Distortions In Perceptions and Comunicating

This is a text my wife recieved from her brother telling her that was not going to be joining us for Thanksgiving and gives a brief explanation as to why?  Before I continue with saying anything else...I wanted to put up the text so everyone can read it themselves to get you own first impressions.  Here it is in it's entirety...

"I'm Not Coming."

"I'm Not feeling well."

"XXXX, I'm so sorry, I'm just going to sit here on the couch for a few days ..Okay?

You guys a good time with Mom, XXXX...I really Love you and it would be best for everybody if I stay here, give Mom a big kiss and tell her I love her."

So you aren't left guessing.  My brother in law has a number of health issues revolving around diabetes and chronic depression and has a disability status since he is unable to work because of it.  Without thinking any further about this when I first read this text before talking to my wife....the first thing that crossed my mind was thinking to myself "good....he shouldn't driving 100's of miles to get together with his family if he's not feeling good and not up to the trip and should feel Okay or that he hasn't let everybody down if he doesn't feel good and knows that he won't be very good company or very uplifting to be around.  No need to apologize or explain..."I hope you feel better.  Relax....get some rest and get past whatever it is you are dealing with.....we'll catch up again soon anyway."  Knowing he has health issues....I also know that he probably doesn't want to always have to explain this to everyone if something is going on and he simple knows that he isn't up to doing anything with anyone else and needs time to recover to these somewhat chronic moments of down time due to his physical limitations. 

I thought this all to be pretty obvious and in no need of further explanation?  What happened next was a chain reaction of events which ended up with my wife and I getting into a situation over this that I had no concept of why it happened or why my wife saw something completely different than what I saw and the conclusions she came to and what happened next.

My wife seemed visibly distressed about the text message and was seemingly highly concerned about something and became agitated without explanation?  When asked she said.." I need some time to think and I can't talk to right now because there's a crisis.

Crisis?  I don't understand?  What crisis?  With no explanation more than..."I know my brother....and I'm very worried and concerned.  Men over the age of 50 who live alone and are isolated are at the highest risk of suicide especially at the holidays."

Without going into all the details of how this caused a tense time between my wife and I and two different conclusions that came from the same text and what we both knew of her brother individually.  I am without a lot of information to form any opinios outside of my wifes conclusion but first and initial reaction and response to my wife was.." well....why don't you just call him and see what's up?"  This seemed reasonable?

My wife went into a tailspin and told me she didn't want to talk about it and she needed to make some phone calls on his behalf to send someone over right away to make sure her brother was alright?  It was a panick like response to something that I just wasn't seeing?  "So if your a man...living alone and are isolated with health problems and it's the Holiday's....then the first thing you would conclude from this text is that is might kill himself and that's why he said what he said?  In context to everything I know of her brother.....I wasn't seeing?

So I went back and reread the text using a different lens or filter.  If you see her brother as a person who the poor victim of circumstance in pain and misery and who is usuing victim language instead of being up front and honest about his intentions and feelings and don't trust what he is saying to be true....then there must be a different explanation for the text working and he's actually at some critical stage in his life where he is contemplating ending it all.

Of all the possiblities possible....this would be the last one I would choose and is at the end of the line as the worst possible scenario one would pick I think.  I can think a dozens of others to consider here first before I would arrive at the same one that my wife came to and then went into "Crisis" mode.

This resulted in my wife and I getting into a fight when she started panicking and treating me harshly because I was trying to ask questions to get more information and because she came to me with a seeming need for me to do something but I couldn't even determine if there was a crisis or not in the first place yet my wife only said in the moment..."  I don't want to talk about it" as her only response.

Okay then.....I'll leave you alone and when your ready....you can try and explain this too me?  This made her mad since she said again "I just did....what don't you understand?"  What I understand here is that you think your brother is going to kill himself and I don't?  And it makes no sense to me that she would do everything but simply call him and check in with him to see for herself?  Instead....she called other relavtives and tried to get them to go see him and check in on him and his status in person by going to his house. 

My response to this was " but what if he's really just not feeling well like he says and he doesn't want company which he clearly indicated??.....wouldn't that piss you off a little if now family members are dropping by unannounced or univited to come sit around and require you to have to talk or explain the very thing you don't want to do.  You just did the opposite of what he wants by doing this?"

As it turns out....when her brother called on Thanksgiving to check in.....he was fine and as it turns out.......the text was exactly what it said.....literally or by any other you can think of.....the text needed no further interpretation and her brother was simply not feeling well and was not up to a long drive and knew he wan't good company.....face value....straight up.  No crisis....no panick.....no emergency.....no need for my wife to snap at me.......no need for her to overreact or call family members.......no suicide attempt......no suicide.......no suicidal thoughts or feelings on her brother's part.  Nothing she thought that she read in the text message was true or remotely accurate?  Only that statistic she gave as her only reasonaing given to me at the time to help me explain how she felt the supporting reasons why?  I only asked the question about calling her brother to find out once and didn't get pressing this issue.  I conpletely backed off and let my wife deal with this alone only to reitereate.....this also appeared to upset her at the time as well but " she didn't want to talk about it" ....which I respected and didn't try and do that either.

This is good example of catastrophic thinking......always taking everything to the final and worst case scenario and then beleiving this is what is actually happening even when it's not.  I know I've done this before many times in the past....but it appears to be something that happens less the less stress and anxiety I have at the time.  These distortions of reality are real or can feel that way when you thoughts are influenced by fear and anxiety and the net result of this is just what I saw happening with my wife.

The most interesting part about this phenomenon is that there really is a "Crisis".....but it only exists inside one persons head and no one else involved even remotely is in any kind crisis at the same time.

Only to say......I had a crisis of sort myself and that was in trying to figure out what the problem was and what my wife was seeing?  It took me an hour or so of calming down myself when I became frustrated and annoyed at the fact my wife would only keep saying "I don't want to talk about it" and that was the only information I had to go on.  Ultimately.....I just tried to ignore it but as you can imagine.....it's hard to ignore someone who is in a panick state and spewing that all over the same space you are occupying with them at the same time.  It kind of excuses theri behavior if they think there is crisis and they really believe it even when you are not even at the point of drawing any conclusions yet until you get more information and going to the sourse is your only hope to get it.

These are the things that appear so strange and bizarre unless you understand it.  It was the only way I could know what to do and what I shouldn't do in this case.