A friend of mine has had depression for years.
At first I didn’t really understand it. Actually, at first I didn’t know she had depression, and when her mood would swing and she’d lose control and scream, I was a little bit taken aback.
“Wow! Nutter. Her poor husband, living with that!”
Then, of course, she was told she had depression, and given anti-depressants, and life went on to an even keel. We met up maybe a few times a year due to distance, and each time she was full of moans about her husband and how unsupportive he was.
“What an arsehole. If he gave her more support and confidence, she’d feel better.”
Years went by. She stayed on the pills and carried on with the moaning, and when we saw the husband, he looked more and more detached.
“He really should try harder. Why doesn’t he help?”
In fact, over time I became more angry with the husband, but also tired of listening to my friends moans about the same old thing.
It got boring.
“Why doesn’t she do something about it, if he’s so bad!”
Because, let’s face it, we are judgemental. Each and every one of us hears about someone else’s life, their relationship, the way they bring up their child, the food they eat, and we judge them.
What’s the saying – Don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
So my husband admitted he had depression at the start of the year, and I thought that we were on our way – that light at the end of the tunnel was in sight.
He went on medication, he took time off work, suddenly we were spending time together as a family without stress – and things felt better. Calmer. Happier.
That light at the end of the tunnel – that was just a side light on the wall!
I think the sudden relief gave us a false sense of happy to begin with, but of course as that initial euphoria wore off, the reality was that we had an illness in the family that impacted on us all. We had to deal with it.
Over 4 months later, we’ve been through 3 different types of anti-depressants. The first ones made him foggy headed. The second ones made him argumentative and irritable.
While each pill builds up in his system, I’ve continued with the daily job of keeping the kids calm, the family life as normal as possible and my own work ticking over.
It’s been emotionally draining. From the first month, supporting him at his lowest point, keeping life normal for the children, answering questions from friends who wonder why he’s home, through the second month when he wouldn’t leave the house or talk to anyone.
The third month and the ‘grouchy pills’ that made him unbearable to live with. The 4th month – when I went to the GP with him and told her I was reaching a breaking point of my own. When the GP said “this sounds like a family in crisis” and I just felt relief that someone was listening to me without judging.
To his refusing – still – to see a counsellor despite the GP repeatedly telling him that pills were only the start of the ‘cure’. To my finally losing my own temper and shouting that he had to get some help, because he was breaking me – and I can’t break because the kids come first.
All of this – every single day – I live with his depression. I am ever aware of it – from his moods, from judging how to tell him news I know will upset him, to carefully pressuring him to do some exercise. Each day I consider which words to say next.
This is what it feels like to live with someone who has depression every single day.
So, I can understand now why my friends husband became more detached. After years of living with her, he probably feels detachment is the only way to stop himself breaking – for their kids.
And so you know, when she found out about my life she was the first to say that being the supporter is a lonely place to be, and she understands why her own husband gets angry and frustrated. The point is that they do it together.
It’s easy to say ‘it can take years to recover from depression.’ But knowing it and actually living it is very different. From the outside looking in, even if you look in regularly, you don’t get the full picture.
I know my friends are getting bored, just like I did. Every time they see me I have the same old moan. It’s been four months now – for goodness sake – how long do they have to listen to it?
I can understand why people say “how long will you let him get away with this?”
Actually – I’m not letting him get away with anything. Treading gently doesn’t mean letting him get away with being an arsehole. If he is, I tell him. And if he is rude or abrupt, I’d expect anyone else to. He is an adult, he knows how to behave. But sometimes he cannot recognise that he is being abrupt – so he needs to know, constructively.
But at the same time, it’s become easy to blame depression for everything. If he grouches, I automatically ask if he’s taken his pill.
It’s a little like being female. If you get pissy, someone will ask if you are due on. No, actually, that thing you said or did just now, it pissed me off. It’s not because I’m due on, it’s not because he has depression, it’s because actually you were the arsehole this time.
Walk a mile in my shoes, before you judge me.
So yes, I am getting boring. I am boring myself! Do you think I want to talk about his mood all the time? But when I do – it’s because I need to have a rant. You don’t have to comment. In fact, it’s better if you don’t, because you cannot fix it, or solve it, or make it better. All you can do is listen.
And then – give me cake and make me laugh.