Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Spouses of Depressives: Know the Enemy

Anna’s second post is entitled “Know the Enemy,” and is as excellent as her first, “The Depression Dialogue“:

Know the enemy. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But I’m talking about the illness, not the person who is sick. When that dawned on me, that the illness is the enemy, I started to have more control over my anger and resentment. Why? Because I had something I could fight, and yet still love my husband James. I’m not saying that he isn’t responsible for his behavior; but I could now explain it, or most of it, by his illness.
Our third child was born in 2003 just as things were at their worst. James had left another job, he had a go at crashing his car, and our other kids were showing signs of distress. I had to think about leaving him for a while to protect myself and the kids emotionally. I felt alone, scared for our future and worried sick.


It was at about that time that he was diagnosed with bipolar, which prompted me to thoroughly research depression and bipolar. There is an awful lot of junk out there, so I sifted through until I found some great sources. Then I learned as much as I could. The best thing about this learning process was a much better understanding of the illness, so I was less frightened and more assertive in handling his behavior.
The resources that I relied on most are:
1) “Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder” by Julie Fast
This book helped me more than any other. It is written for carers and has great, practical solutions, especially in the area of talking to each other. James was on board with the idea of trying the suggestions in the book so that helped. Most of the content is readily applicable to depression.
It’s a love it or hate it book. I love it. I’ll write a review as the last post in this series.
2) “Dealing with Depression” by Gordon Parker
I continue to rely on this book for my medical understanding of mood disorders. James reviewed the book in an earlier post.
3) Black Dog Institute
I use this website for finding all kinds of reliable information on mood disorders. The Black Dog Institute is headed by Gordon Parker (above).
The next breakthrough was keeping a diary of James’ moods and things that happened each day. I did this every night for almost 2 years. It sounds a bit keen I know, but it was also therapeutic. After only 3 months or so, I was able to see patterns of behavior emerging. His illness was looking somewhat predictable! The progress over those 2 years was very slow, but just having some noticeable improvements gave me hope. I could stop living from day to day, wondering what would hit next. Also, and even better, I was able to see what was triggering his mood swings. Things like certain foods, certain people, and certain social situations.
Armed with this knowledge we started changing our lives to avoid triggers. This is an ongoing process, but James continues to get better. We completely removed some problem triggers so they no longer have an impact, and he also copes better with the triggers that remain. I hope that we don’t sound perfect. The process is ongoing, and there are still many times when bipolar ruins things. But now that I know my enemy I can “attack” it, and get on with being James’ wife.

  • Larry Parker

    Oh, Lord, this is one of the most difficult topics for me — because my marriage quickly deteriorated into a “Sleeping With the Enemy” dynamic after my diagnosis (misdiagnosis, as you will see).
    Or, not sleeping with the enemy, as the case may be.
    In Emily’s defense, if neither of you know anything about this disease to start, and your caregiving is of poor quality, those are the cues the “carer” (who in my case, absolutely did not want to think of herself as a “carer”) is going to take.
    Example: my therapist and psychiatrist both told Emily directly of some, and urged me to tell others, of some of the weirder behaviors I engaged in during what they called my depressive episode that caused my first hospitalization. (It was really a manic episode; and I still think I lost two-and-a-half years of my life, and possibly a marriage, as a result of their misdiagnosis/quasi-malpractice.)
    Mind you, none of the weird behaviors were cheating; but they were weird (the kind of fetishes you can read about on the Internet, if you’re so inclined), and I think learning about them just freaked Emily out and caused her to lose all respect for me as a husband. (BTW, on medication, even the wrong medication as it turned out, the desire to engage in fetishes vanished.) She began to treat me as a child instead. (See “not sleeping with the enemy.”)
    But Emily should have never have been told of those behaviors in the first place, since they ultimately didn’t affect her directly (again, no cheating/STD’s), either directly from my caregivers or indirectly from them encouraging me in a weak state to tell her. (Is there a statute of limitations on malpractice suits in Maryland? Ugh.)
    Another problem was that she would not trust me if I said I was having medication side effects. Zoloft was pushing me toward hypomania if not mania (naturally, because I had no mood stabilizer; my doctor INSISTED I was not bipolar!), and though I didn’t know that in clinical terms, I knew I felt “too good” and it wasn’t right. Emily’s response: “Well, you’re too used to not being happy.” And since this was my professional caregivers’ response as well, I backed down.
    Right before I became truly manic, I decided to leave Emily (a classically manic impulsive decision that was, ultimately, the right one) and ended up in the hospital with a second breakdown — where I had received, finally, an “official” bipolar diagnosis shortly thereafter. I called her desperately asking her to visit, explaining that I had gotten sicker because I was treated improperly. Her response: “You made your bed, you lie in it.”
    There was also the fact that my first breakdown occurred the day before Emily was supposed to start a fancy new job and had to miss her first day — something she blamed me for for the rest of our marriage, even though it had absolutely no effect long-term (or even short-term) on her career.
    Bottom line (and it was always the bottom line for Emily): She honestly believed this was a disease of causality, where I could control it in ways in order to hurt her. (I gave her books like James gave Anna books — she either wouldn’t read them or, when she did, wouldn’t believe them.)
    So she structured her responses back to me, to hurt me (even more), accordingly.
    One could not imagine a more dysfunctional basis for any marriage, let alone a marriage where one of the partners is ill.

