We launched Blognonymous today and received a really warm-hearted welcome.  Below is a story from an anonymous guest poster.  She’d really appreciate your thoughts…

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I just spent the weekend with my best friend from school days.

She has a little boy. He’s 15 months old. He’s hard work, but just in the way all 15 month old boys are.

She’s finding it tough. She’s working full time, it’s stressful having a baby to look after, a relationship with her husband to keep going, a job to do, a career to build.

I went to give her support. To be a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen. I think it helped. She seemed happier. But she still feels sometimes that she shouts at her little boy more than she should, because he makes her angry. That small things push buttons. That she doesn’t like herself very much. That her life is just too hard and not much fun, and that she’s not worth much anyway. She worries about things. She’s stressed and finding it hard to cope. She had worries and struggles before the baby arrived too, but this has just compounded it.

The great thing is is that my friend is a new mum. People give her support. They understand that it is hard. That’s not the answer, but it’s a start.*

But what if her husbands’ friends told him he should leave her? That she was being unreasonable? That she should pull herself together and get a grip? Be a grown up, do what she should do?

Yeah, I didn’t think so either. But it wouldn’t be the first time someone has said similar to me.

Because this weekend I realised that my best friend and my husband have more in common than I thought.

He has a little girl. She’s 18 months old. She’s hard work, but just in the way all 18 month old girls are.

He’s finding it tough. He’s working full time, it’s stressful having a baby to look after, a relationship with his wife to keep going, a job to do, a career to build.

I think my husband has been suffering from depression, or anxiety, or both, for several years. I don’t know, because he’s never seen a doctor about it.**

He struggles to be out of his comfort zone. He copes badly with noise, with uncertainty, with worry. He frets over who might move into the house next door to us, which is up for rent. He worries if he sees extra cars in the street, because somebody might be having a party, and that might mean there will be noise late at night. He misses out on social events, because he’s concerned over how we’ll get home.

He loves our little girl, and she loves him. But he worries. If we were to take her overnight somewhere, without a thermometer, paracetamol and nurofen, he would panic all night that she had a fever. We take extra sleeping bags, just in case she is sick in the night, or its warmer or colder than we thought. He gets stressed when she cries. He gets angry when she’s unreasonable, when she throws her food. She’s only 18 months.

There’s a part of me that wants to say to him “pull yourself together, sort yourself out. You’re the grown up here”. It’s really hard for me too. I have all the same stresses and strains, and the lion’s share of the childcare commitments. I don’t get support at home, I give it. I have to gloss over reasons why we don’t go places, which we don’t do things. I don’t want people to think ill of him, so I make excuses. And that frustrates me. For more than one reason.

Because there’s a big part of me that recognises that he is suffering. I love him. He’s not the man I married, but I still love him. He knows that his reactions aren’t normal, that other people don’t feel this way. But he doesn’t know how to control it, how to deal with the stress. If our roles were reversed, people would be looking out for me, for signs of depression, and supporting me.

Instead they tell him to be a man.

* and she’s also receiving counselling and support from her health visitor and GP.
** I have. They have suggested I contact a relate counsellor. I haven’t done it yet. But I probably will.

What do I say? What do I do?
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16 thoughts on “What do I say? What do I do?

  • July 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm
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    Only he can make the deicion to ask for help. I would keep offering the support, as long as he doesnt do anything silly. I have been there nad MadDad dragged me to a GP appointment, it wasnt fun and it wasnt pretty. I hated him for a while for taking action, but it was a good job he did, as things were getting out of hand.

    Talk to him, let him know your concerns, ask him if he feels the same way and does he want some support?

    Just be there for him and remember men are different for us woman, sometimes they just need time to process it all.

  • July 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm
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    This is interesting. Yesterday I posted at question on my blog at http://gigglingatitall.blogspot.com as to whether men and women experience depression in the same or different ways.
    I think women have some support networks but not always. I certainly struggled with post-natal depression alone with my husband not even knowing I had it for a long, long time.
    Friends help and sometimes virtual ones more than real-time ones as relationships can be difficult when you are in some form of despair.
    The GP is there and free counselling is available but I still think there is a stigma feeling for some men in accessing help or even admitting they have a problem.
    Alcohol can provide temporary relief from angst but only adds to depressive feelings after the initial high. Does he drink?
    A couple adapting to being parents is a huge and ongoing mountain to climb. I wish you well and maybe people on websites like Netmums can also help you to work out strategies for you and your other half. They have a coffee house forum where there is lots of stuff on depression.
    I also think that some of us are just prone to depression and that can make us very hard to live with sometimes.

  • July 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm
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    I really feel for you. A good friend of mine’s husband is currently being treated for a breakdown. She always says he wasn’t the “type” to suffer form mental illness. That, it came as such a shock. It’s almost as if men’s mental illness is stigmatised in a way that women’s was 10 years ago. But i think it is getting more publicity, and so, more known about. Have you broached the subject with your husband? do you know anyone that has been through a similar thing? it might help to make him feel less of a “freak”.

    http://marketingtomilk.wordpress.com

  • July 13, 2010 at 1:36 pm
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    I hope you don’t mind me asking, but when you mentioned that your husband gets anxious when he is outside his comfort zone, doesn’t like noise or change etc, I wondered if he experienced these difficulties before his depression or if they were just exacerbated by his depression?

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  • July 13, 2010 at 2:26 pm
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    Hi! I suffer from anxiety & know that the only way I was able to make progress was to talk about it. That immediately puts your husband at a disadvantage becasue men do not like to talk about things. Does he have an understanding male Dr or close male friend who could help by gradually getting him to talk. I wonder if @LindaSJones could help with an organisation or somelike. She has a link with a blog /site about depression. I’ll get hold of it for you!

