My wife recently left a note by the bed that hit me right between the eyes. And it hurt.
“I’m not sure what is going to make you better, maybe nothing,” she wrote. “I’m not sure what else there is out there to try. Right now, I feel like we are back in a bad place, and I am finding myself exhausted and apathetic.”
It got worse.
‘We both deserve more’
“I’m not asking you to fake it,” she wrote. “I’m asking you to be aware that anxiety and depression have control over both our lives right now, and that is not how I want to live. We both deserve more. I don’t want this to make you feel worse but I have to be honest with you, and this is how I feel.”
Then came the part that really stung.
“You are struggling right now, well so am I. I am juggling three kids’ schedules with school and soccer and trying to find time to help my mom, who is battling cancer. I am getting up at 6 a.m. every morning to try and get my head on straight and get everyone what they need.”
That note came not long ago after one of those miserable days. I was so consumed with how badly I felt that I forgot to even ask how my mother-in-law’s latest chemo treatment went. We ended up talking about my depression most of the night.
When morning came, that note I found on my dresser jarred me back to reality. It made me realize how selfish I had become because of my all-consuming battle with depression.
Depression: A Selfish Disease
My friends and family probably wouldn’t describe me as a “selfish” person. But one of the consequences of mental illness, or at least in my case, is that it’s hard to get beyond yourself, even though investing in others is one of the things that can make us feel better. Even if just for a little while.
It also made me realize that those who have loved ones battling mental illness need encouragement and support as much as we do. Only I don’t always know how to give it. When my depression is at its worst, I’m utterly incapable of investing in others, in really being there for them. And that’s sad.
So what to do about it?
I don’t have the answers except to wage war on my illness every day and try to defeat it. By exercising. By taking my meds. By working hard on the things my therapist has told me to do.
I’ve advanced in my recovery since the morning that note was left waiting for me to read. My wife gets the credit. I’m lucky to have a supportive companion who offers support and love—sometimes the sort of tough love we all need.
Jack Smith also hosts a personal blog at onemanswar.blogspot.com