  • Nancy

    As painful as it is/was, Larry, to lose Emily, from what I read of your comments, I don’t think there was a chance of her opening her heart and mind to the depths of the illness, and that you were not “doing” this to her. She does not sound “teachable” in this dimension of life. The losses that come along with our illnesses touch so many different aspects of our lives. However, I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom. There are those spouses who are committed to working through the good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer. My husband and I have had our vows “tested” in all of these areas. I have so many areas and posts I want to review and address this week; however, I’m at a fiscal year end for work, which just about affords me the time to read Therese’s blogs (which have been great!) and everyone’s comments. Ironically, I have to leave for the Doctor and get the renewals for Meds; you know the “check in to make sure I’ve got most of the marbles in place in my head”. So, need to go. I hope to review everything this weekend and respond to some posts. One in particular, Therese, was in reference to the “character assessment” in 4th grade by your so-called friends. I had exactly, and I mean exactly the same situation happen to me. I remember it as though it was yesterday. Not the words; but the pain. There are numerous other situations I identified with. Wishing all a peace-filled day and evening.

  • Larry Parker

    I agree wholeheartedly. Didn’t mean to imply otherwise.
    If a marriage is going to fail, it’s almost certainly going to fail for reasons besides depression. Because if the couple love each other that much, they’ll fumble and struggle for a way through — but they’ll make the effort, and likely succeed, because the well partner loves the sick partner and believes he/she is worth it. (And the sick partner, if there is even the remotest of improvement, can start to see the well partner’s love and care.)
    But if the well partner doesn’t love the sick partner enough to think they’re worth fighting for, a divorce becomes inevitable even without depression. Some other event would have happened to bring those feelings out in the open.
    I’m not saying I probably wasn’t incredibly difficult to get along with at times toward the end of my marriage — especially being wrongly medicated. But ultimately it wasn’t the conflict per se, it was the ATTITUDE each party took toward the conflict.
    And that can happen with any major dispute in a marriage.

  • Wisdum

    I’m not sure how to approach this (perhaps it would be better for my wife to do this) It took me many years to accept and embrace what this world is and especially what I am (and What God am) I don’t have to like it, (and there is a Hell of a lot that I don’t) but it is all a learning experience of one thing rubbing against the other, and it appears to me that we just don’t rub each other the right way … And it is only God that rubs us the right Way, and for sure that is clearly debatable. Who and what is the enemy . . . is it the Christ or the anti-Christ ? Is it Love or the anti-Love . . . and what is Love anyWay ? Right there is a major problem, there is no clear definition of exactly what Love is ! And it is different for everybody from their own perspective (and perspective is everything !)
    If you believe that “We are many parts, we are still One body” and that One body is God, then we are ALL part of God trying to clearly define Himself . . .for an eternity. Face it, what good is it to define yourself as Love, when there is nobody to Love or be Loved. Nothing but you all alone in the darkness . . . Some kind of Hell to be sure ! So much loneliness, despair and Hell that you are forced to scream out in the darkness “Let there be Light” . . . and there was Light, and the Light dispelled the Darkness, and delivered God out of the Darkness into the Light, and God found the Way to the Truth and the Truth was I AM … Love ! . . . and God said “It is good” And that Love was so great it allowed His Son to also cry out “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do !” while His enemies were nailing Him down to the cross ! . . . Enemies ? I ain’t got no estinkin enemies !
    LUV 2 ALL

  • shi

    I hope this does not sound too harsh to anyone — but after 44 years of marriage to a ‘Family’ of people with a genetic quandry of issues; I still struggle with coming to an understanding. The ‘root’ of my struggle is that those who have the various and varying ‘Illness’ seem always to point outward for fault finding and resist any effort to look inward for cure; either personally within or corporately with others help — Again, I say that I am so sorry if this hurts or seems harmful but I am 63 years young; I am ready to tell it like it is and I just desire to ‘LIVE before I DIE’

  • Larry Parker

    Do your family members with mental illness take medication?

  • sieed

    I too had to recognize the enemy and take control of my life by not letting anger resentment and whatever else have control over me!

  • Brenda

    I have a husband who is bi-polar- he is also a recovering addict. Let’s say that he blames me for his illness, stating that it is my fault he has it, my fault he is on meds…my fault he had a nervous breakdown…he doesn’t medicate as he should. if he gets a side effect, he quits taking the med, it’s awful…he get’s very angry, very verbally and emotionally abusive, but when he’s on the good end he is the most loving caring man you could meet. It’s difficult to live with him at times…I know that NAMI is supposed to be a supprt group for family memebers- but it really isn’t, not in my area anyway…I work with the mentally ill for a living- you would think I could be more understanding- but I can’t…I feel that he should take his meds responsibly, I feel he should go to his appointments- I feel he should go to his therepist- I don’t think doctors should medicate without these conditions- I just don’t know if i am the cause, if I am being unreasonable…I wish there was something in my area, or maybe I should start a blog- I just don’t know what to do…I write things down, I see the cycle the pattern…but what do we do to lessen the impact…

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild ...

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate ...

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from ...

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a ...

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer ...

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.