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Sometimes, We Need a Little Tough Love

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

7 thoughts on “Sometimes, We Need a Little Tough Love”

  1. I am just so sad. The love of my life is so depressed, and I find myself thinking like Jack’s wife. I would move heaven and earth to help, but I feel so alone and on my own, and I feel exactly like her: depression and anxiety have control of both of our lives right now, and this is not how I want to live. I love him, but I’m reaching the point where I’m going to have to let him go or lose myself.

  2. Thanks for sharing. It’s amazing how depression seems to turn an almost selfless person into a selfish person. Who is completely consumed by this illness. And this phenomenon then perpetuates the guilt and shame cycle of depression and not being (or even not being able to be) there for those you care about you the most. Yes, I must remember, too, one day at a time and that this too shall pass. We are not our illness. We are people who struggle with a disorder. Good luck to you and your family on your journey to health and happiness.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Depression is not easy and one of the worst parts of it is how all consuming it is! We all just want it to stop and it controls us in every way. It sounds like you and your family will get through it with honesty and communication-both equally important.

  4. It’s so true, about depression. You get so distrated, when it’s happenening to you. That your not even aware., you have it!! It’s so hard. You have to drag yourself, out of it. Or it will take a hold of you, it’s hard to shake. Do it, one step at a time. (Baby steps)! Or it’s all so overwhelming!!

  5. Thanks for sharing this Jack. I applaud you for being so honest with yourself and your wife. Not everyone realizes how focused on the self you can become with depression and it can be disheartening. One day at a time…

    1. Charlie,
      Thanks for the comments. I forget to battle this thing “one day at a time.” So true. Thanks again and please come back.

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