Depression and anxiety. Two things that wreak havoc on the life of the person suffering from them.
But so, too, the people in their life.
My husband has suffered from depression and anxiety for many years now. I can pinpoint when the symptoms became noticeable to me. Hubby changed jobs (Parker Water to Denver Water) and was required to work overnight shifts, something he’d never done before. Not only did he have to work all night, but his days off would be sporadic throughout the week rather than being in tandem. This made for a very bad situation when you look at the chemistry of the human brain. Biologically speaking, humans are supposed to sleep at night (increased melatonin) and be awake and active during the day. I am one of those people that is very sensitive to light (it’s the absence of light that causes secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland). We have black-out curtains to make the room as pitch black as possible. When you have to work a couple of nights, have a day off, work a couple more nights, then have a couple days off, then switch to days for a few weeks, then back to nights…well, you can see the problem.
It didn’t take long for hubby to start having issues sleeping (which he never had up to this point) and then the anxiety started. Then the depression followed soon after. It was so hard for me watching this vicious cycle and not be able to do anything to help. I was a post-doctoral fellow at the time and I also taught at a local community college at night. It got so bad that his sister had to come stay with us to keep an eye on him (I was worried he would hurt himself). I encouraged him to quit that job and look for something, anything with daytime hours. At that point, we discussed moving back to Grand Junction. He was certain he would be happy away from the big city, going back to a quieter life, etc. This meant I would be unable to complete the post-doctoral fellowship and pretty much kill my chances of getting a tenure track position but I agreed to move anyway and just focus on teaching. Thank God CMU hired me (adjunct at first then a full time contract).
But the issues were still there. Hubby was put on medication for the depression, the anxiety, and the sleeping. Three different medications with all sorts of unwanted side effects. But it was that or lose him to suicide (which he had contemplated before the meds). But was it really the night shifts that brought all this on or would he have suffered from this even if he would have stayed with his other job? *shrug* This is something he’s wrestled with since this all happened which doesn’t help. However, the medications didn’t make him the way he was before the depression and anxiety hit. He never smiled, was always grumpy, complained incessantly, and just never seemed to have anything positive to say.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
I can’t count the number of times people (who know of Rich’s depression and such) ask how Rich is doing, how his job is, how is he doing now that he’s off the antidepressant (weaned off last fall), etc. I smile and say all the right things: he’s doing better, still unhappy at work, etc.
A large part of me wants to scream: “What about me?”
***I’m going on record to state that this next part is coming from a spouse POV. I realize that depression is hard on kids and parents and such but since I am the wife, I am only going to discuss things that I feel in that role***
So often the spouse gets completely overlooked. I want to shake that person and ask them if they have any idea how much my life has changed since the depression/anxiety problems arrived in my husband. But I never say anything. I bite back the scathing words and assure them all is well. I leave with bitterness and anger and regret pulsing through my veins and I never say a word of it.
And that’s not okay.
I shouldn’t have to hide how his depression and anxiety have affected me. Because let me tell ya, it really has. A lot. Probably more so than anyone realizes.
People who know me will tell you that I’m a pretty upbeat person. I am optimistic, count my blessings, go with the flow, don’t let things get to me, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days but they don’t last long. When a positive, outgoing person suddenly finds themselves barraged constantly with negativity, it’s awful. And I’m not exaggerating when I say Constant. Barrage. Of. Negativity. Spouses of depressed/anxious husbands and wives will agree with what I’m saying here. And the negativity and grumpiness and apathy is there even with the medications! All the meds did for my husband was help him sleep through the night, calm his anxiety (which he mainly gets at night), and put him in this state where he was either indifferent or grumpy all the time. Hey, but at least he isn’t suicidal.
So instead of him being filled with anxiety and dread, I am. I never know what kind of mood he will be in, he never acts glad to see me, never know if he’s mad at me or if he’s mad at work or if he’s not mad at all and that’s just his mood for the day. And everything is doom and gloom: my job sucks, this town sucks, the city sucks, the economy sucks, the world sucks, etc. Again, I’m not exaggerating about this. It’s constant and it tries my patience. I know he can’t help it and I know he isn’t doing it on purpose but that doesn’t stop the frustration at the constant whining and complaining and grumping. Most nights we don’t even speak to each other. And most nights I’m glad for it. You see, I’d rather sit in silence than listen to the negative.
I’m not writing this to bash my husband. I love the man dearly and will stick with him through this. I want to reach out to other people who are in my same situation and share my story and let them know they aren’t alone. He sees a counselor regularly and stays active in church (which has helped us both a ton!!!) and we see a Christian counselor when we need to. But one of the things I have come to realize is that I need to see someone on my own that will be willing to listen to what I’m going through and not judge me. I have dealt with guilt at my nasty thoughts and feelings about the depression/anxiety. I hate when I have the urge to tell my husband to just get over it already or to at least fake a smile and act like he’s happy when he’s home. I tend to bottle those feelings up which isn’t healthy at all. I have a right to be frustrated and angry and bitter that this crap has taken away the man I fell in love with. As anyone will tell you when a person they love is in this situation, they are NOT the same people when the depression and anxiety take over. And I hate hearing “Gee, Shay, he’s the same guy you married.” I’m sorry, but no, he isn’t. Not even close.
If any of you are reading this and you don’t have someone to talk to, you NEED to find someone. Preferable a professional or someone of your religious affiliation (this is what I do). Pretending that everything is fine isn’t okay and it takes a toll. Believe me, I know.