As The Wife Of A Husband With Depression

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I thought long and hard before publishing this post, primarily because it is one of the most personal pieces I have ever written. After trawling the internet, however, I realised that whilst there are many sites written from the perspective of someone battling depression, or a doctor or psychiatrist on the effects of depression on a relationship, there is very little written from the perspective of the spouse or partner of someone in the grip of a depressive episode.

Depression isn’t a pretty illness. It’s downright ugly, not to mention cowardly. It sneaks up on its victims, often rendering not only them, but those around them, helpless in its grip. So, before I start crying (yes, it’s been that kind of a day), here is my perspective. You will notice that I have used the words “spouse” or “partner”, as I do not wish to give the impression that I am aiming my words purely at women. No matter who you are, if you live with or love someone battling depression, chances are this post will resonate with you in some way. All I know for sure is that it has helped me to write it. If it helps someone to read it, then so much the better.

As the wife of a husband with depression, I can honestly say that it is one of the hardest things to be. To witness someone you love cry inconsolably; to hear them say, with so much venom, that their entire life is shit; to bear the brunt of their anger, simply because there is no one else there for them to vent against; to have moments when you yourself feel low or a bit weepy, and yet you can’t go and talk to your spouse or partner because they aren’t in the right emotional state to comfort you; to hold your loved one in bed, but they don’t hold you; all of this results in a feeling of being left in a very lonely place indeed. In fact, when my husband is in the grip of a depressive crisis, it would be more than fair to say that I have never felt lonelier.

These feelings of loneliness, and, dare I say it, helplessness, are compounded by the fact that society, the medical community, self-help books and websites, rarely give the spouse or partner of someone with depression a second thought, other than to remind us that it is our duty to be there in support of our loved ones, giving them a listening, non-judgemental ear, a shoulder to cry on, and generally navigating the eggshell-strewn minefield of knowing what to do for the best, whilst simultaneously biting our tongues when a verbal salvo is launched in our direction.

The fact that depression is episodic, doesn’t make navigating the minefield any less difficult. Indeed, in my experience, it makes it all the harder. To metaphorically be enjoying a beautiful sunny day, with birds singing and everything full of colour, only to have a black cloud appear literally out of nowhere, is as hard and distressing to witness as it must be to experience. Winston Churchill called his depression the “black dog”. If that is so, then being the spouse or partner of someone with depression is like being afraid of dogs, but having to live with one nonetheless.

My husband was diagnosed with depression around six years ago, although he has suffered with it (undiagnosed) for far longer. For around three years following his diagnosis, he was on medication, which, I cannot deny and which he himself would admit, did help. However, the side-effects were horrendous for him. The worst was the inability to control his body temperature, resulting in his sweating profusely both day and night and with the slightest exertion. Given the fact that he had, at that time, a manual job, it was hardly a pleasant experience to have to change his clothes three or four times a day. His medication was changed a few times, but still the side-effects were less than desirous. Therefore, three years ago, he made the decision that he lo longer wanted to take pills, realising that he could either spend a lifetime switching from one pill to another, or he could take matters into his own hands and work through the episodes in his own way.

For the most part, it has worked, and when depression hits, he will more often than not sleep if he feels the need to, or work in the garden, or work on his motorbikes, or we’ll go for a walk together, anything to stop him retreating into his mind. However, it is at these moments when I feel uniquely alone in the eggshell-strewn minefield, for if I happen to suggest doing something, and that something is not the thing he wishes to do, I will be met with either a disdainful look, or words and facial expressions that contain so much venom, it takes all my strength not to shout “Well fuck you!” and run out of the door.

So, how do I handle it? I hear you ask. How do I handle the loneliness, the resentment that my husband has changed from the man I married (even though I know the change came unbidden and unintended), and the sheer stress of it all? Well, I am lucky in that I have my writing, and so can (given the right amount of caffeine and willpower) escape into a fictional world of my own choosing. I also find that writing down my thoughts and feelings helps a great deal too. I practice meditation and have breathing exercises (inhale for a count of three, hold for a count of three, exhale for a count of three) which helps me to slow down my mind and concentrate on nothing except breathing and counting. Most importantly (to me, anyway), I tell myself four words, four words that I use as a mantra, especially when meditating: This too shall pass. All of this helps me to bear that which – and I choose my words carefully here – would, in any other circumstance, be unbearable.

