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Trying to care for someone with depression, anxiety & eating - Carers UK Forum

Trying to care for someone with depression, anxiety & eating

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Hi all,
I am new to this forum and I've found my way here after searching for support online. I've not really used forums in the past so forgive me if I am not aligned to the norm just yet.

I have been married for over 6 years and with my partner for over 10 years. Since before the beginning of our relationship, she has suffered from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and generally never feeling "good enough for anyone". I love her and I want to help her but, over the years, I have found myself to be ineffective. During the earlier parts of our relationship, I would try to be encouraging, supportive & solution focused. However, no matter what I did, nothing seemed to yield positive results. I then bought my wife some therapies with professionals who specialised in her areas of mental health. She still sees some of them now but little to no progress seems to have been made over the years.

During her lower points, she treats me like the enemy. She becomes annoyed with me when I try to help and is heavily critical of anything I do. Every small little thing (such as accidentally putting something in a cupboard in the wrong place) becomes a major issue and I am left feeling 2" tall and useless. Whilst I know that she is the one suffering, I have to admit that I am exhausted. I feel that, over the 10 years we have been together, I have been ground down to a point where I struggle to rebuild the mental strength to keep supporting her as I am permanently knocked back down. I feel guilty and weak for feeling this way but I'm out of ideas and empty. I have escapism through my friends and hobbies but this also makes me sad as I don't get to enjoy fun times with my wife. I just feel like a carer, not a husband, not a friend. Sometimes, all she wants is a hug but even that now feel like a feat as it's usually after she has berated me about something seemingly trivial.

I don't really know what to do anymore or how to rebuild my own strength. I don't cope well with her depression. Rather than be encouraging with her anxiety, I just resign myself to doing the things she doesn't want to such as making telephone calls (she gets anxious about those), making decisions about what to do or where to go etc. I know she secretly eats and, whilst I try to cook interesting, healthy and tasty meals for her (I work in the food industry), it all feels like a waste as she will comfort eat and binge on bad foods then experience depressive episodes about her weight.

I don't really know where to get support so I was hoping that there might be people here who have similar stories and can share any 'tricks of the trade'. What do you do when you feel that all you have tried has failed? How do you find the energy to keep going when your mental tank is empty? How do you overcome constant criticism? How do you not give up?
It sounds like you have a difficult decision looming. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own happiness. Your wife is responsible for hers. Either you accept that she is never going to change, or you vote with your feet. I don't really understand much about mental health, but I know what it is like to be a carer.
Over 40 years I've had 10 carees! I'm now down to caring part time for my son with learning difficulties. At 66, I look back on my life and see how many of my own dreams have been sacrificed helping others. I'm going through family photos, which to keep and chuck. I've avoided it for long enough, but am surprised at the feelings of anger and bitterness they bring out in me.
Imagine yourself at retirement age. What sort of life do you want to look back on. Full of love and happiness? Or loving someone who doesn't even want a cuddle any more?
I strongly recommend counselling for you, to help you sort out your feelings and find a way forward, with or without your wife.
Jay, I'm going to say something that you may reject 'instinctively' but hear me out.

When I read your post my conclusion at the end was: He's not doing his wife any good.

I mean, after 10 years, she's still in that same old 'bad place' - she hasn't improved at all, she's like a needle stuck in a groove. You've tried umpteen different ways to help her, but nothing works.

Conclusion: Your presence in her life is not doing her the slightest good at all.

What IS benefiting from your ten years' of devotion to her is her 'mental illness' - that has been thriving on your care and attention! Boy, positively reaching for the sky! Her mental illness is having a WONDERFUL time of it!

All thanks to YOU.

Do you see what I'm getting at? I'm getting, I hope, you to look at this from an outsider's POV and also from the POV not of 'your wife' but of 'that woman with MI' (Mental Illness).

The woman who 'is' (somewhere!) the 'real her', is NOT the same one as has the MI. Not for nothing did the maedivals etc call madness 'posession'. The person you live with is the pathological version of the real person. Masking it totally, and in a way, 'possessing' her healthy mind to make it 'unhealthy'.

EVERYTHIGN you are doing for her, the way you are with her, is FEEDING that 'pathological mind', not FREEING her of it.

