How NOT to support a person at risk of suicide (Domestic Violence, Induced Suicide)
Late in 1996, I went to see my doctor, Dr Smith*, to get help because I had been having suicidal thoughts. Dr Smith told me I was suffering from "situational" or "reactive" depression following the deaths of a parent and a close friend, and due to the problems I was having in my relationship with Pedro. He prescribed me some anti-depressants and gave me a list of phone numbers to contact for support etc... That week he rang me at home every night to find out how I was going.
Dr Smith had also contacted Pedro to let him know what was going on, though I did not find out for many years what they had specifically spoken about. He explained to Pedro that I was suffering from depression and suggested some ways in which to support me. He told him that he was quite concerned and that he had gathered that I was under the impression that my loved ones would be better off with out me. He told Pedro that this was quite common and not a matter of attention seeking or emotional blackmail, but a common result of my severe depression, which was in fact a natural and expected reaction to the trauma of the previous 6 months. He asked Pedro to be patient and supportive, and also to reassure me that my loved ones would in fact NOT be better off without me. He told Pedro that under no circumstances should anybody be allowed to challenge me to kill myself or dare me to, as that may very well put me over the edge.
On that very same night, after Dr Smith had first spoken to him, Pedro told me I had a "nancy boy" for a doctor. He asked me if I had told Dr Smith to phone me. When I said I had not and asked him what Dr Smith had said, he refused to tell me. He told me I was pathetic, and a drain on everyone around me.
During the months that followed, my treatment did not go as well as everybody had hoped. Dr Smith started to suspect domestic violence but because I had not disclosed any to him, he could not do anything to support me through it. He once again phoned Pedro and reminded him of everything he had said before. Pedro assured him that he had been doing all of the things they had spoken of and was doing his best to support me. Dr Smith also phoned my mother and told her everything that he had told Pedro. Unfortunately, I did not know exactly what Dr Smith had said to Pedro until years later. Once I did, I was shocked, because the way Pedro behaved was actually the complete opposite of what he claimed.
The weeks and months that had followed that first visit to Dr Smith were amongst the hardest moments of my life. Pedro was the opposite of supportive. If he found me sitting alone in our room or hiding up the back of our garden with my dogs, he would yell at me and tell me to hurry up and kill myself already. If I said to him that he made me feel like he actually wanted me dead, he would say "What difference would it make? You don’t have the guts to do it!" Then he would turn away and say quietly "But I wish you did". I would call after him asking what he said and he would yell back "You heard me!" I was left feeling hurt, confused, devastated and very, very alone.
Once, he found me out the front by myself. I was crying because I was in the sh!t with him again for not earning enough money that week and he wanted me to drag my hours out, which was not something I could do(ironically, he did not have a job at the time, and refused to get one). He saw me crying and told me in a very calm voice, that if I was not going to kill myself then he would kill himself instead. I told him I was starting to think he was evil and that he had fooled me into loving him. He then went inside and smashed a Coke bottle over his head.
A month or 2 later, he cracked the shits with me again because I had not done something he wanted me to, and I asked him what would happen if I did not comply. I said "Will you dare me to kill myself again if I don't?" He did not answer. He went inside, loaded his (unlicensed) gun, and then came and put it next to me, saying “There is one way you could make life better for me and everyone else around you, but you are too gutless and too selfish, so I won't hold my breath.” Then he went out.
I sat there for 2 hours that night, with his gun in my mouth, finger resting lightly on the trigger (which he had set to the hair trigger setting, he later told me). I tried to gather the strength to pull the trigger, believing he was right and that things would be better for everybody if I was dead. Then I realized that my dogs were barking and whining frantically, like they were trying to get to me from where they were in the back yard. I found myself thinking "What about them?" That thought led to "What about my mum and my friends and my family?" I knew how I would feel if one of them killed themselves. Then I started to wonder how Pedro's kids would feel. I knew they loved me too...
But my heart was so sore. The one who was supposed to care the most didn't. I felt hurt, betrayed, and pretty much like a fool. Everything I did just made things worse. Everything he asked me to do was never right, and I would be told not to bother again because all I did was make more work for him. I was even getting into trouble at work. Then there were the people I had lost. My dad and my friend, and the rest of my family who lived so far away, and whom I missed so much, but who he had turned against me. The pain in my chest was so strong it actually hurt physically and I thought "At least I won't hurt anymore... At least I won't have to listen to him tell me I am a coward anymore...At least I will never have to live through yet another failure..."
Then suddenly, I saw my dad's face. He was sad. I thought about what he would say to me if he was still alive. I knew he would have told me that sometimes it takes more guts to face the pain than to pull the trigger. I went inside and put the gun on Pedro's bed. When he came home later, he told me I had proven I was nothing but a useless coward...
I would say that his behavior is an example of how NOT to support a person at risk of suicide...
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Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last", of Perth, Western Australia. All rights reserved.
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