Mental health can sour for anyone

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Martin Blank
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Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Martin Blank » Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:30 pm

I have two kids with my wife, ages 2 and 4. Because my wife is partially disabled, I've had to take over as a near-single parent many times (I have a thread in R&R about it). I knew of depression as an occasional cloud looming over me for a bit, but it would go away after a while and things would be OK. For decades, I've been the strong one in the family, helping others through their mental health problems, being the rock that they lean on, the one to guide them at least through daily life so they could make it another day or to the next appointment. I did not experience them directly, though.

That lasted until October of last year. I had what my therapist thinks was an episode of depersonalization. I was there, in my head, and could see my wife and the kids playing, but they weren't my wife and kids. They were real objects (so no derealization), no more important to me than the pillow on the couch or the bowl on the table. The analytical part of my mind that's always watching over me knew something was wrong, but it, too, was outside of any realm of relevance in the moment. I feel like a medical emergency could have unfolded and I would have just watched it happen. After maybe a half-hour, I was able to wrestle some control back and tell my wife about it, and it cleared up for the most part after another hour or so and completely by the next day. I haven't had that experience since, and I hope to never again. In retrospect, it was terrifying.

A couple of months ago, though, I had a complete breakdown. I was trying to get some Eggo waffles out of the freezer for the kids' breakfast when the younger one blocked my access, holding a pillow sword and saying, "No, Daddy! No go in freezer!" and looking around with just his eyes like a wild man. Adorable, right? Except I didn't know what to do. I had no confidence in the slightest action that I might have taken. I slumped against the fridge and just started crying. I couldn't even stand up because I didn't have any confidence that I knew how. My wife came and got me, took me into the bedroom, and suggested that I lay down and rest while she took the kids to daycare. Only that's not what I heard. What I heard was, "You're such a failure that you can't even get the kids ready in the morning so now I have to do it because you can't." I begged her to let me help, and she finally relented. We got the kids across the street (where their daycare is), and then we got home. I called one of my company's owners and explained what had happened. He told me that I was taking a couple of days off and that we would talk on Monday before starting work to see if I was in the right place. I did restart work that Monday, but it took another two or three weeks to get back to something even approaching normal, and about a month before I started feeling right on a regular basis.

I still have occasional episodes, though they're brief. I'm trying very hard to stay off of medication. I've developed some routines and learned when to walk away. I am fortunate in that I have a job and a wife who understand (she has a long history battling her own depression), and I'm more sympathetic now to those who have had to deal with this for most of their lives. I'm still trying to identify triggers and find ways to avoid them, and to look for little successes in my life, which seem to help stave off episodes. With some luck, it won't be a constant factor for me.
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Deacon
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Deacon » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:35 pm

I feel like I’m constantly teetering near that kind of collapse myself. It’s part of the reason the idea of having kids—especially with my wife specifically—terrifies me. I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.
The follies which a man regrets the most in his life are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity. - Helen Rowland, A Guide to Men, 1922

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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Rorschach » Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:44 pm

I don't know what it's like in the Americas where even the therapists have therapists, at least according to The Sopranos, but men's mental health is still a bit of a taboo subject over here.

I mean, people aren't going to be as shocked if you bring it up as they would be if put a turd into the church collection plate or anything, but no one really does. Toxic masculinity and Scottish stoicism isn't a very useful mix.

I guess I have nothing useful to add here which is not the gut reaction when you see someone struggling. You want to help, but most of us aren't qualified to do it.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is the same thing most of my friends and I have slowly let our circle know over the course of a lot of years: everyone is hurting and everyone is toiling, at least some of the time. I had something of a breakdown in my late twenties after a relationship went south although I thought I was just sad. It took me a looooong time to figure out why I dropped to ten stone and thought about running my car off the motorway (or 'freeway' if you will) almost every time I was on it. It from there I joined RLF . And again, it took me a long time to figure out how much doing so helped me to start to come out of my funk. The time difference worked out perfectly for my insomnia. Hiding behind the name of someone so badass helped me shield myself. And when I went to Uni the following year and made very few friends as I was still very damaged, I'd sit in the library and refresh this board for hours. I had friends and I wasn't alone. And they were all fucking oddballs too!

And I've had some good times since, and some bad times since, and some hard times since and know what? You guys were there. As always.

So I'm really sorry to hear of your troubles, MB. You've done so very much for me even though you probably don't know it. I wish there was something more we could do for you, but this will need to do: for what it's worth, we're here for you.
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Martin Blank
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Martin Blank » Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:24 pm

Thank you, Rors. When we started these forums, it was mostly a place for everyone to talk about the weird things we talk about. I didn't think lifelong friendships would come of them, or that those friendships might have profound effects.

