A few weeks ago, Sam and I had a serious conversation. You know, the ones where you get a pit in your stomach, feel like you are going to vomit, and then cry? Anyone? Just me?
Well, the conversation started out fairly normal. I soon found out that Sam had not been taking medication regularly since our sweet Oliver came into the world May 5.
That’s a six month time span.
In addition to not taking medication, he also completely forgot, stopped, or did not think to refill prescriptions.
As some of you may know, my pregnancy with Oliver was a turbulent one. Two different times we were told to prepare for the worst because of my blood pressure and because doctors were afraid that he might not make it.
Four different times I was hospitalized. Our roles became reversed, Sam became a caregiver, full time parent, pregnancy expert, and still worked, took care of the house, dogs, bills, and a list of other things while I tried to do two things: keep Oliver “in” as long as possible, and keep my blood pressure down.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking, “well, he’s the husband, he should be helping her out.” Or, “what’s the problem with all do that?”
While Sam took on more, he began to bottle things up: feelings, thoughts, events, memories, he lost sleep, he stopped taking meds. He ate when he remembered, he went to work, he tried his best to function day in and day out.
He became agitated, moody, and very short.
I realized that something was up. So, I asked about meds and his response hit me like a ton of bricks.
What came next shook me.
Despite all of the good and beautiful things in our life, having a miracle baby, a roof over our heads, food on our table, family, friends, job, and love, Sam contemplated leaving all of that behind.
I don’t mean leaving and heading off to a new life in another town or state either.
He thought that Oliver, Caden, and Kirsten would be better off without him.
He thought he could leave and I would be better off, because he would be less of a burden, less of a problem.
He thought Oliver would have a better chance growing up without a dad.
He was ready to end his life.
Talk about getting the rug pulled out from under you…
Talk about feeling so helpless to not have recognized a sign, a symptom, or a plea for help…
Although there was no definite plan, no note or way to end it all, Sam had suicidal ideation.
I believe for a moment, he thought he didn’t belong.
That’s what depression, anxiety, fear, moral injury, and PTSD can do. Those things combined with no medication and little to no sleep can make the mind wander. That’s what little communication can do, it keeps your feelings bottled up.
We became busy with a new routine. We adjusted to being home with a baby, a tiny baby, who was in NICU.
I recovered slowly from a traumatic pregnancy and birth.
Our new normal changed us, and I think with those changes and new fears of reentering parenthood for me, and for this being a new experience for Sam (as having his own child, an infant, for the first time), was a shock to his system.
After this realization, I had to think…did we stop communicating? Did we stop making time for one another? Did we go to bed exhausted without conversation? We were going through the motions. Running on fumes.
Sam is actively participating in therapy. He’s back on his schedule with medication. He’s doing things around the house like cooking, cleaning, and helping with the kids.
We need to get a self-care plan in place for him. Typically anything in his “man shed” or outdoors works. Not that long ago he was able to visit his family farm for some work and refuge.
We take each day one day at a time. Life is good. Life can be overwhelming, but we also know we are a team. We have 3 people in this house who depend on us. We have 3 dogs that need us. Family, friends, colleagues.
We talk. We have goals (short term and long term). We make plans. We laugh. We even took a spontaneous road trip last week!
When it comes to relationships, healing from trauma and working through PTSD, you have to do the work. You can’t expect things to change overnight. You have to be prepared for the bumps. You have to know it’s “okay to not be okay,” but you can’t stay there—you can get out of a dark place. You can get help.
You are not alone.
Sometimes we have to do really hard things in life. Sometimes we are faced with major decisions that don’t always impact one person, but many. A ripple effect if you will.
If you know someone struggling, reach out. Let them know they are not alone. Sam had a moment of feeling very alone and isolated. That moment could have changed us forever.
Days and nights are long. I promise they are worth the fight.