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I'm new to this forum and don't really know where to begin. My husband is suffering from depression and I am struggling to help him. He does not currently work as the depression is too much for him which means the onus is on me as the sole bread winner. We also have my husband's teenage son now living with us - a choice I am happy with - but who is going through the last year of his GCSEs so I am trying to help him with that too. I'm struggling to cope with this all as I feel like I am having to do everything plus hold it together myself.
Welcome to the forum - hope we can help.

Depression is SUCH a pig of a condition (my niece has it chronically, and her partner somewhat, and my SIL is prone to it too at times of stress). One of the worst aspects is that it drags everyone else down as well, into that deep dark pit of despair. Also, the person with the depression can feel so 'down' that they don't or won't get any help.

So, I would say, speaking only personally, the most important thing is to get your partner into treatment of some kind. From what I understand, the GP usually first prescribes anti-depressants, to help 'stabilise' the patient, and stop them sinking yet further. Then, after a few weeks of ADs, they can be sent for counselling/therapy (there's a waiting list alas on the NHS inevitably!), but counsellors, from what I understand, usually want patients to have 'lifted' very slightly (or not sunk further) using ADs, before starting therapy.

Is this the first time your partner has been afflicted, or is it 'chronic' in his life (alas, so often it is!)

Others here will be able to give you good information on what financial support may be available to you and your partner, and of course there are the experts on the CUK helpline/email as well. Please do ensure you are getting all that you qualify for, as that will ease the pressure on you a little, if you are the sole breadwinner.

In a way, you may find you need, psychologically, to 'protect' yourself from your partner's bleakness, simply to survive yourself and keep functioning, and that may seem hard.

If you look into the Mental Health section of this forum you will find quite a lot of postings from others, like you, coping with a partner/child/parent with depression, and yes, it is VERY hard to do so. one topic that comes up repeatedly is the issue of whether you have slipped from 'supporting' your partner through his depression or merely 'enabling' him to continue in it. The difference is crucial!

(Supporting someone helps them THROUGH to a better place eventually. Enabling them merely keeps them in the dark hole without them having to do anything about it!)

You may find, in the end, that you have to impose a 'deal' on your partner. You agree to stay with him, support him, (and his son!)(see more below), but ONLY if he accepts treatment (if he is treatment resistant at the moment that is, as so many are alas with depression). The key, to my mind (speaking only personally) is 'Effort'. If you feel you partner IS making an effort (however hard, however slowly etc etc) to help himself, then he is worth 'investing' your relationship in. But if not, then you may need to question that????

Finally, and really the most importantly, your step-son. First, please do alert the school - I take it he's not with his mum any more for good reasons, and children from broken families have, of course, problems simply from that fact, let alone any others. Schools do have pastoral care units, and its important the school is aware of the home situation, so they can help support him, make allowances, etc etc. Would your partner be up to going in with you (if that's OK etc with your stepson's mum, or whatever the arrangements are) and talking directly to his pastoral care person/form tutor? Not necessarily about the home situation, but about how he's doing with his coursework etc etc, and how best to support him, and what his immediate priorities and goals need to be in his studies?

I know that exams 'loom large' for pupils (and so they should!), but please please do reassure him that EVEN IF his exams next summer go badly, that there are ALWAYS 'retakes' etc etc. My nephew ended up doing three years in the sixth form, not two, to get his grades up, and it worked, and he got his place at college that he wanted.

It's great you are happy to have your step son with you, and its great for him that you are so caring of him.

Sorry for the long post - I was trying to cover quite a lot of ground!

All the very very best to you, and I do hope that you can soon see the woods for the trees that are crowding in upon you, and that things can be 'improved' on all fronts, even if slowly.

Kindest wishes at a stressful time, Jenny
Jenny - what a lovely, supportive reply , thank you so much. My husband is getting help. He suffered a horrendous experience when he was younger that he has kept himself until recently and is only now starting to talk about it. He is on anti-depressants and has started counselling but things seem to be getting worse I think because the counselling is evoking memories he has tried to bury for so long. He is definitely making an effort and is worth investing in, it's just so hard sometimes as I find myself close to slipping into some kind of depression in trying to deal with it all.

