Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, see our mental health web guide which can point you to expert advice.

Depressed husband and housework

(10 Posts)
FrancesFarmer Tue 30-Nov-10 10:36:16

Husband, two children 1 and 4

My husband suffers from bipolar disorder or a similar mood disorder (we?ve never been given an exact label). He is on medication and seeing a psychiatrist regularly. However, he has an atypical reaction to many of the drugs he has tried thus far, he and his psychiatrist are still experimenting with different drug combinations and doses. What this translates to, on a day to day level, is that he is mostly depressed, more so in winter. He has abnormal sleep patterns and tends to stay up all night and sleep during the day. We have tried getting him into a more normal sleep pattern but his mood deteriorates when we do so. He spends most of his time playing computer games and reading/posting online. Often, his concentration is very poor and he is often forgetful and oblivious to things happening around him.

I do 95% of the housework and childcare as well as spending a few hours a week working on getting my career started again. I?m not a perfectionist when it comes to housework ? I just do enough to ensure the house is liveable, that we have clean clothes and healthy food to eat. I take as many short cuts as is possible ? we get shopping delivered once a week, for example, and I?ve signed up to an e-mail service that sends out quick and easy recipes for dinner every night. Our children are easy-going enough for the most part and I enjoy spending time with them but, of course, there?s a lot of work in them too and they have their moments when they act up or become irritable.

I love my husband and find it hard to stay angry at him for long but sometimes, the fact that I have to take care of most things at home starts to get me down. I hear other women talk about how their husbands cook them meals and think how wonderful that would be. Even the odd cup of tea made for me would be great but it doesn?t happen. Or a bit of help with the night time routine ? imagine how wonderful it would be if I came down from brushing my son?s teeth to find that the baby had already been changed and was ready for bed! DH does help a bit in that he might keep an eye on one child while I?m doing something for the other (but only at my request). If I want him to do anything more than that, I?ll have to ask him and maybe even nag him so much that it?s easier just to do it myself.

He doesn?t go on holidays with us, he doesn?t go on trips to the park with us, when we moved home I did most of the packing and unpacking and I was the one who changed all the utility bills, any heavy work around the house that I would be incapable of doing, I ask my father or father in law to do it (both our families give us good support, thankfully), DH doesn?t play much with the children as he finds them irritating and hard to deal with a lot of the time (plus he is in bed for a large part of the day). I?ve tried giving him lists of chores to do and so on but it never works out because he forgets or leaves it too late. Arguing with him or expressing my frustration is largely counterproductive as it just adds to the guilt he feels as part of his depression rather than changing his behaviour.

Some days I can handle all this but other days, I find the lack of help from him really wearying and feel that I am like a single parent in many ways. Today, I got mad at him because he had left a mess of take away cartons all over the kitchen for me to find in the morning (he eats junk food every day instead of our family meals). I have enough to do in the mornings, getting the children dressed and fed and our son out to school without this!

I?m not sure what the right thing to do is really. On one hand, I feel like I?m slowly being turned into a skivvy and on the other hand, maybe I?m just being petty and maybe I should just accept that I am a carer of a sick adult as well as looking after two kids and just get on with it. Now that I?ve written all this out, I?m not sure what the point was. I suppose I?d like to hear from others in a similar situation and ask how they negotiate the boundary between needing support themselves and supporting a depressed husband.

Thanks for reading if you?ve got this far. It has just started to snow since I started this and the garden looks so beautiful and Christmassy now. Life isn?t all bad I suppose (must stop blabbering now).

maktaitai Tue 30-Nov-10 10:43:30

Funny I was thinking about posting something a bit similar, but your situation is FAR worse than mine.

I think he needs a CPN. Does he have one? I yield to no-one in my admiration of dh's psychiatrist, but most of the positive stuff in our lives has happened as a result of conversations with a CPN. Even one that your husband finds irritating would be more positive than nothing.

It is easy to look at your husband's behaviour and spot where things could be better (junk food, lack of exercise and irregular sleep are, I'm sorry, all just shite for mental health problems - even if he does need to reverse his sleep pattern, why can't he do at least some housework when he is awake?) My husband's mood improves a lot when he does 1 - 4 hours of exercise a day (he has schizoaffective disorder). However, a CPN will be more experienced at getting him to think about these things himself, plus you don't need to be any more of the solution-finder than you are already.

For you, try contacting Rethink - it is heaven to talk to someone who actually understands what living with someone with a mental health problem involves. Also you could try Homestart. You desperately need some more support IMO. Hope some more people come up with ideas. And just plain sympathy.

30andMerkin Tue 30-Nov-10 10:52:45


I'm sure someone with more experience of this kind of situation will come along in a minute, but wanted to answer you as it sounds like you have an incredible amount on your plate. You also sound lovely and patient and tolerant and a lot more patient than me.

First up I'd say don't for a minute feel guilty about feeling cross occasionally. This is a crap thing to happen and it's not your fault.

