Thursday, January 24, 2008

Esteem and Self-Esteem

My ex-husband often meets me on the opposite side of a footbridge from where I work to hand over Connor. He never crosses it. Today for the first time I crossed it on a different day without Connor and looked into the oily waters below. That is where my husband tried to commit suicide 4 years ago, by walking into the shallow, slow flowing water. Maybe that is why he never wants to cross, and see the water below. Or maybe he just wants me to do the walking, who's to tell?

Anyway today for the first time it affected me. I realised I never asked him, or I Don't recall asking him, WHY???? Why did he want to commit suicide? things must've been very bad. He would've felt hopeless, helpless, worthless. Yet to look at his situation you never would've guessed. We had been trying to have a baby for 5 years and had just been successful via IVF. Money was not tight, I was going back to work after paid maternity leave and we had a great bunch of supportive friends. He had gained a law degree as a mature student and was working on a high profile case. His career as a lawyer appeared to mean a lot to him, and to be an integral part of his identity. He'd say "I'm a commercial litigator, that's what I do" and our friends would look up to him and value his advice.

This whole suicide thing is eating at me today, and there is nobody I can ask really, my peace of mind (the ex-wife) will never be a priority.

I don't remember him ever saying "I felt desparate, lonely, unloved". Just before he tried to drown himself I was telling him about a friend of mine who had given up her job because she couldn't cope with the stress of small kids and working, and he said "If anyone's going to have a nervous breakdown around here, it's me" thereby reserving his right to a breakdown.

At the time of his suicide attempt. I had just had the happiest year of my life. I was off work for 9 months with my beautiful, longed for baby. Our marriage was not unhappy, we did a lot together and had a good sex life, although we did not communicate well. After the suicide attempt he begged me to check him into a secure facility, and from there on in I became the enemy. I had just gone back to work full time and was quite stressed about childcare arrangements. He discussed his problems only in hushed tones with his psychiatrist, and I was not allowed in on the underlying problems, just reassured that it was a deep biological depression. So I took to researching the problem. Whenever I asked him what the problem was he would say, it is a chemical imbalance in my brain, I kept on delivering my child to childcare, working all day and visiting my husband in the evening before taking connor home, putting him to bed and doing it all again the next day. On the outside all the psych talked about were his control issues, which were real. I had definitely been a victim of those and I still am. I really had no idea what was going on.

In short I don't think I took it seriously. I remember saying to Simon "All I want is a functional husband" which on reflection was not the most sympathetic thing. His pre-emptive remark reserving the breakdown, the difficult method of suicide that he chose (if he had meant it wouldn't he have tied something to his legs and jumped into deep water?) and the refusal to discuss all but the medical details added to the objective fact that his life was not so bad, added to the extraordinarily busy life I was leading myself made me just assume it was a "cry for help" or had, as he himself said, some sort of brain-chemical abberation which would be fixed presently with drugs. His psych likened it to a heart attack, it comes on suddenly and requires a long recovery and a change in habits. We did not have an extraordinarily combative or unhappy marriage so I can only blame the job.

Anyway he gave up the marriage and the job whilst still apparently in a deep biological depression - not a time to be making life changing decisions I would've thought. He also courted and moved in with someone new - if he had low self esteem he hid it very well - behind a blustering self-confidence. Which brings me to the point of this post.

If I was feeling desparate, out of control and suicidal I would not ponce around proclaiming my expertise, I would keep a low profile. I suspect this might be a male thing. I feel dreadfully out of my depth in my job a lot of the time. I ask advice, I tell my seniors honestly what I think I am capable of. I confide in my girlfriends if I can't cope and I ask for help. I certainly don't lie and cover up until it comes to crisis point.

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