Last time round, over a year ago, I made alot of mistakes. Despite my medical background, or maybe because of my medical background, I seemed completely unprepared as a partner, to support my wife through a severe emotional crisis. I guess the biggest challenge was balancing the amount of influence through supportive gestures and care, versus taking a more controlling approach. This is a common problem when a partner becomes so unwell that their daily functioning and physical safety are at risk. Taking too much control prematurely, can lead to your partner resisting and tension ensuing. I feel I am in a completely different place this time around, especially having more resources and learned more effective tools to support my wife’s current depression episode.
Despite this, I still don’t have all the answers and I am certainly not perfect – one book I read suggested that getting a reputable, second opinion may support acceptance of the diagnosis, thereby encouraging engagement in a treatment plan, especially with taking medication. Although this specific goal wasn’t more clearly explained in advance, I didn’t expect differing opinions on medications would confuse my wife. The psychiatrist felt compelled to recommend a medication regimen (venlafaxine / lithium), which was different to the venlafaxine/lamotrogine combination my wife was stable on before she stopped meds 4 months ago. My wife has never had a full manic episode, so I think that lithium may be less critical for her milder cyclothymia-type of bipolar disorder. Despite this, the psychiatrist’s confidence reinforced the message that my wife was suffering from a medical illness, and that medications could help her.
Fortunately, I was able to remind her that it might take time to find the perfect combination of medications, but starting back on what she was taking before makes the most sense. Add or changing to lithium in the future can always be another option, as recommended by her treating psychiatrist. Phew! The pain of her current depression / anxiety episode, combined with the mutipronged validation for the need for medications, seems to be working for now. Her pattern of anxiety is really debilitating – paranoid ruminations about various social interactions, which keeps her thoughts in an anxious, unresolvable loop. The pain compels her to need to constantly explain (and reexplain) why she made such a fool of herself, even considering to contact the people involved to explain to them too.
Her distorted thinking is creating an intense embarrassment feeling and shame over the possibility that she may have cursed (saying “shoot” only) accidently in front of a group of high school students. No amount of reasurrance is helping her get over this incident. I have seen this pattern of anxious, delusional ruminations last year – it’s extremely debilitating, sucking all her energy and focus, with nothing left for anything else. Daily function as a mother and wife spirals down with an anxious expression constantly on her face. All I can do is make sure she takes the meds and pray for them to start working quickly. I also planted the seed for her to considering writing down some of her current experiences, possibly to share online here.