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DH and counselling/therapy(15 Posts)
I need help with/for my DH. I made a recent thread about a big mistake that he made, and I received a lot of kindness and support along with recommendations to post here for advice. I have namechanged as I am concerned about privacy after the original post went a bit crazy. For those who question why someone concerned about privacy would post - I have no one to speak to. No family, friends do not know the complexity and I cannot discuss it.
DH and I both come from what is politely referred to a 'chaotic backgrounds' both have a lot of siblings. Both suffered neglect and abuse in childhood. He is NC with all his siblings and speaks to his mother and father at Xmas see them approx once every 2/3 years. His parents were alcoholics for his entire childhood and his mother still drinks heavily, his father stopped drinking when he 'found god' 20 years ago and is now fanatically religious spending the bulk of his time in and around the Catholic Church. DH is the only 'functional' member of his family, the siblings are in prison/homeless/in desperate situations and his parents have dysfunctional and depressing life marred by domestic abuse and his fathers controlling behaviour.
We met when we were 18 and have been together 22 years, married for 17. We have 2 DC who are thriving. I run a small business and am the main wage earner, DH has an admin job 20 hours a week and is an excellent father in the most important ways (always puts them first, loves them unconditionally, thinks they are the greatest people in the universe etc). We have a good life and have worked very very hard for it. We feel in a privileged position to own a home, 2 cars, have holidays and all the other middle class things families do. He sometimes breaks down and can't believe his 'luck'.
I make every decision, I earn the money, I chose every single thing we buy, what we eat, where we go and when, I set the rules for DC, I tell him exactly what to do with everything he phones me constantly. I am exhausted. I am not controlling and want him to make decisions but he goes into a panic and this effects his mental health. This has been building up over years. It seems to require huge effort just to keep up with the school run, make a meal, get to the swimming baths on time, have a shower every day etc. He hates having company and becomes very agitated if we ever have an overnight guest, referring to them as 'strangers' even if they are mutual friends we have known for 20 years. He is anxious about money all the time, and does not spend money on himself unless he is forced to. He does spend money on DC and buy lovely thoughtful presents for us all.
We had a big row in June when I was unwell and he demanded to be given responsibility for jobs to allow me to recover, which I did. He did not do these jobs and lied when he hadn't done them causing a huge problem which was very upsetting for everyone. For the first time ever he sort of "snapped out of it" and went to sort it out - and was successful where I had failed. He is very charming, very handsome and everyone loves him, particularly women. Following the high of his successfully resolving the issue came a week of relentless self punishment which was heart breaking and exhausting.
He has MH problems from his childhood. Depression and 'zoning out' for hours or days when he is triggered by trauma (an example being we were watching the news and saw a family member who had been sentenced for a serious violent crime, this caused him to have a breakdown and the crisis team had to be involved, but he cannot remember any of this now). During these periods he is catatonic and suicidal. The worst part is when he starts to 'come round' and is filled with self loathing for letting us down. He has self harmed and I have been very frightened at these times. He is 6'6" and very strong and I am 5'2" - it is impossible for me to stop him when he is distressed. I have had no help from MH services despite literally begging. He has been on Fluoxetine for 6 years now and every time he sees his GP he is just told to keep taking it and given no further advice.
He did art therapy when he was 19 and it helped but we cannot access this now. We do not have a high income to pay for extensive therapy but I am sure we can improve things. Maybe I am naive. He says he was 'broken' when he was 12 (he was in care - although we have not been able to get details of where/when and his memory is very patchy and unreliable) and sees himself as less than me, which is not true. He thinks I am so strong and that I have saved his life. But I need him just as much as he needs me.
Does anyone know what I can do to help him practically and what therapy will be useful in the longer term. There were some really great suggestions on the original thread but I panicked and deleted it due to an unpleasant website picking it up
Sorry this is so long, thank you for reading. I really appreciate any advice you are able to offer.
for you OP. You sound like a wonderful partner and parent and it's humbling to hear of the two of you making a healthy, happy family out of awful pasts.
I don't have any relevant experience which might help you but it might be worth looking into C-PTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) and finding a therapist skilled and experienced enough to help? My very limited understanding of cptsd is that it is often experienced by people from severely abusive backgrounds. I wish you both well and hope you can access the right support. Don't suffer alone.
Thanks for replying why that is very kind to say. I feel very raw after writing that, and exposed.
Do you have any idea how to find different types of therapist? Past experiences haven't been good and in some cases very expensive. He's very worried about spending money on himself and feels DC should come first (which they do)
And now I'm crying. God I need help, let alone him. I just want it all to be behind us. It seems to unfair, We're 40 FFS.
Sarahconor that is a very honest and very true post, and you are both very brave. Childhood trauma can manifest in frightening different ways, and can be triggered by things that seem mundane to outsiders. Life stages/ages can also be triggers (often parents of newborns suddenly find things brought to the surface they thought they'd dealt with years ago, for example) and if one of your DC is the age your DH was when he was put into care, this could be a really deep-seated emotional reaction to things he's repressed.
I think you need to forgive yourself for finding it exhausting to manage, forgive him for mistakes made and celebrate the success of sorting them out, and then maybe look at practicalities to help transition some of the responsibilities of things in a very measured, planned way. So instead of it all reaching crisis point and handing things over wholesale in (understandable and justified) frustration etc., more of a managed transition as you might with a work role. It's another burden on you, of course, and if this was a black and white male strategic incompetence to make you shoulder the wifework then I'd not say the same, but it seems clear that something about the day to day responsibilities of family life are causing him greater than normal levels of angst.
