on the day. We were celebrating our tenth anniversary tonight and I wanted to arrive home early.

Tom wasn’t in bed as I prepared for work but many mornings he’d be up early working in his shop. That morning would soon prove to be an exception to the rule.

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I slowly made my way downstairs from our bedroom and paused at the second landing to adjust my heavy load. Looking down into the small sitting room, I had a clear vision of Tom as he sat  in an easy chair. There was no mistaking the pistol in his lap.

I knew not to startle him. His finger played with the trigger. I held my breath. My mind raced. My briefcase slid to the floor. I moved cautiously down the remaining steps and into the sitting room.

Tom had been in and out of the hospital five times in the past two years. Sometimes I thought the hospitalizations helped and other times they were puzzling. We’d gone through two additional psychiatrists and tried three new hospitals. Doctors and hospitals alike were proving to be of separate classifications. There were the ones that were more or less okay, the ones that were indifferent and then the ones that just didn’t seem to give a damn about anything other than our insurance coverage.

Our anniversary plans were defeated, again. I had to retrieve the gun and keep Tom safe.

I lowered myself to his feet. He’d retreated to his secret and secure inner space, that place where suicide knocked again and it then became my responsibility to whisper to him, “Darling, it’s me, Sheri. May I please have the gun?” Tom continued staring straight ahead. In a calm and soft voice I repeated, “May I please have the gun?”

It seemed hours had passed but only moments had trickled by. He kept his hand on the gun.

“I feel dead. I don’t care. Do whatever you want with me,” he said in that all too familiar monotone voice I’d come to despise.

“I love you. You’re going to be safe. Tom, please give me the gun and we’ll get you help. First, I must have the gun. May I please have it?”

He shook his head yes. Holding my breath, I carefully removed the gun from his hand, put it in a closet for now, helped him into his coat and we slowly made our way to the car where once again I buckled his seat-belt for the ride to the hospital.

I’d admitted him to yet another hospital. The facility was one of the highest rated in Virginia. The psychiatrist interacted with Tom during the admissions process and this gave me hope.

I talked briefly with the psychiatrist and he explained that Tom would probably sleep for at least two days but, I was welcome to stop in any time to see him. After looking at Tom’s meds, he told me there were some he would like to discontinue. He said that Tom might not know I was there that evening and if I wanted and most importantly needed to go home and rest that was understandable.

“Thank you doctor. I appreciate your kindness. I’ll be at my office if you need me. I’ll plan to come by on my way home.”

The doctor told me he would still be on the premises and that if I didn’t see him I should have one of the hospital staff page him.

The day seemed an eternity and I’m sure I looked exhausted before I reached my office. Driving the extra two hours required on the beltway to get Tom to the hospital before work, surviving the admissions process, driving another one and one-half hours on the beltway, bumper to bumper, to get to my office, depleted my negligible reserve of stamina. I was on autopilot, again.

As I drove, I peeked into other cars and all the drivers wore the same stoic expression. We were five lanes of traffic moving at eighty miles an hour with nowhere to stop in an emergency. It always amazed me that on the opposite side of the concrete dividers, another five lanes of bumper to bumper traffic traveled eighty miles an hour going in the reverse direction. It appeared we were all going round and round on some pointless, endless amusement ride.

Some mornings during my commute I’d watch drivers working on laptop computers on the seat beside them with a phone glued to their ear. Other times I’d see a young woman removing rollers from her hair and applying makeup. I’d brood angrily, while these young professionals were working or sending e-mails to lovers. Why had my life become so intolerably chaotic, always directed by the unstable requirements of Tom’s disease?

I’d gotten out of bed on a cold morning to rush Tom to the hospital, again. It distracted me and time passed faster when I fantasized that the young woman applying her makeup and fluffing her hair in the car next to mine stayed a moment too long in her lover’s bed for one more lingering caress. Maybe a baby or toddler stole those few precious moments from her?

Now that I was at my office, I wanted to stay in the car and go to sleep. It didn’t matter that it was cold. I simply didn’t want to see anyone or interact with my deputy or the staff. I didn’t care about the appointments scheduled for a full day.

How was I going to get through this day? I had to focus but I couldn’t stop yawning. Of one thing I was certain, today would not proceed as planned. Would I ever learn? Plans had no place in my life. Other people made plans, I could not. Some day the cumulative disappointments would destroy me.

THESE THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE

  • Suicide will knock again.

    Provided by Healthy Place.com

    Unconditional Love Will Survive Along With Mental Illness

  • No one is exempt from suicide.
  • A correct diagnosis is critical.
  • Bipolar disorder is a progressive disease.
  • Clinical depression can and does manifest without warning and it must be treated aggressively, and at once.
  • Firearm availability increases the risk of suicide.
  • Miracles happen with the dawning of each new day.
  • Unconditional love will see you through and the reward of beginning each new day together is the reason you do what you do.

