Suicide and Huntington’s Disease

My dad attempted suicide today.

Sitting in the ER looking down at his frail body… his long eye lashes plastered up on his eye lips, snoring like he’s having the best sleep in 10 years, I am contemplating how he’ll feel when he wakes up. Will he be angry with our success at saving his life? Will he attempt to rip his IVs from his arms and flee? Have we taken away his right to somehow stop his suffering? Will we have to re-live that painful year (8 years ago) when we had to slowly medicinally “balance” my father through large doses of Hadol and Depicote at a 24/7 lock down nursing facility?

5 days ago my mom called me and said that my father was blaming her for poisoning him with her insulin. She explained that she has insulin shipped to their home for her diabetes. This week she had received a double order by mistake. My dad started blaming her for poisoning him and said that he wanted to be admitted into a nursing home. She asked me to come over and talk some sense into him.

Knowing how to talk to the “irrational” version that my father had become, I knew that I had to be creative. I pulled up a chair to kitchen table. I could see that his chorea had come back with full force as it often did when he was really stressed out. His hand tapping nervously against his leg, his eyes filling with tears of frustration. I looked at him and said “I don’t care how long it takes you to get the words out dad. I am here to listen.” He looked at me and said, “You promise you will remember.” He knows that I am struggling with my own memory issues. I grabbed a pad of paper from the kitchen and showed him that I would write it all down. He slowly and painfully explained his long list of woes…ranging from how he felt weak and could barely bathe himself to the fact that he was worried that mom could no longer take care of him. She had her own bought of health issues and he said that he couldn’t trust her to even order his medications for him. I asked him about his feelings towards her poisoning him. He said that he felt that way because he was having all of these new troubles …large difficulty with communication, weakness, trouble sleeping. I brought out my phone and googled “is insulin poisonous?” I showed him several articles how insulin is broken down in stomach acid and this is why people with Diabetes have to take injections for it to be effective. I told him that it wasn’t possible that he was poisoned and more importantly, mom would never do that in the first place. He explained that he was worried that my sister and brother in-law were going to kill him with a new gun that they just bought.

I suggested that he work with his doctor and mom to see if he could take a tweak in his medication. He agreed and made an appointment last Tuesday. We also discussed working with an occupational therapist. He looked at me and said “ I don’t think any of this is going to work. I am going to die this year.” I explained the new advancements in medical treatment trial studies. I said “Dad if you die this year, you could miss out on some very exciting treatments coming. Please hang in there!”

He agreed to work with mom and his doctors. That was 5 days ago.

Today he wrote a letter. It said “I don’t want to live anymore. Huntington’s Sucks.” He swallowed a full bottle of Resperidone, a full bottle of Divalproex, and a full bottle of Clonazepam.

I see a lot of my dad in myself. I love my life. Every single moment. I know that my father had this same love of life at one time. He prided himself on his ability to provide for his wife and daughters. He was our rock and our strength. What Huntington’s has done to my dad has robbed him of this love and desire. It has robbed him of his manhood, his human need to communicate, his freedom.

My mom and I talked today about how people would perceive my father after this incident.  I think that most would feel sorry for him.  My mom struggles with a huge sense of guilt and failure.  She explained no matter how many times people tell her “there’s a large risk of suicide attempts for people with HD,” it doesn’t matter.  She feels guilty.  She feels heartbroken.

Now he lays in a hospital bed and sleeps. What’s to come? I don’t know. Our story will continue and for now all I can do is open my heart to your words of advice.



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