For a week or so, I’ve been pondering the following question by reader JCH:
I have also been married for a little over a year. My husband knew on our third or fourth date about my depression and saw it evidenced over our two-year dating relationship. When he proposed I specifically asked if he knew what he was getting into. He said he did but I think he lied. He does not get it. He questions my salvation. He thinks my depressive episodes are selfish. He looks at my easy life and his really hard life (background) and sees that he is able to have hope and I have none and does not think that I am trying hard enough.
I have no doubt that it is hard for him. Really.
I read your blog and others posts and have done searches about marriage and depression and wonder at the patience of other husbands. What helped them “get” it? how did they switch from frustration to patience and kindness? He wants to “hold me accountable” so that my depression does not become a crutch. nice idea but when I am in my darkest places I need love not lectures. I told him that was my counselors job and he dismissed that idea too.
I am drowning and the person who I count on to be my safety net just thinks that I should swim harder.
I thought that I should take this one to Eric. So I asked my husband what, in particular, has helped him be so supportive and patient with me over the years as someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and a person who exhibits lots of mood fluctuation.
“I can’t get mad at you for having bad brain wiring,” he said. “Just like I can’t blame you for having a growth in your pituitary gland.”
“But what convinced you that my bipolar disorder was an illness, not a weakness?” I asked him.
“I’ve read the reports, I guess. You did your homework and provided the research for me. I suppose I’m more educated now than a lot of people. …. And I don’t hold you accountable because I know that you are doing everything you can to recover: you exercise, eat right, take your meds, go to therapy. It would be a different story if you were sleeping all day, not going outside, eating junk …”
I’ll talk more about this tomorrow, as my “How Do You Move Beyond Blue” interview of the week covers this topic.
But right now, I’d say that education is your best tool. Everything starts with education.
That means going online (I’d start with the online mental health online at Revolution Health, or with NAMI or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance), doing your own research, and printing it out for your husband to read. It means dragging him to your doctors’ appointments, to your therapy, to your support groups. It means having spouses of other depressives call him … anything that might enlighten him on this topic.