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DH's mental health (?) taking a toll on family life(7 Posts)
Sorry, this is all a bit of a jumble. My thoughts are in disarray.
I've been with my DH for 5 years, married for three and have one DD who is 2.5yo. Since I've known him, I've informally diagnosed DH with anxiety and depression and have been gently encouraging him to seek treatment, which has been open to and has followed through with to some extent. His brother was diagnosed with OCD and something else (I suspect depression though it's not talked about openly by the family) and is fairly heavily medicated, I understand. His parents are completely toxic and I suspect his father also has some undiagnosed mental health problems. They have been to stay with us recently and it's getting harder for me to bite my tongue as FIL bullies and represses MIL to the point where she's afraid of her own shadow.
In the past, DH has abused alcohol as a self-medicating/coping strategy and sought some counselling and hypnotherapy for that at my insistence a few years ago. He now rarely drinks but every now and then the pressure of his job (he's a teacher) and his undiagnosed and untreated anxiety gets out of hand and he goes on a bender (maybe twice a year?) or drinks in secret. He's also recently admitted to binge-eating when under stress and has steadily gained weight this year despite our family dropping carbs and processed foods from our at-home meals. DH and I recently had another big talk and he has agreed that the drinking and overeating are 'symptoms' of a deeper 'problem' (anxiety) and that by seeking treatment for alcohol abuse only he did not get to the root of his issues. He has recently seen a GP and been placed on a waiting list to see a psychologist, I hope this will happen in the New Year. (Incidentally, the GP got hung up on the overeating and suggested DH could have lap-band surgery to control his weight?? I was horrified!)
DH 'talks a good talk' and is very effective at minimising/justifying his issues and I wonder if talking therapy will actually do much to help. He normalises to a ridiculous extent and we often argue about how he is able to reframe, indeed, completely rewrite situations to make him seem more rational/less emotional after a disagreement. This seems to be occuring more and more frequently and I wonder if, by opening up and starting to recognise his problems, he is 'protecting' me less and 'showing' me his mental state in a more truthful way?
Nearly every day we have some issue where he is 'overwhelmed' or 'feeling wonky' or needing to talk through something. In most cases I try and be supportive but generally impassive as he has form for ruminating and trying to get me to do this with him. Yesterday I totally lost my temper and accused him of trying to make me into an "empty vessel" who will nod along to his irrational nitpicking at a hypothetical situation. He WOULD NOT drop it and I ended up screaming at him to stop talking and that I would not engage in his crazy co-rumination. It's a pattern I see with his parents where they talk around and around a completely normal and not-stressful situation to create drama in their lives and I will not be bullied into recreating this harmful dynamic. Afterwards, he is remorseful and sees the irrationality of his thoughts and claims to "not be doing it on purpose." Generally I try to name his behaviours: I use the pleasant term of 'scab picking' as he worries away at things and tends to do this in moments of general pressure like when I asked him to do one or two household/childcare related things today while I'm at work. He dropped me off and was moody and short for the whole journey. I ignored the atmosphere and sulky expression but as we said goodbye he asked me to go over the tasks and then said, "oh, is that all? Well, I can do THAT. I was just feeling like I had a really busy day today but it's really not much, is it?" This inability to self-soothe makes me worried he might have a personality disorder.
I guess I'm just seeking some reassurance (how ironic) that therapy will be beneficial and that identifying and naming his behaviour and refusing to co-runimate with him is the right thing to do? It's causing a fair amount of stress in our relationship. I have been seeing a counsellor on my own to talk about some of this but she's away until after Christmas and I'm feeling some pressure. I love him very much but am finding him hard to live with at present.
No exp0ert here, but I have a friend, and through her several other friends, in AA and it sounds to me as if your DH could benefit from its programme. Addictive personalities often have more than one addiction.
I don't know. I wouldn't be keen to label a partner's behaviours tbh. DH has schizoaffective disorder and another couple of labels, which he finds helpful, but it helps more for me to say what I am feeling, or what I can see, rather than focus on identifying specific things I think he is doing. So I say a lot 'You sound very low when you talk about that' or 'Right now I feel very stressed as I'm worried about getting everything done for Christmas - could we maybe put some time in the diary to go to the pub and talk about it properly in a few days?' Stuff like that. That way you focus on the effect of his behaviour/difficulties, as well as your own, on your relationship and on you as individuals, rather than doing the psychological stuff, which with any luck he will get some professional support with.
What I never, ever say is 'Have you taken your meds yet?' Admittedly I'm very lucky as DH is extremely stoic about the amount of medication he is on and takes it all regularly. I do have a list of his meds so that in a medical emergency I could give it to the doctors, but otherwise, i never get involved with the medical side unless he wants to talk about it.
I don't want to diminish that he may have MH conditions. That's for the medics to diagnose.
From what you say he has grown up in a family where his dad emotionally abuses his mum. Your husband is using learned behaviour from his childhood to address situations in your relationship.
Does that make sense?
You are not taking on the rôle of abused partner because you can see what's happening. But you are putting it down to a MH problem rather than learned abusive behaviour.
Compare how your husband reacts in situations, and how his dad would. I expect you will see many overlaps.
Search for the Lundy Bancroft list of abusive types - there's a thread here somewhere - and see if you can spot your husband. And his dad!
I recognise so much in your post . My DH has depression (has a formal diagnosis ) and some physical health problems. He is also still not recovered from losing his mum almost 5 years ago. He self medicates with alcohol and crap telly, he is slurring drunk every night atm and he is awful to be around when he drinks. I have encouraged him to seek counselling and this is now being arranged but I am at the end of my reserves. I have no solutions for you but I do have a word of caution : remember to look after yourself. Even if that means doing less for him. Right now I am still in the marriage but there is a time limit. He basically has 6 months to take the help and help himself and then DDs and I are gone. I love him, but I need to look after my own emotional survival. So do you.
I guess I'm just seeking some reassurance (how ironic) that therapy will be beneficial and that identifying and naming his behaviour and refusing to co-runimate with him is the right thing to do?
Therapy will be beneficial IF he engages with it and IF he has the right counsellor. TBH I would be more inclined to seek private therapy than wait for the NHS, which could be months and months yet, because from your post, it sounds like the situation is becoming quite urgent and effecting the whole family.
As to identifying his behaviour - I don't know how useful that is; it may be useful for you but not so useful for him. Ask him if he feels it's helpful. Refusing to reassure him when he's catastrophising is absolutely correct as it will feed his anxiety and need for reassurance: you are absolutely right that he needs to learn to talk himself down from this rather than seek external validation.
You clearly recognise that his parents are abusive and that he has learned many unhelpful behaviours from them - but does he recognise that?
If you haven't already, I'd suggest you read Toxic In-Laws and he might find If You Had Controlling Parents helpful.
Are they coming, or are you visiting them, for Xmas? If so, I would imagine this would be making his anxiety levels worse.
Do you not think your over analysing him a bit op? You have diagnosed him and set out forms of treatment such as refusing to engage in any soothing talk but that is for a psychologist to set up. Not you. Your his wife and rather then bite his head off for not being able to self sooth try understand.
Anxiety is awful, I've been there. Don't we all turn to our partners when we are suffering? Yes you are right that he shouldn't rumenate but you need to not be so matter of fact. It's like telling a depressed person to snap out of it, doesn't help just makes them sink lower.
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