THE PRINCESS, THE GROCERY STORE AND SUICIDE PREVENTION

Mental Health/Suicide Prevention
by Sheri de Grom

I’d arrived at the perfect time and place for daydreaming. My hair color specialist had finished the foils and Tom had presented me with my second venti non-fat latte—for the day—Starbucks. I’m addicted.

Tom asked, “Is there anything special you’d like from the grocery store?”

 

“No, you always get it just right.”

With a smile and a kiss to my cheek, he was on his way.

My colorist pulled up a chair and said, “You are such a princess and don’t even know it.”

I started to say, you haven’t a clue. We’d never talked of Tom’s illness or about my life as a caregiver. We talked about books, travel, movies and such. I’d had twenty-five years of pretending that we lived a charmed life.

Princess

Princess

What I had shared with my colorist were stories of how I hadn’t cooked a meal in well over twenty years, how Tom loved to shop and as an artisan he had impeccable taste. She couldn’t imagine how Tom could shop for suits for my professional career and any number of other items for me. I hated to shop and that meant everything: groceries, office supplies, clothing, furniture, new cars, almost anything other than bookstores and there I could become lost for hours.

Additionally, I never doubted Tom’s ability to pack for me when my career sent me out of town on an unexpected business trip. Not only was his packing perfect, thinking of everything I might need, but he always included several notes expressing his love that I would find throughout my stay. I’d also come across other thoughtful gifts and often a special piece of jewelry he’d made for me and tucked away for just such an occasion.

My colorist had a different take on my allowing Tom to treat me like a princess. Her thoughts were completely foreign to me. Her comment had to do with trust. She told me she might never have gotten divorced if she’d trusted her husband to get the right kind of bread at the market.

The bread analogy is an oversimplification of individuals who never learn to trust and/or perfection is so important to them; they can’t allow anyone to do anything on their behalf.

Tom’s not always well enough to perform what he considers his responsibilities but when he is, they are all his.

When Tom’s unable to be my prince charming, I don’t hand the reins to anyone else. I pump gas when it’s essential and prefer to pour milk into the bottom of an almost empty cereal box for dinner rather than mess up a dish or go to the market. I’ll move into my workaholic mode instead of ordering or going out to eat. When it’s the two of us, we enjoy dining out but when it’s just me, I take the no fuss, no mess route.

Some find it surprising that I don’t cook or do all those things some believe to be women’s work but not Tom. When I met Tom, he was active duty military and the single father of two young daughters ages 4 and 8.

I finally had to face the horrors of grocery shopping on Father’s Day of 2012 and my list had grown to three full pages. I hadn’t actually been in a supermarket to shop since long before we married in 1986. Sure, I’d dashed into the deli section or to pick up cases of bottled water and diet coke, but otherwise, count me out.

I might as well have been on a space mission arriving at the market. I had no idea where anything was and my saving grace was another single father of four children. They more or less adopted and supervised me through the store and all the way to the check-out counter. I wanted to bring them home with me to help unload the car but thought that might be asking too much.

What does all of this have to do with suicide prevention you ask?

I used to feel guilty that Tom took over all the chores I hated. He never complained about shopping, running all the errands that came up, coordinating our calendars, ensuring routine matters such as car registrations and other odds and ends were taken care of.

One day I overheard Tom tell a friend of his that taking care of me was the best suicide

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prevention plan he’d ever stumbled upon. I wrote in my journal, John wanted to know why he did everything and Tom told him, no that’s not true. Tom said, “When I forget my anchor and my mind starts spinning, I go to the refrigerator and on the door I’ll always find a list of things that need to be done. They don’t have to be done immediately but normally within the week. If I kill myself, who will do them for Sheri?”

I no longer worry about how long the list of things to do becomes. If there’s one item on the list and Tom takes care of it and it sets his mind free of obsessive thoughts, I don’t have a problem being his princess.

 

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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, Mental Health, Psychiatric Care, Slice Of Life, Suicide and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

88 Responses to THE PRINCESS, THE GROCERY STORE AND SUICIDE PREVENTION

  1. billgncs says:

    When a man loves a woman he wants to do things for her. I think sometimes in our efforts to be self sufficient we kill opportunities for love.

    • Bill – I couldn’t agree with you more. It goes both ways, especially if either or both partners have been hurt by been too vulnerable or been disappointed too many times. However, I think about all I would have missed out on if I had refused Tom’s many offers to perform tasks that I thought should have been passed on to someone who get’s paid for running errands and such things.
      Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment.

