Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
At breaking point bcs of DH's depression. Anyone been there? Wise counsel needed.(40 Posts)
My DH and I have been together for over 23 years. Until about 5 years ago, we were happy, with the usual ups and downs.
Then DH's mental health began slowly to decline. His work ethic turned into work addiction (we are talking 16-hour days), he lost all joy in life, and his personality has profoundly changed. We've stopped having any form of intimacy for four years now, and it's slowing eating away at me.
We did couple therapy for a year until about six months ago. The therapist suggested that we were wasting our time unless DH looked after himself first.
DH knows that the roots of his unhappiness lie in his earlier life - a strict, unloving family, and parents who were very unhappily married. Recently, he lost a sibling, which has precipitated a flow of emotion that he thought he could keep in check.
I recently gave him an ultimatum: to seek help or leave. He agreed in principle to see a doctor as well as a therapist, but he's now been too busy for the last month to follow up.
I love him, and I would love nothing more than see him get better, and connect with me again. But my gut tells me that he is not willing to change, and that unless I leave, this will be our life.
I feel enormously guilty and dread the prospect of telling our child, but I feel I have given so much, and I can't bear the thought of continuing to be so lonely, and so sad, for years ahead. I should add that, as all good workaholics, DH is amazing at putting up a front. At work or with friends, he is charming, lively and full of smiles. At home, he locks himself in the study, makes no eye contact, snaps at everyone, and spends countless sleepless nights on his tablet.
Has anyone filed for divorce on similar grounds? Or tried a trial separation? I keep hoping that the shock of having to move out would give him the jolt he needs, but who knows.
thanks in advance.
I've had depression several times, twice very seriously. It's not nice.
You've mentioned couples therapy but you don't make any mention whatsoever of any treatment that your DH may have had - for example, has he seen his doctor and been prescribed medication?
I will restrict further comment until heard a bit more from you on that score.
DH has seen the GP and a psychiatrist. Both asked him to fill in a detailed questionnaire, and have tried to reach him on the phone to discuss next steps. DH says he is too busy to call either of them back. This has been going on for a month. I ask him to follow up, but he's too busy.
In the past, he has seen a couple of therapists. He tends to choose therapists who do not insist on a fixed weekly schedule (having had experience of those things, I find this odd) and 'play it by ear' instead, so it peters out after a few sessions.
DH only made contact with the GP at my insistence. I booked the appointment.
My overall impression is that depression has become the new normal for my DH, and it is more troublesome to do something about it than to bury himself in work.
He does agree that we are both running out of steam. I have reached the point of suspecting that he'd be relieved if I made the decision to leave, or ask him to leave.
Oh and I am sorry to hear you have experienced depression yourself. I realise it is really tough.
Did you omit " in sickness and in health" from your vows? Your dh needs needs your support. Part of his illness is his inability to seek treatment.
As someone who has been there, firstly, I have seen several GPs in my life for depression due to moving house and therefore surgery. Never once have I had a GP ask me to complete a questionnaire.
Your DH should be on anti-depressants as a first measure. They may take a few weeks to kick in and different types can have different results, but the first necessity is for his to start on medication. The therapy bit comes later when he is in a far better place to really address issues (if there are any).
You say he only saw the GP at your insistence. How long ago was this? You say this pattern began five years ago.
I do appreciate that. Which is why, after five years of this, we are still together. But I too have a right to be well. If you have no experience of either side of this issue, perhaps it might be best to refrain from commenting. Thanks.
Thanks DrSeth. It took months to convince him to see the GP - and of course it took 6 weeks to secure an appointment.
It's now been a month since he saw him. To his credit, the GP has tried repeatedly to make contact.
Thanks for the suggestion to start with anti-depressants, then therapy if it is still needed.
I will ask again.
Why is the GP repeatedly trying to make contact? If he is doing so, this would suggest to me they are concerned about your husband and therefore ought to have immediately placed him on medication and not given him a questionnaire.
Six weeks to get an appointment? What the fuck is going on? I've never had to wait more than three days for an appointment in my life and at my current surgery I've been able to get same day or next day appointments with no problems. Your surgery needs a kick up the arse.
So this has been going on five year but he only saw him a month ago and it took you months to convince him? What about the preceding four years? I suspect most of that was completely wasted in terms of therapy and therapists. Had you got him to the GP a couple of years ago, you would not be in the position you are both in now.
