Caring for a spouse with depression

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
Hi all

I am so relieved to have found this forum, my husband has been suffering from depression for just five months but it has completely torn us apart to a point where we are seriously looking at separating. My post is to nothing more than share my experience which just on its own feels liberating as it's something I can't do anywhere else.

It's been a difficult year for my husband and his side of the family - his mum was diagnosed with breast cancer although I am relieved to write it was completely treatable and she is just getting to the end of her treatment. Not long after she told us all my husband's mental health issues started to return in the form of anxiety and panic attacks.

Often these would be triggered (I'm heartbroken to say) by my little boy who is a feisty toddler having the usual toddler tantrums, whinges and general over excitement. It was how quickly my husband would lose his rag that highlighted to us that something was really off with his health and he went to see his GP who confirmed his anxiety and depression and put him straight onto medication.

Since that diagnosis things have gone from bad to worse. His medication doesn't really seemed to have helped, each time he goes back to his GP the dose goes up. At best he is emotionless at worst he is defensive and angry / verbally aggressive. I tried to keep too many plates spinning and ended up with my own stress. I haven't always been very patient with him and I feel terrible for that. I wish I was the type of person who could quietly get on with things and leave someone be to get themselves better but I'm just not. The pressure of working a full time job, looking after a small child, cooking and running a house take their toll, resentment builds and then I find myself snapping back at him.

Now we are seriously looking at splitting up, although agreed to give couple therapy a go before anything definite decided - he's so convinced it's too late. He blames me now that he hasn't gotten better. In some ways I agree with him but in others I think he couldn't have had much more done for him to help.

I'd love to hear other stories of people who have dealt with this too, as I said so happy to have found this forum, wish I'd found it sooner.
Welcome to the forum.

What is your partner doing to help himself at the moment? Is he still working? What does he do?

Are there any money worries? If you are both working and have a toddler, then how do you share all the house jobs etc.?

DON'T accept the blame for him not getting "better", because we are all responsible for our own happiness, no one else is! The person who deserves all your love and attention is your toddler. He has a right to a happy childhood. Shouting at him is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Yes, I do know how tough it can be, as I brought up a hyperactive brain damaged toddler!
Hi

Thanks for replying. As far as helping himself goes he takes his tablets on time each day, removes himself from rooms where he is starting to feel anxious or overwhelmed. He was seeing a private counsellor who specialised in mindfulness for a short period of time and he attended a workshop for managing anxiety run by a local community centre. Day to day I see little evidence of him taking steps to help himself but I take that as being part of the whole thing where it's too overwhelming to do something like step outside for 20 minutes. My frustration comes mostly from the fact that he drinks quite heavily at least 4 nights every week as this feels like the very thing that will help keep him depressed but there is only so many times I can tell him I don't like it.

He is self employed so works a in the day and then most evenings - they can be longer than average days but he will often manage to schedule in a nap and / or time for playing on his xbox for a bit of downtime.

We don't split the household chores up really, he tends to do the bins when he remembers but I pretty much do everything else and I fit that around when I have energy in the evenings and stuff. He has always had an issue with this and gets pretty stressed out if I ask him to do things in the day saying he doesn't have time and that's a battle I'd given up on long before we had our baby - kind of in the I knew who I married camp for that, not that it makes it any easier to manage it on my own and it's become something else if I were to nag I'd be told I was stopping him from getting better by being negative.

Completely agree with your comment that our boy deserves to have a happy upbringing, that's why he goes out with me just the two of us when my husband is having a bad day (husband always invited) because it breaks my heart he doesn't get shown the patience a person as young as him needs to not grow up with his own anxiety issues.
"He blames me now that he hasn't gotten better. In some ways I agree with him but in others I think he couldn't have had much more done for him to help. "

This is a bad sign. No other word for it. As BB says, his mind and happiness are HIS responsibility, not yours. He's seeking to lay blame to excuse himself.

Self-medicating with alcohol is only worsening the situation.

What is he actually anxious ABOUT? (er, other than himself!)

To be honest, I think splitting isn't a bad idea. What is in this relationship any longer for you? Or for your little boy? (Who DEFINITELY deserves a happy childhood).

People with mental helath issues so often just want a 'magic wand' waved over them to 'make it better'. My 35 y/o niece has had MH all her adult life - her mum told me 'she says "I go to the doctor and ask for help but they don't give me any"'....that is because there is nothing an outsider CAN give.....healing has to come from within.

It does sound like your husband is utterly unwilling to face up to his responsibility as a parent. Did he want you to become pregnant, by the way?
Hi Jenny

Thanks for your response. It really hit home.

I don't know what triggers my husband's anxiety, it can range from my son having a tantrum to being out somewhere. When a panic attack comes on it's a lottery as to if it will pass by quite quickly or if he needs to go and be in another room / lie down. They definitely got worse again when my son was born so I think there is truth in your statement he doesn't seem to want to face his responsibility as a father, at times it feels like he spends the absolute minimum amount of time he can with us - takes on as much work as possible, works late and insists right now on booking tickets to just about every major band that come to play or evenings we have possibility to spend time together he'd rather go and meet friends or spend time playing on his PC upstairs.

I'm a fool for staying right?! He wasn't always like this. Our son isn't even his first child, he has a daughter (all grown up now) that he had when he was 18, when we got together she was 11 and he loved his time spent with the two of us at the weekend when we would watch films, play games and just be silly. It's why I can't understand why he's taking it so hard to be a dad again now. And yes my son was planned, we tried for just over a year and I spent most of that year checking he was definitely ready to settle down a bit once babba came along. Consistently I was told yes.

When he shows up both physically and mentally he is good at the dad bits he does but he needs to understand that parenting isn't a part time gig that fits in around his work and social life and that's what he has the problem with. I don't want to give up on him because we were a great couple and I'm scared that separating will mean we've lost each other for good. It's hard to know what to do for the best.
Haven't you lost him already though? He doesn't really have time for you any more, and it sounds as though you are constantly being disappointed by his behaviour, choosing anything he can rather than being with you and your baby.
Time for you to have some counselling to work out where you go from here.
This is how I'm thinking, I may be entirely barking up the wrong tree, if so, apologies in advance, I have no training, but was happily married for 34 years.

Try to look ahead twenty years. Will he have changed, got better, or worse?
Honestly, it seems he's heading down the route of self destruction with the drink, so the likelihood is it will get worse.
Would you stay with him regardless?

What about your son? What damage is husband's behaviour going to do to him?
Lastly, but by no means least, what about you?
Don't you deserve a happy life, with someone who you love, and loves you back?
Are you going to allow yourself to be punished for a crime you didn't commit for the rest of your life?

If you leave you can still see him if you want to, but give your child the happiness he deserves. He might find there was less pressure on him without you and the child being there all the time.

If you are ever going to leave, then why delay it, if nothing is ever going to change?
Thank you, all you have said makes sense. I am able to access counselling through my workplace so I am going to get the ball rolling for getting that set up. I know neither of you said it but your words made me have an epiphany - I'm not a wife to my husband, I'm a replacement mum. I've played my part in allowing that to happen too so hopefully I can use my counselling to establish what I want from my life and marriage.

Some other people in my life have also advised that a separation may wake him up to see what is important to him and that even if he prefers it away from us and doesn't want to come back then that is still for the best as nobody will be happy if someone doesn't really want to be in the marriage.

Again thank you for your time to reply, it's been really helpful to me.