Winning competition entry: Jim’s story

This story has a trigger warning

In February 2017 we launched a competition calling for, among other things, frugal and realistic ideas with meaningful storytelling. Our independent panel of judges voted, and on March 22nd we awarded Jim Millns the top prize for this entry. TRIGGER WARNING: This story discusses suicide and psychotic episodes.  If you’d like to be involved in making this idea real,  please add your comments at the end of the story.

A lit up phonebox in dark surroundings

I love my wife, she’s my best friend. We’re generally happy and have a lovely family. For the majority of our married life however my wife has battled with psychotic depression. It still makes me sad to think about the suffering she must have experienced over the years. To see someone you love dearly hurting so badly, particularly when there’s little you can practically do, is something I never want anyone to experience. Sadly however I know that some people will.

The first few months of 2016 were the lowest point for my wife, she had two attempts at taking her own life, the second of which resulted in her being admitted to hospital and spending 48 hours on the intensive care unit. It was at the beginning of March 2016 however when things really got bad – for both my wife and me. Now I don’t necessarily want sympathy at this point, but the night my wife had a major psychotic episode fuelled by a litre of vodka was the one time in my married life that I was genuinely scared of her. I was also concerned for the safety of my daughter. Of course in hindsight I know it was the illness, but at the time I would describe her behaviour as volatile, aggressive and ‘evil’. For a 3-4 hour period she stopped being the person I loved.

It quickly became apparent that I needed help and I attempted, unsuccessfully, to contact the home treatment team. I then dialled ‘999’ and ‘due to the potential for violence’ was routed through to the police. The two officers that attended were great, and if they’re reading this for whatever reason and recognise the story, I truly thank you. However the police weren’t able to stay all night and having calmed the situation down they left, at which point my wife’s the aggression and volatility almost immediately returned. She did eventually drink herself to sleep and the following morning the home treatment team arranged for her to access the crisis house.

Whilst I can’t begin to imagine the horror that my wife experienced that night; what was clear from my perspective was the lack of support offered to me and my family both during the episode and immediately afterwards. I do have a very close wider family and a good network of friends, but I didn’t feel I could involve them in something that they might not understand. What I needed was to be able to ring someone with experience of caring for someone with mental health issues, who could ‘lend a helping hand’, either in the form of advice, a safe place to stay for an hour or two or in extreme cases provide hands-on support. On that night in March 2016 I needed some of all these things.

My proposal therefore is simple – to create a network of volunteers to provide support on a 24hr rota basis to other carers who might be struggling. This could involve hands-on support (acknowledging safety issues) through to a coffee and a chat. This should be supported a dedicated telephone number plus expenses for those on low incomes.

There, that’s it, a simple low cost idea that for me would have been a lifeline. I should add at this point that my wife is now in recovery and my daughter and I continue to have a good relationship with her. I still love her and she continues to be my best friend. At the time her illness was at its worst, however, I needed a friend who understood what I was going through.

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