Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been in a pretty bad spiral of depression and anxiety. It’s probably the worst it’s been in over ten years, and when things get this bad, when I keep getting sucked back down into the misery of depression, I kind of just sit and wait for my wife to say, “I can’t live like this” and walk out.
Sure, this could all very well be in my head, let’s be real. I don’t think there is a lot of sex appeal in depression. When I get depressed, I get quiet. I mope. I avoid social situations. I stay in bed. I’m not exciting or fun or full of life. When I’m depressed, I’m doing everything I can to just keep moving. To keep functioning. To keep going from one obligation to another, smiling when I have too, and talking when it’s unavoidable.
I try not to tell my wife too much about how I’m feeling. I’m afraid to tell her how often I think about suicide, or how often I think about failure, and how often I wonder if I can keep going on those times when the depression just seems endless. I wonder if she will find me ungrateful because on the whole, we have a good life, with good kids. We make ends meet, and I have a good job and so does she. We have a good life, and yet, sometimes I just can’t find a way to enjoy it.
I think this might be one of the biggest misconceptions of living with depression. Sometimes when you are stuck in the throes of it, when you are wallowing and struggling and just trying to make it through the day, it’s hard to think that anyone could love you, particularly when you are having a difficult time loving yourself.
Of course, that’s not true. Those who struggle with depression find love, and stay in love. But it’s a common theme for those of us who struggle with mental health issues and past trauma.
I am not a physiatrist or a psychologist or a doctor. I’m just some dude who has a wonderful loving wife and three amazing kids, who has to fight every day to keep his head straight because of his depression. I have good days and I have bad days. I usually have more good than bad. But when things are really bad, I sit and wait for the person I love the most, my wife Mel, to decided that it’s too much and leave. All of it is this strange heartbreaking sub-level of depression that no one really talks about, and it only magnifies the pain of living with mental illness.
Last weekend, all of this came to a head for me. I’d been pretty low, and I knew my wife was worried about me, but I was afraid to talk to her about it because of everything I’ve just described. I was sitting on the edge of our bed, elbows on my knees, my head in my hands. She came out of our master bathroom. I didn’t know she was in there, and I didn’t really want her to see me like that.
She put her hand on my head and we talked for a bit. She asked me how I was feeling, and I was honest. And then I told her something I’d never said in the 16 years we’d been together.
“I’m just so worried that my depression…. these low times… are going to come between us. I’m worried they are going to ruin us, and that’s so difficult for me to think about because you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Mel reached for my left hand. She took off my ring. Then she pointed to what was written on the inside and read it to me. “Love you forever.”
She’s pointed this out before. Multiple times, actually, but usually for different reasons. But in that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. And I think that’s another one of those things that people with depression often need. When I am low and I feel unloved, and my depression has twisted my mind to the point of siting and waiting for all of it to come down, what I really need is simple reassurance.
I’m not going to say that I snapped out of my depressive episode right there and then. And I’m not going to say that what Mel did solved all of my mental illness. But what I will say is that I stopped worrying so much about her giving up on me. I didn’t feel so unlovable anymore, especially when she sat next to me on our bed and wrapped her arms around me. Right there and then, that was exactly what I needed.
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