I'd also wonder what your DH was like before he was ill/or is like on 'good' days. Does he get involved with the family and the house then? Basically how much of this refusal to engage/take responsibility etc is down to his illness and how much is down to his character?

I have a family member with the same loose diagnosis, and it was hard to judge because she'd ALWAYS shirked responsibility and made excuses for not doing things (I've known her since she was a teen), so when she was going through a bad phase she had a ready-made excuse, IYSWIM, not to do anything. Fortunately she's doing really well now, a combination of meds and support, and a little bit of being MADE to take some responsiblity, and has a job, nice home, and a lot more energy to deal with things now.

The other thing I'd say is that fresh air, healthy food, daylight, and a proper sleep routine, WILL help your DH's mental health. He might take some convincing, but it does work, and I think if he does nothing else to help you he needs to demonstrate a serious committment to trying to get better by implementing those habits. Sitting in the dark playing on the internet will not help anyone.

GypsyMoth Tue 30-Nov-10 10:55:15

How long has he been like this for?

madmouse Tue 30-Nov-10 13:35:11

My DH has been depressed on and off for as long as I've known him, at times quite severe. He is now finally tackling the root cause in counselling and taking meds so I'm hopeful for the future.

The first thing I want to say to you is do not discount your own needs - what you want and would like and need are normal and reasonable needs and wants. Never mind the fact that he doesn't meet them, they are valid feelings.

Secondly, meds working or not, there are things he can do to help himself, step by step. Depressed blokes and sleeping is a nightmare but he does have the choice to go to bed a bit earlier every week until he is more or less normal. He also has the choice to invest whatever energy he has in the children. My ds is 3 and i dare say he has never suffered from his dad's depression because dh has always found energy somewhere to play with ds.

Not that he is a saint - depression makes you selfish and he is no exception to the rule. which is what brings me back to point 1 - your needs are valid too.

cestlavielife Wed 01-Dec-10 10:30:30

you are a carer but there is help out there. speak to your local carers org

cestlavielife Wed 01-Dec-10 11:16:07

secondly - are you getting emotional support? are you seeing a counsellor or a RL support group eg rethink? it is a lot to take on when you runing a household/being an effectiv single parent - but not just that because you are a prent AND a carer to an adult.

think about what help you could access- you are entitled to a carers asessment from social services. eg you might get extra support for childcare/household tasks.

think about respite for you from caring for you H - could he go spend some time wiht his relatives/friends ?

read anne sheffield - /dp/0609804154

dip in and out - it has an important chapter on the (longer term) impact on children of growing up with depressed parent and more importantly how it can be mitigated - importnat things like making sure they have fun time away from the depressed parent. (this is not cruel to teh depressed parent - it is not fair they depressed and it is not their fault - but it is not the spouse/child's fault either)

all carers need a break.

"DH doesn?t play much with the children as he finds them irritating and hard to deal with a lot of the time " -that i think is one to tackle -not necessairly to try and amke him play with the DC - - if you cant you cant/ if he cannot eh canot - tho maybe this could be addressed with his therpaists? come up wiht something fun he could do with them that all would enjoy??

but to realise the impact on DC of this and find ways around it - you could acess family therpaist via GP for example and a few sessions - maybe with DH - might help in developing strategies and coming up with ideas.

there is help out ther for you - SS carers assessment
family therapist -
but you need to ask for it.

i lived with a severely depressed P for a number of years - left him because of this and many other reasons to do with his personality - one being he became agressive and violent - another he didnt take repsonsibility for his MH (this was said to him by a family therapist...) and as far as i can see he wasnt getting the right help/diagnosis... it sounds like psych is on your H's case which is good.

it is nice you love him and want to support him - but you need to make it work for you and that means being realistic about having breaks from the caring role - whereby you and DC go off somewhere for respite or he goes off somewhere for respite. one "how to care for someone is depressed" book i read talked about how the depressed spouse went off for regular weekend breaks with a realtive - which helped the non-depressed spouse immensely andthe DC. is this something you could arrange?

(and i read many of those books! but anne sheffield stands out for making the point that you and DC are at risk of longer term impact on your own MH and well being - but there are ways around this and ways to mitigate this )

if he refuses to go off for short breaks or to be left then you have to be firm about setting your boundaries. making it clear it isnt an option - if he recognizees he ahs an illness and recognizes the impact then he willaccept that up and DC need a break from time to time.

all carers need a break - my disabled DS goes away for respite one weekend a month adn it makes a huge difference. it should not be different for you as a carer just beause he is your husband. he is a husband with a serious illness which has a major impact on your life and your DC's life.

if you accept the role as carer - then accept the need for respite too.

having someone in the house on computer /shut off/not participating is waring and tiring.

cestlavielife Wed 01-Dec-10 11:18:19

sorri typos " that you and DC need a break from time to time.

cestlavielife Wed 01-Dec-10 11:23:19

"he eats junk food every day instead of our family meals"

again this a boundary you could tackle

why onearth cant he eat family meals with you?
even if he cant face sitting with children who might irritate him, he can eat the same food, afterwards, on his own.

you are letting him get away with this...

simple rule: he eats meals with you.

if you do agree that he can chose not to - he is responsible for clearing up after himself.

