How to help a partner in crisis?
February 24, 2013 7:28 AM   Subscribe

About 6 months ago my partner told me he had stopped taking his Prozac. He was on a low 'maintenance dose' and had been feeling better. Now things have gone belly up and going back on the meds hasn't helped. He's drinking heavily and can barely function. How can I find him the help he needs and also help him myself with little money and no support network whilst looking after our young daughter?

He had suffered from periods of extreme stress and anxiety previously both whilst off and on the medications, these periods usually lasted for a few weeks and ended with him quitting his job (which was part of the reason for the stress along with generalised feelings of anxiety and impostor syndrome). Once he had a few weeks to calm down he would find another job and go back to normal. He was working as an IT contractor so he could afford to do this especially whilst the economy was riding high.

A few months after stopping the pills he had to leave the country for a month to visit his sick father, and when he came back he felt the return of the anxiety and depression, all not helped by me having a miscarriage whilst he was away and the death of a close friend of ours a few months before. He went back on the pills but usually when he goes through this he has a period of a few weeks where he feels chronically depressed and shaky, anxious and drinks heavily before the pills kick in and he comes right again. This shakiness and anxiety seems to be a side effect of the pills but it's hard to separate the effects of the pills from the drinking and his mental state generally. This time things are worse. He is now 3 months into this and can barely function. The GP (we are in the UK) has prescribed Diazepam to help temporarily but this seems to have little effect, and I am worried that addiction may set in soon. He has been sent on a CBT course which he has completed and has a referral to the NHS mental health provider, but he has a long wait for actual therapy. Our finances are dire and we literally do not have the money to pay privately at the moment. I feel he needs to see a Psychiatrist to discuss changing his meds as it seems that the Prozac isn't working anymore but the GP refuses to refer him until he stops drinking. His drinking seems to be level at about 1 bottle of wine per night, plus a few beers over the weekends on top. He stopped drinking for a week cold turkey but this had no effect on his mood; I am not sure if it this is because it wasn't long enough or because the drinking is not the reason for the meds not working. Of course, drinking helps him function, but obviously he can't keep on like this, and he knows it. we both see that alcohol and his addictive personality is a major problem. He spends his time sitting in bed telling me he cannot cope and that he feels scared and destroyed whilst I feel shattered and try to cope with our child on our own.
I don't think he is suicidal but I am so worried about this spiral. I barely have the energy to look after our daughter and myself and am exhausted by this. We have no support network and no family to help. His primary concerns seem to be centred around our finances, his feelings of inadequacy, his lack of belief in his work ability, as well the usual existential stuff. He is able to function at work but barely and I am concerned that he is going to break down completely and then lose his job, and then we will be truly stuffed. I realise this isn't really a question as much as a long story of woe, but does anyone have any ideas how I can help him, what sort of professional help he needs and what I should be expecting from him, from his GP and from myself. How do other people cope with this without going crazy themselves?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
General advice is to put on your ownoxygen mask first. Suggest you get your own therapy referral but in the very short term meditation may help you find an oasis of peace. If you are calm and centered you will have more energy and be able to look after your daughter and your self. Memail as there are specific people and groups I can put you in touch with in the UK.
posted by zia at 7:48 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree that you need to make sure that you are as stable and supported as possible during this time.

For him, it seems like he needs to see a psychiatrist as soon as possible. GPs shouldn't be managing psychiatric meds. If he needs to stop drinking for that to happen, is he willing to do that? It sounds like he's stopped in the past on his own volition(?); is he willing to stop or cut back on the drinking and start attending AA meetings, even if just to show the GP that he's serious?
posted by jaguar at 7:57 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

His GP has identified that he needs to stop drinking before treatment can go forward. That's the professional help angle. If he can't stop drinking on his own, for a longer period than one week, then he needs AA or something similar. He is not the only one who has had to do this before.

Nor are you the only one who's been in your situation. To prevent going crazy yourself, you need to apply your own oxygen mask first as zia said. You should go to Al-Anon, or whatever functional equivalent will fit your needs best.
posted by RainyJay at 8:14 AM on February 24, 2013

the GP refuses to refer him until he stops drinking

I'm sorry, he has made the choice to proritise alcohol over you and his own child at your family's expense. You seem to be in denial by your statement that you are worried "addiction may set in soon". He is an addict right now and has been since the doctor told him to stop drinking and he didn't.

Contact your local women's shelter, Carers' Centre or your council's social services department to get access to services and hopefully quick placement into a small flat of your own. Living with someone that is concurrently choosing to feed their addictions and resisting treatment (by not following the doctor's orders) is like trying to save a drowning person. He will literally pull you and your daughter under to keep himself afloat. Right now everyone in your house is putting your husband first, as a parent you cannot do this - you must put your child first before you cause irreparable harm to the child and/or lose custody temporarily to the state. Being proactive is your only hope to rebuild your family. From my very long and sad personal experience I can tell you that these long conversations you are having with him about his mental state, enabling him by serving him dinner while he sits on the couch drinking, sacrificing your child's stability, and your own denial are making things worse - for him, for you and especially for your child. Without a family support network you need to rely on the State, and access all the help (housing, money, therapy) they have - usually as a resident in a women's shelter the waitlists are waived. Although gutted, they will be able to help you while he expends his energy on helping himself and your energy goes towards caring for your child. I hear exactly how close to the edge you are, and mediation is not going to help you, nor will a once a week Al-Anon meeting; this is a crisis.

Perhaps losing his family (hopefully for everyone's sake it will be temporary) will impress him with how serious this crisis is and he will begin to be responsible for his health and take steps like applying for a leave from his job based on disability, and checking himself into a hospital/rehab centre for intensive help.
posted by saucysault at 8:44 AM on February 24, 2013 [14 favorites]

Forget helping him; help yourself and your daughter. Follow saucysault's advice exactly; bail.

(Once the immediate issues have been sorted and some sort of stability returns to your life, work on building a support network)

I am concerned that he is going to break down completely and then lose his job, and then we will be truly stuffed

You already are truly stuffed; your daughter is not growing up in a stable environment. [From personal experience] I cannot stress enough what a mistake it is to think you can 'manage' this, that your daughter is better off living with a depressive drunk than doing a stint in a women's shelter or in Grandma's basement in another town or whatever.

Just forget about his problems and issues -- for now, at least -- you really do not have a choice here with a child involved.

He stopped drinking for a week cold turkey but this had no effect on his mood

Google "dry drunk"...

Possibly this is all sounding pretty appalling right now and you are wondering what sort of awful people we are -- your partner is having problems? Forget him! Run! -- but if it was possible for you to assist him into functioning that would've happened, and if he was going to stop drinking, that would've happened, too. If you were not a parent you could stick around and have a dreary life with this self-pitying alcoholic if you wished, but you are a parent so: get out. AFAIK the UK is not a place where you will end up sleeping on the streets; as said, access all available sources of support. There are lots of things out there trying to assist people to get out of abusive relationships. He may not be deliberately abusive but the end result is...yeah, it doesn't really matter why or how he is making your and your daughter's life crap, just that he is and you need to get your kid to a healthier place.

I don't doubt you are exhausted &c. Make the push to get yourself out, telling whatever social workers or whomever that you are exhausted and in need of all available supports. Your energy will return once it's not being constantly siphoned off by a moaning drunk. You do not want to end up in a position where social workers are in your life not to assist you but to question the suitability of your daughter's living environment; you need to act, tired as you are. It will be a scary transition but your life will be far, far better.

Your idea that "drinking helps him function" is worrying and exactly the sort of thing you should be addressing with your own counselor. Forget worrying about getting him seeing professionals and get yourself to one as soon as possible.

Vaya con dios, OP, and feel free to mail me if you wish.
posted by kmennie at 9:40 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you sure his GP refuses to refer him, or is this something your husband claims the GP told him?
posted by discopolo at 9:44 AM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Are you sure his GP refuses to refer him, or is this something your husband claims the GP told him?

Yeah, some of what you've said, OP, sounds a bit backward. Someone I know went to several GPs asking for diazepam to help quit drinking. Each and every one of them said "OK, I'll give you one prescription for diazepam, but you must go and see a mental health expert. Here's a referral."

If his GP isn't doing this, find a new one.
posted by Diag at 9:59 AM on February 24, 2013

« Older Wellness Recovery Action Plan   |   Ideas for leftover chateaubriand besides... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.