The school is not particularly great. They weren't hugely supportive when my stepson was suffering bullying so I'm not convinced they would be helpful in this situation. The mother is also irrational and has no empathy, saying to both my husband, and her son about the bullying, that they need to man up, which is the least helpful thing anyone can say.

I will take a look at the pages you mentioned as I think it will help. Reading your post alone as definitely lifted me by itself. Thank you.
Hi again!

I'm glad to hear your husband is in treatment - that's got to be better than not being in treatment! Yes, does sound like his current 'downward' trend is because of the bad memories being evoked, but hopefully purged. PTSD is so much more recognised now, which has to be good, and hopefully he's got a counsellor that specialises in it. Have you checked out any forums that are for both those with PTSD and their families - you might find encouragement and 'how best to help' recommendations?

As for your step son, well, first off, his mum sounds useless, and indeed, more dangerous than useless with her stupid ' man up' advice! (Honestly!)(but maybe she mentally can't cope with it at the moment, or is in denial?)

That said, my own (entirely personal!) thoughts on this are, for what they're worth, the following:

- make a fuss at the school, trying to track down at least one sympathetic teacher, even if the senior management team is trying to 'deny' that bullying goes on, and poo pooing it anyway. I would strongly, strongly suspect that if your step son is being bullied, he is NOT ALONE, and there will be other victims. Could you ask him if there are other 'shy guys' there in his year, that he thinks may also be victims, and maybe you could unilaterally approach their parents, to see if you can find support for a demand that the bullying be robustly addressed by the school?

- this is only me, BUT, I would say, IF this situation cannot be resolved, and fast, or if your stepson is SO miserable, fearful and unhappy, then simply take him out of that school and put him in another - OR, perhaps, even opt for home-edding (more below). Even if it meant him dropping a year down, or reapeating it, to my mind there is NOTHING WORSE for a young person that to be dreading each day. It just is not worth it. And for him to feel there is 'no escape' is the worst of all. I appreciate you are only the step mum, but if his dad has joint custody, then surely he could insist, if he agrees, that his son go to a new school??

- if your step son can 'endure it' for the current final year of GCSE, can he simply move schools at sixth form, or go to sixth form college? If he sees that his current misery is only till the end of the summer term, then that might enable him to 'keep going' until he gets his GCSEs out of the way, and he can run like hell!

- re 'manning up'. This isn't to say 'oh, stand up to the bullies and they'll back off!', because they might not, as life isn't that 'heroic' alas. BUT, I would suggest that getting your son to join in with some martial arts classes could really make a difference to him! When my son was younger we went to karate classes, plus he did judo at school - he isn't in the slightest 'aggressive', but the teachers of both emphasised that the point of doing martial arts was not in order to be able to beat up others (!), but to AVOID being 'beat-uppable' themselves. It was all about giving them the skills AND The CONFIDENCE to know that actually, if they were set upon, they COULD defend themselves and see off their attackers. Even if the attacks are 'verbal' then the fact that your step son knows he 'could' if wanted, send thm flying, will mentally empower him.

- if not martial arts, then I would definitely recommend some form of working out in a gym, both for stamina (cardiovascular - running, rowing, cycling) and for muscle building (weights). Again, it's about building confidence and self esteem (all young men look 'better' with a fitter body!). If he's not sporty it doesn't matter - that's the joy of working out. It's personal, it's private, no one 'sees' you (choose a gym that the bullies don't go to!). Also, a personal trainer costs about £30 an hour, and will set out a proper programme for your step son and give him the structure and encouragement he needs. Moreover, as he gets into stress and revision over his GCSEs, working out is a fantastic 'mind break' for him, AND gives him physical stamina as well. It's a win win all round.