The KEY most important thing that anyone dealing with someone with MI is to understand the VITAL difference between 'support' and 'enablement'.

The former helps the patient get better, the latter merely enables them to stay where they are - ie, mentally ill.

Sadly, despite all your long, long efforts, it seems that all you are doing is enabling, and that strive as you have been to support her, she has only taken from you 'enablement'. She has 'pushed back' against everything you've done and wanted for her (or rather, that inner 'pathological her' has pushed back - remember the 'MI' doesn't want to go anywhere - no wonder the maedivals talked about 'casting out demons' etc - that was their analogy - ours is more medical, but it comes to the same thing.

And it is this.. OK, hold your breath. Your wife does not WANT to get better. Not really, not truly. She might says she does, but what she (remember, the MI-her!) wants is to STAY THE WAY SHE IS. And, even better, to BLAME OTHERS for it!

As BB says, until and unless she takes responsibility for herself, realises that the ONLY person who can 'cure' her is herself, all efforts to help her are being wasted. You just might as well not bother. It's not doing her any good at all.

Either you change RADICALLY in the way you relate to her - set boundaries, conditions, expectation, and withdraw things if she does not do what she CAN (and she CAN do WAY more than she tells you!) - you are doomed to live your life with her as unhappy as you are, or worse, and, for her, she too will stay just the way she is.

One more 'key term' when it comes to dealing with someone with MI - it is 'secondary gain'.

Like it or not, she is getting a HUGE amount out of being 'ill;. She's getting you fussing over her for ten years, looking after her, being her verbal punch bag, putting up with her, and generally being her emotional dogsbody. Best of all, she is getting out of taking responsibility for herself, for her happiness, for her well being and for her practical necessities (gets you to make those phone calls she 'doesn't want' - or, probably to use her word 'I can't bear to!' etc etc).

In short, she's getting a 'free ride' off you all because you feel sorry for her.

And it's doing neither of you the slightest good. Stop.
" Whilst I know that she is the one suffering, "

Read that again, and re-read your own first post again.

You really think SHE is the only one suffering?

I don't think so!

I think YOUR life is pretty cr*p too! And SHE is making it so. Because, of course, she 'can't help it' - she is 'ill'.

Being mentally ill does NOT give you the moral right to treat others like xxxxx. LET ALONE someone who has stood by you for 10 years. Her behaviour towards you is utterly unacceptable, and you need to start telling her that, and pushing back. Set boundaries for what you will, and will not, put up with.

When she lays in to you YOU LAY IN BACK!

She's found a good, decent, kindly bloke and taking him for a total ride!

You ask your friends about her - I'll bet you'll get an earful about how she treats you! And 'all because', oh dear, she's depressed....well, hey ho sunshine, LOADS of us suffer, and we don't take it out on others, or the one who is caring most for us.

I know I sound hostile (!), but I was raised by a mother with MI, and BOY did we know about her endless suffering! NO ONE ELSE IN THE WHOLE WORLD suffered as she did! No one else counted....

The misery that those with depression feel is called 'self-focus' because they can ONLY think about their OWN woes. They are utterly oblivious - conveniently so! - toward other people and what they are putting up with. No one suffers as they do!

Rule number three - grimly in this life, we GET THE BEHAVIOUR WE PUT UP WITH!

You're putting up with her (endlessly) - pouring yourself out so that the tank is empty and youre running on fumes (limping on fumes)

This has to stop. Your wife's MI has to be 'stood up to', and only by doing that will she actually HAVE to change. Right now she is getting away with the cr*p she's handing out to you because of her 'suffering'.....

Does she feel in the slightest sorry for YOU? Doesn't sound like it!

Selfish, selfish, selfish. (And still miserable with it)(My key point - your behaviour to her is NOT DOING HER ANY GOOD - that alone is why it has to change, let alone that it is not doing YOU any good either!)

Improvement IS possible, but not until you put your foot down, stand up to her, and let her kick off as much as she likes. Either she will FINALLY take responsibility for herself, and you can start to build on that and turn your enabling into support and she can show PROGRESS (because she is finally making an effort herself!), or, grimly, your marriage is over, and you are totally entitled to walk out.

She'll have used you all up.