depressed spouse---need support

hi all…I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed & could use some support. My partner is diagnosed with bipolar disorder (although her symptoms are a lot more like depression) and she's really struggling right now. Today she didn't keep her psychiatrist appt. She's usually good about going but lately she seems to be avoiding it. I feel like I put so much energy into worrying about her, and I'm just feeling exhausted and frustrated from it right now. It's just so draining living with a depressed person, and seeing someone you love struggle while you can't help. Anyone else been through anything like this?

Hi Beth,
I'm sorry to hear about your partner's situation. I'm afraid I don't have any good advice to offer from my end… I can only imagine how difficult it must be to see a spouse go through those situations and not be able to help.
My mom struggled with depression a couple times when I was younger, though I didn't really understand what it meant at the time, just that she often seemed upset and I didn't know why. I'm sure my dad was equally frustrated… The hardest part is that it was her battle. While we could provide support, she had to be the one to confront the issues she discussed with her therapist and come to terms with the fact that being on medication didn't mean that she was weak. The good news is that she's much better now… positive, upbeat… at peace.
I guess the point of that ramble was to let you know that things can get better. How well do you know the psychiatrist she is seeing? Can you speak with him/her and find out what you can do for your partner and for yourself? Obviously the doc probably can't breach confidentiality, but if he/she has suggestions for what you can do… Or is it possible that there is a reason that she is avoiding the psychiatrist (personality conflict?). Just trying to think of what I might do in your situation. I hope it gets better, Beth!

Oh, Beth! {{hugs}}
I am a depressed person. My husband is a saint to have stayed with me through everything. (But then he tells me that I am, too, since he has his own quirks!)
It’s very difficult to be depressed and know you are, to honestly believe that your family will be better off without you bringing them down, to feel guilty at not being able to be happy. The decision to get help must come from within and be not only for your family but for yourself most of all.
I did hit bottom and was a hair’s breadth from walking out on my husband and son 3 years ago. Then my conscience kicked in somehow and told me that I needed to get help, that this WAS JUST NOT RIGHT, and that I had to get real professional help instead of trying to fix it myself.
There were up days and down days. After a few months, with medication, I began to feel joy again. I’d get to where I thought, “Maybe I’m better now, maybe I can stop taking the meds.” Then a week later I’d blow up and go back to the meds. I’ve since come to the decision that I will need this medication for the rest of my life. I know this now. It took a couple of years, though.
My husband is one of those whats-the-use-in-worrying-over-things-you-can’t-control people; he would tell me to just snap out of it, to quit reveling in my misery, to just decide to be happy and it would happen if I really wanted it to happen. He just didn’t understand that it wasn’t something I was doing, I was SICK. It took a lot of hard, tense times for him to see that with meds I am a different person, I am more myself, allowed to be happy and content and rational. To his credit, he stayed with me through it all and I think he’s learned that life and the mind are more complex than he had thought they were.
So my advice to you, as a depressed person who is loved, is to be there for her. Don’t give up on your partner. Try to let go of the need to mother her and allow her the space to make mistakes and to learn from them. While you may not understand what she is going through, you can accept her for who she is and who she is trying to be. I know I can’t help you stop worrying, but you can’t fix this for her- she must want to do it for herself.
Much love, Selina

I've never been in your situation, but if you want to ever go out for a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate), just give me yell. I'm close by.

I'm sorry your partner is going through such a rough time now. As a chronically depressed person, I can feel the other side. However, as I'm sure you know, with Bipolar, its imperative she keep her appointments and take any medications. If her depression doesn't include withdrawing from you, try talking to her and see if she can tell you what she needs. She may not even know. I know it may be hard, but sometimes (in my case) I just need space, like a wounded animal under the bushes. When I feel better, I come out on my own. You probably know your partner better, so try talking first. HUGS.

Dear Beth,
I'm so sorry for what you and your partner are experiencing. I have been through this with my sister over the last 25+ years (since college), so I know well what you are going through. Feel free to send me a pm if you want to talk about it. I also have a friend right now suffering from severe depression which in her case doesn't respond well to treatment, and I'm struggling with how to support her without wearing myself out or taking too much time from my own daughter.
Of course, as I'm sure you know, it's important that she keep seeing her therapist and taking her medication. As someone else asked - Do you have any contact with her therapist and can they offer you advice on how you can support her? You also have to take care to keep some space for yourself so you don't get worn out and neglect your own needs. Earlier in my sister's illness I got to the point where my whole life seemed to revolve around my sister's crises and I was completely stressed out. I finally had to see a counselor myself for help learning to set some limits.
My sister has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but with a strong component of paranoia, which make it hard for friends and family to help because she is always suspicious of motives. Different psychiatrists have disagreed about the diagnosis (her initial diagnosis was schizophrenia), but over the last several years she has refused to go to a therapist or take medication anyway, and is now pretty much alienated from family and most of her friends. It's really tough.
I can recommend some reading materials for families of patients with bipolar disorder (I have to look for it as I forgot the title - I think one author is Monticore). Also there are the books from Kay Jamieson (sp?) about her experience with bipoloar disorder. She is a psychologist (also a med school professor) who is a co-author of one of the classic medical texts on manic depressive illness (bipolar) who herself suffers from bipolar illness. She wrote an excellent book about her own experience a few years ago.
Hang in there and send me a mail or pm if you want.

thank you all so much for the kind words and virtual hugs, and for sharing your own struggles with depression in yourself or loved ones. It means a lot to me and helped me get through a hard day. We had a good talk when I got home…she said she knows she needs to keep her appts and that she is going to reschedule it…she was just feeling tired of being sick and having to see doctors and take meds and she just didn’t want to deal with it. She is very good about taking her meds, fortunately. I just wish they helped more. sad.gif She’s diagnosed with a mixed type of bipolar and has never had a manic episode. Right now she’s on a mood stabilizer & an antidepressant, but still has depression and insomnia. Before she was just on antidepressants, and she was MORE depressed, moody, and, well to use the technical term, bitchy. wink.gif Hopefully the doctor will hit on the best combination of meds soon.
I’ve been meaning to read Jamieson’s books but any other books you can recommend would be great, Laramisa. Selina, you were right on target—I think a big part of my problem is knowing that I can’t do this for her, and that this whole thing is out of my control. I need to learn to step back and let her make her own mistakes—very hard for me but I know you’re right! She and I talked about that last night too and she assured me that I don’t have to be some kind of rock or tower of strength, that it’s ok for me to feel stressed too. Tara, I will definitely take you up on that cup of hot chocolate soon. smile.gif
sorry to ramble so much—I just wanted to say thank you, you all are the best.