Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Depression affects a whole family
My husband has been diagnosed with depression. I won't go into all of the reasons why he is depressed, but anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that our family is going through some hugely stressful events.
I can't write about how it feels to have depression because I don't know, but I can tell you how my husbands depression has affected both me and the children, and how we as a family are taking steps to ensure that the children are protected from this as much as possible.
The thing is, I knew some time ago that Gary was depressed. He had suffered mild depression in 2011 when working nights, but a change in his job lifted his low mood. This time I knew the signs.
One of the first indicators to me was that Gary was starting to suffer extreme tiredness, although initially caused by the pain of his arthritis, it was more than that. He was finding it increasingly difficult to get up in the mornings, was tired all day, yet at night couldn't sleep.
He was also starting to "slump". After getting up in the morning he would literally come downstairs and sit on the sofa. Although he would get dressed, he would just chuck on some casual joggers and loaf about like that all day, often not showering until later in the day or evening. I kept joking about him being sat in his "Jim Royle" chair.
Then came his reluctance to go out and avoiding seeing other people. At weekends I would want us to get out for a breath of fresh air as a family, but persuading Gary became increasingly difficult, and meant that at best we got out for an hour, but were soon home again. If we did get out the only place he wanted to go was the beach, and definitely nowhere that would be busy with people.
I did try to persuade Gary to see a doctor about this, and on one occasion (after me near having to shout at him) he even made an appointment, but something conveniently cropped up and he cancelled.
More recently the issues with Samuel have exacerbated Gary's low mood, resulting in Gary becoming much more irritable and less patient with all of the children. Oliver has also started to "slump". He was seeing daddy on the sofa all day and rather than engaging in play with me and Isabella, he was choosing to sit on daddy's lap and do nothing. Oliver was also becoming clingy to his dummy and blankets, bringing them downstairs with him each day and also was reluctant to get dressed.
The longer this went on the more I could see that it was affecting Oliver. Samuel's sleep issues and behaviour have escalated, and although Gary's depression is not the cause, it must certainly be worrying Samuel and a contributory factor to his sleep difficulties. Isabella seems to be coping. She is a mummy's girl and although I have been stressed and upset about Samuel's issues and more recently about Gary, I am able to keep myself motivated and can focus very well on prioritising the children's needs.
As for me, I can only describe Gary's depression as like losing my husband. Although Gary has been at home and has tried to help care for the children, it's actually been unhelpful and my previously organised parenting has become more chaotic. I have taken the children out on my own some weekends because I know that they need to continue to get out and have fun, as do I, but sometimes I do feel like a single parent and I miss Gary coming out with us. I also worry that people will judge my husband, that they will label him as lazy or useless. He is far from lazy and I think this is maybe one of the reasons that he has been so hugely affected by the consequences of his arthritis.
Last week Gary made another appointment to see the GP and this time attended. He spoke to the doctor about his feelings and was referred for counselling. However, at the weekend Gary's mood decreased further, to the point that he was unable to cope when we took a trip out for a walk at the beach. Oliver was being difficult and threw a tantrum and this triggered Gary to "breakdown".
I don't know whether I could quite say that Gary has had a breakdown, but I think he came worryingly close. It has made me realise that depression is a very serious condition and should not be ignored.
Gary saw the GP again last night and now has medication. Together we have talked about steps we can take at home to help Gary, and to ensure that the children are not affected by his low mood.
We have made the decision that Gary will back off when it comes to issues around Samuel. It's just too stressful for him and given their recent negative relationship it's better that I am the one who makes decisions in relation to Samuel. Although dealing with Samuel on my own his full on hard work, I am perfectly able to do it and the fact that Gary and I are no longer at loggerheads as to how to deal with him, I am already seeing a calmer Samuel.
As for Oliver and Isabella, of course Gary will keep doing his bit, but we have agreed for now that he doesn't need to be parenting the children during the daytime, when a dad would usually be at work. That's Gary's time to rest and his time to deal with his depression in any way that is suggested by the counsellor and GP. He will try to take himself away from the children while I am home playing and doing activities with them, and has accepted that I will take the children out on my own through Monday to Friday and that family time is at weekends when he feels up for a trip out.
It may sound harsh, but we both feel that Gary's depression has already harmed Oliver to a certain extent and I need to address that now while I am still able to perk Oliver out of his little slump and before Isabella shows signs of being unsettled.
This is how depression has affected our family. It's no-one's fault, it's just happened. The one thing that I am so grateful for is that my husband has been brave enough to be honest about how he is feeling. He may not realise it now, but he is actually helping his family by taking these positive steps.