When I am faced with a sense of helplessness, when I feel that I should put my foot down, yet I don’t, when I know that I should stop pleasing emotions and egos that don’t need to be pleased now.
Why am I angry now more so that ever before?
It is a long story and has got to do with years of trying to help my wife cope with her major depressive disorder. The journey from understanding Post-natal depression to having to deal with Major depressive disorder has been a tumultuous one, a journey where my definition of victory was that we will break the cycle and not let it happen to our children. For good 23 years with all the ups and downs in our married life I tried with sincerity to help my wife cope with her depression and have a family life as most normal families have.
The journey and what I learnt to forget and maybe forgive.
Over years of therapy my wife and I kind of acknowledged that her childhood spent in fear of an abusive dad ( anger issues, irrational mood, melancholic) and a mom who did not adequately give the kids a happy childhood or an environment that made them feel protected from the abusive dad. When we got married the first thing I noticed in my wife was very low self-esteem and I took it to be her protected upbringing. Together we worked on it and I must admit that today I admire her sense of confidence and outgoingness. Anxiety issues continued and even though it has gone down over years, it remains.
The first episode of Post-natal depression showed up pretty much after our first child was born, what made things bad was that she also contracted Tubercolosis at the same time. So a physiological illness along with a psychological illness was a really bad double whammy. We never got around to getting a diagnosis on the depression let alone treat it. It never went away, just change of country made it feel like it disappeared.
The second episode showed up after our second child was born, this time we were lucky, I knew more about the illness, wife was open to getting diagnosed. It was a battle we fought happily together and there as a time where I felt we are winning. That looking back now was a Mirage in the Oasis.
Both our children showed signs of anxiety early on in school and with our son I took it upon me to help him overcome -which he seems to have more or less got a handle on – he is 22 now. Daughter went through a program for 6 months and with her my wife took the onus of getting her out of it. It was this journey of trying to get our daughter out of her anxiety issues that my wife put in serious effort to fight her own battles out with depression and practice everything her therapist proposed. I must admit that she did really well there.
All through I knew that to break the chain we will have to start with the root, so I spent good 3 years trying to get my father-in-law change his way of reflecting on life, because if he stepped out of his melancholy the vibe will be positive. Mother-in-law continued in her state of denial that she had no role to play in why my wife had her mental health issues. Any way after trying for many years I must say I lost that battle and gave up. We live in Australia and our in-laws live in India. I resigned to the fact that given we live so far away it is unlikely to effect us any more. What I overlooked is that in todays world we are connected daily over phone and internet, so the environment of melancholy can spread over ether.
Any way long story short, our daughter now 14 has now been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the cycle did not break, I lost. To make things worse she attempted self-harm once, we are lucky that it did not work and we still have her with us.
Today I am a paranoid man, I have lost my present, I am staring into a future where I feel hopeless and live with the fear that I will lose it. My feeling is that I want to go far away with my family where the past has no connection, the melancholy of father-in-law, the indifference of mother-in-law. But this is where I fail. As hard as I try, I know that there is no way I can do this. My in-laws will be visiting us and I will have to please them because they are so looking forward to come and visit us. I know that with them will come the vibes of the past that I so want to break away from, give our daughter the chance to grow her wings without fear and fly high.
This paranoia of loosing the future is getting under my skin and I am angry. My anger is not on any person, but this anger is not a good thing, I know not how to get over it. I also know that my in-laws don’t do wrong things by intent, it now is wired into their system so it’s almost muscle memory that this behaviour persists.
Ever since our daughter has been diagnosed with Major depression I have been an irritated person, so much so that in the past 6 weeks I have lost my temper on my wife on 3 occasions. For a person who used to take pride in not getting angry this is not a good sign.
Unfortunately, I am unable to talk this out with anyone, get it out of my system, forget if not forgive what my wife’s parents have set in motion many years ago.
Love to hear your stories, maybe I can learn from some of you.
Anger and resentment are emotions that most of us carers experience.
In an article by Lisa Hutchinson she says
"There can be a sense of shame and guilt when anger develops. We want to be seen in our best, most giving light. To ease your stress, I want to let you know that even the most loving and compassionate caregivers experience frustration and resentment because it is a part of our human experience. Resentment builds up when there is no outlet for feeling hurt and angry. When we care for someone who needs us, we often put aside the activities and things we love in order to focus on the need at hand. In the beginning of helping this is normal. We are finding our way through a new way of life. Overtime this invalidation of who we are drains us of our energy and joy.
Rather than fear or resist anger and resentment, let’s look at them as signals reminding us to incorporate more balance into our lives. When we experience such feelings it is time to take a step back and reassess."
There are a few things that she recommends
* give to yourself
* friends and supports
* forgiveness and prayer
* going deeper
When I found carer fatigue setting in I realised that I had been neglecting these areas.
* I had not been engaging in the self care that is necessary to refuel for the road ahead and had given up things that gave me joy. I began to do small things for myself. I began to be intentionally grateful. Fortunately I did not lose my sense of humour, but it did need cultivating, this made a huge difference for me.
* I got support. There are a number of free supports available for carers and I tapped into them. I also had an understanding friend who I would meet for coffee.
* Forgiveness is a tough one and can only be done when one is ready and there were people I needed to forgive. My faith certainly gave me strength and I don't think I would have coped without it.
* When my husband became unwell I stopped exercising. I only started as our dog refused to walk with my husband on his own and I needed to join them. Since that time I have had measurable health benefits and am much healthier.
*Going deeper - this was a gradual process and as I got some counseling to help me with the various emotions I was experiencing. I learned to let go of things that were not mine to hold on to.
Kayjee, can I gently encourage you that it is possible to let go of anger and resentment and for us to live well in spite of our loved ones diagnosis. I found love to be one of the keys. I found that letting my husband know I was on his team and that he needed to tell me how best I could support him. I also spoke up about my own needs which my he was happy to support (some other forum members have found resistance in this department). My husband to had childhood trauma in his past, sadly a lot of people with mental illnesses do.
Your wife might also be feeling a little apprehensive about your in-laws visit. Perhaps letting her know you love her dearly and ask her how you can help support her when they visit might be helpful.
Feeling helpless is so much par for the course but focusing on what we can control gives us a sense that there are things we can do that will improve the quality of life for both ourselves and the ones we love.
Thank you for this, some of the points you have made, I will give it a go. Yes you are right that my wife is apprehensive about the her parents visiting us, we have had a chat about it. I unfortunately was unable to communicate the love and support message effectively, will give it a go again.
If you need urgent assistance, see Need help now For mental health information, guidance and referrals, see the SANE Help Centre SANE Forums is published by SANE Australia with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health SANE Australia ABN 92006533606 PO Box 226 South Melbourne 3205 Australia