I have gone on in great length in my post about being the “Healthy One” within a family dealing with clinical depression. I have discussed how sometimes it is tiring, sometimes it is empowering… and sometimes you simply have to NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Which I swear is one of THE hardest skills to learn in the process of creating a path to healthier living.
Keeping in mind this is purely from my own personal experience as the wife of a person coming out of severe depression and not something I have polled anyone about. BUT, one of the big things Ken and I have come to realize through his therapist and our many, many discussions is that the outward signs of frustration he feels and his anger at himself at his inability to JUST DO THIS THING often come off as anger directed at myself.
This is inadvertent and nothing so severe as a physical altercation. Rather, when I do my part to keep him off the path of procrastination he gets short and testy (shush Ken I could not think of a less college giggle worthy word). This instantly reads as mad at me in my eyes and as if he is trying to deflect the responsibility and the need to change onto my shoulders. In fact, this is his outward manifestation of his inner struggle. There is nothing more upsetting than wanting change so badly you can see it, hear it and almost touch it but come up time and time again against your own brain which is unwilling to be as flexible and quick as you would like.
When someone is already dealing with an inability to easily feel and express positive and life affirming emotions those less savory and more explosive attitudes and emotions always seem to leak out more. Where a more balanced and “healthy” person can internalize and realize that they are actually frustrated with their own limitations, the dialogue in Ken’s mind inhibits all of that. Often he will get growly and short because he cannot get past his own blockage, and my reminder of need and focus reinforce his knowledge that he is still in the middle of a process.
I have yet to build my own thick skin, and probably never will. I think that as long as we are dealing with some of the bigger inhibitors head on I will also have to deal with my own emotional response to not only the situation but Ken’s reactions to said situations. This is a struggle but it is worth the work and the tears and the loooooong discussions reminding each other of how much progress we have seen and how we really are each other’s rock.
The not taking it personal is really my biggest struggle, but another front runner is PATIENCE! If there is anything healing a family with depression isn’t it is QUICK. I can’t even tell you how often growing up I was told patience is a virtue. Greeeeaaaatttt… it is also one of the hardest things to develop. I swear we are hardwired for the wish for instant gratification from birth. The initial bounce back from deep depression is quick. Medication, the immediate therapy has a bit of a shock the system affect. BUT after that initial stopping of all things horrible and (for some) suicidal the real work begins. And with all things worth doing… it is hard and uphill.
What else… patience… well there is also being ADAPTABLE… if there is something all of this has taught me is that when things are difficult and confusing and scary it is up to me, the one who can change somewhat quickly to become adaptable. With patience this is another skill that I find I have to work on. It goes hand and hand with COMPROMISE (which is not always 50/50 I might add, especially when one of you has major trouble adapting their lifestyle and compromising on things like time and process). You have to adapt to the realization that one of you CAN change and compromise (not always happily) quicker and more smoothly than the other. If there is anything that dealing with depression in my family has shown me it is that I have a great capacity for change. Granted sometimes it is kicking and screaming or somewhat sullenly but I can do it.
Sometimes you have to compromise on a change, adapt for it occurring more slowly than you would like and have great patience with the entire process. This leads me to the last major skill on my list – FAITH… not so much religious faith (though if you can find that and it works for you run with it) but a faith or belief in your process or in our case – Ken’s plan and our family’s journey. If you cannot believe that it will work… it won’t. If you cannot have faith that the work you put into this entire journey will pay off eventually… it won’t. One of the most amazing feelings is to throw yourself wholeheartedly into something and have faith in the process and have it work out. My faith in myself, my husband and my family has grown in leaps and bounds as we have overcome obstacles and stimulated growth in many different aspects of our lives and ourselves.
So to recap… Good grief, is taking things not personally HARD… but then again, anything that is worth doing/having/accomplishing does not come easily. As well, a person in ANY situation can work on the skills I have listed – patience, adaptability, compromise and faith/belief in ones self and so much more. I am sure there are many more skills I am currently cultivating in my journey with my family towards a healthy whole, but these are the ones that stand out. Our process is fluid and life altering and… AMAZING… and I wish nothing more than to be an assist for others.
So for those of you who are currently in the midst of all this – keep going, reach out when you need to, dig deep inside yourself for strength and lean on us if you want. And for those in the support structure… well done! I hope you can find the strength in yourself to cultivate these skills and any others that you find crucial. None of us are alone if we just peek outside our little bubbles of self…
Please feel free to comment. I would also love suggestions of new topics to cover! Thank you everyone for taking the time to read my random rambling. BLESS!