What can I do to help my wife (or encourage her to help herself) with her ... dysthymia? anxiety? depression? bipolarism? lack of gumption? laziness? when I am not in close proximity to her and she does not want to go to therapy?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
(I apologize for the length of this - as an anonymous post I know it will be hard to follow up so I'm giving as much detail as I can. Please bear with me!)
My wife has, for most of a year fairly constantly, and for perhaps a year before that off and on, lost her desire to ... do just about anything but sleep. She does still have good days from time to time, but they are greatly outnumbered by bad days, where she sleeps till noon, or later, then gets up and watches some tv or putters at something before heading back to bed, sleeping as many as 18 hours a day. She says she is not depressed, per se, and she has been depressed in the past and gone to therapy. She just can't seem to find the will to move on the things she wants/needs to get done. She has a part time career, teaching kids 2 days a week; she can manage to get out of bed on those days and do what she needs to do. She has a class that she goes to once a week that she seems to love, and though she grumbles every week about having to get up at 7 in order to get there on time, she rarely misses it. There have been times over the last 2 years when we have worked on large projects together (eg.: mounting an international exhibition), and when she has this kind of pressure thrown upon her, so to speak, she seems to handle it well, and manages to get through it, often with verve, skill and aplomb. But when she has "free time" she can't seem to make use of it. She wants to continue her artistic exploration; she wants to practice piano; she wants to bake; she wants to keep the house clean... but she doesn't, and she beats herself up for it, which leads her to feel crappy, which makes it that much harder to get out of bed the next day.
I am living and working (and have been for almost 2 years) about a 4 hour bus ride from home, staying in an apartment here, and returning home 1-3 times a month for periods of 2-5 days at a time. My wife (of almost 4 years) is at home. We both know the situation is not ideal, but the work is a great learning opportunity for me that can't be found elsewhere. When I have suggested that I quit here and move back, she says she couldn't live with herself if I gave up my dreams for her. My time here is set to finish in just 3 months, when I'll return home, and try to find work there. When I am home, I try to be as encouraging as I know how. I help her clean the house, or do it myself. I often cook meals when I'm home. I try to spend "quality time" with her. I buy her sweets and flowers. I try to talk her through her worries/problems. When I'm not at home we Skype 3-5 times a week (sometimes for hours) and email (numerous times) daily.
She has been to see a number of doctors. Only when things get really bad will she finally relent to my requests that she go. The doctors she has seen have told her (1st doctor) "you're fine. you just need to establish a regular sleeping pattern - here are some sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills; (2nd doctor) "you're depressed and you'll be that way forever unless you take these anti-depressants"; (3rd doctor) "sounds like depression to me, here's some pills". I think we haven't found the right doctor, but she doesn't want to see any more. She has an aversion to any kind of medication and either doesn't take the medication she's subscribed, or doesn't take them long enough to give them a chance to show results. She doesn't want to go to therapy - she says she doesn't think it'll help. I think she's scared of something but won't tell me so she just says it won't help. Therapy in these parts [we live in her home country, foreign to me] is scarce, and/or expensive (we are living not too far above the poverty line). I can't say 100% that it doesn't exist here, but I know of no sliding scale options - she says they don't exist here.
She seems to need constant assurance from me that I love her. She asks me over and over "do you love me?" I answer that of course I do, and that she needn't ask because the answer will always be the same (and sometimes when I'm frustrated I say she needn't ask because the answer is the same as when she asked 5 minutes ago!). Any indication of anger or frustration from me tends to be taken as a sign that I've given up on her or don't love her anymore, no matter how much I explain that is not the case.
One final point is that I am perhaps "not fully functional" myself. I have in the past been unofficially diagnosed with dysthymia, and been in and out of therapy. I've been in pretty good shape the last 2 or 3 years, though I have bad days or months here and there. I get up and work 10 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week, and can function fine there, but many of the same issues that plague her also plague me too (inability to move on projects in a timely manner is a big one), though not to nearly so severe a degree.
When we were dating, and when we were first married, she was bright, cheerful, and vivacious (though certainly introverted and shy), with brief periods of self-doubt and neediness. Now I only get *brief glimpses* of that high-spirited, glowing woman that I fell in love with. What can I do? Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated.