How do I pursue my career and not leave my husband in a depressive mess?
February 16, 2012 10:14 PM   Subscribe

After 2 years in a crappy job, I finally have an opportunity for more work with another company! So excited! Problem 1: the work is 1000 miles away. Problem 2: I’m afraid if I leave for periods at a time my husband might fall into depression.

The situation: I’ve been working on the side as an on-call environmental consultant. They haven’t had enough work to bring me on full-time, so I haven’t been able to leave my current full time job. I’ve had a few projects I can do on weekends/evenings, but the jobs have been few & far between (although I keep hearing that more work and a possible full-time position is “just around the corner”. )

But soon they will have “more work than people”, and they would love to have me help out. This is my opportunity to make more connections in the company, and gain more experience. I have really enjoyed working there so far, and have been impressed with the people I’ve worked with. There is enough work I could go part time in my current crappy job, and possibly leave it altogether. But as I mentioned, the work is far away – in another state. They would be willing to have me work for 7-10 days at a time, and would pay for my airfare & hotel. I could totally live this lifestyle for the short term. I could possibly even move into a full time position there! But I married and spouse is in school, so moving is not an option right now. He’s finishing soon, but finding work for him in his field in this new area would be unlikely.

So I could probably work for a week to a week and a half at a time, which I would be stoked about! But my husband has been having bouts of depression lately, and I’m afraid if I leave for these periods he’ll sink deeper and fall apart. Background: Mr. feidr2 is bipolar II, with a tendency towards depressive side of the spectrum. He’s been medicated for several years (yay Lamictal!), but still has these down periods where he has difficulty following through with tasks, is forgetful, has some self-hatred, and is somewhat agoraphobic. He’s in the final stages of his degree where he’s just finishing his thesis and no longer taking classes. He doesn’t have a vehicle, so he spends most of his day at home, with very limited social interactions, which drives him crazy. He’s tried therapy briefly a couple of times, and doesn’t want to try it again, despite my pleading. I give him tons of ideas for people to get together with, professors he should talk to about future jobs, etc., but during these depressive periods he never follows through with my suggestions (surprise surprise, you can’t get other people to do the things you want them to do unless they want to!)

So, while I would love to go away for some periods to work on the new potential job, I’m terrified of leaving husband, knowing he may not get any social interaction for days at a time. (But bonus, he’s getting a scooter, which may help him get out of the house more.) Obviously we need to have a big talk about this, but I’m afraid he’ll support my career to the detriment of his own mental health.

Question 1: to what degree should I pursue my goals, and let him try to take care of himself?

Question 2: I want to show the company that I really want to work more for them, but how do I convey that there are personal circumstances that limit the amount of time I can work for them? They understand I can’t move down there right now.
posted by feidr2 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is coming from someone who doesn't really know much about the medication your husband is taking or his condition (I've been diagnosed with Clinical Depression, but not as a result of another illness) in general, but is it possible to have it changed/the dose upped so it's more effective? Doesn't sound normal for him to continue to have such common (since you mention it possibly affecting your work) episodes?

I would absolutely try to move closer to your workplace after his graduation (if its compatible with his job or lack thereof) if possible, though.
posted by Trexsock at 10:49 PM on February 16, 2012

"Terrified" is not a good place to be and it is impossible for us to tell how realistic your fears are. However, here are a few thoughts:
1. you need to have that talk with your husband. this is going to be very good practice for talking about difficult things together. lay the groundwork, saything (assuming this true) that in the big picture your marriage is more important than a job so, while this job sounds good to you, you need his help to figure out if it is realistic for your family. then let him know that you want him to be honest about his thoughts and feelings and you will do the same.
2. your husband is an adult. now, while he is not mired in depression, the two of you can do some plannning for the next depression as well as an honest assessment of what he can do to prevent or mitigate it. Diet, exercise and medication are usually the big three of self-care that need constant monitoring. If he does support you taking the job, then strategize together what can be done to make you feel more confident he is OK while you are gone.
3. if he does sink into a depression, what does the trajectory usually look like? how often do they occur, how long to they last? would you have enough flexibility on this new job to come early or delay a trip if needed? if depression is a possiblity but not likely between now and graduation, then you can treat it as an ordinary illness requiring your support if it does come up.
4. is it a good plan for your family (you and husband together) to move to the area of the new job after he graduates? if it isn't even going to work in the long term, why start? (you don't sound like a couple that would do well in an extended long-distance scenario)
posted by metahawk at 11:24 PM on February 16, 2012

if it isn't even going to work in the long term, why start?

Well, because it could be a great career move for the OP. If she gets this experience on her CV she could hopefully then use it to get a job in the same city where her husband gets a job after he graduates. I take it the job is in a field you're trying to break into (environmental consulting) rather than the same field as the job you're already in?

I think you should talk to your husband and work with him to find a way to make it possible for you to go. Writing a thesis is a difficult time for anyone, and your husband needs likely needs professional help to see it through. I agree he should see a doctor (preferably a psychiatrist) to see if he can get his dose upped or if he can take an additional medication. He also should get on-board with the therapy idea. Maybe his school offers group therapy which could suit him as it sounds like part of his problem is not spending enough time with people?

It's not your responsibility to babysit your husband. He needs to pick up the slack and start taking better care of himself. It isn't fair on you that you should sacrifice your future, and it sounds like he knows this. So stop beating yourself up and go have that conversation.
posted by hazyjane at 12:24 AM on February 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Is there anyway he could do some of his thesis work remotely and maybe visit you a few times?
posted by spunweb at 1:31 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are not responsible for someone else's mental health. I can't say that enough. He is responsible for his mental health and that includes making the effort to get a therapist, get out of the house, etc. Your responsibility as his spouse is to encourage him to get help, which it sounds like you are doing. The best you could do is maybe research other kinds of therapy and therapists for him. Take the job, knowing that it is a short term option to help your career. Good luck.
posted by gt2 at 1:42 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Can you imagine how much more depressed he would be knowing he kept you from living the life that you deserve?

It is easy to get drawn into a loved one's illness at the detriment of your own well being. Do the hard thing. Live your life. Be happy so that your misery isn't a burden to him. He is going to be sick and sad if you are there are not. Let him love you as a happy, fulfilled person. Let him feel proud that he was able to let you walk in the light.
posted by myselfasme at 5:46 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's also possible that leaving for periods of time will cause him to do more - not only because if you're not there he has to do the things that you'd normally be doing, but because he might be thinking that if he tries at things he's going make mistakes and look stupid. That won't bother him if he doesn't have anyone around to be embarrassed in front of, and he can freely make mistakes and correct himself without anyone seeing.
posted by Fen at 6:06 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

He also should get on-board with the therapy idea. Maybe his school offers group therapy which could suit him as it sounds like part of his problem is not spending enough time with people?

Seriously - even if you do not take this amazing opportunity, spouse has medical issues. These need to be addressed. Maybe tweaking his meds and therapy won't make him any better than he is now, but the more likely outcome is that his life and your marriage will be better if he takes more responsibility for his health.

Congratulations on the offer!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:49 AM on February 17, 2012

this is a question to discuss with him.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:34 AM on February 17, 2012

Thank you everyone for your advice. I needed some more perspective. We did have a sit-down and discussed things, and while he's no closer to going to a therapist, he is in a better place these days, so I'm less worried about leaving him for periods (not the best solution, I know, but I'll take whatever I can get).
posted by feidr2 at 7:32 PM on March 16, 2012

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