By Vanessa Stapleton – President Armor Up West Virginia
Two years ago today, for the second time, my then husband decided to end his life. This was his second attempt. His PTSD had gone untreated for five years. Today, I don’t even ask myself why he tried to kill himself. After having untreated PTSD for five years, of course he tried to kill himself. Knowing what I know today, I am shocked he made it as long as he did before attempting suicide.
I say untreated PTSD because he didn’t get the RIGHT help. Believe me, it matters. If you aren’t treating the core issues of PTSD, you may not as well be getting treatment at all. He went to the VA when I finally gave him the ultimatum to get help or the kids and I were leaving. I naively assumed the VA was so well trained and well versed in PTSD that they would help him. He left the VA with a brown paper bag of pills. The magic bag to “fix” his problems. If only I could have known then what I know now. Just because they are a veteran’s hospital does not mean they have PTSD experts by any means. Unbeknownst to me, within six months of that visit, he was a full blown prescription pill addict. His addiction was what we refer to as the accidental addict. The Doctor prescribes you these medications so you think you are doing what is best. But chemically, you become physically and emotionally dependent on these medications. Often times, misuse begins by missing a dose and then doubling up. Next thing you know, you go three days without them then have a bad day and take six at a time in a moment of panic or desperation. I had no idea how quickly it would grow out of control. They had him on enough medications to tranquilize a horse. How could he NOT become an addict?
We found a counselor outside of the VA when it became evident their counselor had no clue how to handle PTSD. Oh if only I had the knowledge then that I have now. Did you know that many therapists are not even trained to handle suicidal people? I assumed a therapist was a therapist. I laugh at that now. What I now know is that in order to handle extensive trauma, PTSD, and suicide there is a completely different level of training that a therapist needs to have. So why don’t most of them have this education and training? Well, one concern is the liability of seeing a suicidal patient.
The cold hard truth is that a patient with suicidal ideations is a liability. Some therapists won’t even go down that road at all because of it. Our therapist did go down that road with us. The ugly truth I would like that therapist to know is that he had NO business trying to help someone that he was not properly educated or trained to treat. He did not have the skills, training, or education to handle the complex PTSD or even the suicidal ideations we were dealing with. His response to us the day after suicide attempt #1 was, “Take all of your medications as prescribed for 30 days and then come back so we can see how that is working.” As I reflect back on that and as I type it out, I am FURIOUS that a therapist could be so untrained and yet still accept clients in that position. Within the week, we had suicide attempt #2. He should have referred us out on Day 1 to someone better equipped to handle the issues. Instead, he sent us home after suicide attempt #1 with no help, no advice, and no instruction other than to continue the meds which had clearly grown into addiction. Therapists like that are reckless and make it harder on those professionals who ARE skilled, educated, and trained in such things. Once someone has had a bad experience in therapy like that, they don’t want to waste their time on another therapist who can’t help them. The way they see it, all therapists are the same. Moving someone to a professional who is qualified after an experience like that is so much harder because they have lost faith that anyone can help them.
What I did not know back then is that Serve and Protect and Safe Call Now have people who vette out counselors like I mentioned above. If you call them, they will hand pick a QUALIFIED therapist in your area to help you with your issues. If only someone had passed that information along to us many years ago.
It wasn’t until suicide attempt #2 that we found out about Safe Call Now. They had him somewhere within 24 hours to help him. Here is where the work begins to get better. Here is where you find out who really wants to get better and who doesn’t. My husband walked out of treatment against the advice of the therapists. He was not willing to do the work required to heal himself. He made his decision. He made his choice. I, also, made mine. I chose to heal myself and our children without all the chaos. He may not have been willing to put in the time and work to heal himself, but we were willing to put in the time and work to heal ourselves. I became a single mother to four beautiful children on the road to healing.
I remember packing his suitcase two years ago for treatment thinking this was it. This was going to fix it. He was going to get help. He could have. He chose not to put in the work. He chose not to acknowledge his issues or the damage done in the midst of them. Accountability was not something he would ever be willing to face. He wanted everything on his terms in his way and when the professionals told him it wasn’t going to be like that, he was done. He had no humility. He had no accountability. He had no desire to heal the damage done to anyone around him because he wanted to pretend it never happened. He didn’t want to heal himself because that required him to face and acknowledge things he was perfectly happy pretending didn’t bother him. There is no way to heal or get better with that mindset and attitude. That is a dead end road. Every professional there tried to tell him he would never heal with that mindset. It simply doesn’t work. He had the attitude that he knew more than they did.
The kids and I started counseling. We counsel together and separately. It is amazing what can be healed when you actually have a counselor who is QUALIFIED to handle extensive trauma. It has not been easy. There were times we would have the mindset he had…we didn’t want to do it. We did it anyway. Our desire to heal was greater than our fear of facing things we didn’t want to focus on and deal with. This Friday is our regular family session with myself and kids. They look forward to it. They love it now. This morning, the two littles reminded me before school that tomorrow is counseling day. They wanted to be sure I didn’t forget. It’s counseling and Chic-fil-A day. Both are very big deals lol. They like their routine….therapy…..then chicken nuggets and milkshakes. What promotes healing better than that?
If you are struggling, please do NOT wait. Let a professional organization like Safe Call Now or Serve and Protect get you someone who is QUALIFIED to help. And for the love of everything that is good in the world, please be willing to put in the work to get better.
If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:
Safe Call Now: 24 Hour Confidential Hotline: 206-459-3020
For more information on the First Responders program: Click here
Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008