 

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
Aside | This entry was posted in Bipolar Disorder, Fourth House, Mental Health, Psychiatric Care, Suicide and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

119 Responses to SUICIDE, MENTAL HEALTH AND THE CAREGIVER

  1. huntmode says:

    Sheri, from 1996 (and earlier, obviously) to now and this still is ongoing. The love you and Tom have seems extraordinary to me. I have nothing to offer but a dumbfounded expression on my face. While I have dealt with my family members who are bi-polar and quite often was in physical danger, a gun was never part of it. I do not know where you find the strength to keep going except, clearly, there is no other option and somehow, you find it.

  2. Alice says:

    Sheri,
    I have been reading in and across a number of your posts (and the comments), so this may be less a response to this particular post and more about my feelings towards the aggregate. First, I need to say how very glad for you both that Tom has not again come so close to his own edges in more recent years.
    I think the perspective you bring–what it is to be the partner of someone who struggles in these ways–is a crucial voice to have in the conversation. For the person with the illness, the effort required to sustain life and to heal can often be all-consuming, and involves contributions from a whole team of experts and a community of fellow sufferers. Without consciously attending to her/his own needs, the other person (in that uncomfortably full marriage of “you, me, and the disease”) can lose her/himself without even seeing it coming. So I have been very encouraged to read your words about self-care, attending to your own needs, having your own therapist, etc. And doing this writing must itself be incredibly therapeutic?
    I look forward to continuing to read your writing on these issues.
    Best, alice

    • Alice – Thank you for you kind and thoughtful comments. You’ve eloquently wrapped a gift of words and given them to me in a glistening ray of hope. My gratitude is overwhelming. I often wonder if I’m going the right direction with my blogs and you’ve told me ‘yes.’ You didn’t simply say, yes, you identified the totality of what I’ve written and what I believe is correct. Yes, it has taken years to put a team together for Tom and that team has to be tweaked occasionally. I’ve also learned I must have a team for myself and that team requires more than healthcare professionals. I must have friends, my own therapist, intellectual stimulation and an occasional day to simply appreciate what our world has to offer. Thank you for reading with me and for the thoughtful comment. Sheri

  3. lorriebowden says:

    I can feel what you endure. Your writing is very powerful! I pray for you. ❤

  4. cindy knoke says:

    You are an inspiration Sheri and you blog is priceless! Bravo~

  5. Sheri, I am sure that with the over fifty comments that anything I could say has been said. So ditto to all of us who love and support you and Tom.

    “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream”
    “How did I know that someday—at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere—the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”

    And for Sylvia it did finally descend and the world lost a literary genius. What makes what happened to Sylvia Plath different from the struggles you and Tom face together is that you have each other. Or that he has you. That your love and determination to stand by him through this nightmare makes all the difference. Stand strong together and know that there are hundreds of us out here who care about and share your struggles 🙂

  6. Jane Sadek says:

    I’ve been wandering around in my own world meeting deadlines and chasing dreams. Wonderful piece. Thanks for sharing.

  7. atempleton says:

    Sheri, I must tell you how much I admire your strength. I know we all do what we must do, but I don’t know if I could get through days like this. You and Tom are often in my thoughts.

  8. inesephoto says:

    Sheri – your posts are always so informative and expert, but my favorites are the ones where you write about your and Tom’s unconditional love. I am so sorry that Tom’s physical health is affected by his medicines. Sending you two my thoughts of love and comfort.

  9. Sheri–If the book you want to get published is based on your journal entries, it is a riveting, compelling account of hope, unconditional love, and repeated heartbreak. Your writing draws the reader in and makes the events achingly personal.

    • Hello John – It’s nice to see you here. I wrote a non-fiction book using many of my journal entries as I have here and the publishing industry told me there wouldn’t be a market due to my not being a celebrity or having a PhD in Psychology. I finally gutted that book and started writing a fictional accounting but using actual events whenever I wrote about the bipolar events surrounding the main characters. I refuse to write misguided information when it comes to a subject that needs the truth presented in a way that’s easy to understand.

  10. Sheri, you are such a strong, loving person with so much faith. I truly admire that. Things can’t be easy, but you continue to believe and hope….and I find that to be a beautiful miracle.

  11. Ileana says:

    (✿◠‿◠)..Sa ai o seara plina de tandrete si iubire
    …sa poti simti frumusetea vietii, cu toata fiinta– Have an evening full of tenderness and love
    … you can feel the beauty of life, the whole being…♡◕ ‿ ◕♡

  12. You write so beautifully about such heart-wrenching events Sheri. I was so moved by this post and your pain, not only for Tom but for yourself. I recognise just a little of this from when my mother was ill and for four years our life and plans were ‘interrupted’ by calls for help, changes in her status or behaviour – I recognise that real frustration and exhaustion.