However, while a PP was rather blunt, I do see both sides. It is hell living with someone who is long term depressed. But at the same time, it is also an illness and while I appreciate it must be tough for you, the actions of the last four years - which you have also been involved with - really have done nothing to try and cure the illness.
'But I too have a right to be well'
You certainly do OP and its really important that you're taking your own health into account.
I see this from both sides - I suffer from depression and have a DP who also suffers, and who does little to try to take care of himself. Depression is an utter bastard and its hard to explain to someone on the outside just how debilitating it can be. That said, sharing your life with someone who is chronically depressed and unwilling to address the issue is no picnic either. I'm not surprised you're feeling at the end of your tether.
What your DH is doing is avoiding the problem. Avoiding it like his life depends on it. That can work for a period of time but not forever. Its totally unreasonable for him to expect you to put up with it for much longer. I would tend to agree with your couples' therapist - DH has got to start working on his own health before anything else can change.
The current situation is working for him and helping him to avoid what he really doesn't want to face so it sounds like he's not at all motivated to change things. I don't have any advice OP, I wish I did, other than to take care of yourself. Only you know what the chances are of him changing and starting to confront this awful situation that he's in. Huge hugs, its so tough
You can't 'cure' depression, you just have to learn to live with it. It's a battle and the severity of it at the time depends whether it's a monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly battle. I've lost relationships due to the others being able to cope with me, even when I've been seeking help. Five years is a long time OP so real credit to you
Thank you for your messages. I am not unaware of my own role in all this, over many years now. I grew up with a severely depressed mother, so I am class A 'coper' ! But the limit of this 'coping' are now being tested, as I have to admit to myself that I am simply not capable of going on like this.
Believe me, I have the deepest sympathy - though I know it sounds really naff - for those including my DH, who suffer from this. Which is why it is such a dilemma.
Frustration can turn into resentment and bitterness starts to take hold.
I've been through a divorce with two young DC and had to reestablish homelife and I've now also remarried and lived through several years with a husband who had depression and severe health anxiety.
Going through the divorce with XH may me realise that its important to be mindful of myself to be able to give to and support others. I had let myself go, not that I any longer give a stuff what he thought, but I'd lost my self worth. Along with this my own social life was lacking, as was my self respect and friendship circles. I was putting myself bottom of the pile and in doing that I was less motivated and enthusiastic to care for the DC.
When DH's (no.2) depression took a firm hold he could function well at work but couldn't communicate with me, the elder DC or our baby daughter (no longer a baby now). Our sex life disapeared in part due to meds but more due to his inclination. I took stock and decided to focus on me and the DC for a bit, whilst plugging away at nudging him into numerous different therapies and trying various strategies to move his state of mind forwards.
I'd arrange family activities and days out, keep him in the loop but be determined to continue with or without him. I had a selection of friends/ acquaintances to get out the house to see. I didn't share what things were like at home other than with the GP who warned depression can be contagious if you don't protect yourself.
How much of your life are you living?
What are the things you see you could do if you seperated that you can't now and are you really sure that you can't empower yourself to do many of them now?
It's incredibly hard when your partner has depression, I understand where you're coming from. My DH has suffered from depression officially for 2 years, but I can think of times further back where I think he was depressed but we didn't realise.
When DH broke down 2 years ago and confided in me how bad he felt, I made it really clear that I was there for him and do whatever I could, but that was on the condition that he went to the doctors and followed their advice. As long as he was taking the meds, and signed off work, I took on everything in the household, kids, dog, finances etc. Completely removed the pressure from him so he could rest and get better.
If he had refused to get help, I don't know how long I could have kept up that level of support.
He is much much better now, but still on meds and the depression is still there in the background. We're both much better at spotting the signs that he is sinking, and a day or two of resting and time to himself, and he can normally fend it off.
Could you sit down with him and lay out exactly how this is affecting you? Depression can put you in a very selfish place and he may genuinely not realise what he is doing to you. Try and get him to agree to a plan of what you will do next, gp appointment (phone the GP and try for a priority appointment while you've got him willing to go), meds, at least onto the waiting list for counselling, and then see how you go from there?
Sorry I don't agree with what some people are saying. Yes she married him 'in sickness and in health' but there's only so much someone can take, if he's not willing to help himself then why should she stick by him?
I left my dh just over a year ago, he suffered with depression on and off for 10 years, I tried my best to stick by him but it got to the point where I had to put myself and my dc first, I gave him a month to sort himself out ( get help and to spend more time with the dc's being a father to them ), things didn't change and I realised I didn't want to spend my life waiting for things to change, I felt so low, my dc's were suffering and we had been sleeping in separate beds for years. I asked him to leave the family home and I began my new life. It wasn't easy but I made the right choice.