  2. Wow! This is a GREAT post. Thank you so much for your transparency in sharing what life is like for you and your husband. Who knew that a “to-do” list could save someone’s life? I love that – it’s so simple and yet so endearing at the same time. It shows Tom’s love for you. ❤

  3. Gallivanta says:

    I am so pleased you persevered with your September suicide prevention posts. They are as much about living well as the difficult topic of suicide. The loving and supportive relationship between you and Tom reminded me of a very popular cartoon that was part of my teenage years. I googled it and was surprised to find the cartoon continues until this day. You may know it. Love is …started as a series of love notes to a future husband. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Is… Here is one which I thought suitable for your post today http://loveiscomix.com/daily/20100102/ Enjoy. Oh, and my father always did the shopping and cooking in our family. I was quite surprised to discover later in life that most men didn’t!

    • Gallivanta – I love the ‘Love Is’ cartoons. I’d forgotten about them, yet I hadn’t as I have a greeting card Tom gave me when we were dating, framed and it’s sitting on a shelf above where I do most of my work. I didn’t know the history of how the “Love Is” notes started and it makes perfect sense they’d come from real life.
      Yes, I made it through September with the ‘suicide blogs’ but it was a difficult month. I still have 2 blogs I haven’t posted, one for our veterans and the other for family members of the military and they deserve equal time. However, I need to move away from the subject for a bit of time. As always, thanks for stopping in and reading with me.

      • Gallivanta says:

        I am so pleased you know the Love Is cartoons and that you have one. I had such fun looking through them again on the internet. It’s good you have a few suicide blogs in reserve. After all it’s a subject that needs attention outside the one month of September. 🙂

  4. huntmode says:

    Ha! Look at that! All I had to do was complain twice and the Like Button popped up! And, I do mean “Up.” It is literally hovering higher than the other buttons…. Grin. Gremlins in the software.

  5. huntmode says:

    Sheri, the comments you have here were so good – wish I could hit a like button for them, too!

  6. huntmode says:

    Sheri, I would have hit the “Love” button and there is no “Like” button… grr, GRR! Full Roar of GRR! What an amazing insight into why some marriages work and others fail. Not roles, skills and likes and abilities and love of who the person is, not whatever else comes to mind. Well done, well lived, Sheri. Best ~ HuntMode

    • Hunt Mode – What is it with our like buttons and not being able to comment and all the other business we so want to do and for whatever else is going on that we don’t like. Commenting is such a rich experience for me, both when someone comments on something I’ve written and often I gain greater insight into the subject or I’ve written on someone’s blog and a conversation begins. I think there’s been a great deal of GRRing going on in the wordpress community lately. Sheri

  7. Thanks for a glimpse into your day to day. Tom sounds like he’s doing better. Wishing the best for both of you.

  8. Another great post. I spent last week at a suicide prevention awareness event and today talking with young lady that was affected by a close friend’s suicide. This touches home today.

  9. Marji Laine says:

    Beautiful post Sheri! What an inspiration! Thanks so much for all of your encouragement! 🙂

  10. inesephoto says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post! Tom is so right saying that caring after you and being busy keeps him going. Isn’t it right for all of us?
    Also I completely agree that staying together and loving each other is a choice we make. This choice is like a frame within which we proceed with our lives.
    My best wishes to you two
    Inese

  11. Such a touching post. We never know how the little things we do could be so helpful to someone else.

  12. jbw0123 says:

    Sheri, I love this. In our house, my husband is the one who’ll put milk in the cereal bag rather than dirty a bowl — such a funny way to put it. Me — don’t even buy cereal in boxes, but shop in the most time-consuming way, at farmer’s markets when possible, for fresh food. Will my husband shop when he retires (soon) and go back to buying Velveeta and unripe fruit? Can’t wait to see. Well, maybe I can.

    What can we call housewifery when carried out by the husband? Husbandry? That sounds farmer-ish. It’s wonderful to hear this side of your story, about the lists, your omitting the challenges of your marriage when chatting with the hair dresser, your husband’s two daughters, and the therapeutic power of being needed. Also about your having to be rescued in a grocery story by — yet another — house husband. Might have to buy a box of Cheerios in your honor.

    Cheers!

