Posted by: Kate | February 1, 2008

5:00 a.m.

Her anger is a palpable thing. Instantly obvious, even during the polite introductions and explanation of paperwork. She tries to put on a polite, controlled persona, but immediately underneath is a seething, diffuse rage. It fills the room, somehow seems to darken the harsh fluorescent lighting and amplify every noise.

She doesn’t want to be here. She doesn’t want to talk to me. She doesn’t want to deal with the doctor. She doesn’t want to give a urine sample. She doesn’t want them to draw blood.

What she wants is the life she imagined, six and a half years ago, when she was walking down the aisle. She wants the house, and the white picket fence, a good job and close friends and a big TV. And she wants a baby.

Oh, she wants a baby. With every ounce of her being, she wants to be able to create and carry a baby of her own, made from the love she has with her husband, to hold and cuddle and raise. She could deal without the house and the fence and the job and the toys. She could even live without the friends. She just wants that baby.

And she can’t have it. Five years of trying, of testing and treatments and waiting and testing some more. And they finally told her, “We’re sorry.”

So she’s mad. Life has taken a dream away from her, and she wants it back. And barring that, she doesn’t know what she wants. This anger just spills out and covers anyone who comes near her, and she doesn’t intend to hurt anyone but she’s so lost in her own hurt that she can’t seem to help it. She’s losing control, in ways small and large, and she’s watching it happen without knowing how to stop.

The last straw came, as it always does. She was at home, and hurting, and feeling neglected because her husband chose to play a stupid video game instead of joining her in yet another discussion of how unfair life is. Something had to change. She broke. She took a lot of pills, or said she did, and then got in a physical fight with her husband because he wouldn’t let her get to the kitchen knives. She locked herself in a room, and cut her wrist with a smashed paperweight.

And then, after she’d already lost control within herself, she lost physical control over her placement and actions. The police came, and took her out of the house, against her will. They plunked her into an emergency room and made her wait there, when she just wanted to go back home. Doctors and nurses came to poke and prod at her, asking embarrassing questions about her weight and her emotions and her health, and she didn’t want to answer. Then the mental health clinician came and started asking even more personal questions, using words like suicide and grief, and she answered truthfully because she didn’t know what else to say and she just wanted to get it over with. Her answers included scary phrases, dangerous ones: dead inside, no reason to live, go to sleep and never wake up.

Why couldn’t everyone just leave her alone? Why couldn’t they just let her take a few extra pills, or 30, and stop hurting like this all the time? Why couldn’t they let her stop lashing out and stop upsetting everyone around her? Everyone would be better off if she was gone, wouldn’t they? And now this stupid counselor is trying to tell her that she has to go to a psychiatric hospital. She’s not crazy, can’t anyone see that? No one understands. No one cares. Fuck them all, she’ll leave if she damn well wants to.

But she can’t. She’s on suicide watch, with a big security guard outside, and they’re threatening to restrain her. Restrain her, can you imagine? Like she’s some kind of raving lunatic or something. And things like “Against Medical Advice” no longer apply, because now she’s being legally committed, and that trumps patient rights. How dare they?

The anger builds, and spills into the hallway, even into the waiting room. People who don’t know what’s going on still know something’s wrong. The hallways are silent, after the echoes of her shouts fade.

Meanwhile, in the consultation room, her husband waits. He’s a big, teddy bear of a man. 6’1″, 350 pounds; too heavy in the view of the medical community, maybe, but he looks comfortable in his own skin. Like the kind of guy best suited for a beer and a football game, with a big, loud laugh and a simple, natural exuberance.

He’s not laughing now. Instead, he sits on the couch, in the room with the weird lighting that is either too dim or painfully bright, and sobs. Wracking, un-self-conscious sobs that ignore the possibility that anyone might see him like this. “She thinks I should leave her and start a family, but I don’t care about all that. All I want is my wife. She’s all I need. I love her. I can’t fix her. I can’t let her go home, but if she knew I said that she would never forgive me. I don’t know what to do.”

They have a strong bond, and even in the midst of her worst anger she knows that he takes care of her. Even in her nastiest outbursts, her insults and threats are, in a twisted way, meant to protect him, because if she scares him away then she won’t hurt him anymore. She says as much, in calmer moments.

