Almost a year ago I wrote about our journey of living with Clinical Depression. I received a lot of feedback and both Bruce and I felt very encouraged. At that time, Bruce was experiencing the effects of various medication adjustments due to heart surgery and his ongoing diagnosis. I feel it’s time to update things. Who knows how many others or my own family will benefit from what we’ve learned.
At this time, Bruce has been weaned off of several of his heart medications, yayo! Come to find out, most of them list depression as a side effect, I know, right?! So while surgeons are wonderfully gifted at saving lives and replumbing hearts, they may not be adequate for determining how medications effect daily life.
On top of all of this, another job change has occurred, I’ve lost count on this. The last one was abusive enough that it became sort of comical. Several times Bruce said things that were entirely out of character for him (you didn’t hear it from me, but swearing may have been involved). Since he started his new job he’s had texts and calls from the old one asking if he can fix their problems…
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Onto the meat of this post. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned about living with, supporting, praying for and loving a person who wrestles mental illness…
Any kind of mental illness is all consuming and unrelenting. There is never a time when you can ignore it. It requires you to always take the illness into consideration when making decisions or plans. Think Diabetics. They have to plan their food, medications, doctor visits and so on. Mental health illness is very similar. It doesn’t go away simply because you find the right doctor and drug. It still has to be managed. So unless the miraculous happens and Bruce is fully healed, we will live with this for life.
Hindsight is great isn’t it? When we look back to 2003 at Bruce’s original diagnosis, and his subsequent intensive treatment, someone, somewhere, somehow, should have recommended weekly therapy. Even bi-weekly would have helped. You’d never leave a diabetic to their own devices once you diagnose and hand them insulin! Same goes for mental health. And a spouse is NOT a therapist. It’s too big of a job for a loved one to be that person. Plus, I really don’t want the job…
Clinical depression hurts. His physical body hurts when he’s severely depressed. It’s a real thing. We didn’t pay attention to this in the past but this time we did. The pain disrupted his sleep and caused him to feel extremely tired. I had to adjust a lot of my expectations about what we could do, where we could go and especially, how late we could stay up at night. It would be a killer for an extroverted spouse!
Life doesn’t stop for depression, there is no ‘pause’ button for mental illness. Bills still come, the car needs repairs, weather happens, animals have to be fed, kids still need us, and we still get sick. Covid struck for the 2nd time right around Christmas. It hit hard enough, that we didn’t even have the energy to feel badly about changing our plans with our kids. We have a phrase we apply to times like these, ‘hold it lightly’ (it works well for money too).
I love my church! Especially the people we’ve grown to love and be in community with. We never once doubted that God moved us here for our church. That He has used it to bring healing and restoration for us. We will never be the same because of it. And our church was probably more supportive during this season than many would be.
Every public prayer against depression struck a small but significant arrow in Bruce’s heart. I tried to encourage him, saying that they probably don’t fully understand how it feels. Eventually I stopped. He didn’t need another thing to add to his self-criticism, about how he fit into church culture. Victory sermons held little encouragement for us. I kept asking, “What does Victory look like?” It seemed miles away. Ultimately, I defined victory as doing the next right thing.
No small feat
During this season we had a wonderfully supportive small group. I called it ‘The group we never knew we always needed’. At our first meeting Bruce shared about his journey, and it seemed that it opened the door for everyone to follow suit. I relied on this group, more than I realized. I looked forward to our times together because I knew we would receive the love and support we craved and we would have an outlet for giving back to others, (you can struggle with illness and still be valuable to others). And darn if every major thing we prayed for was answered!
Including a grandchild for us
This group was my blessing through the past year. I cannot stress enough the value of supportive community! Whether it’s family, friends or a divinely appointed group of fellow believers, there is no substitute.
As the light begins to peek out, around the corner of this journey, a malaise has struck me. I’m ho-hum about a lot of things that are happening which would normally excite me. I’m madly in love with my new grandson! And I can’t wait till I see him again. Maybe things pale in comparison to that or maybe I’m simply tired.
But the one thing I do know, is that time will be my greatest ally. The old adage, “Time heals all wounds” has merit. It may not heal all wounds, but time is certainly a wonderful tool in the mental health toolkit. It allows me to extend grace to myself and to my husband for all that we experience on this journey. And we all know what Paul heard from Jesus himself on this topic, as he pleaded for his ‘thorn’ to be removed…
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’, Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest on me” II Cor 12:9
A holy definition of perfection