Deacon: If you're not talking to a therapist, I encourage you to look for one. You sound like where I was a couple of years ago, after both kids were born, on a long slide with no end in sight. You might be able to get better control if you can get some help now.

I spent so long being the strong one in everyone's lives, never crying because they needed a rock to lean on, and taking silent pride in never having gone through depression so that I could always be there. I know now that pride was wrong, that it was maybe even a false front for the exhaustion that was setting in. I even cut back on my drinking at one point (I was having a glass or two almost daily, now it's down to one night a week, and sometimes not even that) because I thought the alcohol was making me feel down all the time, what with its emotionally depressive effects (never mind that I'm historically a happy, if talkative, drunk) and the bad sleep I was getting afterward. I think now that it was letting something that had always been there finally get out to where I could see it, and not drinking meant I didn't need to see it anymore. Even trying to get better was an attempt at hiding what I probably knew was there. :/
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by raptor9k » Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:37 pm

I haven't had a breakdown but I pretty much exist in a constant state of depression. I feel like everything in my life is permanently in a holding pattern. Every goal in life I've had is unattainable for some reason or another. Current events have only made the hole deeper.

I love my wife dearly, but our marriage sucks. The first few years were great and we both wanted kids. After 6 years of fertility issues we finally had a son, but getting there was incredibly rough on both of us. Toward the end I had pretty well accepted that we would never have kids, but she was having a breakdown every time another friend or coworker announced a pregnancy. When it finally happened we were both very happy, but I feel like once our son came she just checked out on the marriage and became 100% mom.

My son is a treasure and insanely smart, but he annoys the shit out of me constantly. I think there's a lot of resentment there that's not his fault but I can't separate it from him. He's 7 and his personality is so different from mine it's painful sometimes. He's 100% impulse and 0% thought at this point. Every time I try to teach him something because he wants to share an interest with me I get frustrated because he doesn't listen. He literally just smiles and giggles the entire time you explain something and when you give him a chance to do the thing it's a free for all. He doesn't take anything seriously. I can't play video games with him because he won't listen and constantly gets us both killed in coop games. I'm usually good for about 20 minutes before I have to walk away or risk throwing the controller across the room. To make matters worse, it feels like he wants to spend every waking moment with me and would rather play by himself than spend time with my wife. He doesn't get to spend as much time with me because she gets off at 3 and picks him up from school while I work till 5. He also resents her more because she makes him do all of his chores while I work and I'm more lenient on things like manners and screen time. I constantly feel like I'm a shitty dad. I have no clue what I'm doing and don't have a lot to pull from with my own childhood.

I keep telling myself I'm going to enjoy him so much more when he's older and matures a little. That we're going to love it when we finally get to build a house in the country on our land. That eventually our relationship will improve and I'll get my wife back. Every day it feels a little more hollow.

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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by gravity » Fri Aug 07, 2020 12:55 am

I'm going through fertility treatment now, and I'm really hoping this first round takes. It's been a little hard, and because of how much stress it put on me I actually specifically scheduled my appointments in such a way as to make sure my husband couldn't come with me. And he's pointed out how bonkers that is, but, really, it feels very much like a me problem and I don't want him to be there while my doctor is discussing hormone levels, dosage amounts, and especially not when I'm having things done like contrast fluid forced through my uterus and into my fallopian tube just to see if it's open. And yes, singular, because I lost my second tube and half an ovary during ovarian cancer a few years back.

And, in a country where I'm not a native speaker, there is no therapy available. Hell, even if I was a native speaker there wouldn't be any therapy available. Japan just does not do therapy. At all.

And it makes it worse is because my mother in law keeps asking if I'm pregnant yet, and it's like holy fuck lady, have some fucking class! And my father keeps bitching at me about how I'm a bad daughter and not having given him grandchildren yet because all of my aunts and uncles have grandchildren, and now he's also on about how I need to divorce my husband and move back to the States and take care of him because his MS has gotten worse and he's bound to a wheelchair. For my own sanity I've simply just cut contact with him because I don't want to hear his fucking whining every time I talk to him. This is the same man who still can't spell my name or my brother's name, and keeps insisting that he's a great dad. Great dad's at least know the names of their kids.

