I am writing to you about my husband, who is dealing with some serious mental health challenges. I don’t really feel like I have anyone else to talk to about this, because everyone I know is going through equally stressful problems.
Some background, my husband and I have been married for 3 years. When I first met him, he was starting to get seriously ill, and his worsening health was a constant backdrop during our initial friendship and then our dating relationship. After months of terrifying and agonizing symptoms, he almost died and was hospitalized. While in the hospital, he was diagnosed with a lifelong debilitating disease. He started treatment, his health stabilized, and we later married.
During our first year of marriage, we lived with his mom. I was in school, and his disease is disabling enough that he cannot work, so this living situation was our only option. Unfortunately, he grew up in a severely dysfunctional and abusive home, and I experienced some of this during that year. It is what pressured me to get a higher paying job and insist that we move out. I also insisted that my husband start therapy, because he was showing symptoms of mental illness, even then.
While moving out of the dysfunctional home was great for me, it has been very hard for my husband. It has been a shock for him to live in a place where there isn’t daily yelling, fighting, child abuse, drug abuse, and hoarding… All that was normal in his daily existence. He was the person in the family who was expected to “fix” the results of everyone else’s dysfunction, and he surrendered all his aspirations and dreams to do so.
Now that he doesn’t have to be the fixer anymore, he feels worthless. He hates himself and tries to punish himself by refusing medicine and food. He says he knows this is illogical, but he feels like resources should not be “wasted” on a worthless person like him. His therapist says he has depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Sometimes, he is even afraid to leave our bedroom and be seen by our roommates (who love him and would never hurt him), because he spent most of his childhood locked in his room, and would be beaten if he came out. His self esteem problems are worsened because, on top of all this, his physical illness is a disability that keeps him from working. He calls himself a “bum” because I bring in the money, and he calls himself “lazy”, “weak”, and “worthless” when he can’t help around the house on days his illness flares up.
My husband is a smart, funny, enjoyable, and worthwhile person, but he cannot see it. He is an incredible spouse who treats me wonderfully, but whenever I tell him so he doesn’t believe me. I thought he would be happier, once we moved away from the dysfunction, but he has only gotten more unhappy. Without the constant distraction of his family’s drama, he is having to unpack years and years of suppressed trauma and abuse… and it’s causing him to fall apart.
He is still going to therapy, but it is clear this will be a years-long battle for him.
In the meantime, I’m struggling a lot. I am afraid and I don’t feel like I have many outlets for those fears. It is awful to watch my husband have panic attacks and say horrible things about himself. I hate not being able to have a quick solution to make him feel better. I suppose this letter is more of a vent session then a question but, if you have any advise, I would appreciate it.
Feeling Helpless and Worried