When my husband is depressed I end up being a caregiver. If this describes you too then it’s important that you have strategies to deal with situations and remain in your normal relationship as much as possible. This is what I want to work through in the next few posts.
I’ve learned over time that my husband James and I can relate to each other in a rational manner even when he is ill. This has been a learning process; it hasn’t always been the case. And I still often feel like I’m walking on egg shells depending on the severity of the episode.
The key strategy that I’ve learned is how to talk to him when he is sick. When he becomes ill he turns into a different person. I say goodbye to my normal husband, so to speak, and hello to depressed husband. In a depressive episode he becomes highly irritable and usually itches for a fight. Early on he will often make comments to bait me. “All I do is work, work, work, to support your lifestyle and your precious social group.” As you can imagine it’s a red rag to a bull.
At this point I have 2 options: take the bait, have a messy fight and accelerate his downswing, or grit my teeth and remember that it’s the illness speaking. If I can do that then I have a much better chance of diffusing the situation. A comment like “You sound stressed about work – let’s talk” has better results and sometimes can even stop a mood swing.
Lately I’ve also been able to say “Let’s talk before you get stuck in a negative cycle of thinking.” This is huge progress for us. It usually results in a fairly sensible conversation.
James says some very hurtful things to me when he’s depressed, but I only tell him how he’s hurt me when he’s better. I wait until he is rational and can deal with it, rather than inflame the situation further when he is ill. I’ve also learned not to take his bait so personally, as I’ve come to recognize it for what it is.
It’s important to know that I couldn’t do this if I didn’t recognize the start of a mood swing. You need to listen to what is really being said before you reply to comments. Is the person sick? Are they really asking for help? Is this a normally held opinion? A few seconds of thought can save a lot of pain.
Next time I can get on the computer I’ll write on learning about the illness and recognizing the early symptoms of a depressed husband.
Know the Enemy is the second post in this series.
Are you looking for ways to help your depressed husband?
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