Below is a guest post by my husband Dave:
My wonderful wife has asked me to write a post about our current situation. I have not read her previous posts so if I go over anything she has already said I apologise.
I do want to point out I have not read her blog because I see it as her space to get her thoughts and emotions out. I wouldn’t want her to have to censor it just because I might read it. She is entitled to her privacy and our situation does not change that. I imagine it’s great for her because it means she can use all manner of four letter words to describe me!
You may notice I referred to my wife’s depression as our situation. That may be selfish of me as she is the one who is battling this illness but I view it as something we are dealing with together. I say depression specifically in this post however I am speaking both about my wife’s depression and her anxiety. I see them as one and the same as one will usually trigger the other but for ease I have solely referred to it as depression.
In terms of my perspective on it, I won’t deny it is a struggle. Probably sometimes more than I let her know. One of my biggest struggles is how can I expess my anger at the illness but not my wife? How do I show that I am angry that I feel my wife has been robbed from me without taking it out on her? She did not do this to herself or by action cause this. It is something out of her control. So I cannot be angry at her. But ultimately I want to be angry that depression has invaded our lives.
This then links in with one area I feel my wife and I still don’t handle very well. Communication. How do you talk about depression without assigning blame? How do you try to encourage someone to get better without making them feel like they aren’t trying hard enough? I try my best but I know that I use the wrong words and fumble to explain my thoughts. This then makes me scared of saying the wrong thing. So I do the typical male thing; I say nothing and walk on egg shells trying not to cause upset or hurt. This is especially true if my wife is in a good mood since I am desperate not to ruin even the smallest break she gets from depression.
I imagine quite a few of you have thought saying nothing is the worst thing I can do and sometimes it is! My not saying anything can mean so many things to her. It could make her think I don’t care, that I am upset with her or that I am pulling away. All the pain that comes with those thoughts would be caused by the fear of doing exactly that! What a minefield!
The element of trying not to upset her also extends to our normal lives. I try to micromanage as many elements of our lives as possible to prevent upset. I put a barrier up around her trying to stop negativity getting in. This is not realistic. This is not practical. It is not real life. But I try in the hope of getting my wife back even if it’s just for 5 minutes.
I am naturally a positive person (I think so at least) and I am quite a controlled person in terms of my own behaviour. So a lot of what I have described comes easily to me. However sometimes I get low. Sometimes I feel it impacting on my mood. I have days when I struggle to see the positive. Some days I can’t see where we are going. On those days I am at my worst because I am a planner. I am always thinking a year, 2 years, 5 years ahead. I will likely have my funeral planned when I am 40!
Our situation has meant I can’t plan because depression has no plan; it has no reason, no rhythm.
All I can do is plan how to help my wife get through the next day and sometimes I don’t have the strength to do that. When I get this bad I retreat into myself. I have always been a man who needed his cave so I could hide away, recharge and emerge normal again. I probably do this more than I should. Sometimes because I get caught up in my own things which is a nice distraction for me but that does make me feel guilty though. I can distract myself, I can escape it. She can’t do that.
When I talk to my wife about her depression I often talk about it in terms of combat because I see it as a war. We are fighting the depression, some days it wins a battle and my wife struggles through the day. On the good days we win and we are able to live a normal day. This is a war that will never end and I know that. My wife will fight these battles everyday for the rest of her life. I plan to be right next to her helping push depression back, to give us a breather, a chance to stop and enjoy the good times and go back into battle again when it returns.
My wife often says to me that I didn’t sign up for this when we got together. I am ending with this so she can read it back as many times as she needs to until it sinks in.
No I didn’t sign up for this. I was drafted in by circumstances, but I will never stop fighting this war. Because the reason I fight is you and it’s you that’s the most important thing in the world to me. I promise you that on the days we win you will see it’s worth fighting for.