I love my husband more than anything in the world. He is a good, honest, wonderful, loving man and my best friend, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. That being said, I cannot deny that there are not times when I wouldn’t gladly trade him on eBay for a couple of bottles of vodka and a Tom Hardy box set!

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Apocalypse Now … Again!

A few days ago, I happened across this story in the “Weird News” section of the Daily Express, a UK newspaper. The story centers around a group of militant Christians from the conspiracy website Signs Of The End Times, claiming that this year, 2017, the apocalypse, the final reckoning, the end of days, call it what you will, is once again upon us. As I read the article, one thought persistently popped up in my mind: what a load of bollocks!

Now, I’m not calling into questions anybody’s faith here, but the idea that apparently rational, reasonable, logical adults could actually believe this mumbo-jumbo, hoodoo, balderdash and piffle, witchypoo, claptrap is beyond me!

Then again, what if they’re right? What if the world really is going to end? Well, I’d be cancelling my gym membership for a start, and eating the three-person serving of Sticky Toffee Pudding that I have in the fridge, all to myself! (I now have Homer Simpson’s voice, playing on a loop in my head, saying “Eat the pudding, eat the pudding, eat the pudding”)

Upon reading the story, I was reminded too of a brief news article I had written back in 2011, about the Doomsday preacher, Harold Camping. Camping had claimed that the world would end on October 21, 2011. My article was both written and published on October 22. I distinctly remember that the whole charade was so absurd, I was practically giggling as I was writing. Here, should you be interested, is that article.

Third Time Unlucky For Preacher

The American Doomsday preacher, Harold Camping, has seen his latest prophecy once again come to naught. The nonagenarian Camping came to prominence five months ago, when he predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011. When that prophecy failed to become a reality, he claimed that he had made a miscalculation, and that May 21 was, in fact, merely Doomsday. It would, he claimed, take a further 153 days from that date, for the world to end in destruction. 

Camping made a lengthy speech in which he quoted numerous historical and biblical turning points. He had, he said, “seriously studied the Bible at length for five months” and that he had discovered that “God will not save sinners”. “His blessed work is finished” said Camping. 

So precisely which date do we arrive at if we count 153 days from May 21, 2011? Answer: October 21, 2011. Yesterday. In his prediction, Camping said, “We can be sure that the world will be swept away on October 21, 2011” before going on to tell of the horrendous fate that awaited sinners with no hope of salvation. 

For the third (unlucky for some) time of asking, Harold Camping has again failed to correctly predict the end of the world. And that is perhaps just as well, for if the world had ended yesterday, the two people who shared last night’s EuroMillions jackpot would have been seriously ticked off! 

Eleanor Parks, 2011. 

There is always a chance, no matter how remote, that one day, one of these Doomsday preachers will get it spot on. It’s the Law of Averages. Therefore, just in case we are on the brink of the apocalypse, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have a gym membership I need to cancel, and a three-person Sticky Toffee Pudding in the fridge with my name on it.

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A Jiggle-Jaggle Of Nerves

Back in August 2016, I wrote a piece for the Daily Post’s Discover Challenge on the subject of “Designed For You” entitled “A Birthday Fit For A Kaiser (Chief)“. In it, I chronicled the day when my husband bought me the fabulous birthday present of tickets to see Kaiser Chiefs in Brussels. The whole experience, culminating in Ricky Wilson holding my hand, was so wonderful that I could not have done better if I had designed the entire day myself.

I happened to be rereading through a few of my old posts this afternoon, when, just as I came across the aforementioned post, the following picture popped up in a private message on Twitter. It was from a friend of mine who said she liked the wording and thought I would too.

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Now, if nothing else I believe in synchronicity. So the fact that I was reminiscing about how I felt that particular night, my friend sending me an image with the words “jiggle-jaggle” to describe the feeling of being excited and having butterflies in your stomach, combined with the fact that today’s Daily Prompt is the word “jiggle“, meant that I felt compelled to weave the entire chronology of events into a post.

My stomach was indeed a jiggle-jaggle of nerves that night, and although the feeling has all but abated over the passage of time, I still get a slight jiggle (unaccompanied by a jaggle) when I think about it.

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Mail Order Nudist

It seems that yesterday’s article – An Arid Sex Life – raised quite a few eyebrows, not to mention smiles. Seeing as how you enjoyed that one, I thought I would treat you to another weird and wonderful story from my journalism archive. This one is from the same year – 2012 (maybe there was something going on that year to make people act out of the ordinary?) – and concerns visitors to a mail order website getting a little more than they bargained for. 

Mail Order Nudist Goes Viral

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One of France’s best known mail order catalogues has been forced to apologise for an embarrassing faux-pas after visitors to its website spotted a naked man in the background of a photo published in their children’s section.

La Redoute featured a photo of four children running along a beach with their arms around each other, while behind them in the distance, a naked man walks through the sea. As soon as the error was reported, the photo in question was removed, but not before it had gone viral across social media.

“La Redoute has withdrawn the photo in question from its website,” an unnamed spokeswoman said later, “and it has posted apologies on Facebook and Twitter. An internal investigation has also been opened to determine how the error happened.” Meanwhile, La Redoute issued an official statement which acknowledged that some web users had been offended, something for which they offered an unreserved apology. They also promised to reinforce their validation process to of its marketing to “ensure this does not happen again.”

However, looking at the comments on La Redoute’s Facebook page – ranging from “to err is human” to suggesting that the “error was done on purpose as part of a marketing coup” – it doesn’t seem that too many people were actually offended at all. This impression is bolstered by the fact that some of the website’s visitors used the magnifying glass function on the site in order to extract a high resolution image of the man in question and paste him into a variety of situations. Therefore, the man who was enjoying a simple stroll through the sea in his birthday suit, can now see himself holidaying alongside Nicolas Sarkozy, standing behind Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, and fighting Darth Vader.

And we British say the French have no sense of humour!

Eleanor Parks 2012

Just as I was about to post this piece, I noticed that today’s Daily Prompt is jiggle. I must admit that a fleeting thought whisked its way across my mind, to alter the story to include said word in relation to the man being naked. Fortunately, taste and decorum won the day, although given that I have just mentioned the word jiggle, I’m not altogether sure they did! 

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An Arid Sex Life

I originally wrote this article five years ago, back in February 2012, when I was working as a journalist for a now defunct online newspaper. It wasn’t my habit to write articles of such brevity as this one, but the story tickled me so much I felt I had to cover it, even if it was just a few lines. I never found out whether they caught the perpetrator. Perhaps if any members of Iowa’s law enforcement happen to be reading this, they could let me know! 

Masked Raider Steals Blowup Doll At Knifepoint

Police in Iowa City, Iowa, USA, are hunting for an armed man after a bizarre robbery at a sex shop. The robbery took place last month, however, given that the police currently have no leads, they have taken the step of releasing details of the incident in the hope that members of the public may be able to help.

At around 3 a.m. on January 17, 2012, a balaclava-clad man entered the Romantix Pleasure Palace in Iowa City, Iowa, and began to casually look around. After a minute or two of browsing, the man took a 20-pound rubber doll called “Pipedream Extreme F*ck Me Silly FantaFlesh” retailing at around $200, down off one of the shelves and proceeded to the checkout. Rather than reaching for his wallet, however, the man pulled out a hunting knife and threatened the female cashier. As the terrified woman threw herself to the floor, the man picked up the doll and fled the store.

An officer from Iowa City Police Department – who have offered a $1,000 reward for anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect – said, “There was over $1,500 at the counter and yet all he wanted was this blowup doll. I guess some folks get desperate.”

Eleanor Parks 2012

As frightening as this undoubtedly was for the cashier, I have to admit that this was one of the strangest, and more amusing, robberies I had ever heard about. So, if you’re sat at home this weekend, desperate and fretting over the fact that your sex life is as arid as the Nevada desert, at least you’re not as desperate as some folks out there. Hang on in there, sunshine! 

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An Innocent Slur

I was moved to tears last night as I watched The Real Marigold Hotel on BBC 1. For those of you who haven’t seen it, inspired by the movie of the same name, a group of celebrities travel to India to see if retirement would be more rewarding there than in the UK. It’s funny, heartwarming, moving, and, at times, tear-jerking.

One such moment came last night as Lionel Blair spoke about his treatment for prostate cancer which, whilst leaving him cancer free, had nevertheless left him with a distended stomach. The revelation came as he and former snooker World Champion Dennis Taylor attended a youth football training session. The football trainer was 87-years-old, although he looked and acted as if he were in his sixties. He invited Dennis and Lionel to have a go at the training, at which point Lionel said that he’d love to but he “had a bad back”. The trainer, oblivious to Lionel’s health issues, responded with “You don’t have a bad back, you have a big tummy!”

Later on at dinner, Lionel Blair spoke passionately about the effect the words had had on him. Despite the protestations of the rest of the group saying that the trainer had only been joking, Lionel said, “He may have been only joking, but it’s not a joke to me. I’ve always been slim and now I have this tummy. And when someone mentions it, it hurts!” As he spoke, his eyes became rheumy and the whole group fell silent.

The incident made me think of how we all say things, many times off the cuff and with no malice aforethought, that can cut others to the quick. We have no knowledge of their story or their journey, what they have been through, or what it took for them to make it to this point in one piece, and yet we unthinkingly cast aspersions upon them. We wound them, and no matter how many times we say sorry, or that we didn’t know, or we didn’t mean to, it doesn’t make the slur any less painful.

This is especially so when the issue of body size or weight is a at hand. A couple of weeks ago, my niece, who is utterly gorgeous, overweight, a fantastic friend and a fabulous mum to her two girls, was coming back from the local shop at night. As she rounded the corner, a cyclist, with no lights on his bike, almost ran into her. She made a gesture as if to say “What are you doing?” and he responded with “What’s your problem?” 

“You have no lights! That’s my problem!” she said. At this point, the cyclist embarked on a torrent of abuse ending with “I don’t need lights anyway to see someone the size of you!” 

Now, this guy knows nothing about my niece. He doesn’t know that she has struggled with anxiety and depression since the breakdown of her marriage, and that that led her into a cycle of comfort eating and crying herself to sleep with feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness. He doesn’t know that she managed to pull herself out of that pit, reexamine her relationship with food, start eating healthily, go to the gym, start body combat lessons, and generally do so well that her trainer told her she’s a star pupil. Most of all though, he didn’t know that she has lost over a stone (14 pounds for my US friends) and that the trip to the shop that night was to get herself her first foodie treat for two months.

Fortunately, my niece is a much stronger person these days, otherwise such a comment would have crushed her. Still, no matter how much I told her that the guy on the bike was just an idiot and that anyone would have gotten the abuse, she still said, “I know all that. So why does it make me want to cry?” 

“Because it’s hurtful, and these feelings run deep,” I replied, “He’s a little shit that said the first thing that made sense to him in relation to being able to see someone. The fact that he should have had lights on his bike so you could see HIM, is neither here nor there. To you, it was an inherently personal comment that basically sticks an ice pick in a pressure point.” 

Words can be weapons. Quite fitting then that the word “words” is an anagram of “sword”.

We are all human, and no matter how much we tell ourselves that we won’t say a harsh word to anyone anymore, or that we’ll think twice before we speak, the fact of the matter is that there will always be an occasion when that ideal goes out of the window and we react instinctively, without even thinking. However, if we engaged with our empathetic side, gave rise to the thoughts and feelings we had when someone said something which hurt us, perhaps we would be that little bit less willing to inflict that on someone else.

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Hell Hath No Fury…

While surfing Twitter earlier today, I came across this tweet from Graham Linehan. As @FootrotDog says in response to those who think the woman overreacted…”Hell hath no fury like a woman *harassed*”

Sadly, I have been subjected to this kind of harassment before. Once when I was out in the centre of Antwerp with my husband and a couple of friends, one member of a group of men (I use that word in purely a biological sense), saw fit to slap me on the ass so hard it left a bruise. This was done as they walked past us in the middle of the street! As they walked off laughing, I was so incensed that my immediate reaction was to turn around and chase after them, and was stopped only by my husband and one of our friends physically holding me back, obviously fearing for my safety. Still, it was worth it just to see the look of shock on the face of the guy who had hit me. Perhaps the sight of me being restrained made him think I was actually dangerous, rather than just full of adrenaline and seriously pissed off!

