Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guest Post: Bruised

Forehead Bruise, originally uploaded by Daniel Paquet.

A reader asked me to post the following in her behalf, in hopes that it would help others, in a similar situation, to feel less alone:

Part of me thinks that if my husband were hitting me, things would be easier. At least then I would know what to do and I could have a plan of action. I would leave him, and feel completely justified knowing that I just protected myself and my child from physical harm. But, my husband doesn’t hit me. He doesn’t ever lay a hand on me except when he’s being affectionate.

My husband suffers from bipolar episodes of depression that leave me feeling battered and bruised mentally and emotionally. One minute he tells me that he loves me, and the next minute he tells me he doesn’t want to exist. When he gets in his depressed mood, he often tries to tell me that he feels cooped up, stuffed, contained, and that he wants to be free.

He used to tell me that he needs “more time with the guys to do guy stuff.” Over time, his complaints evolved to needing more “things to do” and “man time alone.” He’s complained about our finances, his responsibilities, and told me that he wishes he were single but couldn’t imagine being alone. He often dreams of being young again, having vitality, and youthful excursions of strength.

When he is gone all day and doesn’t make any effort to engage in conversation or enjoy my company when he returns in the evening, it feels as if I am invisible. He takes time to help me take care of our son, but his efforts are not based on love, they are based on his compelling need to control the situation since I take too much time doing things.

When he is not depressed and in his best of moods, I feel elation, love, and adoration for this man that I married. He can be the best of men, and he can be the worst of men. I love my husband, but I also fear him. I know that his mood can set a tone in our home that affects my emotional and mental well being. More importantly, I know that it can affect our son, and that is what truly bothers me. I don’t want my son to be a on that roller coaster with his father. I don’t want him to suffer through the ups and downs simply because his father has a problem with depression.

When my husband seeks to tell me why he is depressed, his evolving excuses always hover around how my son and I are limiting him in some way. He thinks that he is telling me that the solution to his problems is to have more time to do “whatever seems to fit at the moment”, but what I hear is that my son and I are a burden, and that we keep him from being happy. That he loves us but doesn’t want to be with us.

And that is where I am left to wonder what to do. I am an independent woman, and would not fear being a single mom if it were necessary. Yet, I know that marriage is sacred and that we are to do all that is possible to keep our marriages together. Too many marriages end in divorce, and I do not want to be divorced. I am fighting tooth and nail to save this marriage because I care about my commitment to God and to my family.

If he were hitting me, I would have a bruise, and a sure sign of abuse. No one would question my need to have a dramatic intervention in our lives, but I am not bruised on the outside, I am bruised inside. Some of me thinks that I have the victim mentality that commonly comes when a person is abused. I keep thinking of ways that I can be more loving, more kind, and a better person to stop the hurting and to stop the depression and its accompanying critisms. I blame myself for these problems even though I really know that they are completely out of my hands. I have to battle the automatic thought that “I am not suffering any more than women that put up with husbands who are less perfect than they had hoped.” Deep down inside, I am not healing from these episodes and the things that are said during depressive outpourings of emotion. I am no longer capable of keeping calm and feeling in control. I feel sad. I feel angry, and I want peace instead of turmoil in my home.

I need a plan of action, and I am out of the answers that I hoped would work. I feel resentment for this roller coaster I am asked to ride over and over again, day after day. It needs to end. But, what do I do? I am praying for answers and hoping someone will be inspired to say the right thing at the right time, because I can use all the help I can get.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Video Clips: Sharing Experiences

In conjunction with an upcoming documentary on PBS called Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness, the Fred Friendly Seminars have posted many clips, of which this is one, on YouTube. I found them fascinating. This was one of the longest, but I was very intrigued by what Ms. Hardin had to say about the use of marijuana and its ties to schizophrenia.

Personally, I identified most with the experience of Scott Whitley, while Nancy Edwards' story was to me the most touching. The panel discussions are very interesting, too, as well as many, many more of the clips from those who share their experiences with mental illness. Here is the YouTube page.