I am John’s second wife. His first wife re-married ages ago.
I had never married. One of the things with this illness I’ve learned is that someone who is a “normal” person cannot understand and deal with the mood swings. I have had boyfriends who I know loved me, but who could not handle my meltdowns and crashes. I cannot say I blame them.
In my own family, my depressions have been met with lack of understanding. They can understand a depression that occurs after a death, but life goes on and the sun continues to shine and warm their carapaces, and they “soldier on”. There might be a hole in their heart from the loss that will always be there, but they go back to work, go back to life, and somehow realize that life is so precious and they were blessed to have known this person.
I feel blessed to have met John. Life is hardly perfect, but if I am happy with him 95 percent of the time then that other five percent allows me to take some time off.
One of the hardest things about being married is learning to live with someone. I’ve lived with roommates at college. That was cake, compared to this. You cannot get a new husband every time you have a clash. You have to learn to compromise, to care, to really “make it work”.
Bills have to be discussed. Things have to be planned around two people. In my single years I could come and go as I pleased, only telling the cat where I was going and what time I would be home. Not that she cared, but I did it. Now I have to tell a human where I am going, who I am going with, when I am to be expected home.
That’s the easy part. The hard part is taking care of your partner when they are cycling. I can take care of John when he is physically sick- that’s easy. My Florence Nightingale alter ego comes out with lots of chicken soup and lots of TLC.
But taking care of someone who occasionally cycles down to depression has me baffled. I can bring his beloved cuppa tea to him. I can bring hugs, back rubs, have Holly the cat snuggle up next to him and purr like a comforting baby sound toy. I can put my favorite stuffed panda in bed with him so he can hold it. I can listen to him, and bring his meds to him. But how do I get rid of the pain that is making him miserable today - the pain in his soul?
Just be there for him. I am letting him play his Civilization game. It settles him and takes his mind off his destructive thoughts. When I am blue, I can watch SpongeBob for hours. He plays Civilization.
But should I be doing more? I am making sure he eats, takes his meds, and gets to sleep on time. When it’s time to pull him away from conquering the world on his game, I do it.
And most importantly, I watch for the signs. Is he not eating because it’s too hot to eat? Or was the food not palatable? Or is he too depressed to eat? Same with sleeping- is he not sleeping because it’s too hot to sleep, or because he is depressed? Is he slipping towards one extreme or another? Can I coax him to eat if need be, or to nap?
When either of us get depressed personal hygiene can go out the window. I have to make sticky notes in my brain to remember to brush my teeth, wash my hair, shower. John will go several days without shaving, but it looks good on him.
So, what do you do for the one you love? Make sure that their basic needs are met – that they are eating, sleeping on schedule and maintaining some semblance of a routine. Sometimes a simple thing like washing your face or going out for coffee can work wonders.
Pay attention. What is upsetting them may seem trivial to you, but it means the world to them at that moment. Listen to them. Stay with them. Fortunately, neither John nor myself have gotten to the “hide the knives” stage.
Let your partner or family member know they are loved. Love them very much. When they start to feel better, they will feel like royalty knowing how special they are. Love, chicken soup, and their favorite vice (think video game or Spongebob) will do wonders.
How do you help care for your loved ones? Tell us in the message boards.
Published On: July 20, 2006
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