One other time when it happened was an occasion very similar to the above footage. Picture the scene. It’s a beautiful day in the height of summer. In a suburb of Anwterp, I have left my husband in the local launderette, while I go to a nearby shop to get some change for the tumble dryers. I am dressed in blue denim shorts, a pink “spaghetti-strap” top and sandals. As I round the corner heading back to the launderette, a purse full of coins in my hand, I see that my husband is standing outside the launderette, leaning against the wall getting some air. Across on the other side of the street is a white van. In it sit two men. Oblivious to the fact that the man leaning against the wall is my husband, the driver of the van – I’ll call him Mr. Feelstrong – leans out of his window and says that I should take my “little shorts off” so that he can “f*ck the ass off me”. I give him the two fingers, gesturing in no uncertain terms as to what I think of his proposal. Mr. Feelstrong responds by shouting that he’ll “get out of this van and teach you some manners”.

By this point, I have reached my husband. I smile, knowingly. He smiles back. Then he looks long and hard at Mr. Feelstrong, before slipping his arm around my waist and pulling me to him. We kiss. Breaking away from me, my husband leans up from the wall and makes as if to cross the street to Mr. Feelstrong. For his part, Mr. Feelstrong looks a little bit pale, and given the speed at which he started the van and drove off, I don’t think he was feeling all that strong anymore.

I have since gotten my revenge on Mr. Feelstrong by putting him in a couple of stories (it doesn’t end well for him), as well as in the piece that you are now doing me the great honour of reading. I guess it just goes to show that you will indeed be acting wisely if you do not annoy the writer…or her husband for that matter.

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Apple Pie And A Pot Of Tea

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I can scarcely believe that it has been three weeks since my last post. Many times I intended to sit down and write, but then found myself getting distracted by one thing or another. Twice I even started a post, only to have something come up which demanded my attention, and by the time I had the chance to sit down and write again, well, both the moment and the inclination had deserted me.

And so now, at 15:30 on a wet and dreary afternoon, I have stolen the opportunity to sit down at my desk with a steaming pot of tea, a slice of homemade apple pie (homemade by a friend, not by me) and write! Ah! Bliss!

So, dear friends and readers, what has been happening? Well, for one, on February 10, my sister got married. As I mentioned in my post The Wedding Invitation, my sister and her now husband have been together for the best part of twenty-two years. In fact, the very first party which they attended as a couple was my own wedding, back in 1995! Everyone assumed that they were happy how they were, and, whilst that was true, was now brother-in-law pulled an absolute blinder and proposed on my sister’s fiftieth birthday in April last year.

February 10 was indeed a day to remember. My Dad gave my sister away (he even had a tear in his eye), the groom couldn’t keep his eyes off his bride, gazing at her as if she were the most amazingly beautiful thing he had ever seen, and when the registrar said “Would you like to give your bride a kiss?” he replied with “Yes I would” and pulled her into such a tight embrace there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! After that came the wedding breakfast, followed by a very drunken party that wound up around 3 a.m. In fact, such a good time was had by all that most of agreed that we should have a party more often!

Prior to the wedding, there were umpteen decisions to be made; umpteen fretting phone calls about what and what not to wear; umpteen doubts and fears that we would all look our best. One thing I have learned as I get older is that worrying works. Think about about it. 99% of all the things you ever worry about never happen. And so it was in this case. Everyone looked amazing and truly did my sister and her husband proud.

Aside from family celebrations, there have been new and exciting things happening career wise too. Having made an off-the-cuff comment about some spelling errors on a large Belgian company’s website, I have been hired as a proofreader and editor for all said company’s English language information literature. Much of it will have been translated from Flemish into English, and so it is my job to ensure all is spelled correctly and that the syntax is also correct. I guess that will teach me to keep my mouth shut, won’t it? I jest, of course. I’m thrilled at the prospect and am looking forward to the new challenge.

Well, my dear friends and readers, I am now aware that my pot of tea is empty, my apple pie has been devoured (it was delicious) and the time has come for me to bid you tatty bye for now. Unless I happen to win the Euromillions jackpot tomorrow night (all angels and gods please let it happen!), there will be no more parties for a while, so I should have plenty of time to bombard you with a myriad of missives. So, until then…

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