Mental Health/Suicide Prevention
by Sheri de Grom
I’d arrived at the perfect time and place for daydreaming. My hair color specialist had finished the foils and Tom had presented me with my second venti non-fat latte—for the day—Starbucks. I’m addicted.
Tom asked, “Is there anything special you’d like from the grocery store?”
“No, you always get it just right.”
With a smile and a kiss to my cheek, he was on his way.
My colorist pulled up a chair and said, “You are such a princess and don’t even know it.”
I started to say, you haven’t a clue. We’d never talked of Tom’s illness or about my life as a caregiver. We talked about books, travel, movies and such. I’d had twenty-five years of pretending that we lived a charmed life.
What I had shared with my colorist were stories of how I hadn’t cooked a meal in well over twenty years, how Tom loved to shop and as an artisan he had impeccable taste. She couldn’t imagine how Tom could shop for suits for my professional career and any number of other items for me. I hated to shop and that meant everything: groceries, office supplies, clothing, furniture, new cars, almost anything other than bookstores and there I could become lost for hours.
Additionally, I never doubted Tom’s ability to pack for me when my career sent me out of town on an unexpected business trip. Not only was his packing perfect, thinking of everything I might need, but he always included several notes expressing his love that I would find throughout my stay. I’d also come across other thoughtful gifts and often a special piece of jewelry he’d made for me and tucked away for just such an occasion.
My colorist had a different take on my allowing Tom to treat me like a princess. Her thoughts were completely foreign to me. Her comment had to do with trust. She told me she might never have gotten divorced if she’d trusted her husband to get the right kind of bread at the market.
The bread analogy is an oversimplification of individuals who never learn to trust and/or perfection is so important to them; they can’t allow anyone to do anything on their behalf.
Tom’s not always well enough to perform what he considers his responsibilities but when he is, they are all his.
When Tom’s unable to be my prince charming, I don’t hand the reins to anyone else. I pump gas when it’s essential and prefer to pour milk into the bottom of an almost empty cereal box for dinner rather than mess up a dish or go to the market. I’ll move into my workaholic mode instead of ordering or going out to eat. When it’s the two of us, we enjoy dining out but when it’s just me, I take the no fuss, no mess route.
Some find it surprising that I don’t cook or do all those things some believe to be women’s work but not Tom. When I met Tom, he was active duty military and the single father of two young daughters ages 4 and 8.
I finally had to face the horrors of grocery shopping on Father’s Day of 2012 and my list had grown to three full pages. I hadn’t actually been in a supermarket to shop since long before we married in 1986. Sure, I’d dashed into the deli section or to pick up cases of bottled water and diet coke, but otherwise, count me out.
I might as well have been on a space mission arriving at the market. I had no idea where anything was and my saving grace was another single father of four children. They more or less adopted and supervised me through the store and all the way to the check-out counter. I wanted to bring them home with me to help unload the car but thought that might be asking too much.
What does all of this have to do with suicide prevention you ask?
I used to feel guilty that Tom took over all the chores I hated. He never complained about shopping, running all the errands that came up, coordinating our calendars, ensuring routine matters such as car registrations and other odds and ends were taken care of.
One day I overheard Tom tell a friend of his that taking care of me was the best suicide
prevention plan he’d ever stumbled upon. I wrote in my journal, John wanted to know why he did everything and Tom told him, no that’s not true. Tom said, “When I forget my anchor and my mind starts spinning, I go to the refrigerator and on the door I’ll always find a list of things that need to be done. They don’t have to be done immediately but normally within the week. If I kill myself, who will do them for Sheri?”
I no longer worry about how long the list of things to do becomes. If there’s one item on the list and Tom takes care of it and it sets his mind free of obsessive thoughts, I don’t have a problem being his princess.