It's a rough year. No one in my area speaks English, and communicating 24/7 in Japanese is exhausting. My husband and I decided it would be better off for me not to be teaching this year because of the covid pandemic, and a good thing to because the school I taught at had 11 teachers become ill two months after I left. I'm writing, and my books do bring in some income, but not fully at the level as teaching did. And the romance genre is hard when you're going through fertility issues because a lot of the area of the romance genre I write does have women getting pregnant and having babies. And I'm just sitting here, getting shots and popping pills and hoping I can have one. I had to stop reading the genre entirely unless I had someone else check that there were no pregnancies, pregnancy issues, or babies in the books. I just can't take it some days. Especially when I'm spending my days now suffering the side effects of the meds, which mimic the side effects of early pregnancy. So, I know, rationally, that I'm not pregnant right now. I just had the ovulation shot a few days ago. But I'm still having issues with food, my mother in law keeps giving us food cooked with lots of meat and she knows I'm mostly vegetarian and just won't eat it, and I'm nauseous most mornings. That, coupled with being exhausted all day every day because of the insane heat, just means I feel terrible from sun up to sun down.

Fuck I need some ice cream now. Except if I try to eat some I know I'll vomit, and I really don't fucking want to vomit ice cream right now.
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Martin Blank
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Martin Blank » Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:32 am

In six years, we've had two kids...but six positive pregnancy tests. Two early miscarriages, an ectopic (fallopian tube was saved), one 7-weeks premature birth, one term birth but nearly needing the crash cart*, and most recently a miscarriage that got far enough along to get a weak heartbeat. Two weeks later, no heartbeat, just after I had started to let myself get excited about a third. Plus, we suspect there was another miscarriage in there after the ectopic and before the first child. I can't say we know the frustrations of not being able to get pregnant, but on the other hand I got to a point where I wasn't going to believe we'd have a child until I held one in my hands.

* With the second, he was born not breathing properly and with an O2 saturation down around 25%. After multiple attempts to get the meter to read higher and some attempts to force deeper breathing, the nurse hit the Baby Code Blue button. Hardest thing I've ever had to do was stay out of the way and keep it together while explaining to my heavily sedated wife who was still getting cleaned up from a C-section that the baby was having trouble breathing and some people were coming in to help. About the most terrifying thing I've ever seen in my life is a delivery crash cart coming into our delivery room, complete with a defibrillator for babies. :(
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by raptor9k » Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:45 am

I need parents and grandparents to fuck off with asking when they get their grandbabies. We got lucky and didn't have to bear the pain of a miscarriage, but every new person that asked why we didn't have kids was treading at death's door there towards the end. I thought my wife was going to actually murder my sister in law when they announced they were pregnant. Both my brother and sister in law were highly vocal about never wanting kids. It was like the ultimate fuck you from the universe.

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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Winterbay_ » Fri Aug 07, 2020 7:24 am

Martin Blank wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:32 am
About the most terrifying thing I've ever seen in my life is a delivery crash cart coming into our delivery room, complete with a defibrillator for babies. :(
I totally understand that. Working with product safety around single-use diapers I get to see some of the really small things needed for premature babies and that's terrifying enough :(

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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Rorschach » Fri Aug 07, 2020 10:12 am

raptor9k wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:37 pm
I love my wife dearly, but our marriage sucks. The first few years were great and we both wanted kids. After 6 years of fertility issues we finally had a son, but getting there was incredibly rough on both of us. Toward the end I had pretty well accepted that we would never have kids, but she was having a breakdown every time another friend or coworker announced a pregnancy. When it finally happened we were both very happy, but I feel like once our son came she just checked out on the marriage and became 100% mom.
Dude, that's pretty much my story, but without the fertility issues. I don't know that men are equipped to deal particularly well with the shift from romantic partner to parenting partner. Or at least I don't think I was. I wanted things to continue as they were before the kids came along, and things weren't even that spectacular before the kids came along.
I'm a real bipolar parent. I'm either all fun and games or I'm grumpy and snappish. I see myself making the same mistakes as my dad made with me but annoyingly, I only see them once it's too late.

What I've learned though is that love is not enough to save a marriage. That was a real boot in the stones for me to find out but apparently it's true. Love can conquer most things but absolute incompatibility seems to be a struggle for it to overcome and one day the opportunity to work at it that you (read 'I') put off until another day is gone and the damage is irreparable.
I always thought a marriage breaking up would be like a wild haymaker you see coming from a mile away and you have the chance to get out of the way. It's not. It's death by a thousand cuts, none of which you feel at the time until you realise you're bleeding out.
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Deacon » Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:27 pm

raptor9k wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:37 pm
I keep telling myself I'm going to enjoy him so much more when he's older and matures a little.
A friend of ours is going through that with his six year old, adopted from some drug addict lady, who’s been diagnosed not just with ADHD but ODD, oppositional defiant disorder. It’s driving him nuts, but I think it helps that he 1) has a diagnosis and that 2) most diagnosed “grow out of it” as body chemistry changes leading up to puberty, so there’s a light at the end of that tunnel. That doesn’t stop the frustration now, and it doesn’t stop the worry he will be one of the rarer cases where it persists longer or even permanently.
The follies which a man regrets the most in his life are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity. - Helen Rowland, A Guide to Men, 1922

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raptor9k
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by raptor9k » Mon Aug 10, 2020 3:48 pm

Yeah, Neither one of us wants a divorce, though we've talked about it at least in passing. I don't even want to use it as an ultimatum at the moment. It does hurt that I can't get any traction on the let's improve our relationship front. I'm still in research mode and trying to frame a discussion that will actually get somewhere. I suspect in the end it'll have to be counseling for everyone, but we'll see.