But now, she’s not in a calm moment, and he knows what he wants to happen but he can’t bring himself to force her. “If she hates me, that’s fine, but I need her to be alive and safe. But I don’t want her to hate me, because she’s everything. I don’t know what to do.”

This time, just this once, he can avoid that responsibility. In the midst of all of the decisions and emotions of adulthood, he can be a child again, and let someone else make the choices and say the things that are going to make his wife so angry. He can say it wasn’t his call, that the counselor said there were no other options. He gets to pass the responsibility onto someone else, because he would do it if he had to but she wouldn’t understand, and he’s so scared of what she might do or say when she’s still angry.

He asks questions. Lots of questions, good questions. He understands the process, and he agrees that there’s no other answer. You just can’t take an overdose, cut yourself, tell hospital staff that you’re suicidal, and then go home and sleep it off. Even if you’re angry. Even if you’re hurting. Even if you don’t care anymore. He knows what to do now, and he’s very quickly evolving from a simple guy to an informed advocate for the love of his life.

They can get through this, someday. She can see a therapist, find the right support group, maybe take meds for a little while. What’s broken inside her can be fixed, even though there will always be scars there. He can see a therapist, too, learn how to keep himself healthy and help her at the same time. They’ll make a family another way, if she still wants that.

But right now, it’s just anger and hurt and frustration. And with a little luck, that anger will remain focused on that stupid bitch counselor who wouldn’t just let her go home and die, so that she can start to heal and accept some of the love and devotion waiting for her at home when she gets there.



  1. Brilliant. Sniffling here. So very, very powerful. And tragic. For everyone.

  2. That is what I’m afraid will happen if I ever lose it enough to actually attempt suicide. So I don’t. I just torture myself with wanting it and not wanting it at the same time. It’s weird, I know.
    Besides that, I loved the post. Thanks for spending the time to write it.

  3. All I can think is that if I were wired differently, that could have been me. It was five years for us, too, when we got almost that same news. I remember how badly it hurt, and how badly I wanted to be someone else, somewhere else, anywhere else. I am so thankful tonight that the darkness didn’t swallow me, that we were able to see a different sort of parenthood in our future. I hope that one day this woman does, too. Thanks for this post, Kate.

  4. Infertility can make you do unheard of things. It’s the most painful thing – it’s out of your control and something you never expect to happen *to you*. I’m glad you’re there for this lady, you have such a good heart. I know you can reach her. Thanks for this post.

  5. If I’m ever in a bad place, I want you on my side. It’s obvious that you can relate to people who don’t want you, but who need you.

  6. Perfectly done Kate…I can so relate in another realm. Thanks for being there & here.

  7. Wow, I am glad that they had you.

  8. Crying here. I can feel her anger and pain. The portrait of her husband is sweet and powerful and loving. I can see her through your eyes. You are so good, at your job, at writing about your job, at understanding.

    I hope you sleep well tonight, my hero. Hugs.

  9. As always, amazingly eloquent. You capture things so beautifully…I can’t help but be touched very deeply.

  10. That got to me in such a personal way. I’ve felt her feelings, though I never took it quite as far. I still thought the same thoughts. I know those words.

    You captured the feelings so well. I want to reach across the Internet, give her a hug, and let her know that there is hope. It can work out. It’s so hard to see that when you’re here.

  11. Oh Kate – what an incredibly moving post. I can feel her anger and sadness. I hope they both get the help they need.

  12. Glad I stumbled in here and found this blog. You write beautifully. I’m thankful there are “stupid bitch counselors” like you. 😉

  13. Aw, Kate, that’s so beautiful. So, so painful, and so beautiful. Thanks for your alchemy.

  14. Beautiful, sad, insightful. It made my gut twist in sympathy.

  15. I’m knocked out by the power of this portrayal and your sensitive insightful writing. May this woman find peace someway, somehow.

  16. Kate, you must see this often, I don’t know how you retain the stamina to do what you do but without people like you . . . the world would be a worse place. I feel for both parties in this awful scenario it’s a very sad state of affairs. I agree wholeheartedly with the others, she and he were lucky to have you as their case worker. You care and that’s a rare thing.

  17. I don’t know how you do it–day after day.

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