Ruth Madoff, now living in Florida, told The New York Times their situation -- her husband was facing charges he defrauded investors of billions of dollars -- was "just horrific." She said they swallowed handfuls of what she thought was Ambien, a prescription insomnia medication, and went to bed, only to wake up the next day.
They never talked about suicide again, she said.
"I don't know whose idea it was, but we were both so saddened by everything that had happened," she told the Times. "It was unthinkable to me: hate mail, phone calls, lawyers.
"And I thought, 'I just can't, I can't take this. I don't know how I'll ever get through this, nor do I want to.' So we decided to do it."
She said she and her husband "were both in agreement -- we were both sort of relieved to leave this place. It was very, very impulsive."
While the couple never discussed suicide again, she said she was "glad to wake up" and she was "not sure how I felt about him waking up."
She said she wasn't aware of him ever trying to kill himself again.
"But I have no idea why he didn't -- I don't know how he lives with it all," she said.
The Times said Bernard Madoff acknowledged in an e-mail from federal prison -- where he is serving a 150-year sentence -- he had considered suicide after his arrest but didn't do it because he thought he could help his victims recover their money and didn't want to abandon his family, the Times said.
One of the Madoffs' sons, Mark, killed himself Dec. 11, 2010, the second anniversary of his father's arrest.
She said she was speaking out about the incident because the Madoffs' other son, Andrew, had asked her to help promote a new authorized biography, "Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family," the newspaper said.