    • Andrea, Thank you for stopping in to read with me and your thoughtful comments are always appreciated. With this being National Suicide Prevention Month in the United States, I was compelled to write of one of many situations Tom and I have been through and how we’ve together managed to come out the other side. Thankfully, Tom hasn’t had an episode of being suicidal for several months, but I hope to be at his side when the demons come calling again. Sheri

  13. Thank you Sheri, what a wonderful support Tom has in you, it is reassuring to know those close to us care through all our ups and downs and thank you also for your kind comment on Patty’s Blog.

    The highest suicide rate in the world is Nepal young woman, many are stolen or brought as Children and than used for prostitution and when not needed left to die on the streets, sometimes pregnant. Homosexuals also have a very high percentage of suicide when finding that their lifestyle does not meet their needs and instead it leaves then empty and unfulfilled as people of worth. Teenagers who have committed suicide statistics have increased too.

    What you shared is very True Sheri, I was wrongly diagnosed with Bipolar for years and was in and out of Hospital, they could never find the right medication to keep me stable because I had Hashimoto’s Disease and the Bipolar medication was stopping the Thyroid medication from being affective.

    Amazingly years later because of a Drug Ban, I was unable to get my Bipolar Medication, but because I had to get it out of my system before they could give me another one, they found that I didn’t suffer from Bipolar, I had no Symptoms and that was because the Thyroid medication was able to work. I thank God for the Drug Ban or they may not have found out and I would have continued to suffer.

    It’s been many years now and I continue to be well but I remember what I experienced and have much compassion for those who still suffer with Bipolar or undiagnosed Hashimoto’s Disease and sadly there has been others who were the same as me and no doubt as you said Sheri there are many more.

    I’m going to leave you a Link to save more detail here, it’s about when I came very close to suicide and why. Thank you for the opportunity to share, I believe in doing because as you shared, we are able to help others.

    Rescued – http://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/jesus-rescued-his-lost-sheep/

    Christian Love – Anne.

    • Anne – Thank you so much for leaving your link. The prevalence of misdiagnosis worldwide is alarming and yes, it leads to death all to often. What scares me so much is that suicide is increasing in every population base I study. Not a single group of individuals has seen a downward trend. The conditions of the young women and men you speak of in your comment is deplorable. It’s only in speaking out and sharing our combined stories that we ‘might’ erase the stigma of mental illness and campaign broadly that all individuals will know they are as susceptible as anyone else. Thank you for joining me in this crusade. Sheri

      • You have my support Sheri, after 18 years of being stigmatized by others when wrongly diagnosed as having a Mental illness, including by the Medical personal, I understand fully how devastating you feel when others treat you like you have a hideous disease and you are responsible for it.

        I don’t share much about those years Sheri , they were a long time ago but perhaps just as an example I will share about something that caused me great hurt, it may give some light on why those needing acceptance more than most find the only way out is suicide, when you are pushed aside like a useless, unwanted, used up piece of rag, you start to believe you are not a person of worth, which we all are or Jesus would not have died for all of us….For God so Loved the world not just those who claim to have it all together but by their attitude and actions they show they don’t.

        I’m by nature a very friendly person, I love good humour and often use it as a teaching tool but I mostly just share it for fun. I have made many friends in my Adult life, some are still very close after 30 years or more, I welcome new friends too and value them all as people of worth regardless of their weakness and shortcomings but of course I don’t accept the wrong they do or say and will correct and warn them if needed and I appreciate them doing the same.
        .
        One time I was in Hospital there was a Nurse I liked very much, she seemed very caring and kind, I wanted to thank her in some small way, I knew she liked fruit so I brought a few pieces to give her for morning tea but she rejected them and said because I was a mentally ill patient she could not accept my friendship either. This happened again in a different Hospital with the woman who served our morning and afternoon teas, we use to talk and laugh together, I really liked her and so I asked if she would she like to go out for Lunch, as I was going home in a few days and didn’t want to loose touch with her but she told me that they are warned about having friendships with the patients and sadly not long after this I heard a Nurse making fun of one on the other patients, as though he was less than other people.

        I later wrote to the Management of this Hospital about how I felt concerning this type of discrimination but I was told that it’s a policy of the Mental Medical Profession and yes that may be so but who makes up these polices that treat those in great need of acceptance, as though they are less than human and have no concern when letting them know they are.

        Sheri if there is anyway that I can help you please feel free to ask, it is in being United in a common cause for good that Mankind has achieved great things for Humanity.

        Christian Love Always – Anne.

        • Thanks for your response, Anne. Yes, it never ceases to amaze me how it can be them against us. Because it’s Tom that’s been the hospitalized patient, I normally haven’t gotten close to the staff.

