Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Child's Safety Must Come Before Hurt Feelings

Dear Tazi:

I have an issue with my ex-husband and I am not certain how to deal with it. I liked the response you gave to the Mom whose ex-husband wanted to turn their daughters into toddlers with tiaras; and I am hoping you can give me some good advice, too.

"Edgar" (my ex) has suffered from what he calls phantom illness and the rest of the world calls hypochondria. I know that sounds harsh and judgmental, but he has been medically diagnosed with hypochondria - a diagnosis he refuses to accept. Edgar has claimed everything from depression (which only affected his ability to work, not to party, hang out with friends playing video games, or do anything else he enjoyed) to fibromyalgia (which again did not affect his ability to do things he enjoyed, including weightlifting). Essentially, if it is an illnesses that cannot be medically proved or disproved through definitive tests, Edgar has claimed to have it. After five years of this, I finally divorced him.

I am currently engaged to be married this June, and my son could not be more happy with my choice! He keeps asking me when he can start calling "Kyle" his step-dad, and is very excited that he will be have a big brother in Kyle's older son (who adores my son, as well). Seeing this family dynamic start to form has made me very happy, but Edgar very upset.

My ex-mother-in-law called me yesterday to tell me that Edgar seems truly depressed, and is talking about "ending it all" since he feels that he is "no longer needed". I have little to no contact with Edgar, except as it relates to our son, so I am unable to tell if Edgar is serious or exaggerating. I have said little to Edgar about my upcoming wedding, but I know that it is all my son talks about to whoever will listen, so I am pretty sure that Edgar is aware of our child's excitement, which I believe is what has triggered Edgar's veiled threats of suicide.

I once read a news story about a man who set fire to his house, killing both himself and his two precious sons. The visitation was supervised by a social worker, but the man locked her out once the children were inside the house. This tragedy has me on high alert for what I would normally just regard as Edgar being Edgar. I am petrified that Edgar will follow through on his threat to "end it all" and take my son with him when he does. Because of this, I have decided it best to suspend Edgar's visitation rights with our son (I have sole custody) until I feel that Edgar is well enough to handle himself emotionally. I informed him of this yesterday, while on the phone with his mother (he lives with her, and she picked up the other line when I asked her to simply put Edgar on the phone).

My decision has upset more than a few people, most especially Edgar and his mother; who feel my decision is what will put Edgar over the edge, leading him to make good on his threat. His mother actually told me that if her son kills himself it will be "[my] hands that his blood is upon". Dramatic, huh? Their reaction truly cemented my decision, and I plan on standing firm upon it.

Now that you know the background of my story, I am hoping that you can advise me on how to tell my son that he will not be seeing his father for a while. I do not wish to lie to my child; but I feel the truth will be a little to much for him to handle (he is only 7-years-old). Can you give me some words to work with, Tazi? I am afraid that anything I say will involve speaking poorly of Edgar, and I am trying to take the high road.

"Poe" Me

Dear "Poe" Me:

I like your choice of signature! I am assuming this is why you chose to call your ex-husband "Edgar" in your letter! Paws up for your creativity! Now, onto your problem...

Edgar has been diagnosed with a form of mental illness - hypochondria - that responds well to treatment for most people but is something he refuses. The fact that he refuses to believe the diagnosis, coupled with the fact that his proclaimed illnesses are all impossible to test for with any scientific certainty (lab tests, X-rays, etc), makes me wonder if Edgar is simply a scam-artist and his latest claim - suicidal tendencies - is an attempt to manipulate you emotionally. I am happy to see that you are not falling for it; however, any threat of suicide is something that must be taken seriously.

I, too, remember all too well the tragedy of those two boys from Utah; and I can see why this news story would make any parent a nervous wreck. Therefore, my advice to you is two-fold. I believe your first step should be to report Edgar's threats of suicide to a proper authority. Your attorney should be notified as to the reason you are withholding visitation, especially if it has been court-ordered. The courts may then order Edgar committed for a psychiatric evaluation. Once one has made a threat of suicide, the state can step in and force an evaluation. This may sound cruel and over-reactionary, but it really is the best and safest way to ensure Edgar's well-being and, by extension, your son's. Do not allow visitation to continue until Edgar has been properly evaluated and is receiving treatment. Your attorney can assist you with this matter.

Your second step is to explain to your son why he cannot see his father. Explain to him that his father is sick, and that is making him act cranky and in a way that is not very nice. Tell your son that his father needs to get treated to make sure he can be the best Dad he can possibly be; and in order to do that he needs to spend some time by himself to make sure he doesn't take his bad mood out on your son. This should be enough information for your son to process, without overwhelming him with the details. I wish you all the best with this delicate situation; and many blessings in your new marriage!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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