"I constantly watch my husband for suicidal signs"

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13-07-2016

For several months last year I would go out to work in the morning and return home not knowing if I was going to find my husband’s body.

It might sound melodramatic to some, but that was my reality after my husband suffered a breakdown, which left him suicidal and me genuinely fearing for his life.

My experiences of his illness have made me quite passionate about tackling the stigma of mental health among men. His fears of the stigma associated with depression and anxiety actually increased his suffering greatly - so much so, I wasn’t allowed to tell a soul, not even close friends and family.

I found myself so completely alone. Thankfully, he is on the road to recovery now but it was a very painful and difficult time which I would never wish on another person, and I hope by sharing my experiences anyone facing a similar situation will feel less alone.

My husband has had mild depression for most of his adult life, in hindsight, and was having a tough time at work, but had a breakdown last September after an incident with one of his managers sent him over the edge.

"He told me he wanted to die"

He literally couldn’t get out of bed. We have been together since we were 16 (over 13 years) and I had never even seen him cry before. To see this big 6ft 2 bloke just sobbing and unable to move, well, it was quite terrifying.

He was signed off work and ended up being off for more than four months. But he didn’t want anyone to know the reason. I can’t help but feel that if men were more able to just say “you know what, I am not ok”, suicide rates would plummet*.

If it was me, I would be able to tell my mum or my friends. But his only outlet was me. I do think that women seem to have stronger emotional networks; they have a few more options when it comes to talking about their feelings.

He wanted to die, he didn’t see any other route out of how he was feeling. In that cloud he was living in, he didn’t see it as selfish, he genuinely thought it would be better for me.

They were generally quite vague threats, although he did talk about jumping in front of a train. Sometimes he would disappear for hours at a time and I would drive round and round looking for him, all these awful thoughts going through my head.

Other times, the smallest thing could derail a “good” day. I remember persuading him to go out for a walk, and stop for coffee and cake. We got to the shop and it sent him into a complete tailspin - there were literally too many cakes to choose from and he panicked so much we had to leave.

"It's a matter of waiting for the clouds to break"

It does affect your relationship. Sometimes, he said the most horrific things, and it could be exhausting. But it’s an illness, it’s not something they can control: it’s a matter of waiting for the clouds to break.

To the outside world, he gives off this very capable, fun, likeable air - people wouldn’t have believed what was going on inside. When I did finally tell my mum after he’d got better, she was so shocked.

In retrospect I wish I had told someone at the time so I could have got the support I needed to cope. I wish I’d said, look, my husband is suicidal, I need some help here.

He will say to me, I’m having a bad day. If he didn’t have me or that outlet I genuinely think he wouldn’t talk about it at all-no-one puts on a mask like a man.

I understand it happens to successful people a lot: people put themselves under so much pressure with this constant striving and achieving.

You learn to manage depression but it never really goes. Now, he’s the happiest I’ve known him, but I still find myself constantly watching him for the little signs. Maybe I always will.

I suppose there are some people who would have walked away, but I’m glad I didn’t. You have to think of it as a phase and not something permanent: you have to believe you’re going to wake up from this nightmare.


Sally is a 30-year-old APC candidate working for a major firm in the City of London. LionHeart has changed her name to protect her husband’s identity.

 

*Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45. In 2014, there were 4,623 male deaths by suicide, and 42% of UK men aged 18 to 45 are said to have considered suicide

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