          I do have 3 therapist in my 25 years of therapy I know I could count on should I need something. For the first 15 or so of those years, the therapy was always how to best cope with Tom’s illness and we didn’t concentrate on me so much. However, I’ve been with my current therapist for 4 or 5 years and she’s positively amazing.

  14. Herman says:

    Thank you for sharing such a powerful post. I was so moved about it. Wishing you all the best, Sheri!

    • Herman – Thank you for taking the time to read with me and leaving a comment. Suicide is at epidemic levels and The World Health Organization released numbers yesterday that 800,000 committed suicide each year.
      I so enjoy your antics with Mr. Bowie. A perfect example is last night when I needed to check out of my reality and “go play with Mr. Bowie.” Thank you for providing a clever blog. Sheri

  15. Reblogged this on Women Who Think Too Much by Jeanne Marie and commented:
    From one of my favorite bloggers, Sheri de Grom.

  16. Bonnie says:

    you’ve been thru so much

  17. I don’t know what to say. My god, the last sentence – “Some day the cumulative disappointments would destroy me.” It hit me like a fist to the jaw. Incredible, Sheri! Thank you.

  18. Patty B says:

    Every time I read one of your posts I say a prayer that someone somewhere reads it and finds the help they need or a loved one needs. I admire your courage that you have shown over the years and your compassion at helping others going through this terrible disease. Continued prayers for you and Tom.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Patty. I believe it’s my responsibility to pass on what I’ve learned over the years. I’m researching the latest numbers for both active duty, retired and family members of both for attempted and completed suicide. The terrible agony is the numbers are getting worse instead of better. I hope to have those blogs up this month.

  19. Sheri, thanks for bringing this terrible topic into the light of day. Perhaps if enough light shines, someone out there will finally see how much we still need to understand the true impact of mental disorder and how it impacts on so many lives. My love to you and Tom. Keep the light burning at the end of the tunnel, maybe someone will see it and come in out of the dark 🙂

  20. gpcox says:

    I saw your Gravatar image on Bill Hamiliton’s site, dealing with copd, and I’m afraid I only just discovered that he has passed on. The world will miss FlaHam, the Santa look-alike.

  21. willowdot21 says:

    So often Sheri the carer is overlooked. In the flush and flourish of banaide fix its. The sufferer is treated hospitalized. Sedated, cared for treated but the carer just takes a deep breath and gets on with life. Often there is so care,no rest and little support.
    O have been there Sheri so I understand what you are saying, the tiredness is a killer.
    I do not think guns should be so widely available as they are in your country they are just a disaster waiting to happen.
    Praying things are easier for you now and that you have lots of support. xxx

  22. Sheri, your posts on mental and emotional illness are the most powerful I have ever read. I would like to reblog this post, with your permission.

    • Patricia – It would be my honor for me and Tom to have you reblog my post. Tom and I together work hard to keep the beast of mental illness at bay.
      September is National Suicide Prevention Month here in the US and beginning with my last post and going until the end of the month, prevention will be my topic.
      I’ve tried to log into your new site as a follower several times and I actually made it one time to receive a notification, but the last two times I’ve pulled your site up, it would not allow me to comment. Do you have suggestions for me. You are doing such fabulous work with your writing and I love your travel/slices of life – well, let’s face it, I love all of your blogs. With love and thanksgiving for your friendship. Sheri

  23. Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal experience. Mental health issues are only just beginning to be aired and discussed and you are a full bore advocate on so many levels. Keep on doing what you do Sheri. It’s making a difference in so many lives, including yours and Tom’s. Blessings to you both!

    • Hi Mary – I hope you know how much I appreciate your taking the time to read and leave a thoughtful comment. I flipped through journal after journal wondering which suicide encounter would be the easiest one to post and I finally simply just went with this one. I weighed which might be the easiest to understand by the reader, which one could I write the clearest about to show both Tom’s anguish and my own terror. Tom and I had agreed we wanted no weapons in our home [with the exception of my service weapon, of course] but his mother could not understand or refused to accept the idea that Tom did not want and could not have his father’s guns in his possession. Sheri

  24. Lignum Draco says:

    I’m not sure I can say anything worthwhile, except that your post moved me.

  25. Denise Hisey says:

    Your calm under pressure speaks to your character, Sheri. Heading off to another day at the office after a morning like that… most people would have buckled. I’ve said it before, but Tom is a lucky man. I just hope you take care of yourself half as well as you take care of him. He needs you to take care of yourself too. Love and hugs to you…

    • Denise – The greatest gift I’ve ever received from God is Tom. Tom has told me many times he feels the same way about me. The night we met, we had no idea what was ahead for either of us, but we knew whatever the magic was, it had to be preserved. When we met, my career was really taking off and Tom was nearing his military retirement. We made so many adjustments in those early years to make our lives work. We weren’t giving up then and we haven’t given up since. A year before we met I’d gone through a tragedy no one should ever have to endure. To save myself I poured myself into my career, graduate school and extreme exercise. That’s still what I do in times of stress. It’s my escape until I can find an appropriate method of working through whatever is going on. Sheri

  26. gpcox says:

    You are as strong as any warrior, yet as sensitive as any young girl in love. You stepped up to the plate to support the man you love – who would expect any less from you and Tom; always there together.
    Give Tom and Amy my best!!

