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Two [depressed] heads are not better than one

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#1 JulesK

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 02:32 PM

Hello, still a newbie here so sorry if this has come up before and mainly I'm just venting. Some background: I was diagnosed with chronic depression after a major break about 20 years ago. I've been in and out of therapy since then. My husband has several chronic health issues, which I knew about well before we got married. He has for a while now expressed disatisfaction with our main doctor but never said why (after the first few visits he saw the NP, whom he liked). The NP recently quit and in the course of saying he was going to have to find a new doctor, he let slip that the doctor had told him some of his problems stem from depression.

Ah-HA!

My 1st unspoken response: Gosh honey, that's a total surprise. What with your bouts of fatigue, almost total social withdrawal, and an erratic (crappy) temper, which you must know are symptoms of depression because I have helpfully outlined my symptoms of a downward slide for you on several occassions, especially before I moved in with you. (Duty to warn and all that.) My second: I almost wish I didn't know this.

Of course he won't see a therapist and got a bit wierded out when I said I was going to start seeing one again.

But here's the thing for me right now: I've suspected he was depressed for a very long time. It was already hard for me to cope with my depression and what I thought were all of his health issues, but at least I thought he was doing all he could to take care of himself (going to doctors regularly, seeing a specialist, being VERY good about taking medication, &c, &c).

But now his refusal to see a therapist feels ... Like a betrayal almost. It's like the doctor told him he has diabetes, but by gosh he's going to eat whatever he darn well pleases and if that means I have to take care of an invalid, tough cheese.

I don't know. We've been together 15 years. We've been through a two major surgeries for him, including one for cancer. Again, all before marriage, so I knew ours would not be the kind of happy-snappy marriages you see on TV. But for the past couple of years, even before I knew he'd been diagnosed with depression I would find myself thinking "Another 40 years of this??" And want to run away screaming. I know I shouldn't make this about me, but I'm just afraid I won't be able to look after him and me, especially as we grow older.

I don't know. He's doing a lot of things I did (and still do) so I can't really fault him for his attitude. I'm not going to nag him, but at the same time it is so DAMN HARD. There are evenings when I'm on the way home after work and I can feel my mood plummet as I get closer to home because I know he's there and in a bad mood because he's called me several times to grouse about whatever. Perhaps this is Karmic rebound for the putting a girlfriend/housemate through hell when I had my break and I should just suck it up. But if anyone in a 2-Depressed Person relationship wants to chime in, I'd appreciate it.

#2 listener

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 06:11 AM

Hi Jules,

Welcome, and don't worry about posting things that have come up before! We all go through many of the same things but for each person it's a unique experience so it's perfectly reasonable to have a new thread/post each time.

I can understand your frustration with your husband not wanting to discuss or treat his depression issues openly. I guess a lot of people are uncomfortable with the whole idea of mental illness and are afraid to discuss it, especially in relation to themselves. I've certainly fallen into that category. Never was comfortable with the idea of medication, of a diagnosis in the first place, never felt good about being labelled as 'mentally ill'. I do feel that for some people it feels better to just deal with the issues and not go into ever having to identify themselves as having a 'mental disorder'. It can be too confronting and just demoralising for some. But at the same time I can see that it makes it hard for such people to converse about it with other people who are happy and comfortable using the 'technical' language. In my case, being labelled really made everything worse for me as when I was given a first diagnosis by a psychiatrist, 'social phobia', aged 19, I sort of reacted by becoming even more withdrawn and afraid of social interaction because I felt that I now 'knew' that I wasn't 'normal' and that there was something 'wrong' with me. I wish he had just said that I was very shy and talked to me about improving my self-esteem.

I don't really like going around having to talk about myself in terms of 'depression'. I find it a lot easier to say, 'I am very stressed out and off-balance.' Or to say, 'I'm feeling really jittery and having trouble concentrating, I'm very tired, etc.' In that way I can still talk about what's going on for me without using medical terms. I know for a lot of other people, when feeling exactly the same symptoms, they would rather say, 'I'm having a depressive episode.' Or 'I'm having anxiety and compulsive thoughts.' For me, it's all the same thing but the use of ordinary language makes it all feel a bit lighter and less confronting. It's also easier to use that kind of language when discussing my situation with other people who may or may not be comfortable with the idea of depression and mental illness. I have a doctor with whom I will discuss my mental health issues when needed, but don't often feel a great need to get too medical about it all as I tend to rely strongly on things like order and schedules and healthy amounts of rest, sensible eating, meditation, exercise, relaxation, talking to supportive friends, etc., having light-hearted and enjoyable activities, to get me back in balance. Sometimes those things can be very powerful and can have as much of an effect as medication and therapy. I remember reading a while ago about research saying that regular exercise (3 times a week) had been shown to have an equivalent effect to prozac.

I guess what I'm trying to ramble my way around to here, lol, is that perhaps you can work with your husband's depression issues and discuss them with him, without actually having to use the words that he can't handle saying or hearing. It's a bit difficult that he doesn't feel comfortable with the idea of therapy, even for you! But even so, there are lots of other things that he can do to improve his physical, mental and emotional health, which can boost him and help his general sense of wellbeing to improve. It might be a lot easier to get through to him if you suggest that he start exercising or sleeping better, for example, or not watching over-stimulating TV programs just before bedtime for example, or going out for a drive in the countryside or something fun and relaxing - I don't know what things might be suitable - but the thing is, in cases of depression that are not too severe, most of these things can make a really big difference in themselves. So you can certainly make a start at trying to support and help him without locking horns over the terminology.

Depression diagnosis or not, I think we all complain about trying to get our partners to understand or change certain things. Men are hard work. :tongue: lol! I find that when you confront someone head-on and try to tell them they should do different, they tend to baulk and to come up with all kinds of defensive arguments. When you find subtle and gentle ways to support and encourage them, based on wishes they have stated themselves, it often works so much better and you hear them singing a totally different tune. The best advice that I have, which I try to give to myself all the time, is to look after your own health as much as possible - give yourself as much nurturing and strength and empowerment as you can, because it takes a lot of pressure off the relationship then, and you're more able to support your partner from a position of love and encouragement instead of need and frustration. I find that when I make good changes in myself, often two things happen: I start to realise that my fiancé's behaviour actually isn't as bad or strange as I had thought it was when I was feeling down and stressed; and secondly I find that he becomes much more amenable to change as I don't seem to be demanding it from him with a stick, and he just starts wanting to do it because he cares about me, himself, and our relationship.

I hope I haven't rambled on too long, I find it easier to write long things than short ones, lol! Welcome again to the forum Jules, and it's good to see you posting. I didn't reply in your introductory thread but I liked what you said in your intro. :smile: Glad to have you with us! :biggrin:


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#3 JulesK

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Posted 07 June 2012 - 04:26 PM

Thanks so much Listener. Your reply is very helpful and I'm sure you nailed the problem with the D word. Part of the problem is I like things very concrete. I need a diagnosis. But that's not everyone's style and you provide a good reminder that a diagnosis is just an explanation. I mean, before I knew WHY I felt this way, I still FELT that way and didn't like it.

I'm not making much sense am I? Just thank you so much.

#4 listener

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 05:48 AM

lol, of course you're making sense. The feelings do come before the descriptions, I really liked how you put it, and I liked that insight. And I appreciate you bringing all this up, it helps me make a bit more sense out of some of my own experiences. *hug*