Monday, August 6, 2012

Distorted Perceptions Caused By Depression

My husband has had depression for many months, perhaps even over a year. I don't know how to help, and I feel insanely frustrated and sad. I am especially sad because I just realized that I've been so happy for the last two weeks, during which time, he and I were separated at various conferences.

I wake up in the mornings so happy and ready to attack the day. He, on the other hand, wakes up depressed and sullen. We usually drive to work together, and on that drive, he talks about how he hates work and everyone there. I usually spend this time trying to convince him that what he sees isn't true to reality. By the time we get to work, I, too, am so depressed from these discussions that I can hardly start my day. Today, I lost it, because I'm so tired of the depression. But that just made it all worse. I'm at a total loss. He's already getting help, but it just doesn't seem to be enough.

Work is surely going to improve in the next coming months. We've got a new department head and new staff coming. Good changes are in our future. That's how I see it at least. He sees it as, "that department head is going to come in and tell me how horrible I am doing." I just don't know how to break that cycle of thinking - that's not the reality here! And when I tell him that his perception of reality isn't true, he gets very angry with me. 

So now I'm crying in my office with the door shut. 


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. You said he is getting help... maybe you could go to a counselor as well? I've been to counseling several times in my life (one anxiety related and twice for marriage stuff) and it was very helpful.

Anonymous said...

What a difficult situation this is for both you and your husband.
I'm a regular lurker around here and I usually don't comment, but perhaps I can try to give back some good karma that you unwittingly gave to me a while ago. I am also an academic and have a chronic medical condition, which I found very difficult to manage - this is how I found your blog and started following. One day I read your post where you recommended the Full Catastrophe Living book, which you used to manage your own condition. So I bought it and that was one of best things I could have done. It was a reveleation to me and taught me how to cope with my own condition much better than I did before. So thank you, even though you had no idea about this.

But, to go back to returning good karma: later on I ordered another book by the same author, Jon Kabat-Zinn, it is called "The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness". It uses the same mindfulness principles as Full Catastrophe Living, but with a specific focus on depression. Not sure if this is of any use, but since you are already familiar with mindfullness, I thought perhaps this second book might bring some help to you and your husband.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow wife of a depressed person (and fellow arthritis sufferer), I can offer only my sympathy. I often lament that I can take pain pills that give me some relief when I'm feeling too awful to go on, but there is no equivalent for depression.

Barefoot Doctoral said...

My partner and I both suffer from depression at various levels. It makes it really hard to function as a family when both of us are not doing well. This distortion of reality is one of the traps we both find ourselves in. For us, when one of us is doing better, it is easy for us to see how false the other's distorted reality is. We remind each other of this fact frequently. When we are both doing poorly, or when the other person's depression is just too much to handle, we step away in small ways in order to be able to take care of ourselves and not get dragged down with the other. Its not a perfect solution, but it's a survival plan. And its not easy. My heart goes out to you.

Jenny F. Scientist, PhD said...

I'm sure you already know all this but I'll say it anyways; this was my experience of being Really, Really Depressed:

It's frustrating because on some level you know that you're being crazy about it, that things couldn't possibly be that bad. But you can't help it. The depressed brain truly believes that these insane things are real (everything is terrible; it will never be better; everyone hates me; awful things are going to happen; I cannot prevent them or change this situation). And the biochemical response of depression makes you FEEL like that's what's really happening. Just like there's a bear running after you, while you're carrying a couch.

I'm sympathetic to you because it sucks being stuck with someone who's negative all the damn time when YOU know that things aren't that bad, and I'm sympathetic to your husband because I'm sure he really believes that his work, his department, and his job all really suck. (Although I'm also sure he's actually awesome.)

I'll also remind you that, on average, it takes four separate anti-depressant medication trials to find one that works. And even then, frequently another one is necessary. So, here's hoping for some better living through chemistry.

lin said...

My husband was depressed for over a year as well. After 3/4 of a year I realised I needed help as well. Just another being to talk to who wasn't related to me/him/our situation, independent person. So even though he, and not me, was depressed, I ended up getting counseling as well. I must say it helped me a lot. Just some venting helped me. And it was nice to cry and not feel guilty about it. Because it is really really though to battle a depression, even if it is not your own depression. Even more when the depressed one is a person you love and want to be able to lean on when needed. Being the strong one is though. Hang in there!

Janus Professor said...

@ Anon. Thanks for the book rec. I have ordered it!

Amanda@LadyScientist said...

I'm catching up on my blog reading, so I'm late to the commenting. I do want to second what Jenny said about medication trials. Dr. Man has said the same of his own experiences (he's an MD and works in this specialty) with patients. There really are some amazing advances out there with both meds and talk therapy. Also, I know that CBT worked wonders with me just to throw that in the mix. Anyhow, I'm thinking of you all and sending good thoughts your way.

Tinkering Theorist said...

I didn't read this before because I was moving. I just wanted to send my best wishes and good thoughts your way. We have been through some struggles with depression in my family. I don't have any advice, but I know that you are smart, hard-working, and resourceful, so you are going to be able to tackle this. It's important to note that on a day-to-day living basis, you are likely at one of the hardest times of your life right now, and a couple of years from now your kids will be significantly more able to care for themselves. Then at times when your husband is struggling it will be easier for you and him to deal with it. You just have to make it there in good (or good enough) shape, which I know you will find a way to do.

After we moved a few weeks ago, before the car got here, we went to walk to the bus stop, and I was getting annoyed at how one child was walking so slowly. But then I was thankful after I realized how much has changed since the last time we moved 3 years ago! At that time only one of them could walk, much less would be inclined to walk in the correct direction for more than 100 feet, and I needed to go somewhere but didn't feel that I could even handle the bus. My point was that some day, I bet everything at home will just be easier, and you won't even remember exactly how you did it all. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later for you.