- social media. Grimly, this becomes a prime source of bullying, via humiliating and mocking blah blah blah as the stupid, insensitive and downright cruel 'mean guys' lay into a 'weakling' etc etc. So, in the end. best to pull the plug on this if it's happening. Don't try and 'fight back' - I've been in vile cybersituations myself with people ganging up on me, and it's just horrible, horrible, horrible and really upsetting. Just turning them off is the only way to deal with it.

- home edding. This may be a bit extreme, and of course it can be expensive, but it might, depending on your stepson, be an option for him? Again, assuming he can go to a new school/sixth form college next year?

- home tuition. If he has subjects he's particularly worried about, then some regular home tuition after school might be a real help to him, and give him some confidence and reassurance? Even just having you sit down with him daily, going through his homework programme ('OK, so what have you got tonight? What has to go in tomorrow, what can wait, which ones are easier, which ones will take time?' etc etc) Even if you don't know his subjects (eg, maths!!!!)(I couldn't pass GCSE maths any more!!!!!), just being his 'planner/manager' on it will help surely. Oh, and make sure he turns his Internet off while he's doing homework!!!! (Though yes, some homeworks these days require a log in to the school system - but no social media running in the background until he takes a break every half an hour or whatever!)

again, sorry for this scatter gun approach! I went through it somewhat when my own son was a teenager, and getting them into a habit of 'time management' is so, so useful to them. Talking through problems at school, even in 'vague' ways, can let them feel there is 'someone else' listening, and in a way being a step mum is ideal, as you are not 'mum and dad' but almost a kind of 'auntie' perhaps, one step removed.

PLEASE do tell him that 'this will pass' this 'bad sad time' at school. My son didn't have a great GCSE years (he lost his father to cancer for a start.....), and his lower sixth wasn't socially fun either - but suddenly, quite out of the blue, he found a girlfriend in the upper sixth (they were so sweet - bless!), and he was immediately 'OK with the world'! Then he got his A level grades for the uni he wanted, and headed off - and has been fine since!

The young FEEL so, so much, and it seems like the end of the world for so many reasons, and it's up to us to try and get them to see that things CAN get better.

How much do you talk to him about his dad (and his mum too maybe?). Does he know what the cause of his dad's trauma was, and does that need to be discussed, or need NOT to be discussed (depending on the cause etc etc)? It could be that the most important thing for your step son to know is that his Dad IS having treatment, that yes, it will be slow, and the immediate fall out may be 'distressing', but that it is like 'pus coming out of a deep wound' and the only way to heal that wound is to get all the poison out' first, and that is what is happening now.

I know it's a lot on your plate! But thank goodness, you know, that both your husband, and your step son, have you!

On a lighter note, can you plan any treats for your step son, ideally to have with his dad, or his dad and you together, or, maybe only with you, if your husband isn't up to it? What will be happening for Christmas, and is that a nice prospect (do hope so!)?

I hope that you can manage to get on top of things, and not feel that you are firefighting on several fronts simultaneously. Sometimes if we can just 'lift' one corner of our lives, it takes off sufficient pressure to enable us to manage the rest of the stress! Hoping that might be so - kind wishes, Jenny
Thank you Jenny. This is all very helpful and makes sense. My stepson is in his last year of GCSEs so moving him is not really an option at this stage. He seems to be getting his head down with his studies so avoiding the bullies as far as he can. He will definitely be moving schools if he decides on sixth form which I hope will help him. He has recently started a paper round which is giving him his own money, independence, fresh air and exercise. He has also recently joined a table tennis club and is now playing 5 a side football with a team of slightly older boys not from his school which seems to be giving him some confidence and he is enjoying it.

My husband does not want to talk to his son about his mental health as I think he feels a little embarrassed and ashamed by it, which of course he shouldn't. I also think he doesn't want his son asking questions about why as he definitely won't want to go there. I am hoping with more counselling he will feel able to open up a little more to his son about the counselling, even if not giving him reasons for it as his son needs to know he can share his problems with us any time and not to feel embarrassed or ashamed.