  • July 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm
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    I do feel for you. I think men & women do react to depression differently. Mckdaddy has never been depressed as such but when he is down, which happens to us all, he very much turns in on himself and it’s hard to help.
    You say that he knows his reactions are not normal which sounds like a positive start. I guess you can be honest and say you are worried and encourage him to seek help if he doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you.
    If he won’t perhaps you could get some support from organisations that help people that live with people that suffer depression. It’s hard in you too.
    Thank you for sharing and I hope it helps.

  • July 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm
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    I was a bit like that when my eldest was little but I didn’t say anything to anyone other than my husband, and I wish someone had taken me in hand. My OH didn’t know what to do, and eventually it sort of went away by itself, or at least got a lot better. When I was pregnant with my second one, I was really worried it would happen again and the midwife picked up on it, and was very helpful. After he was born, a bossy friend was worried about me and she gave my OH a good talking to and instructions on how to look after me! I’m really glad she did. Sometimes you need someone to be really forceful on your behalf, because it’s too difficult to ask for yourself.

  • July 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm
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    I agree with Itsamadworld, it is hard to even know where to begin when one is in the throes of anxiety, it feels neverending and inescapable. But, no idea how your husband would feel about being taken into hand but certainly a talking too is on the cards. He can’t enjoy being this anxious, it must be very stressful in itself. He needs a release. I hope you feel a little clearer in your own head now that you have it written down and had others see your situations. Best of luck and take care. Jen

  • July 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm
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    Thanks everyone for your comments, they really mean a lot.

    I’m going to give them the time they deserve and read through them carefully – and come back and comment later. I hope that’s ok with everyone. It’s really helped having your support and thoughts already.

  • July 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm
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    Its so hard but if you can get the help the relief is overwhelming. Sometimes its just good to know you are not the only one.

  • July 13, 2010 at 9:06 pm
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    I wrote a piece recently, in response to the shootings in Cumbria, which posited the theory that men are very bad at discussing their problems. If I may, I will quote what I wrote then:

    “Henry David Thoreau wrote (and I’ve often quoted it myself), “Men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Why does this happen?

    Perhaps it is that male relationships simply don’t seem conducive to empathy. There is an innate instinct in men to compete. To emote forth and empathise back is to show weakness, even to our closest friends. We men simply refuse to lay ourselves open to our peers. We may have broad shoulders, but all the better to rest chips on.

    By the same token, men will not open themselves up to their partners or spouses. We are emotional cripples sometimes. Something in our coding requires us to ingest our despair, our worry, our fear. It ferments inside us, turns acidic and, therefore, corrosive. There is no safety valve, no sluice gate out of which to drain it. It builds and builds.”

    I fear it is one of the many unadmirable male traits passed down the generations. Men and boys. Boys and men. It can be a downward spiral unless someone or something breaks it.

    How to do that? It takes the love and support of those around us to recognise there is an issue and steer us along the right path. Support systems are incredibly complex, despite their outward appearance, but I think you have it in you, anonymous poster. You know your husband best. Be willing to talk, be willing to listen, be ready to laugh, be ready to fight. Be there.

    A brief note about the rest of your post: please be careful not to neglect yourself. Your generosity of spirit is obvious and heartening, but while you are good to others be good to yourself too.

    HuN

  • July 14, 2010 at 12:50 am
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    I’m a stay at home father to four young children. I’ve been doing it for two years now and overall I absolutely love it. It’s the best decision I ever made, but it hasn’t been without its difficulties. Prior to that I was a very hands on dad. I worked full time and then looked after the children on my days off when my wife went to work. That was very tough.

    I laughed when I read the quote in comment by Him up North… “quiet desperation”… I’ve felt that way often enough to know how true it is.

    In some ways I’m like the husband described in the post because I have avoided social functions while the children were very young. The protective instinct in me tells me that their needs come first, which is perhaps very noble, but it has left me somewhat socially isolated.

    Am I over protective? Yes. It’s in my nature. It’s what I am. If we were living in tribal times you’d be glad to have me around, I’d spot trouble a mile off and deal with it – but in a modern setting it can be a pain because the perceived threat is usually only that, a perceived threat.

    As for our marriage, having four children in close succession occasionally put us into survival mode, where the best we could do was to find a way to cope, on the understanding that we loved each other and that eventually we would get our lives back. It seems to be a strategy that has worked for us.

    No one stays the same and people change over time. I’ve changed over the last two or three years, there’s no doubt about it. I’m not the same man my wife married, I’ve had to do some growing up (even though I was pretty grown up to begin with) but I needed to do it in my own time and learn the lessons myself.

    Fortunately, when my wife needed support I was strong. When I needed support my wife was strong. For what it’s worth the process has made me a better person.

    We’re born survivors, every one of us, even if that means we sometimes become a bit insular and slightly irrational. It’s just so important to realise that every little hiccup doesn’t have to be a marriage ending event.

    I wish you well.

    Dave

  • July 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm
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    I’m not much of a writer so bear with me here; I have been through the worst 2-3 years of my working life culminating in anxiety, moodiness(most would probably say I’ve always been a moody bugger anyhow.!) withdrawal from socialising and very low self esteem.

    I was recommended a book and I can honestly say its the best read I’ve ever had, it’s titled “The Work We were Born to Do’ by Nick Williams. It puts everything in perspective and prompts you to evaluate without preaching to you. A really good chapter on how unhappiness at work can lead to physical and mental illness.

    Romantic as it may seem you’ve gotta love what you do or fall in love with it, we were not born to work but it’s a necessity and takes up a large chunk of your life, so why not make the best of it? (I’m always trying, successfully.? Im not sure…!) I’m crap at being honest about all this stuff but just had to say this to try and help you and your partner to get through it.Good luck

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