    • Julia – You made me laugh. Tom said something today about US going to the grocery store and I’m positive I’ll be busy during the time he wants to go. When I have to go I make a mad dash out of the entire operation. Not Tom. I’m finished shopping while he’s still in produce.
      We don’t have the wonderful farmer markets we were accustomed to on the west coast. I miss those outings when it was as much of a social gathering instead of shopping. Tom will also go to the market for a single item. Not me. I put the item on the appropriate list and pick it up on the next market day.
      We solved the issue of cleaning the house by hiring a team to come in. No one gets stuck with the heavy stuff and all is good. We share the other stuff but no rules or regulations.
      Thanks for stopping by. Sheri

  13. This was wonderful. My wife and I have blurred the “traditional” roles. I do almost all of the cooking, while she is the bookkeeper–paying the bills, doing the taxes, wrestling with insurance companies, etc. She doesn’t enjoy cooking, but she is quick to remind me that I’d be lost if I had to do all of the paperwork. Actually, I’m basically artistic, and the paperwork would drive me insane. I’ve told her on several occasions that she is absolutely not allowed to die before I do. SHE could survive on frozen dinners, whereas I would spend the rest of my days in a padded room.

    • Hi John – Isn’t it nice when everyone compliments the needs and desires of their partner. I know your wife’s feeling in that every piece of paper that comes into our house comes through my office first. I make it a point to open the mail (almost every day) due to Tom’s jewelry business. I’m a believer in ‘touching a piece of paper once’ but practice ‘pile management.’
      I see no problem with the Weight Watchers new fiberful dinners as long as they are vegetarian. Most of them are really good. However, neither do I have a problem with cereal and I’m in love with ‘Take Out Taxi.’ I do hope one catches on here.
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Sheri

  14. Sherri, I think you have stumbled on to one of the best prevention modes I have ever heard. To know that because Tom wants to take care of you, to make sure that the list is completed and that in doing so that person can step outside their compulsion … is like the best token of love anyone can give.

    What it boils down to is simple. When Tom needs you to drop everything and be there for him … when he slips far below his safety zone and might be lost … you are there … your hand reaching out like a life line.

    When he needs someone to care for in turn, he also turns to his Princess. What a lovely way to care for and be there for each other 🙂

  15. Angie Mc says:

    Oh, Sheri, you are a princess and a queen! And Tom is a prince and king. You make each other so ❤

  16. Yours truly seems to be a partnership of caring for one another Sheri. Those last few paragraphs about why the chores are so important to Tom was unexpected (despite the title) and brought a lump to my throat.

    • Andrea – Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. September has been all about suicide prevention and I told a friend of mine that I was even depressing myself. However, suicide is 20% higher in the male bipolar population than in any other measured population. My hope is that I can continue to provide real life ideas of what has worked for us and what hasn’t.
      One of the reasons I sought out reading with you and Winston was I knew it would be a warm and loving blog and Tom and I both so love our dogs. Most days, both dogs now take on the role of Dr. Dog, and stay next to Tom leaving me alone in my office. I told them (our dogs) that they only come bark at me (in my office) when they either want to go out or it’s their dinner time. Sheri

  17. Mae Clair says:

    What an amazing story and a unique perspective on routine tasks. You and Tom have an incredible marriage. I wish you both your happily-ever-after!

    • Hello, Mae: How nice to see you here. I had a grand time roaming your new (to me) web site last night while Tom snoozed. My hat is off to you for your amazing accomplishments in such a short period of time.
      Marriage is an interesting relationship, isn’t it? I learned during the years Tom and I dated that he would do anything on my ‘to do list’ and we weren’t even married or engaged or anything. I had to be careful not to take advantage of him. Thank you so much for dropping by. I truly appreciate your reading and commenting. Sheri

  18. Another deep and lovely snippet from a wonderful love story. Perfect for the subject at hand,. I was told that love of a person could not be a purpose. I disagreed. As always, thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  19. Caring for someone or something else is such a sure fire way to help stay on a more positive track. I know you and Tom are very close but I didn’t realize how far that extended and how much it means to you both. After a most depressing summer here, having a 3-month-old puppy has turned our lives around for the better. Wonderful blog as always Sheri and always thought provoking.

    • Hello, Mary. I so agree that knowing we are needed helps keep us more focused than simply allowing ourselves to whirl through life without a purpose. I can only imagine the spontaneous bursts of laughter and giggles (even if the puppy is doing something she’s not supposed to do, just because they are so darn cute). Tom’s told me often that the animals have gotten him through many a time when he couldn’t figure out what it was he was supposed to be doing. I believe it’s those center of the universe spontaneous events that keep us sane and productive.