    • Hello G.P. – Thanks for the warm thoughts. I’ll pass along the message(s). Tom’s doing great with cardio rehab but it about does him in for the remainder of the day. I do hope all is well in your world. Sheri

      • gpcox says:

        All is fine here, hope you are taking care of yourself !

        • Thank you and yes, I’m doing the best I can figure out how to do what I need. I’ll be paying our “Veterans” a visit this month and will give them your love and that of your followers (if that’s okay with all of you). I heard from a younger vet who reads your blogs on his own [he has an advanced degree in world history] and although he has numerous medical issues, I’m encouraging him to go for the PhD. He, along with everyone else tells me how much they enjoy the extended program (they now all have coffee and desserts furnished by another group of volunteers each time they gather together). The volunteers laugh and tell me that’s at least once a day and sometimes twice. The goodies are all homemade and that seems to go over nicely. On the high note, 10 veterans from here have been selected by both the volunteers, and among themselves and they are going to Fayetteville (large VA there) to see about advancing our program there. We all think this will be a softer approach. Tom is reading with you. I hook up everything from my iPad to the big 62 inch screen TV and he calls me in my office with a loud, “You can’t miss this one.” As soon as we figure out what’s going on with his hands, I’ve asked him to take over monitoring your blog for me. The interaction would be good for him and it would get him out and about more. Again, thanks for all you do, G.P. Sheri

          • gpcox says:

            FANTASTIC NEWS ALL THE WAY AROUND!!!!! Give Tom a hug for me and you have my permission to whatever you see fit! Tell the young vet that I’m pulling for him – along with all the others and volunteers – you know how much they mean to me! Thank you very much for the news!

  27. Gallivanta says:

    How you got yourself to work that day, I can’t imagine, Sheri. The things you know for sure are very powerful, and I do like the way illness can change to wellness if WE stand together.

    • Gallivanta – I am a firm believer that suicide prevention is not and never will be a one size fits all. We are all different and what might pull a neighbor toward doing the unthinkable would seem out of context for another. I also believe that our country has romanticized suicide in a way and it has led many to commit the act when many of their closest friends knew they were in a deep depression. For me, it’s all about being tuned in to life itself.
      As for my going to work that day, or any day for that matter, I loved my work. It was extremely gratifying wherein I saw the results of my labor and that of my team. I’ve always sought out work when I’m in crisis. Had I gone home, I could have easily fallen apart and I wasn’t going to allow that to happen. Sheri

      • Gallivanta says:

        Definitely not a one size fits all; in fact part of the problem with creating wellness is the medical and insurance need to have mental health patients categorised according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Makes us sound like car engines that need an instruction manual. 😦

        • Gallivanta – Seems like a wellness guide would help. However, we know about that illusive answer than one size does not work well. Even living with Tom all these years, my approaches are different from one day to the next. I’m getting better at figuring out what is going on and without throwing myself away, I do my best to ensure Tom has a comfortable and safe environment to live in and still feel a useful member of society. Bipolar Disorder can be a mean snake in the grass and turn it’s back on you in the instant before it strikes. I’m delighted I have the blog and have met so many wonderful people interacting with me while I walk through this journey. The enjoyable opportunity to read your blogs and then talk about the many wonderful facets you put together is always music to my eyes and soul. It’s with Thanksgiving and Love that I have your blogs to look forward to each week. Thank you, Gallivanta for all of your hard work. Sheri

  28. Marie Abanga says:

    Hi Sherri,

    I am lost of words but full of appreciation and admiration.

  29. Hi Sheri, this is a difficult post to read. Thank fully my son doesn’t have access to guns bur has other means. You showed how unpredictable mental illness can be. Also how scary.

    • Kim – History has shown us that if an individual is determined to commit suicide, they will find a way. Let’s hope your son will have someone in his life with positive energy and who becomes a positive influence. This period of new adjustment will be crucial to his hope for adjustment. Sheri

        • Kim – Do you have a group home where your son will have a good opportunity to move into the community at his own pace. I’ve worked in some of the group homes and I know I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. Some are run ever so efficiently and other not so much. When we lived in Oregon, an old farm house had been brought up to date (inside and out). The place was beautiful and also happened to be across the street from us. Tom and I made every effort to meet the patients and some even did some chores for us. They were a delightful group of young men and women. Wishing you and your son the best possible outcome. Love, Sheri

  30. Sheri,
    What a moving piece. It grips my heart because I know what suicide feels like. I lost a brother to suicide at the age of 14. That was in 1972, yet sometimes it feels like yesterday.

