When the shoe is on the other foot

I haven’t written in a while, partly because I’ve been busy (had lovely 3 day weekend at home with son whilst the other two went away – which was good, and have been doing lots of sewing – possibly good and possibly an indicator of ignoring my problems) and partly because I haven’t known what to write.

You see there’s been a lot of anxiety and stress going on, usual kind of symptoms, mamoth task to get out of bed and face the day, hunched shoulders, haunted look, sighing.  Except this time around it’s been my husband, not me.  And this is my blog about my mental health, not about his, it’s not really any of my place to write about.  But I am part of my family and what happens to the rest of them has an effect on me, and this has had an impact. 

So, after some deliberation I’ve decided to write about the things what he describes as as “stress” have on me.  I won’t say any more about how it effects him, other than his work is certainly a big causal factor. (Yes, yes, I know I should really have discussed with him what he thought about me writing a post, but trust me that would not be an easy conversation to have right now).

My mind has been whirling with conflicting thoughts.  Unsurprisingly guilt (unsurprising as pretty much everything seems to be guilt inducing, not because it’s logical).  “Oh my god he’s caught Nut Job Flu from me”.  Clearly this is not possible.  But then again, on top of everything he has going on work wise, he has exposure to the same stresses that our as I do, plus the added extra of having to cope with me being rubbish for so long – and he has picked up a lot of the slack as well as supporting me. There is only so much one man can do.

Then there’s the (thankfully small and easily squashable voice) saying “see, this is what it’s like, this is what I’ve been going through, now do you understand?”.

Then there’s the urge to do as much as I can for him – make his lunches, buy him treats, etc. It’s heartbreaking to see someone you love feeling rubbish. You want to fix it so badly and yet you don’t have the power to change someone elses brain chemistry and reorganise their workplace. So I have to be really careful with this urge, lest it turns into smothering and fussing.  Which he hates.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about listening. And remembering how frustrating I feel it to be innudated with solutions when it’s all I can cope with to mutter something vague about not feeling right. So lots of cuddling, lots of paying attention to body language, lots of quiet hugs, non judgemental expressions of empathy at his situation. And trying to get the balance right between serious and humour, silence and questions, listening and offering ideas.  Obviously I don’t get it right all the time (having renounced my superpowers to come and live on earth) but I like to think that my experience helps me help him a little better.

And I’ve been raging at the injustice of this. I’m finally feeling better and now this, grr, it’s not fair, stamps feet.

Then there’s the gratefulness for the timing, phew, isn’t it great that I’m feeling better at the moment and can cope with this.  I’m really pleased I can help support him, take up the slack for him, it’s not all of the solution but it’s a help.

And sometimes there’s grumpiness at him. Not at his feelings, but at his inability to express them.  The experience of communication shutdown from the other side. When I’m in the right place I have sympathy and empathy with this. But when I’m running around, dealing with kids and housework and I think he’s ok and then suddenly he’s lurking pathetically in doorways and not making sense and I haven’t noticed/realised he’s feeling rubbish I just get cross – “if you’re not feeling up to doing something why don’t you just tell me clearly and then leave me space to do it, I don’t have time for this”. Then once I realise, it’s back to guilt again. 

And then there are the times I do realise but I’m so busy with the kids I can’t do what I want to to help. And trying when they’re around is counterproductive as they sense someone else getting attention and come and sabotage my efforts.  So I just have to ignore him and get on with things and hope it’s for the best.

So all in all, a bit of a rolleroaster around here, with good days and bad, times when all is fine and forgotten and times when we’re suddenly catapulted back into the midst of it again for no apparent reason and have to ride out the next wave.

All horrifingly familiar and yet totally alien at the same time.


6 thoughts on “When the shoe is on the other foot

  1. I could have written this myself – except I probably wouldn’t have come up with anything nearly as clever as “Nut Job Flu”. I love that! 🙂

    My husband has been going through a hard time lately, and I have experienced everything that you describe above. Guilt, anger, satisfaction (just a teeny, tiny bit), frustration, irritation, more guilt, more anger. It’s exhausting but in a different way from when I’m dealing with all of it in my own head.

    And it’s so hard to tell when I should step in, when I should try to talk to him, when I should leave him alone, when I should just put my hand on his arm and tell him I love him. I’ve also realized even more how much I try to “therapize” him – inadvertently asking him all the kinds of questions that my therapist would ask me in the same situation. I would find those questions helpful BUT he doesn’t appreciate them quite so much. In fact, it drives him nuts sometimes and he asks me just please to stop answering him with questions all the time. It reminds me of my therapist who told me that when her boys were growing up, they made reference to the F word – but it wasn’t the word that you and I think of. It was Feelings. 🙂 Hilarious!

    One positive thing I’ve noticed about my husband’s slump is that it’s nice to help him for a change. It’s kind of scary to take a turn being the strong, supportive one, but it feels good, too. I must be doing better than before if I can offer support to anyone else, right?

    I hope that things improve for your husband and by extension you as well. Will be thinking of you.

    • The next best thing to being “normal”? Having a Family-Mental-Health-Issues-Twin! Hope it doesn’t last long for either of us but in the mean time it’s good to share. Hooray for looking down.

      Oh, and Nut Job Flu is one of Fiona from Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers terms, fraid I can’t claim the credit for that one.

      • Can’t take credit either, it was Hubby came up with it first! Curiously enough, he’s going through a bit of a hard time at the moment as well, it tends to happen after I’ve had an episode and am starting to pull out of it. We are so looking forward to the day that we don’t have to play mental health issues tennis any more. But, each time it happens, we both get a bit better at handling it, so that’s something. Baby steps!

      • Kind of nice to know we’re not the only ones (although I’d rather no one had to go through this). We often joke that we make a full working person between us, taking it in turns to have various ailments.

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