Thursday, October 31, 2013
Living with Depression
Saying "Living With Depression", sounds as if I were suffering from depression myself. I'm not. I'm one of those insufferable people who loves mornings and sees beauty in life, even difficult life. So why is the title "Living With Depression"? Because I live with and dearly love my husband who does indeed suffer from depression.
We are bookends in personality. He can anticipate all sorts of dire consequences that might lie ahead-I happily blunder on never even thinking that those consequences could possibly exist at all. When he shares them with me, I am amazed that they have never crossed my mind. His depression, however goes way beyond those projections. Those projections of anticipated problems made him a valuable systems analyst for the companies that he designed computer systems for as they were debugged prior to installations of programs.
The first indications that something was wrong showed shortly after we moved 1000 miles from Southern California to cloudy Oregon. I had been hired as a third grade teacher for the district of my dreams. I was working for a principal that can only be described as a kind, compassionate human being. The staff was delightful to work with, congenial, helpful, and professional. I loved teaching and the people I was with each day-students, parents, everyone! In the morning as I backed the van out of the garage, Don would walk out to wave good-bye with what came to be the most wistful, then as time went on, the saddest expression on his face. He was working from home on line with the company he had worked for in California. Those soft brown eyes pled with me to somehow make things better to ease the loneliness of being home alone.
He also had to shoulder additional burdens at this time, as we had full custody of two grandsons. Since he was the home contact, he got the calls when things went awry at school. He took over the jobs of ferrying the boys to doctor and dental appointments, soccer and baseball practice. He even went to parent conferences when I was tied up with my own parent conferences for my students.
I had planned to teach until Christopher, the younger of the two finished high school. That would make me 70 at retirement. To do that in Oregon it meant that I would need to get a master's degree. Long nights in class along with homework that meant the library became my second home.
Through all this I was being stimulated and feeling that I could succeed at a level I had not experienced before. Even the district superintendent had personally complimented me. While I was having my self esteem lifted, Don was sinking, not even treading water any longer.
While I was at school my thoughts were truly not on home or the problems there. Teaching is so absorbing and totally demanding that there was not a moment to dwell on what Don was going through. When I was at home there was not ignoring that something was terribly wrong and I had better fix things pronto. But that's the worst part of watching someone drown, you can do absolutely nothing to make things better for that person. Being cheerful is met with deer-in-the-headlight stares. Patter about how was your day elicits a dispirited shrug. Your loved one's whole demeanor screams help me. Posture slumps. Feelings of guilt for feeling happy creep in. Real fear sometimes flashes in your mind as you wonder but are afraid to ask if thoughts of suicide lurk.
Advice from a spouse is the worst kind of advice. But I offer it anyway. How about exercise, a physical checkup, better nutrition, a hobby, volunteer work. All run off his back as it, I'm sure, all sounds like too much effort when just getting out of bed is a huge effort.
I watch as he painfully recounts every real or imagined offence he may have committed rises to the surface of his consciousness. Each account is not mulled over once, but over and over and over, each detail agonizingly worried about.