We've got a few things coming up which we've planned as a family so hopefully that gives us all something to look forward to.

Thanks again.
That sounds pretty positive for your stepson, so that is good. I do think that if bullied (or socially isolated) children at a particular school can build a social life outside the school, it can really, really help. Not only because they then avoid the bullies etc, but also because it widens their eyes to the fact there's a BIG world out there, and the school is NOT the entire universe! Even if he can't leave the school now, he can see that there is a life beyond it for him to join in with fully, once he's finished his exams next summer. It's one of the immense joys of adulthood, realising that actually, we do NOT have to stay in a place that is horrible to us - we have the power and the freedom to walk away and 'shake the dust of that place from our shoes'....

With respect to your husband and his talking, or not talking, to his son, I do understand that - and yes, mental health does have a stigma, sadly, and of course if the trauma your husband suffered was of a nature that no youngish-lad should have to think about, then I can understand your husband not wanting to tell his son about it.

That said, your stepson will know that 'something is up' - children do, they are very sensitive to such things.

When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, our son was only 14, and I asked a friend of mine whose husband has had cancer on and off throughout their children's childhoods, what best to say to our son. She said, straight out 'The Truth' - because if we DON'T tell our children the truth, they will simply invent something in their heads and worry more about it.

Again, that said, I think 'The Truth' can be 'true' but not necessarily 'the complete truth'. With my son we broke the news gradually - first it was 'Dad needs an operation'...then it was, after his cancer op, 'Dad needs to take drugs now, because the operation was to get rid of the main cancer, and the drugs will fight the small tumours that have spread'. We never said 'terminal' to him, and I think it was the right decision to make. New drugs had just come out then for my husband's cancer, so the way I said it was 'He's going to be on the latest drugs, and not even the doctors know how well they will work, or how long - but there will be other new drugs coming along after that. So we truly don't know how things will pan out'. (In the end, tragically, nothing worked, and we lost my husband some seven months after his diagnosis).

So, again, speaking entirely and only personally, I would suggest that you and your husband have some kind of discussion yourself about 'what to tell' your stepson (bear in mind his mother may have already told him things perhaps???).

Then, even if your husband doesn't want to talk directly, hopefully he will agree to you talking to your stepson - and it could be better it came from you anyway, in the first place as you are one step removed emotionally?

Maybe you could say something like 'Your dad's under a lot of pressure at the moment. He's got things to sort out in his head from way back, which have been preying on his mind, and he's working his way through them. He's getting advice on how to do it best, and we know he'll be making progress. But we're going to 'go easy on him' while he's sorting out the inside of his head. It's probably going to make him behave a bit 'odd' and he might be a bit 'remote' from us, but that's only while he works things through. He loves us both dearly, but right now his focus has to be on himself. We'll do our best to support him, and help him through this, and I want you to know that if you have ANY worries about him right now, you can talk to me about it. I'll only say back to your dad what you tell me you are OK with me telling him, otherwise it will be between you and me, and I've talked to your dad about this and he's OK with that.'

I'm also wondering if there are forums around for teenagers whose parents have problems, especially MH ones. I'm sure there must be!

Children whose parents have MH can feel very isolated and 'alone' and feel that no one else is going through what they are going through, or understands what it's like to have a parent with MH. My mother had some form of paranoid schizophrenia (people were following her around, spying on her, sometimes trying to poison her etc etc) and I was hideously embarrassed by it all, and just longed and longed for a 'normal' mum. (Luckily, I had my older brother, and our dad, although he couldn't really talk about it, was very 'ordinary' so that was good!)

Oh dear, I've run on again - so sorry! I'm glad you've got some 'nice things' lined up, and, as I said before, it's so good that you can something of a 'stable presence' in your stepson's life. Sometimes - indeed, all too often!- it's women who have to be the 'catalysts' to bring together sons and dads when they find it hard to emotionally connect!

