David fell from a ladder and fractured his skull. In those days patients with severe head injuries stayed in the hospital for a few days for observation. After leaving the hospital, he returned to work, and all seemed well.

During Christmas of the same year, David and I argued. The anger I saw in my husband was unbelievable. There was no explanation for the excess. The next day I asked him about the episode and was surprised to find he had no recollection. Initially, the thought was he was attempting to dissolve the situation.

All was running smoothly until a confrontation in a car park. Another driver drove into space we were waiting to take. As the driver got out of his car, so did David. The other man towered above my husband. A fight followed the argument, and the police charged David with assault.

After being found guilty, he received a suspended sentence and a fine. He also lost his job due to the criminal record. One the next two years he had four or five jobs: each one lasting around six months. Employers were dismissing him every time for arguments or confrontation with staff.

I lost count of the arguments. Patience exhausted I asked for the inevitable divorce. While my love for him was great: My daily fear and unhappiness outweighed my dedication to his wellbeing. He would not seek help or talk to the doctor. I was sure the change in character was due to the head injury. David would not accept he needed help: becoming convinced the conviction and loss of his career were to blame for his anger.

Family and friends took David’s side and listened to his explanation. He claimed a lack of money and my uncompromising attitude the reason for our separation. For some time my life became more difficult due to the situation. The fact was I’d become exhausted with the whole situation and used the opportunity to move to the south coast.

My mother phoned me with the news: David had assaulted his girlfriend and she was in intensive care. He’d asked if I could travel north and visit him while on remand. My heart said travel: my head said stay.

Mother told me he had been sectioned under the mental health act. David never came to court as he died under suspicious circumstances in an institution. At the inquest, a consultant confirmed David had had psychotic schizophrenia due to head injury. My mother attended the hearing and ‘forgave’ me for not helping David. Forgive me! The reality was if others had listened the situation could have changed. You see, David was seen to be the ‘wronged’ person and he used this to his advantage.

Time is a healer: It does not take away memories. In the early days, my thoughts were: ‘could have been the attempted murder victim?’And secondly: ‘Could David have been helped?’. The conclusions are: There was danger and consequently no option but to leave. I feel treatment would have helped, but how we now know for sure?

Another side to mental illness is the difficulties of those close to the patient. My suspicion was the injury affected David’s health. No one listened including the family doctor. Most seemed to suggest the problem was my own. If he’d sought help or accepted there was a problem, I would have supported him no matter how long the recovery And knowing this to be accurate, there is no doubt my choice was the right one.

There is a saying ‘cruel to be kind’. It is one I’ve always disliked. It seems harsh and heartless. And there is a feeling it is sometimes used as an excuse for malicious acts. Try not to judge someone who walks away, and it is possible they have passed the breaking point.

Years ago support groups were unknown; today all is different. The suggestion here is for ‘supporters’ to seek ‘supporters’. Look for and ask for help early do not take chances with this situation. You will be given advice and assistance with compassion. How do I know this? Because I am a mental health supporter.


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