Invisible Illness… it is honestly something I never thought I would have to deal with. How can something so life changing, so detrimental to not only the sufferer’s well being but the family and friends around them be INVISIBLE? How is there no outward beacon screaming my body, mind and spirit are in pain and suffering?
I am sure that by now most of our friends and family and visitors to this blog are aware that Ken has suffered from depression for a large chunk of his life. He is termed CLINICALLY depressed which for our family means he is not simply situational (that is, if things get better outwardly… home, job, faith, etc it clears up) but chemical as well. This means that while counselling is CRUCIAL for Ken it needs to be combined with a carefully created and supervised cocktail of vitamins and medication. Thankfully more vitamins and counselling than medication but it is present in his routine regardless.
Throughout our marriage I have experienced Ken hitting what we term rock bottom more than once. That point in his life where the thoughts of failure, anger and sadness and even suicide are louder and more persistent then the knowledge that he is a good and loving success of a man. As a person looking in who has never truly experienced depression these are scary and life altering moments in my life. It is so difficult to see the one you love, your closest friend, confidant and rock be unable to truly enjoy the little things… knowing that no matter how loudly you tell them you love them and that they are a success in your mind they see failure and disappointment.
Our saving grace was communication (between us and later his therapist) and finding the most amazing therapist we have ever met. Jokingly we have said if she leaves county we go with her… but in all honesty she has helped Ken create such change in his life patterns and thought processes that I cannot seriously say we would not follow her to the ends of the earth right now.
We are lucky; Ken has always had the need to live and be with our family be louder and more persistent than the belief that we would be better without him (which for the record… he makes our lives AMAZING always has, sick or not, always will). Not so for many other people. It breaks my heart when I hear stories from friends and family about how close they have come to making a decision they could not take back, when someone tells me they or someone they are connected to has been hospitalized to get help.
We joke that Ken seems to collect people with like illnesses like a club… so many of our beloved friends and family are also battling this disorder or one like it… bipolar, anxiety… these are no longer abstract concepts but diagnoses I have discussed with more than a few people. And you know what? I am ok with that! We pride ourselves in being an open home. The kids know that Daddy has been ill, that he has been sad and it is NOT their fault. Our home is a place of safety for anyone to talk about their issues, their medication, their successes and failures. So you see a therapist? Well.. GREAT! You are on anti depressants? Thank goodness you are doing what is needed to become healthier and happier. You feel alone? Please don’t, I am here. Even if I can only be a person on the other side of the screen or a hug once in a blue moon! Come to us!
Lately I have been thinking more and more about how depression has shaped the lives of our family. Life had to stop a couple years ago so we could be there to help Ken truly get well. I don’t see this as a sacrifice but more as incentive, because at that point in our lives we were given a gift, an opportunity to work with Ken (and his therapist, psychiatrist, etc) to introduce him to a world of joy. Things that we take for granted… the highs of accomplishment, the joy of the new… these have been deadened for him. So when we stopped the world (as I like to term it) we improved life for all of us.
While it is difficult to say WHEN Ken will be considered HEALTHY on all counts, the joy I see in his process and journey has me optimistic for not cure but… remission? The voice in the back of his head telling him all those negative things will never quite be silenced, choices that are simple for me… just doing a chore I hate for example… will always require a different thought path for Ken, but we are in it together. I see my children being more understanding when someone talks about feelings or can’t describe their illness clearly. I find myself wishing I could just do a little more for those people in my life who could use the support.
This post is my way of reaching out. There is no judgement here, need an ear to listen? A shoulder to cry on? Someone to simple accept you are ill and reaching out for help? If it can’t be me or mine I hope that there is someone in your life who can be your cheerleader and support network. Depression and these other mental illnesses don’t make you less of a person, they make you just that little bit more multi faceted. And while I don’t have my fingers on a cure or a magic fix I do have the knowledge that no matter who you are you are AMAZING, you are LOVING and KIND, you are capable of SO MUCH and with the proper help and mind set so much is possible. It is for Ken, it is for my family and it is for me… We love you!