All the best to you, in a delicate and difficult situation - Jenny
pamplecombre wrote:I'm new to this forum and don't really know where to begin. My husband is suffering from depression and I am struggling to help him. He does not currently work as the depression is too much for him which means the onus is on me as the sole bread winner. We also have my husband's teenage son now living with us - a choice I am happy with - but who is going through the last year of his GCSEs so I am trying to help him with that too. I'm struggling to cope with this all as I feel like I am having to do everything plus hold it together myself.
Man many compliments for you pamplecombre and happy to see you on the way!
Fordycepanniculectomyhyperthymesiadorsalgia
Thanks again Jenny. I don't know what the children's mother has said to my stepson. I know she has told their daughter that my husband went mental, got put in a nuthouse and lost his friends! Not massively constructive or helpful for a teenager to hear. I've since tried to put it in perspective for my stepdaughter, explaining that it is an illness and he is struggling but that he is getting help. She seems to get it. My stepson is a very sensitive soul and my husband worries that his son will also be prone to depression which I think is why he doesn't want to put any of his emotions on to him. I think there are definitely ways of doing this and I think it is important so I will try to help them both. For now he has told his son that he has some things he is working through and getting help for but that he shouldn't worry.

My husband'a family are not massively helpful either unfortunately. Their mother died about 10 years ago - my husband was v close to her, and this sent him into a huge downward spiral at the time - the reason as his ex so delicately put it, that he went to the "nuthouse"! The dad is very helpful practically, but not emotionally so my husband does not feel able to talk to him. His brother is ok, but then seems to turn it back and make it about himself. My sister in law is in the healthcare profession and thinks she knows all there is to know about mental health yet has not idea what it is like living every day with someone who is going through this. She's not quite as lacking in empathy as my husband's ex but very much has the attitude of you've just got to get on with it. She says to lean on her if I need to but disappears out of contact for weeks on end.
Hmm, a complex situation - but then all families with 'issues' are complex! I do think it sounds firstly like you've got a very good 'handle' on the situation and the various dynamics and personalities involved, but it might be really helpful if YOU got some professional counselling on how best you can support your husband your stepson at this time. It might give you some 'guidelines' and 'roadmap' etc etc (sorry to use jargon!), and give you the confidence you need to know what to do, and that it is the right thing to do.

The mum does sound like an insensitive soul (!), which can't have helped your stepson. Do you think he talks to his sister (I take it she's older than him?), as that might be a good route for him to take to understand that his father is not 'mad' etc, but is perhaps 'highly responsive' to his own mental state. I do understand that your husband fears that his son may be prone to depression, but we know so little about how and why people develop mental illnesses. Yes, maybe there is a 'predisposition' but that does not mean we are 'doomed'.

The keyword (more jargon!) seems to be 'resilience' - some folk can 'roll with the punches' that life hands out, and some crumple.

I don't know whether this helps or not, but my mother had quite severe MH - some form of paranoid schizophrenia (she was being followed around, spied on, poisoned, etc etc) and it dominated my childhood totally (not surprisingly) and she was VERY emotionally volatile, and unhappy most of her life.

My brother and I always 'vowed' we would learn from her, and NOT repeat her unhappy life - what woud be the point of her suffering if we just repeated it? (And, so far, neither of us have shown signs of it, thankfully - maybe just luck - or genetics - or maybe our own determination NOT to be plagued as she was??)

In a way, if your think about it, if you have depression, the whole world looks bleak and grey, and everything is 'going to the bad'....and maybe THAT is why your husband fears his son may have inherited his depression? ie, what I'm saying is that it is a SYMPTOM of his depression that he has such fears! It may not be 'objectively true' at all - but because to him everything is 'bad' in the world, well, then yes, his son will 'probably' get his depression as well......

Maybe that logic is worth pointing out both to your husband, and your stepson? ie, the fear of his son becoming depressed is PART OF your husband's own depression....