    God bless you and your wonderful husband.

    Be blessed
    SandyO

  31. Terry says:

    I wish I had the perfect words but Idom’t. Please know you and Tom are in my prayers

  32. This was not easy to read. I can only imagine what it is to live. For Tom. And for you. You are forever in my heart. I hope that gives you a little comfort that so many of us following you are deeply moved by you and what you’re both living with. Love, Paulette

    • Paulette – When I started the blog, my intent was to hopefully educate about bipolar disorder and to do it from the partner’s perspective. There’s so much misconception about the disease and what the media portrays would have the public believe anyone that’s bipolar is violent and wants to run around killing people. You and I and many other people know that’s not true. However, ask the man on the street and he’ll tell you what he last saw on CSI or Law and Order. I’m firmly convinced, until we turn the media around, stigma will always be the reigning factor that keeps so many from getting the help they need.

  33. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    SOME FIND THIS HARD TO READ, BUT IT IS WORTH IT. GETS TOUGH TO HANDLE….BUT UNCONDITIONAL LOVE LEADS THE WAY. ROUGHEST ON THE CARETAKER!

  34. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this pain- and that your husband is struggling do much. Thank you fur sharing this story.. And thanks fur the courage and love that hot you both safely to this point. 🐱

    • A suicide prevention tip from Tom and myself is to have rescue animals. We’ve always had rescue pets and Tom has told me numerous times over the years that the animals have gotten him through the day. For me, the caregiver, I’m the one that has them to curl up with when Tom has to be in the hospital. A home without pets is just a house! Thanks for reading with me. Sheri

      • You’re so right. We animals are super sensitive to the emotional state of our humans and we know how to show them love when they need it. The human has often said that she doesn’t know what she would do without me, as I keep her going.

        I wanted to suggest you get a pet (a lovely, sweet, intelligent KAT like me), when I read your post- but I didn’t, because I didn’t know if it would come across as insensitive.

        That’s a Pawsome and very effective tip! 🐱💖

        • Yes, my furry friend. We will more than likely rescue two cats once we make it through the ordeal with Scooter. Scooter has been through so many years with Tom and being so low but Scooter is not doing so well and I cannot suggest when might be the proper time to let him go. We already had 3 cats when Scooter came into our home and he loved to make their life miserable. It didn’t matter how many times we scolded him,etc. We also had 2 other cats. I had a 30 pound orange tabby and a Russian Blue. We loved them dearly and they traveled the world together with us. We thought we were done for when we lost them all within 6 months of each other. But, I do see kats on the horizon. We miss having them in our lives. I just peeked in on Tom and his shih tzu is lying just as close a he can get to one side of him and my shih tzu has her little head tucked just as close to his neck as possible and most of her head is on his pillow. {No we don’t spoil them}. You’ve given me powerful words to work with, Harball. Thanks for your suggestions. With love, Sheri

  35. Oh my God, Sheri, all I can say is, I feel for you deep in my heart because of my own position right now with my 15 year old daughter. Depression, suicide, bipolar disorder – whatever mental illness someone is suffering from – is so complex and difficult for those around them to know what the hell to do. It is impossible to know what the right thing to say is at this time – to you, I mean. Words are useless to make the scary feelings go away, at least that’s my opinion. I wish you and Tom some relief from the pain.

    • Patti – Your daughter is in my heart, she’s at such a tender age. Delicate like a flower. One of the most important things I’ve learned for myself during this voyage of mental illness is how important it is to not lose myself in the process. Remember to do something nice for yourself each day – everyday. It’s so easy to give ourselves over to the disease and although I’ve always been strong, if it hadn’t been for my career, I’m afraid there might have been times over the years that I would have gone under. You are absolutely right, the scary feelings don’t want to go away. That’s where my therapist comes in. She helps me sort out what’s real and what I’m borrowing from the future or even trying to take back from the past. I know for a fact, I would not have survived Tom’s illness if I hadn’t been in therapy all these years. I no longer go every week, but Elizabeth is there when I need her and I keep a standing appointment every 3 weeks just to check in. I still need that much of a security blanket as Tom will never be well. I know how much you love animals. Tom had told me many times that the animals has kept him safe many times and there’s been times when Tom’s been in the hospital that I’ve kept the animals just as close to me as possible. Hugs. Sheri

      • Oh man, I agree with you about the animals, Sheri. In fact, that’s how I “take care” of myself – I ride my horse in the mountains amongst the trees and birds – the silence and nature refreshes me. And my two huge labs are always there to kiss on and hug and play with. I do try to take care of myself though I’ve certainly been lax about that recently.

  36. Elyse says:

    Sheri, Otis so had to think of words of comfort, of help. There is so much work to be done to help folks with bi-polar and to also help the ones who love them.

    Awareness helps.

    Just this weekend, I Googled a friend from high school to let him know about a reunion. His beautiful 25 year old bi-polar daughter ended her life. The obituary was so beautiful and acknowledged both her illness and her successes.

    It is a terrible illness And nobody is untouched.

    • Elyse – Bipolar disorder is the hardest disease of all psychiatrist to treat. Getting the medications correct is next to impossible . . . Tom will be admitted for a medication readjustment, which usually means a minimum one month stay . . . and then the new meds may not work in the real world and then we’re back at the drawing board again.
      We are at that place now where Tom’s physical medical needs require constant monitoring and much of that is a result of the medications he’s been prescribed. It’s a tough and relentless disease and of course, there’s no cure. As always, I appreciate your stepping in to read and leave a comment. Sheri

  37. kcg1974 says:

    My heart is with you and your husband. What beautiful words you write of your ‘daily’ struggle. My empathy to you. Such courage you have with love in your heart and soul for your dear husband. Prayers always for the two of you. God’s blessings.

  38. mihrank says:

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:
    SUICIDE, MENTAL HEALTH AND THE CAREGIVER

  39. kanzensakura says:

    and addendum, you are both in my prayers. I pray the love and loyalty will win…God bless both of you.

  40. kanzensakura says:

    This hits me hard in several ways. I have deep chronic depression and sometimes, my meds need to be adjusted, added to, subtracted from. This past February, a long time friend committed suicide. he was always “low key” but isolated and kept to himself as much as he could. The world was just too painful many times for him. In the 25 years I knew him, he never “acted” suicidal. But one day when he got home from work, he took his rescued dog and two cats to the vets for “checkups” with a note to their file, if not picked up within 3 days, to contact his brother, address and phone number give to come and get them. he went back home and in a combination of alcohol and pills, took them, laid in his bed and died. the only plan he made was to make sure his friends were picked up and taken care of. I saw him the day before this, visited a bit. No sign, no word….Some people go to elaborate lengths in planning the suicide, writing letters, paying bills, leaving last wishes, putting down plastic, calling and talking to several or one person about their plans while the person who loves them tries so hard to continue to love and guide them from suicide. And then….the pistol explodes. and that’s it. Some people do like my friend who planned but only for his pets. Others just do it spontaneously and that’s it. No apologies, letters, taking care of business. I can truthfully say that as deep and horrible as the pain within me got, I never considered dying by my own hand. I wanted to stop breathing, I wanted to stop feeling the pain but no, not until my God ordained the time. Some of us are fighters like that, others are not, others for whatever reason cannot. And then, as my friend asked, what if unconditional love is not enough?
    On one hand, I despise suicide and the waste and the self absorbed reality of it, other times, my heart bleeds for the person wonderfing if something couldn’t be done to help them and why didn’t anyone see this coming? And then there are those people who plan it and keep in communication with a loved one who’s whole life is put on hold wondering…I haven’t heard from them in an hour, why don’t they answer their phone? and then to be told the suicide happened while the loved one was walking a dog, or fixing coffee, or talking with a friend. I feel so badly for the people who go so deep into themselves because they can’t help it, can’t stop it. I feel for the ones who love them who have to watch this train wreck happening and wondering what they can do to stop it…. A lot ot think about here. Very powerful piece Sheri, Too very real. And how I feel for you and your beloved Tom and wish there was some way I could draw back those curtains to reveal the light on the other side. I just wish…..

    • Kanzen – You have written a powerful comment and every word of it is true. That’s the terrible thing about mental health and suicide, it doesn’t discriminate. Every person is vulnerable at one time or another. I will answer Tess’ question when I roll down to her comment. I haven’t been able to answer all the wonderful comments that have come in on one day – my emotions and own mental health will not allow it. I’ll say that if it weren’t for Tom having insisted on my entering therapy when he was in the hospital the first time, I would not have made it this far. I would have become a victim of his disease long ago. Tom knew somehow what we were facing when I hadn’t a clue.
      I well understand the working with medications until they are right and even when they are right, they only work for so long and then they have to be changed again.
      The terrifying process, for me, right now is watching Tom’s body deteriorate before my eyes from the medications he’s taken over the years to keep him alive.
      I wish you well, Kanzen. It saddens me that your world is darkened by depression. Sheri

      • kanzensakura says:

        Thank you for the kind words. But I look at the mental illness as I did my cancer. I have faith and take it as it comes. I am a fighter and the days when I do not feel like fighting, I ask God to do it for me. It is hard watching my mother as you watch Tom. The medicines are hard on us and right now, it is adjustment time. I just need to get through my exam Saturday and then the process will start again. My MD and I usually have an idea of what to do so often times, it is a smart adjustment. I know my husband would sympathize deeply with you, watching me go through my phases. How blessed Tom and I are to have such love given for us.