  20. pnissila says:

    What a remarkable story. One never knows what is “ministering” to another from out of our lives, and in what way!

  21. gpcox says:

    Sheri, that’s a fantastic story and a wonderful way to look at it. You and Tom will always have something special in your lives – even if it wasn’t a charmed one.
    All my best to that man of yours!!

  22. Lignum Draco says:

    Great story Sheri. The importance of being wanted and needed. It works both ways.

  23. Marie Abanga says:

    Reblogged this on Marie Abanga's Blog and commented:
    If this is not deserving of a reblog then I may as well be mad. Do yourself a favour, read about true love in the midst of mental health and all. Thank you Sheri for sharing all this. With this comment, I dash to my first lecture for my last semester in school. It wouldn’t be that difficult after all – I have a mini prince charming too 🙂

    • Marie – Thank you so much for the reblog. I truly appreciate your support. As we advocate on behalf of Mental Health and erasing the stigma, I wanted to show a positive side of our life as husband and wife. We have so many positives, I couldn’t begin to name all of them, but Tom running all the errands is a big one.
      Congratulations for it being your last semester at school and how great that you get to participate in it with your own prince charming. Sheri

      • Marie Abanga says:

        Sheri,

        I just shared a 3 min video I recorded in school yesterday where I share my struggle with staying in that program.
        Secondly, I am happy I am not on the only one terrified of doing groceries out here. Men, I once journaled that it is the toughest thing I am yet to adapt to since changing worlds. It’s so quick quick qt the check out desks and I panic and items drop and my darling would get work out and we may mood and brood all the way back and even later. He now understands some and we always try to talk stuffs over the sooner the better. Thanks really for sharing that positive side indeed. 🙂

        • Marie – Love is grand when we’re able to keep it pure. That means we don’t keep score. It doesn’t matter who does the most giving or the most receiving at any given moment in time, it simply means we are available to be the person counted upon. You are on track with talking through everything as it occurs. I’m also a die hard when it comes to keeping a journal. The most important part to remember is your partner isn’t privy to your journal so just because you’ve written it down doesn’t do you any good unless you verbalize what’s going on. Sounds as though you are on the right track.
          It’s late and I’ve been gone all day. I’ll be watching your video tomorrow. Love, Sheri P.S. I connected with Jill as a result of your reblog of her post.

      • Marie Abanga says:

        Here is the link just in case you find the 3 minutes to watch : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCha1vUbxKLXitTkn89NX_6A

  24. atempleton says:

    Love this, and love learning about another side of Tom–busy, doing things. (I hate grocery shopping.)

    • Yep, I’d rather do most anything than go grocery shopping. Of course, by the time I give in and go, we are out of everything.
      Because I write so much about the disease of Bipolar Disorder, I want to insure I show positive traits of Tom. There are so many activities that Tom tells me he honestly doesn’t mind doing and I simply can’t imagine doing them just for the heck of it!

  25. I love your outlook and your style. I want to say strength, but I’ve heard people hate to hear that because life is sometimes so difficult, they do not feel strong, but overwhelmed. I love that you have each other, Sheri, and that you complement each other in such a way as to be a kind of salvation in the trying times to match each other’s needs. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Hi Tess – You asked me a few blogs back, “What if unconditional love isn’t enough?” when I was talking about suicide prevention. I believe that had Tom and I met when we were younger, neither one of us would have met the needs of the other. I was far too selfish and Tom thought Ozzie and Harriet lifestyles were still possible. We would have collided head-on. The fact that we both had lots of life-experience (some of it not so good) when we met, gave us a good idea of what we were looking for in a lifetime partner. I’ve never doubted the unconditional love for a moment and Tom simply tells people that when it happens for them, they’ll know it.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read with me and leave a comment. I value your friendship. Sheri

  26. Sounds like it turned out to be an incredible gift you shared with each other. A partnership. I love that.

  27. Beautiful. You are blessed to have one another. Your mutual love shines through your writing. Thank you. I, too, am blessed to have a wonderful husband who treats me like a queen (I’m too bossy to be a princess).

  28. This is darn helpful for me and my daughter. She’s trying to talk her father into letting her take a friend’s dog who has to got to New York and can’t keep the dog any longer. My daughter’s therapist thinks it’s a good idea, giving my daughter a purpose and something to care for that is solely hers. I’m for it, my husband is not. But he’s open to trying out what it’s like to take the doggie for sleepovers. She’s a tiny thing in comparison to our 2 100-lb. labs but they’ll get over it. We’ll see how it goes. Who would have thought? My daughter says it helps with her depression. It all really makes sense, doesn’t it?

    • Patti – Yes, yes and yes again to your daughter having the dog. It’s been proven over and over that the best way to keep a Veteran from committing suicide is to give them a companion dog to care for. These dogs are not trained companions. They are dogs that are rescued from the local SPCAs.
      Tom has told me repeatedly that he’s faced times when I’ve been gone (back in the day when I had to travel for work) that it was only the animals that kept him alive.
      One of the primary reasons nursing home patients are now taking their dog with them when they enter the nursing home is so the event is not so traumatizing for the patient.
      And – Hopefully the dog would bond with your daughter immediately and would want to be with your daughter (even sleeping) when your daughter is not in school.
      Keep me posted. I’d like to know how this turns out. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Sheri

  29. ksbeth says:

    you just have such a wonderful way of looking at things, sheri. i agree, when a person takes the time to help care for someone else, they are often too busy and full of purpose, that they take the focus off of their own perceived failings/challenges.

    • Beth – You are such a jewel. You’re always here cheering me on. I had to ‘unlearn’ the mentality of ‘I Am Woman, I Am Strong’ and whatever else goes with that story. Pride, if i let it, gets in the way of so many things – once I learned that Tom didn’t expect me to change just because we’d married, it allowed me the growth I needed to accept the idea that love could be many things indeed.

  30. This is so powerful. The shopping list being Tom’s suicide prevention. Anyone who understands this understands that the stories we make up in our heads about what is, is never it, never the real, and sometimes the real–lost in translation–can never communicate the impact, especially when so simple yet so amazingly powerful. Your writing and the way you express yourself and so many difficult topics is exceptional. The princess metaphor as clearly a metaphor in the head of the hairdresser, so far from the world we really live in, so believing of the story and not delving beyond the thought, that is never the real, never the thing, to what is. You sit at the seat of what is and that to me is where it’s at. Love this one, Sheri. Love you. ❤

    • Paulette – Thank you so much for the wonderful comment. You remind me of the reasons of why I write what I do and why I must continue to tell it from the side of truth and reality of events as they unfold in any number of situations.
      This has been a tough month of writing with suicide as the subject. Time and time again I’ve had to get up and walk away from the computer and seek out another activity. September and National Suicide Prevention Month is drawing to a close and I still must speak to the tragic ways our veterans and military family members are falling through the cracks and their suicides are going unreported.

  31. I understand what Tom means. During the darkest days, I tie a knot and hang on, because I worry that because my husband travels, no one will be there to care for Kitty, like he likes to be loved. Or, I watch my husband drop rice all over my floor, because he has to make a completely FULL cup, and no body is going to bother, to pick up the spilled grains. And then sometimes, it’s all OK. Again, beautifully written, with so much personal insight. It’s so nice to see people find blessings, inside the chaos of life. Hope you both are feeling better!

    • Hi Jodi – Thanks for reading with me and your insightful comment. I was always amazed as most of my friends that I could call Tom and tell him I needed something special to wear for a presentation the next day or some other silly thing and he always nailed what would look good on me. I’d never been with someone or even known anyone as talented, loving, giving of himself and his time, and on and on as the man I married. Thank you for stopping by to read with me and leaving a comment.

  32. Awwww man! You are sooooo lucky. My ex husband was bipolar, but I could never count on anything to be done at all, much less done right. Between my depression and his bipolar, well, let’s just say it was a dumb match from the start…. I envy you your Prince Charming, Princess. You deserve him, and he deserves a wonderful person like you…..

    • Hello Leiah: It took me forever to be ‘ready’ for the love Tom had to offer. He had not been diagnosed BP and showed no symptoms during the years we dated. He wasn’t diagnosed until we’d been married about 18 months. I started reading immediately everything I could get my hands on about the disease and talked with every professional that would stand still long enough for me to ask questions. What I know for sure is that every bipolar disordered individual is different. Tom desperately wants to be well all of the time, but that’s not how it works out.
      I can imagine the difficulty of being married to someone with bipolar disorder and the partner having depression. Yes, I’ve been depressed many times but have been able to ride most of it out with a good therapist and by being a workaholic.

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