So, practically: can you set up a weekly meeting to be a touch point for things that need doing/planning/arranging? He is the primary worker on tasks, and you are the overseeing manager checking progress.
Do you have google calendar etc all set up with times blocked out, kits needed on which day, etc etc. Alarms set to prompt recurring items?
What sort of things will your DH find useful - some strategies won't work, but others will.
As to counselling, I don't know enough to advise on finding a good counsellor. My DH did have a course of a CBT-based and hypnotherapy assisted counselling with someone he was recommended by a mutual friend, and it was really helpful. It was expensive, and we couldn't exactly afford it, but it was at that point a necessity for our marriage and his health, rather in the way a medical emergency would be, say. He needed it, we paid it. Holidays, presents, discretionary stuff like activities took a back seat for a while. My DC needed a functioning father more than anything else.
If he needs convincing, remind him that the advice to parents is always to "put on your own air mask before helping others". He must put himself first in order to put the DC and you first.
I am a therapist and specialise in complex trauma, particularly sexual trauma but not exclusively. I work in the NHS so therapy can be accessed this way, there is a huge disparity in different areas though unfortunately. Also treatment would probably be short term (I do up I 20 sessions) which isn’t perfect but much better than nothing!
I am not going to start making a guess at diagnoses as that would be inappropriate, however it sounds like he dissociates so will need someone trained in working with this kind of presentation.
Your husband issues fall under what is known in services as ‘complex needs’, which means he has problems that are likely not going to be fixed by the IAPT standard 6 sessions of CBT. Many services won’t see these clients at all as they are too severe and ‘high risk’ for them to manage in primary care/counselling services.
Realistically, he is unlikely to get long term treatment on the nhs and you may have to suck up the cost of private therapy, which with 2 cars and regular holidays which maybe you can afford if you make a few sacrifices?
If you pm me I’m happy to advise on types of therapy that might be helpful, ultimately it’s the relationship with his therapist that is the most important factor though. I can also suggest books and resources self-help if you like.
Thanks nosquirrels you're spot on with what you say. Things were very hard when I had DS and we both realised what parents were supposed to think/feel/do. DS is now an age when things were very bad for DH and he was seriously abused by 2 of his siblings resulting in him being placed in care. I hadn't connected that with the last few months being a strain.
I agree that a gradual handover is better than taking too much on at once. He tends to be ok for ages then something happens and he can't function.
I have asked GP and relate but not found anyone suitable, will have to keep looking.
If anyone has any good resources please let me know. Thank you
Psychedelicsheep I love sheep
Thanks so much for replying. Any books are very much appreciated. I read 'the boy that was raised as a dog' years ago which was tremendously helpful.
He does dissociate and has had this problem for 28 years. He has huge memory voids most of which I can fill in but he has no recollection of anything age 12-14 at all
I will go to gp with him again but they just don't see him as a problem. He is functional, healthy and we're holding it together. I am happy to pay, he less so because nothing has worked so hard. It's finding the right thing that's hard. He's has CBT which made him cross, we've been to relate and it was useless. Art therapy was good but can't find one. So frustrating. Maybe you're just down the road and I don't know!
Sorry I'm ranting!
Please go and have. A look at this website https://www.pods-online.org.uk/
It specialises in helping trauma survivors particularly of sexual abuse, they have a help line
Run through their charity START, its a free phone number, and they also train therapists in
Recognising and dealing with disassociation in clients.
They are brilliant people and very helpful, most of their training days are always attended by people
Who have been abused. It helps them become experts in their own trauma, helping them understand how and why they are effected in certain ways.
Thank you guiltypleasures I'll look at that. He has no recollection of a lot of abuse. Lots of unexplained scars etc. I know he wants to improve the 'here and now' but is very afraid of emerging memories and trauma. It's hard to get a balance between forging forward and looking back.
OP I think you are brave and resilient and I admire both you and your DH very much for getting as far as you have.
I know that the NSPCC has resources for adults abused in childhood. Try them, they might have lists of suitable therapists.
As pp said it is finding the right therapist that is the most important thing. You have to find one who your dh trusts and jells with. I did hypno-psychotherapy and despite being cynical to start with found it amazingly useful in dealing with past traumas.
Thanks theo I will try that.
The difficulty is definitely finding the right person.
Sorry couldn’t post last night for some reason. I definitely second guiltypleasures suggestion of PODS. They have a directory of therapists who have been trained in these types of issues too.
They also outline what therapy for complex trauma should look like, basically there are 3 phases, grounding and stabilisation, trauma processing and reconnecting with the world. Many of my clients with severe and enduring difficulties can only really do the first phase as it’s not going to be helpful to start processing the traumatic memories for many reasons (only having 20 sessions being a big one). The first phase is often enough though and the skills learned can be life changing.
I also really like the Compassion Focussed Therapy approach for trauma, check out Deborah Lee’s work. This is really good for shame based flashbacks and similar symptoms, and helps clients reframe their experiences and learn to be kind and compassionate to themselves rather than harsh and critical.
Thanks for those pointers. I've been in touch with PODs xx
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