If your dh is unwilling to get help then maybe it's time to walk away.
I can see both sides. My DH has been depressed, in a sense still is. He also abuses alcohol. However, he has sought help for the depression, had serious counselling to deal with bereavement issues and is much better now - as a person and as a parent to our DDs. Yes, I would like him to address his alcohol use. Yes, I would like him to do more to address his crap eating habits and get some exercise. But he has done so much already. So I'm staying.
On the other hand, I am exhausted from pushing him to seek help, from supporting him, from running our lives more or less single-handed so I would absolutely understand why a partner couldn't cope with that. If my DH had avoided counselling and treatment, we would now be on the road to divorce. Your DH has to take some responsibility for his mental health. In sickness and in health only goes so far when one party won't put in the work to improve their own health.
I think on these threads there are ( from men and women I may add) too many partners over analysing their other halfs mental health. Often depression is reactive of a situation. Sorry to be blunt but he's probably just not happy in his relationship as is the case on many of these threads you probably both need a good talk about where you are going forward.
Gosh OP I really sympathise. My DP is suffering with depression and has been for a couple of years although has only sought help in the last few months. I have recently started to have thoughts about leaving but I know he's working on getting help, he's on medication and seeing a counsellor. I don't know how I'd be coping if he refused to seek help.
I'm trying hard to keep some for myself, as well as running the house and looking after the kids virtually single handedly. I've been running and making time to see friends, and it helps to talk to them. But even with all that, I still find it emotionally exhausting and relentless. Big hugs for you, I know how you feel.
It's shit. We are going through it and it tips me into depression too. We reached a trigger point where I took him to the doctor, went with him, and mostly still do. I don't necessarily say anything, unless invited to or I think he has forgotten something important the doctor ought to know.
We've had to try something like three diff sorts of meds, at different strengths, and therapy, nhs and private. I'm now having to give up work to be with him.
Every sympathy. He may not be happy in his relationship, but equally it may be depression. Alastair Campbell acknowledges he just went to sleep for three months. It's worth reading his account if it. It must have been awful for Fiona Millar.
Can you get some you time? I try to take time away, just for me. Go to a gallery, shopping, just for me. Nothing to with family, him, housework. Keeps me going.
I've had depression and each time I sought help. I saw my GP and got counselling. I wanted to get better for my own sake but also for the sake of my husband and our relationship.
It's not his fault that he has depression, but it is absolutely his fault that he's been taking it out on you and refusing to engage with treatment.
You gave him an ultimatum and I think you need to follow through. Either he goes to the GP before the end of the week, or he moves out for a trial separation.
If he realises you mean it, he might just do something about it. Or he might not. But I don't think you should have to put up with it for ever.
Really useful to hear your perspectives, especially from those who have experienced depression themselves. It is giving me the courage to demand at least one thing very firmly, which is that DH seek help and follow through with it. I do take time for myself, and it helps, but it also reminds me of all that we have lost. There has not been any together time in years. Thanks for the support.
Btw, I had to make the appointment ànd take him. He just couldn't face all the emotional baggage of doing it himself. And it's only recently he has been able to go without me. You may need to force the issue for his sake. If he's really depressed, he may be fatalistic about separation " oh well, I can't do anything about it".
I think tell him what all this is making you feel and let him know that you are planning to leave unless he is visibly carrying out a treatment plan from his GP or a psychiatrist within four weeks from now. Also say that the past five years have been so difficult that you are not sure that you won't have to leave anyway, but there is no chance at all of saving the relationship unless he takes action now.
You could also say that it is your impression that he thinks unlimited work and the internet help, and that medical professionals will not help. You can tell him that my experience is that it is the depression telling him that. His depression wants him dead, or sunk in such black grief and anger that he might as well be dead; you want him living, expressing his anger and pain in more effective ways, and you are certain that a better life is achievable.
Re 'for better and for worse' - assuming you did have a church wedding, he might also remember that he vowed either to cherish you (old school) or to give all that he is to you (newer version). Right now, under the concrete bunker that is depression, he is not doing either of those things but is cutting himself off.
Oh I would also agree with Orlanda that if you can get his outline assent to the plan above, you will probably have to make the appointment and take him. Depression really is a deadly illness.
Join the discussion
Please login first.