My husband has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Emotional Detachment Disorder.
We have tried to face these illnesses as a team, putting up a united front.
However, when my six year old son tells me that he thinks “no one with Depression should be allowed to have kids,” I struggle to stay on the team.
Let me put this as honest as I possibly can, for those of you who might be in a similar position to me: Being with someone with a mental illnesses is fucking hard work.
My husband and I have described his depression as the third person in our marriage, the mistress who clothes herself in darkness to ravish him and tear us apart. Her scent saturates our lives, and lingers like a rancid perfume over dinner, family gatherings, and trips to the park.
How am I supposed to live with this “other woman” ever-present in our marriage? Well, I tried to look online for advice and support for people who are married to someone with a mental illness.
You know what I found? Article, after article, after article, addressing how one can and should support their spouse: what to do, how to create a healthy space for them, what to look-out for, how to get him/her help, each word oozing with sympathy for the person who has the illness.
But, what about those of us who are trying to hold everything together in the midst of the chaos, sadness, depression, and rage?
Even when an article does touch-on what a caregiver can do to take care of him/herself, it inevitably ties it all up by saying that these tips for self-care will make you better at supporting your loved one.
Why can’t it just be about me and my well-being?
Does EVERYTHING have to centre around him and his well-being – even my own health?
I understand that my husband needs support, patience, understanding, and love. Really, I do.
But, so do I.
I have my own battles, struggles, illnesses, and pain.
The difference? He can count on me to be there for him every time, but I can’t count on him to be there for me. I know it’s the illness – he can’t help it.
I try to stay on his team regardless. In sickness and in health.
But, what is one to do when their child tells them, repeatedly, that he has been “trying to get Dad out of the house for years because he makes everything horrible”?
It is incredibly difficult to stay on the team in these moments.
It is hard. It is tiring. It drains me. It hurts.
And, despite how much I like to believe it, the truth is – I am not superwoman.
Maybe there is a lack of information and support out there for people like me because guilt holds us back from talking candidly about our struggles to love someone with a mental illness. We feel guilty about being frustrated, annoyed, and angry; and for thinking (more than once) about leaving. We don’t want to sound harsh, or seem like we don’t understand or care.
So, we suffer in silence.
I think it’s about time we work on removing the stigma associated with being a caregiver to someone with mental illness. We are not perfect. We have our own struggles. We want to quit sometimes. We feel resentment and anger. We feel alone. And none of these feelings mean that we don’t care, that we are heartless, selfish, or churlish.
It means that we are human.
To all of you out there who are doing your best to “stay on the team,” despite feeling exhausted, angry, alone, or judged:
I hear you. I see you. I am here for you.
Living with depression is not easy, and it’s okay to say so. It’s okay to want to walk away sometimes. It’s okay to want an easier life. It’s okay to cry and be angry.
Your feelings, your needs, your safety, and your well-being are just as valid as the person with the illness.