We suspect my son is very mildly ADHD, though he could just be immature for his age. If we don't see any improvement this year I think we'll probably start looking down that path. He does well in school, but has some behavioral issues with attention and talking that fit the profile. ODD is a tough one, that we thankfully aren't seeing from him at all. The wife gets to deal with some ODD kids in her line of work and it is rough.

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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Some Egrets » Thu Aug 13, 2020 2:41 am

I'm reasonably actually pretty sure I'm undiagnosed ADHD - I hesitate to say this for sure because self-diagnosis comes with all sorts of bias, but I feel strongly enough that there's something there, that as soon as it's a little safer to be out in public and around people, I might, assuming I can somehow find the energy and motivation to actually do the thing, try to get someone to look into it.

Adult ADHD manifests a lot differently than childhood ADHD but some of the workarounds and coping mechanisms seem to be the same, or ingrained for such a long time that I don't always notice them. The big and most unhealthy one is probably not being able to force my idiot meatbrain to engage with anything that doesn't immediately and automatically spark some kind of interest or motivation, and relying on high stress (eg. deadlines) to force it into a sort of panic/anxiety mode where it HAS TO DO THE THING because there's no other option.

The experience of knowing I have to work on a thing and making time to work on a thing and sitting down to work on a thing with a 100% intention of working on the thing and then just staring blankly at a wall for six hours because my brain *will not do the thing* is frustrating as hell though, let me tell you.

The flipside is the good ol' "oh hey, this is interesting, I'm just going to poke around this new thing for a bit and then... whoa it's 5am now? HOW???" hyperfocus.

I've found this twitter thingy like, a really really relatable resource for learning about the subjective experience of *having* ADHD rather than the outside perspective of how it looks to other people. Although of course, do keep in mind it's just one person sharing their (relatable) experience and not a diagnosis or manual or exhaustive coverage of the subject.

https://twitter.com/ADHD_Alien

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Martin Blank
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Martin Blank » Thu Aug 13, 2020 6:15 pm

Some Egrets wrote:
Thu Aug 13, 2020 2:41 am
The big and most unhealthy one is probably not being able to force my idiot meatbrain to engage with anything that doesn't immediately and automatically spark some kind of interest or motivation, and relying on high stress (eg. deadlines) to force it into a sort of panic/anxiety mode where it HAS TO DO THE THING because there's no other option.

The experience of knowing I have to work on a thing and making time to work on a thing and sitting down to work on a thing with a 100% intention of working on the thing and then just staring blankly at a wall for six hours because my brain *will not do the thing* is frustrating as hell though, let me tell you.
I'm not sure where the delineation is for this being a symptom. I am most definitely not ADHD (even when I strain, I can't hit the minimum scores in the self-tests), and this is a constant issue for me, especially in the last two years, and especially on reports for work. I used to love writing reports as they were a chance to educate people. Now, they're walls of tedium that I eagerly climb at first and then just...nothing. I will sometimes skip sleep the night before they're due to finish them (yay, cranking out 35 pages of technical reporting in 12 hours!) so I don't have to burden the people who need to edit them. I have amazing productivity when I'm trying to avoid disappointing someone else and there's a deadline for it.
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Re: Mental health can sour for anyone

Post by Rorschach » Fri Aug 14, 2020 7:09 am

Not to be all 'get off my lawn!' about it, but I'd put a lot of the blame on the instant gratification culture of today. A literally endless supply of entertainment at our fingertips (teehee). When I grew up, we had four television channels. So we watched what was on. Nowadays watching television, we can't find something we want to watch. Or can't at least decide on what to watch. We spend longer choosing than we do watching.

I can't remember the last time I listened to an album from start to finish. Whereas when I was travelling with a CD player jammed into the pocket of my double-denims, I'd do it repeatedly on a journey as I didn't have any other albums physically on me. Now I just flit from song to song. Album to album. And sometimes I don't even make it to the end of the song.

I can just about still read a book for pleasure, but present me with a document from work and, like Martin, I struggle to focus for long. We're training our brains out of the long-haul. All our attention spans are...that dog has a puffy tail!
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