I’m writing because my situation has turned for the worse. Stacy has been staying with her Mother, in what has now become a separation. I tried to visit last week but she fell back into another bout of sleepless nights upon my arrival. I was unprepared for the impact that this unspoken litmus test would have. I became overwhelmed, started having panic attacks, and showed a bit more irreverence and dismay towards Stacy which she’s now convinced is the cause, not a symptom of the problem. It was life in a pressure cooker, and I had to leave. I truly need a break from the role of care-taker. I’m scared, but feeling relieved these past five days of solitude. Meanwhile, Stacy is planning our divorce and escape. Her depression seems to have lifted some, (although she’s still somewhat out of it every morning and very fragile) but with that comes a determination and resignation to escape the past pain.
The thing I am starting to realize is that regardless of my opinion, what’s real for Stacy is what matters. She is a delicate, fragile flower and I bowl her over with my overt, talkative, cerebral, problem solving, and yes, somewhat controlling ways. When she’s falling apart and depressed, instead of merely holding her and listening to her, I’m constantly care-taking her like an object I can’t seem to fix. It’s the example I was shown as a kid, and in her case, she was berated and mistreated by her step-dad, so any criticism or disregard from me is internalized and painful beyond the level warranted. I also want to run from illness, since my Dad’s long bout with cancer was more than I could bear as a child. It’s a spooky dynamic. And yet, we do love one another. We did have the ability to reach out and console and comfort in our beginnings. I just have to get back to that place. I pray it’s not too late.
10 Months Later
Thank you for reconnecting and inquiring about our lives. I’m happy to report we got through the tough times and made great progress in our relationship and our mental health. In fact, we’re expecting again. This came as a bit of a surprise, but at least now we know what to expect. Our support system is much better now too… my wife has a terrific group of fellow mom friends and I’ve even made friends with the dads!
As to getting to this place, it’s a long process as you know, not something than can be attributed to any one thing, but the sum of a lot of hard work, mental health, family and friends’ support, epiphanies, and medical care to name but a few factors. I even came to the realization that I too was suffering from depression that had actually been with me all my life. In my case, it comes in the form of irritability, alienation, criticism, checking out, and other miserable traits that came into play when my wife needed my support most. I finally agreed to also take medication (Paxil) which has made a huge difference in my level of tolerance and patience.
We also found a couple’s therapist who could get down to brass tacks in helping us through the process of healing. We attended a couple of her weekend workshops derived from John Gottman’s practice in the Seattle area. His is a wonderful approach to making marriage work and we came away with practical methods for getting through the rough moments that all couples face from time to time