"he had left a mess of take away cartons all over the kitchen for me to find in the morning " -not on i am afraid, no matter his depression - if he was capable fo opening them and eating out of them - he is capable of putting them in the bin.

so he eats with you same food.

or - if you agree he can eat junk - you together because you share a house - he is responsible for the mess.


it is a case of maybe tackling small issues one at a time.

laying down the boundaries.

FrancesFarmer Wed 01-Dec-10 20:57:10

First of all, I’d like to thank all those of you who responded for taking the time to do so. I really appreciate it and it is interesting to hear so many outside opinions. There’s a lot of food for thought here for me.

Maktaitai, dh doesn’t have contact with any medical professionals or support staff apart from his psychiatrist and our GP, on occasion. I suppose I should have mentioned that I’m in Ireland so those organisations that you and others have suggested as sources of support wouldn’t be available here. However, there are equivalent organisations in Ireland – until now, it would not have occurred to me to contact any organisation, to be honest, but it’s certainly something to look into.

DH’s lifestyle isn’t the most conducive to good mental health, I know, but I gave up trying to change it because I’m busy enough ensuring our children eat and sleep properly and get enough exercise and fresh air and so on. He would agree that many aspects of his lifestyle are unhealthy (he can be very rational about his irrationality, if that makes sense) but he feels that he is powerless to change things as he is too depressed at the moment. When he is manic/hypomanic, he starts to live more healthily but that stops once he gets depressed again. He’s still holding out for a combination of drugs that will make it easier for him to live better but this is after four years of experimentation with one of the country’s top psychiatrists and he often despairs of ever being able to live a normal life. I’ve stopped hoping that he will change as I think it’s safer to plan for the worst and should things improve, wonderful. I know it’s a vicious circle – if I start hoping maybe I’m making it harder for things to improve but it’s easier than getting exited and then disappointed each time he changes drugs or his mood turns up momentarily.

30andmerkin, dh has been ill in some form or another since adolescence. When he is good, he is very good – he gets involved in family activities, is very sociable, has fun with the children and so on. The only thing is that, with bipolar, there’s always the danger of going too far the other way – being overgenerous, taking on unrealistically ambitious projects and so on. However, as I mentioned in my original post, he is depressed far more often than not. I really don’t think he is trying to shirk his responsibilities – he is aware of all the things he should be doing and feels guilty about not doing them. He is also very intelligent and a great communicator when he’s feeling well and he deeply regrets that he cannot make proper use of his talents. Having seen how dazed and exhausted he is a lot of the time, it’s evident that he is not just work-shy. Then, there’s the problem that some of our relatives don’t really understand mental illness at all and are quick to label him as lazy – that really upsets him. In many ways, he does take responsibility for his illness – he takes his medication and keeps appointments (with some help from me), he keeps track of his moods and does not take them out on others, is aware enough to know when he is thinking irrationally, and so on.

ILoveTIFFANY, he has been like this since he was a teenager but this winter, he is more depressed than the other winters I’ve known him (he is always lower in winter than in summer). We can’t think of any obvious reason why this is so.

Madmouse, we’ve tried many times to regulate his sleep pattern but it always goes off kilter again quite soon. That’s an interesting point about investing energy in his children and something for us to discuss, I think. My own needs – he meets them in some ways – we get on well mostly and have great conversations when he is capable of doing so. It’s mostly the physical housework that gets to me – sometimes, I think that if I had a housekeeper to take over some of that, I would be fine. The fact of his illness doesn’t get to me as much as one might imagine – although I’m really not sure he’ll ever live a normal life, I feel optimistic that things will be ok in the long term and that keeps me going.

Cestlavielife, yes, you’re right. I am a carer. I never thought of myself in that light until very recently but it’s obvious isn’t it? I’m very interested in the question of what effect all this will have on our children. I only have my own opinions and guesses to go on at the moment - they seem to be doing well - but I need to read more about the topic especially as ds is getting to an age where he will begin to compare his father with the fathers of his friends and start asking questions. Thank you for that link. DH has never been violent – he takes his misery out on himself rather than others (apart from the fact that being around a depressed person can be depressing in itself). I get some breaks – my parents and my in-laws facilitate this – and we’re doing okay financially unlike so many of our fellow countrymen and women so in some ways, despite dh’s mental health problems, I feel lucky.

I’m not sure about getting him to eat food with us – he is fussy about texture and food to an uncanny degree, so much so that I think there must be an element of OCD in there along with everything else but after our argument the other day, he has promised that he will try to make more of an effort with cleaning up. As I mentioned before, it is usually easier for me to clean up than get him to clean up but, thinking about it, that’s a mistake on my part – he makes the mess, he should clean it. Small issues at a time is definitely the way to go.

This is interesting – much of what is written above has been going around in my mind for years now but I’ve never expressed it properly in words until now. *Goes off to ponder

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: