My own personal crisis

My husband, who says he is an Iraqi War Veteran, was suicidal this morning while i was at work. He sent a text message he "claims" was only supposed to be recieved once the police found his body. Instead it was sent to me and of course i rushed home from work after calling 9-1-1 and found him sitting on our front porch with his gun in his mouth. This was very traumatic to me. Now alot of things are starting to surface like the fact that he never made it out of basic training, he was injured there, but never did any active duty. So a big part of who i thought he was has turned out to be a lie. He is being kept as a 72 hour hold, and hopefully he will be treated longer because he obviously needs it. He has also told me things like he was in special ops and that he talks with the President alot and that our car has a tracking system on it. I have informed the social worker of all these things to help the doctors treat him better. So now i'm left just unsure about everything. Nobody can tell me what the right thing to do is. The social worker and i have already talked about confronting him, but they want it to happen once he has actually been admitted to a unit that way he is safe. I am so confused and find myself with so much anxiety, on top of already having anxiety due to financial issues, which he has contributed to, but i know that it's not completely his fault, but also mine. How do i continue to support him emotionally?

Although divorce and seperation has crossed my mind, it seems silly to want to put a mentally unstable person through that. I guess i'm not sure what to do next.

Ben's Answer:

This may already be apparent to you, but it's important to distinguish between lies and delusions. Talking to the president, being in special ops, and having a tracking device on your car - these are all very typical of grandiose and paranoid delusions. Common in several types of disorders, including Bipolar Disorder (during a manic episode), schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders that may be acute or chronic conditions.

I do hope he is able to stay more than just a few days in the hospital (if it's a decent hospital) and get the care he needs. There are medication that will suppress those psychotic symptoms fairly quickly for most people; others with very chronic conditions may respond much more slowly to medication.

Medication is not the only way to treat these issues, but is often the quickest and most practical way to stabilize. It's definitely the mainstream approach, but is not without it's host of problems. I prefer the recovery model of Daniel Fisher MD, as opposed to the medical model of chronic psychiatric illness that most doctors and institutions adhere to.

I believe in treating the whole person, which means other forms of therapy and emotional support to address the underlying issues, as well as supporting the physical body and brain to function properly.

For now, his suicide risk should be the number one priority and until he is relatively stable, I would advise against talking about leaving or divorce.

One last note, when a person is truly delusional, and paranoid, unless their delusional state is a mild one, it is usually NOT a good idea to confront the person and try to convince them that they are delusional. Because it doesn't work. It depends on how much of a grip he has on reality and how much he trusts you. But usually, if a person really believes that their paranoid thoughts are reality, then if you tell them it's not true, they will simply believe that you are part of the conspiracy against them and every time you oppose them, it is just further proof that you're the enemy.

It's better in those cases to remain neutral, empathize with his fears and feelings, listen attentively and be calm and reassuring, rather than challenging. No persons delusions have ever been stopped by challenging them with logic and reason.

Wishing you the best,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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May 26, 2010
Glad to help
by: Jan

Hi! Glad I could do something to help. I just wanted to suggest that you go on-line and to NAMI--National Alliance on Mental Illness--and see if they have a support group in your area. Also, if you can't find any lower-cost therapy, try asking at the higher-cost places; many times they can recommend someone. At the very least, they can just say no. Also try your local Department of Human Services, and check with churches--they often have support groups, and will welcome anyone even if you are not a member of their church. Then there are all kinds of groups on the internet, some good, some not so much. Just be careful and don't give out any personal information to them. If you would like, you can always write to me--I'll be glad to talk with you! I don't know if Ben has a policy on publishing email addresses, but if not mine is . Again, don't feel guilty about ANYTHING! I had those same thoughts, and it took a therapist to finally make me see that there was no way I could have known or foreseen any of the signs/symptoms, as I had never been around anyone with a mental illness and had no idea what to look for. You are the same; never forget that! I believe that you are going to be fine, no matter what the future brings. Best of luck!!

May 24, 2010
Thank You
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much!!!! You have no idea, well actually you do, how much those words hit home with me. I feel incredibly guilty for not figuring this out sooner, and i feel guilty for not being more of an advocate for his mental health. He is voluntarily getting help. He knows he needs it, but i just don't think he realizes how much he needs. The bad thing is that the night shift social worker dropped the ball BIG time. She confronted him with the fears of his family. So i got a phone call in the middle of the night with him being VERY irrate and upset, which honestly it's VERY understandable that he should be. Not only did he NOT hear it from a doctor, or his family, he heard it from a complete stranger who on top of everything was rude to him, and to me when i called. But i did get in touch with the girl's supervisor and she will be spoken to today. The supervisor was VERY upset. But i have already tried to start finding something for myself in the way of therapy. I'm trying to find a low cost type of counselor or support group. Unfortunately my family/friends/and some of his family feel that i should divorce him, so talking to them is pretty useless as i just can't fathom that possibility at this time. Maybe in the future, maybe not. So i have more stress from that. But your comment has made me SO hopeful!!! I will continure to look for people that i CAN identify with and build a support system for myself. Thank you so much!!

You're very welcome!

May 24, 2010
Advice from someone who knows
by: Jan

I wanted to reply and let you know that I have been where you are now, and it's not a good place to be. So #1, know that you are not alone!

My husband of 23 years was (finally) diagnosed with BiPolar disorder. He had been manic/mixed state for many years, but we all just thought he was a work-a-holic until the day I woke up to find someone who was totally paranoid and out of touch with reality. You are fortunate to have your husband in a hospital so quickly--it took me two months and finally going to another state to get my husband forcefully hospitalized for the help he needed. You need to know that people who are paranoid are extremely vigilant about what is going on around them (even though they appear to be totally unaware) and are quite capable of fooling others who don't know them well into thinking they are fine. Ben is right--do not confront them with reality! They will not believe you, and will believe you are their enemy. My husband turned against his own mother!

All of that was to tell you what I was faced with. Naturally, I chose to stand by my husband and fight for his sanity with everything I had, no matter what. A noble goal, but the reality was a nightmare journey which led into my own psychiatric problems. So #2, no matter how much you love him, you MUST put yourself first. I know that sounds selfish, but doing that does not mean you care less about your husband, it means you will be better able to deal with what could be ahead of you.

Once you get a diagnosis, get out there and start doing research on it. Become familiar with every aspect of the illness, treatment options, medication options and their side effects, EVERYTHING! There are so many variables in a mental illness--no two people are the same--you have to know what may/may not happen. You also need a good support system in place: family, friends, a church, support group; you cannot do this alone if it becomes a major thing. If it is BiPolar disorder, it is a major, life-long thing.

I hope I am not scaring you, that is not my intention. But I wish I had had someone to tell me what was coming. The last thing I will tell you here is that it is OKAY if you ever think to yourself, "why didn't I just let him kill himself", or "why don't I just leave, run far, far away" or anything else like that. Again, if this becomes a long, involved process, you will think these things, it is a totally human response and you SHOULD NOT feel guilty about it! You are entitled to your feelings no matter what they are. Don't bottle them up--share them with someone who can empathize with you.

I wish you the best, and hope that your husband has a quick recovery. Above that, I pray that you will be fine and come through this stronger than when it started.

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