I made a promise to myself a while ago, that if something I wrote would be knowingly hurting somebody’s feelings (mostly Pal’s, but that extends to close friends and family) then it wouldn’t get published. Only once in over 6 months have I had to reign myself in.
This. I think this will hurt Pal’s feelings. Not because I want it to. Not because he deserves it. But because I am not sure if he has ever heard or seen my feelings about his depression as clearly and bluntly as I am likely to put them here. I will of course let him read this first, and make the decision as to whether he sees fit that I publish it. Chances are he’ll want me to anyway – because as Eden says (here, actually, if you’re wondering): I blog my Truth as I see it.
April 2010: My husband told me he didn’t love me.
I was devastated. Shocked. Completely thrown. I was pregnant with HIS twins, I had HIS daughter in my pram, and was still holding tightly to my lit candle for him.
I was angry. He had been distant. Cranky. Sullen.
I’m not sure much can hurt a wife’s feelings more than distance. The kind of distance where you are sitting an inch away from someone but you feel like they are miles away, in their heads.
Paul had been miles away for a few months. It was to be expected. The shock of the pregnancy. The shock of the twins. The end of the plans for our future that we had been set on. No new job. No new town. No new life. Same life, more children, less money. Struggle street. Distance was part of the course. Temporarily, I thought.
It only took a day after he told me he didn’t love me before I realised that he didn’t love anything. He couldn’t love anything. He was depressed.
Paul spoke about his depression using a bubble metaphor. He’s in this bubble, and it’s cloudy. He can’t hear or touch anybody. The only person who comes close enough for him to see clearly is Roo. And he can’t even reach out and touch her.
It’s hard hearing that you don’t even equate in someone’s thinking. It’s hard knowing that the person you love is someone else, somewhere else, for now. It’s hard not knowing whether for now is temporary or permanent. Whether this is an excuse to get out of a life, out of a marriage and out of being a parent (it wasn’t*). It’s so hard to understand when you have never been inside that bubble.
When I am presented with the unknown, it is in my nature to KNOW it. I did all the research I could. I looked at all the right websites. I kept in constant contact with some amazing family members of mine, who worked in the mental health sector. In fact, like a gift from the gods, they worked in a part of the mental health sector that focussed on the mental health of CARERS of someone with a mental illness.
Without them I would have been lost. And I hope I will never KNOW what it is like to be inside that bubble.
But on the outside of the bubble, looking in? It’s scary. There is so much unknown. So much irrationality.
Where has my husband gone? What is he doing? Why is he being so selfish? Why is everyone so worried about him? What about me? What about my family? Can’t they see we are in pain too?
The truth is all those questions and feelings are valid. They are important. But if you are well enough to be able to ask them, right now the focus can’t be on you alone. And that’s tough to hear and tough to accept.
“Hi Daisy, I’m really sorry your husband has left you heavily pregnant with twins and a 16kg 15 month old to care for on your own, but right now he’s sick. So you just need to deal with it as best you can, mmmkay? Love, Depression.”
It doesn’t seem fair. You are expected to keep moving. To support and love and hold on tight on this train ride when chances are your partner is doing everything they can to pry your fingers off one by one.
Being pushed away by someone who you are intent on staying close to is possibly one of the most difficult situations I have ever had to deal with emotionally. Because it’s all just so unknown. Is he doing this because he is sick? Or is this what he really wants and he’s using the depression as an excuse?
If you are out there, dealing with a partner struggling with a mental illness, know this:
It is OK to struggle with your partner struggling.
It is OK to ask for help, for care and for support for yourself.
It IS OK to take care of yourself.
It is OK to feel like the world does not care about you.
It is OK to feel like your needs are on the back burner.
It is OK to feel like you are expected lie down and take it.
It is OK to feel like the world is weighing heavy on your shoulders, and no one is helping you (but please ask for help).
And it is OK to decide that this is too much for you. That you cannot deal with this.
Because if you stay when you don’t want to? If you stay because someone tells you to? If you stay because it is expected or it is the “right thing to do”? You are staying for the wrong reasons and it will come back to bite you. It will breed resentment and anger and so much hurt.
You have to stay because you have faith that the person who is standing in front of you wants to get better. And that they want to get better because they want to be with you. Because they want your family.
You have to stay because there was love, is love, and will be love.
If you are the carer or partner of someone with a mental illness, these links might be helpful:
Victorian Mental Health Carers Network Inc
The Black Dog Institute
Blueboard: Online support group for people affected by depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and borderline personality disorder.
ARAFMI: (Association for Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill)