This is a tough topic to tackle and no doubt there are going to be those who agree and those who don’t. If your narcissistic-ex, or anyone in your life threatens suicide you need to encourage them to call a suicide hotline.
I am not a medical professional and what I am about to say is based on my own experiences with a marginally narcissistic mother, other experiences with suicidal people, and my own research. I am not giving advice in any way – just sharing what I have learned.
My Experience with a Suicidal Narcissist
I am totally happy to report that my ex did not stoop to pull this card in a serious way. I am just not the person you want to call when you are going to play this game. The only time my ex mentioned it my response was that he shouldn’t do anything until he had good life insurance in place. That was early in our relationship and he never said another word about it that I can recall.
No, it was my mom who taught me everything I never wanted to know about suicide. The summer than I was 16 years old she tried to kill herself at least five times. Since that was 1976 and it is now 2014 I may be a little hazy on numbers.
The first time I came home from work to find her on the floor in a puddle of vomit and spilled vodka. She had downed pills and alcohol. She’d also left a note with my name on it. It gave explicit instructions on which ambulance service to call, what to tell the paramedics, and what exactly she had taken. She had noted the time on the note as well. This was a huge help to all of us. I held her hand as they pumped her stomach, then I took her home and tucked her into bed with some hot tea and a nice shoulder rub.
The next time she called me at work and let me know she was about to kill herself. She said the most classic narcissistic suicidal line ever, “Don’t try to stop me.”
Ah, if only I hadn’t. I was young, compassionate, and it was my mom. What could I do? I told my supervisor that there was a family emergency, cried hysterically all the way to my house, burst in the front door and called the paramedics even before I went to check on her. Of course every neighbor in the neighborhood was standing out in their front yards to see what the drama was and I was both frightened for my mom and embarrassed for myself. I didn’t know whether to take a couple of swigs out of the bottle myself or plan on joining a circus somewhere.
Enough Is Enough
This went on in different forms all summer long. Finally, I had enough. I woke up one morning and I could hear her crying in the kitchen. I was supposed to go hang out with friends because it was Saturday and there was no work. I got dressed, walked into the kitchen, and she looked at me with a bottle in her hand.
“You go on with your life. Have fun with your friends today. I just can’t take life anymore. I love you and I hope someday you can forgive me.”
Something in me broke. I got so mad. This woman had been playing me all summer long. I worked a full time job, asked her for nothing, and had been trying to shoulder as much of her responsibilities as my 16 year old shoulders could hold. I was furious.
I went and got a razor blade, a bottle of pills, and my father’s pistol. I loaded it and released the trigger lock. I slammed everything down in front of her on the table. “Here! If you want to do it for real don’t F—k it up this time!”
I stormed out of the house sobbing. I know I didn’t go visit friends but I am not sure what I did. The rest of the day is hazy. I remember fluctuating between feeling horribly guilty for leaving my mother that way and horribly angry for having a mother that was so self-involved, so intent on sucking me dry of every emotion I had.
I didn’t know what I was going home to.
She was in bed when I got home. I smelled vomit and vodka as I walked into her room so I wasn’t sure whether she had or had not accomplished what she said she was going to do. I hesitated by her bed and then touched her side to check for breathing.
She was breathing.
I walked out of her room and went to bed. The next morning she called me weakly and I walked to her bedroom door. “I need a drink of water.”
“I am not doing a damn thing for you, get it yourself.”
I went to work and for the next several days I was true to my word. I did nothing for her. She got better, got up, and started doing normal things again.
She never talked about that summer again and she never tried to commit suicide again.
Suicide Is No Joke
Over the years I have been involved with more than one suicidal person. I have learned one thing – when someone is planning to commit suicide for real they almost never tell anyone. If they really want to die they are going to and there is not a darn thing you can do about it. A person who is really suicidal won’t usually make phone calls or create drama. They will figure out exactly how many pills to take or where to position the pistol and they will do it. I have had two friend die by suicide and I saw each of them just a short while before it happened. They were acting normal.
Try not to get caught up in the drama.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Tom Margie
All the World’s a Stage to a Narcissist
A narcissist on the other hand will make a show out of it that rivals anything Hollywood and Broadway could come up with together.
He may actually cut his wrists but you can bet he’ll miss the major blood vessels. He is calculating enough to take just the right amount of pills and make sure that someone will find him in just the nick of time.
Anyone can get suicidal. Anyone can get to that dark place when life seems hopeless. The narcissist will use it as a manipulative tool and he’ll use it as many times as it works. In fact, if you come to the point where you are ignoring his threats of suicide he’ll often step it up a notch and threaten social violence – a mall, an office, or whatever.
That usually will bring you to your knees and he gets whatever it is he has been trying to manipulate you over. Here’s a thought. The minute he threatens to harm someone besides himself you just need to call 911 and report him. Let the police handle his drama because you don’t have time for it.
When a narcissist threatens suicide it’s often emotional blackmail. They are counting on you being empathetic, concerned, and worried that they will do it. They can use that suicide card over and over again just as long as you keep letting them play it. Your life and your responses will be under their complete control until you let them know that you are finished.
But What If?
Sometimes a narcissist will do it. They’ll commit suicide or bomb a government building just like they said they were going to. As we used to say in school, Listen up, y’all.
Remember? It isn’t your fault. If someone really wants to kill themselves you can’t stop them. If they really do decide to blow up a government building it won’t be because you didn’t bring them breakfast in bed. Once again, it has nothing to do with you.
Not giving in to the demands of a narcissist is risky. Maybe they will kill themselves like they say they are going to. Giving in to their demands is not risky, it is sealing your fate. Once you allow yourself to be manipulated they will keep on manipulating, they will find more intense ways of manipulating, and your life will continue to be controlled by the remote in your narcissist’s hand.
It really is your choice. It’s a hard one to make because you’ve been convinced that everything that happens is your fault but that’s a lie, remember?
It’s time to cut the puppeteer’s strings, don’t you think?
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Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Christopher Harte