  41. pnissila says:

    Sheri,
    This is a powerful piece. I hope many read it. I recognized the dead tone and blank aspect in some of my sister’s past episodes with clinical depression, the latest, last year, combined with complex PTSD due to a workplace attack. She is a survivor–to date. She, too has had some success with certain medications, psychiatric and neuropsychological care. She knows it’s lifelong, and it helps that she is also a nurse/psych tech. As you note, miracles and unconditional love do help and have helped her greatly. My prayers go out to you. It’s hard enough living far away from my sister when the episodes occur; I can only imagine the intensity of living in the same house. God bless you both.

    • Thank you so much for reading with me. PTSD is another difficult illness, one that Tom and I have both battled. Tom’s PTSD resulted from a violent hospitalization and it added an entirely new twist and more difficulty to his illness. If there’s any thanksgiving at all for my own PTSD, it’s that it helped me put extra security measures in place in order to help Tom.
      You nailed it with the ‘intensity of living in the same house.’ Months of the dark depression will go on and silence surrounds me. I know I must stay in contact with friends and my own activities to balance my own health, both physical and mental.

  42. ksbeth says:

    sheri: your strength, stamina and love are amazing. you are a model for everyone who loves someone with mental and emotional illnesses.

    • Beth – Thank you for your kind words. I won’t pretend it’s an easy walk, but without total commitment, dedication, and all in love, a partner will not survive nor will the patient. Tom knew I’d need a therapist when he was in the hospital the first time, and I’m convinced that’s the leg of the stool that held me together along with his unconditional love for me. Please don’t think for a minute I’m the one that’s done all the sacrificing. Tom has given his all to me time and time again. Sheri

  43. This is powerful and painful to read. What if unconditional love isn’t enough?

    • Hi, Tess. You’ve raised a valid issue. I look back on my life and recognize I could never have done for others (except my father), what I have done for Tom and will continue to do. However, with that being said, my father gave me unconditional love and from him I learned how it felt to be loved that way and how to return that love. I’ve also learned (before I met Tom) that you can offer unconditional love to someone but they may be unable to accept it for whatever reason. If only one person in a relationship has unconditional love to give, I believe that relationship will falter and die.
      Tom and I’ve talked and we agree that had we met sooner, we would have been too broken to appreciate the possibility placed before us. Because we met when we did, we were ready for unconditional love to walk in and take up residence. Additionally, Tom stood beside me and fought many battles and supported me in spite of desperate measures by others before we married. I had the opportunity of not only knowing he loved me unconditionally, for he knew my deepest and darkest secrets, but that he was willing to shake heaven and earth to keep me safe.
      To reach someone that doesn’t want to live, I’m convinced when you are with them, you must find the common ground or their basic need for living. This need cannot be a responsibility. For example, I couldn’t say to Tom that I couldn’t live without him. His basic instinct for living is remembering, and therefore I reminded him, of the wonderful times we’ve had together. They can be small and silly times and mean nothing to someone else, but for Tom and I they were the love that moved our heaven and our earth. Sheri

      • You tell of a wondrous love story, Sheri. It always warms my heart to hear of people truly in a lasting marriage of love and understanding. I am so happy that you both have each other.
        ❤ ❤ ❤

        • Tess – My parents were a great example for me. They were married for 57 years before my mother passed. My father never left the house without giving my mother a quick kiss and then they’d both say, ‘I love you.’ He never got up from a meal without thanking my mother for another great lunch (or whatever the meal was), and I watched as he slipped chips of ice through her parched lips in ICU after a serious accident in her 50s. The doctors had said she wouldn’t live and he should prepare for the end and dad refused.
          I never doubted for a minute that their love was one sided. My mother was a farm/rancher’s wife but one of my favorite memories is seeing a sly look on mom’s face when she’d grab a beautiful flower from her gardens on the way back from the vegetable garden and put it in her hair. Dad loved it when mother wore a flower in her hair and mom took every opportunity to make him happy. I could go on and on, I guess I just needed to say I can’t take credit for coming into this world knowing all about unconditional love, my parents taught it and practiced it everyday while working as partners and raising 6 boys and me (the youngest and only girl). Now, I’ve gone and told you more than you ever wanted to know.
          I wish for your granddaughters that they will find this love when their time comes to leave the nest. Sheri

  44. Sheri,
    if any reader isn’t moved by this then she or he has a stone for a heart or is already dead. This is deeply moving, disturbing even, and it’s beautiful in its caring and love. It’s early morning here in Singapore (6:30am) and i’m fully awake after this reading.
    Thank you for sharing what has to be very difficult.
    Much love to you
    john

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