I have battled depression for as long as I can recall. For the vast majority of my life, I fought to suppress it on my own. Finally, a little more than a year ago, my wife told me she wanted a divorce. 14 months after the birth of our son. The son, and an 8 year old stepson, are the trap. Don’t get me wrong. Ever since I was six, my one goal in life was to grow up to be a wonderful husband and father. I love my son and stepson so much. But, I am now trapped by duty. And my wife, of course. We have not gotten divorced yet. I’m not really sure why, though financial considerations are certainly a reason. She can’t afford to live on her own, and I can’t afford to live and pay for child care. Plus, however badly she treats me and hurts me, I still love her and feel the need to take care of her, though no longer hope to remain together, or even think that it would be possible. So, the last almost 15 months have been ridiculously painful, stressful and just plain too hard to handle easily. The depression has always been there, and rather severe anxiety issues, but the marriage and child issues were what pushed it past the point of suppressability. So, early on in the unravelling, I sought professional help.
First in the form of a psychotherapist, who referred me to a psychologist. Then a psychiatrist, whom I’ve been working with for more than a year. 3 different therapists my psychiatrist referred me to. A 4-week stint in partial hospitalization (8-hour varied group therapy thing) and to now, psychiatrist but no therapist. I have tried many different medications, none of which had any effect on me whatsoever. And now, all I take is Ritalin, which helps give me energy to do all the things that my life requires of me. My home life is as stressful as anything I can imagine, and my work life only slightly less so. My wife barely does anything to help in taking care of our kids, so I have to do almost all of it myself as well. She either sits on the computer, or goes out with her friends 4 or 5 nights a week. I am constantly in a state of bad depression, and more and more stress keeps piling on. I very, very seldom get even a short reprieve. Hardly ever get even a short break from the stress and depression. And, to add even more to all that, I need to constantly hide my emotional state, and always have to act alright. I need to seem happy to my children. I don’t want to burden my wife, who has serious depression issues of her own, especially since she feels the added guilt of believing she is the cause of it, though that doesn’t cause her to modify her behavior to make anything easier for me. And, as for my family and friends, I just can’t burden them with fear for me, or concern about something they can’t do anything about. Overt sympathy is worse than none, and everybody else has their own problems, issues, concerns and fears and whatever. They don’t need my problems to add to their own. I don’t want to be the cause of any kind of detraction from somebody else’s happiness. The psychologist did suggest I had a masochistic personality issue among other things. A martyr complex of sorts. And while that is most likely true after a fashion, it’s a really core part of me. Not something I can really change my thinking about. I am kind of fat and pretty hairy. But, other than that and a minor social phobia, I have a rather high opinion of myself. Self-esteem issues aren’t a real problem.
I understand cognitive therapy. My stepson has a mental disability called partial agenesis of the corpus collosum. The white fiber that communicates between the two halves of his brain barely developed in the womb. So I learned a lot about the workings of the brain, brain mapping, the various functions of the sections of the brain. I understand how cognitive therapy works, how repetetive thought patterns create and strengthen neuropathways, and unused ones wither and fade. But I have been incapable of bringing this about. No knowledge of triggers, no coping strategies work. I am very occasionally able to distract myself for a short time, but when the distraction ends, it comes back harder and hammers me down to make up for it. So now, I even fear to distract myself, I fear what is going to come after, and that it will be worse than just being there the whole time. The thought of death is very appealing, but I can’t take that particular route. There is a saying from a book that I loved, “Duty is heavier than a mountain, death lighter than a feather.” It says it well. Though I would love the escape of death, I will not abandon my duty. To my sons. To my wife. To my family and friends. Or to my coworkers, along with which I serve as a union steward. So, while I can’t take the easy way out, I am getting very very scared that I am going to snap some way. I am scared that try as I will, fight as I will, I am steadily losing my ability to deal with my life. Even my kids, whom I love, are a stressor and burden that push me closer to that edge. I don’t know what kind of snap I’m talking about. I’m definately not the homocidal type. I will go way out of my way to keep from causing even a little pain, even from people who hurt me. Maybe I will lose touch with reality? But that would make me a burden on others, who have to deal with, care for or support me. There really doesn’t seem to be an acceptable conclusion to this. I have been trying to help myself. I have been trying to get help. But nothing has worked, even a tiny bit. I really don’t know what to do now. I can’t descend into terminal madness, I can’t kill myself, and I can’t stop the pain and emptiness. I would be very grateful if you have any ideas of what I can do. I know I hurt my chances by feeling that I can’t beat it, but I will try anything that won’t put more burdens on my family.
A. I know that you sought help in the past without much success. Despite this, I would strongly advise that you try again because all therapists and all treatments are not equal.
At the end of your letter, it seems that you recognize you are about to lose control. While you are aware that you are about to lose control, you are not sure what that loss of control is going to look like. You fear that you are going to “snap.”
It is important that you heed your own words. This unpredictability must be frightening not only for you but also your family. You must try to seek help immediately.
You need more help than I can offer in a letter. I know you have been to three therapists already. You have also tried medication and have been to a partial hospitalization program. I know that it can be frustrating to continue to have the energy and the will or even the desire to search for treatment when you are feeling “pain and emptiness” but I urge you to keep trying. You mentioned that you are plagued by the idea that you can’t be helped but the fact that you wrote a letter asking for help indicates that at some level, you know there may be hope for you. And if you think there is hope for you you’d be correct. It’s never too late to find help but finding it starts with you being open and willing to seek it.
If you don’t have the will to seek help for yourself, consider the well-being of your children. You said that their mother is facing her own issues with depression. Because she may be consumed by her own problems it may be challenging for her to provide the proper emotional care and support for the children. Research shows that mothers who are depressed are more likely to have children who are depressed. With your wife unable to fully care for your children they now more than ever need their father to be well.
Also, you mentioned that part of your stress comes from having to care for the children. That task has to be especially challenging because their mother has her own issues and you said that she parties with her friends four or five nights a week. You also said that you have one child who has a mental disability. Raising children can be extremely challenging especially when you have to fight every day to keep yourself mentally stable and you have little help from your wife in caring for the children. It’s okay to feel burdened. Almost everyone would feel stressed if they were facing similar circumstances. It does not make you a “bad” person or a “bad” father to feel that way. But if you feel that way then it is imperative you recognize when extra help is warranted.
At this juncture, you are faced with a choice, which is to continue trying to struggle on your own and to refuse to get help or to reach out for help when it is clearly needed. Make the correct choice because as a father and a person who seems to recognize that you are on the verge of losing control, it is your responsibility to find help. Don’t make the wrong choice. Choose to get help and be responsible. Children need and deserve parents who make their well-being a priority.
Please recognize that now is the time for you to seek treatment again, even if you’ve tried 1000 times in the past and those past attempts were unsuccessful. The idea is to keep searching for a good therapist or treatment team until you find a way to get better and to stop the pain and suffering you are enduring. Know there is hope for you to get better but that help will not come to you; it does require you to actively seek it.
Keep trying, never give up hope and do it for your children who desperately need at least one parent who is psychologically well because their current and future emotional health and well-being are at stake.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Dec 2008
Randle, K. (2008). Unending Depression and Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/12/01/unending-depression-and-anxiety/