This is a tricky one to write as it is a time of my life I don’t like spending time reflecting on too much. However my wonderful husband has asked me to write it as he feels it is an important angle to Mental Health. As you will come to learn I have had many high and lows with my own mental health over the years but tonight’s Vlog is reflecting on my experience living with someone else struggling with their mental health.
It was a good six or more years ago and my poor husband was being put under increasing pressure and stress in work. This pressure in turn unmasked symptoms of IBS, which in turn meant he was not able to perform as well in his job, which increased the pressure and the cycle went on. Unfortunately at the time he had managers driven by targets and stats, not driven by the care and well being of their teams. This led to months of disciplinary meetings for not performing (even though he was often last in the office, always happy to help out and when you analysed the actual data, adjusted for his part time hours, he was out performing his peers working full time).
I cant begin to imagine how horrendous this pressure was. We all walk our own paths and it is impossible to know the full extent of the impact of events on people. What I do know is the experiences he was facing changed him. For at least a good two years he was not himself, work was slowly eroding the laid back, funny, caring gentleman I knew. He was increasingly stressed, anxious, depressed and unhappy. He didn’t sleep well, didn’t engage with the family. He was even more of a recluse than normal. He tried medication and it helped a little but had other side effects that were worse. He was being dragged into a black hole.
I tried to support him and for years stood by, encouraging him to go to doctors appointments, trying to find the joy in life for him. But nothing helped. I knew there was one thing that he needed to do leave his job. But the destruction of his confidence and embedding of a persistent self doubt meant no amount nagging or encouragement would drive that outcome.
Over the years I saw our sex life evaporate, our happiness fade and most heartbreakingly I watched as his daughter slowly drifted from him. It was unbearable at times watching the heartbreaking reality of someone you love struggle to keep their head above water and feeling like every Lifebuoy you threw them missed its mark. It was also exhausting, trying to be happy for two people is a real task.
I really think over those years our marriage came close to ending. I am grateful that it didn’t but if it had and that protected my daughters happiness and saved my sanity it would have been the right outcome.
We were lucky that over this time my income had increased so I reached the point where I could dictate that he left his job. Dam that was a scary move, we were still going to be dropping our income significantly and with a young family it felt like a big step but I knew it had to happen. No amount of money was worth his happiness and we would find a way to make it work.
On the last day he went to work, another unexpected disciplinary meeting, I remember the phone call and the mix of relief and shear panic at what I had done. Previously I had suggested, encouraged tried to help him think about applying for other jobs. That day I told him to walk out of the building immediately, come home and that he was never going back. I took the choice away from him, I think he had been struggling with the idea of not bringing in any money, I was so past that. I was watching the world break my husband in pursuit of a statistic on a spreadsheet. I was done.
It took a while for him to come to terms with the idea of not working, and it has taken nearly as long as he suffered to start to get some resemblance of the man I fell in love with back. Like many people that struggle with mental health I don’t think he will ever be quite the same, but slowly carefully he is learning that the world is not a dark and unbearable place, that there is a reason worth waking up for and that he can be happy again.
For anyone living with someone with a mental health issue the take aways from my experience were:
You cant make other people happy if you are not happy – You have to find ways to protect or maintain your happiness. If you have hobbies you enjoy, do more of them. If you have friends and family you can lean on do. If you need a break – take one. And no matter how much you love someone if the ultimate answer is to leave that may be the right thing to do.
Sometimes the solution is scary but the alternative could be worse – What ever options you are facing I expect they are not exciting, happy, enjoyable options. Taking a brave step might be the best thing you ever do.
It is not your fault – I cant recall how many times I found myself blaming me, my wrong decisions, my lack of support, too much encouragement, too little encouragement. It is not your fault. Mental Health is not something you can magically fix, everyone’s journey will be different.
We managed to stick it out and I am so grateful. I dread to think where we would both be now had we of parted ways.
Have you experienced living with someone with Mental Health challenges?
If you would rather hear me ramble on about the above https://youtu.be/Y2q7EnrA7vQ