With the news story of Robin William’s death taking over the media, and his wife’s statements, I thought this would be a good time to put into words some of my thoughts. These are the ways that I have dealt with my husband’s depression. I am not a counselor. I have never been trained. In fact, a counselor out there may feel that I have a terrible coping strategies and want to give me tons of advice. At this point, however, I have not found professional counseling to be helpful.
My husband has chronic depression that ebbs and flows in intensity, but it is usually intense. He thinks about suicide daily. His depression most likely began when his chronic pain began, however, since it is a illness, it has taken on a life of its own. When he is having a reprieve from his worst days, he is very open about talking about it and his struggles. But, this blog post is not about him. It’s about me, and how I try to keep swimming, day after day.
How I cope
Sometimes coping is beyond difficult. When I leave with the kids on a trip, or sometimes when I just go to work in the morning, I fret whether or not I will never see him alive again. I’ve tried discussing this with a counselor, but made little head-way. Here is what I am doing right now to help myself through each day.
1. Realize that I cannot change him. I wish I could “talk” or “love” him out of it. But I can’t “cure” him anymore than I can cure my children’s colds. I am learning to accept that this is a disease and it is not my fault, nor will I be the one to “save” him.
2. Take care of myself. I exercise everyday. I eat (relatively) healthy. I have a job that I usually enjoy and that keeps me feeling useful in the world.
3. Stay busy. No one who knows me would say that I am not busy. I have multiple jobs, take care of 2 kids (usually without help), maintain the house, and am caretaker to my husband, who lives with severe and crippling pain. Plus, I make my own gifts, cook most meals from scratch, and have an active life on social media.
4. Find support. I wish I had more support. We have no family for 500 miles and it is really, really tough to be a caretaker alone. But I do have a lot of support through the internet. My support network has changed over time from adoptive moms, to mommy bloggers, to SLP bloggers, but they all provide the same function. They listen. They private message me. They give me virtual hugs. Plus, my mom and sister have on-line and through texting been a great source of encouragement.
5. Pray. My faith has been growing weaker over the years. When my husband publicly announced that he was no-longer a Christian I think things really hit hard. But what I have left, I try to channel into praying for me, my husband, and my kids. Sometimes, that’s all I’ve got.
What doesn’t help
1. What doesn’t help is the dozen or so people that have said they would love to help or get together and yet have not followed through. Maybe they forget the offer, but I don’t. I have a long memory for that kind of thing.
2. People that assume that “someone else” will help. When I put a call out on FB or email for help with meals or yard help and not a single person responds, it is hard not to take personally.
1. During a very hard time, a friend drove over and gave me 3 boxes of chocolate. She didn’t stay to talk. She didn’t need to. I am so grateful to her for just thinking about me.
2. Having people respond back to me directly and immediately when I want to talk to them. This is sometimes done on the internet and once in a blue moon face-to-face.
3. Practical, hands-on help. Someone from our new church comes over every 1-2 weeks and mows our lawn. Wow. Just wow. That is such a blessing for me, who is so tired of doing it all. And on top of that, this person sits down and hangs out with my husband for a bit too. Knowing that one person is really trying to reach out makes me feel so much better, because he has been “abandoned” by most who once knew him as he’s retreated into his depression and illness shell.
This list is not a recommendation for others. It is what is getting me through right now. Maybe next week it will change. Until then, I will keep on swimming…