So, PH has been worrying lately about my mental health, probably understandably.
I’m just… beat.
Part of this is because I’m a spoiled Princess. PH has known from day one (hell, from day -730, because he knew me when I was in another relationship and he could tell even then) that I am what you might call “high maintenance”. I like to be cared for. I don’t like too many responsibilities. I love to have things to care for – pets and children – but I need someone doing the same for me.
But now I have all the responsibility.
From the moment I get up almost until the moment I go to bed, I am needed by someone for something. Owl needs me in the morning to dress him and get him breakfast and then force him into the car to go to daycare.
Then work needs me for 8 hours straight with no lunch break – chatting with clients, getting patient histories, wrestling dogs, cleaning up poop, and trying to squeeze in 10 hours of extra job responsiblities in between appointments. If someone schedules appointments poorly, I get in trouble for it. If someone’s estimate is higher than was quoted, then I have to deal with that. If we have fewer new clients this week than last week, then that is SOMETHING I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR.
Then Owl needs me again - bring him home from daycare, play with him, put him to bed.
“Play with me? Play with me, Mommy!” is a constant refrain whenever I try to sit down, from the moment I get in the car with him until his second trip to the potty at night.
Except on the nights when I train dogs, when I bring him home from daycare, play with him, and then go and talk and yell things like “YAAAAY PUPPEEEE!” for an hour and a half straight.
Once Owl is asleep, I get some time to collapse. But this is basically my only chance to interact with PH who seems to, you know, want to interact with his wife occasionally.
I avoid going to bed, because the time when PH is asleep and so is Owl is basically the only time I can get true solitude – something that I desperately need to recharge.
It’s not enough. I’m not recharging.
I’m in constant energy-saving mode. I’m not washing dishes any more. I’m not cleaning the bathroom, or sweeping the floors.
I’m not really even interacting with poor PH any more, who clearly misses his wife. I’m having trouble keeping from snapping at people at work. I AM snapping at poor Owl, who is the most innocent party in all of this.
I find myself obsessively fantasizing about being locked alone in a white room with a window.
And PH sees it, and it makes him feel bad. He blames himself for putting such a load on me. He feels guilty, which he shouldn’t, because he’s not well.
But the problem is, he’s better than he was.
When he was in crisis, it was obvious to both of us that I needed to take on as much of the load as possible. I was wage earner – working two jobs – primary child caregiver, dish washer and garbage emptier.
But now he’s a bit better – not well, but not in as much crisis – and he feels like he should be able to do more. He IS doing more, in fact, but that gives us both the illusion that he actually is better. So he takes on more, and I expect him to continue taking on more. But he isn’t all better, so when I forget and lean on him, half the time he falls over, which does neither of us much good.
He told me today that basically, my own exhaustion/near-tears aura of defeat is probably one of the most significant contributions to his current level of depression.
He told me this not in a way to induce guilt, but simply to be honest about his level of concern for me.
His wife is falling apart, and that makes him feel terrible.
The problem is, I’m falling apart because he can’t reliably take on more of the load. He can’t commit to putting Owl to bed every night, so that I can rest on the evenings when I’m not training dogs.
He can’t even commit to HELPING put Owl down on the days when I’m not out training dogs. He can manage Owl the couple of nights a week that I’m out training. Anything more is asking too much.
I know, because I asked.
So, this puts us at what Terry Pratchett would call a Klatchian Standoff.
His depression is made worse by his awareness that I’m sinking. He can’t stop me from sinking because his depression prevents him from taking on as much of the load as I need him to take on.
So. Three options exist.
Either I push him to do more than either of us feel he can really do, and take the risk of him going back to crisis mode… or we stand there and hug each other while we sink like Atryu and Artax in the Swamp of Sadness….
…Or I suck it up.
I’m not depressed. Not really.
I’m just really, really, really tired. Tired of being the responsible one. Tired of having everything be my job by default. Tired of knowing that there’s no one to help if I sink.
But my life is not THAT bad.
There are tons of single mothers out there who work two jobs and have to do everything. I’m better off than they are because really, PH still does a decent amount. He handles laundry, and he can cook most days, and he plays with Owl when he can.
Hell, he took Owl for most of this morning, just so I could get a good sleep in.
I don’t do everything. I just do a lot more than he does. Because he’s sick.
So it’s not THAT bad. I’m just being a wuss. I just got tired of being brave. I just started to feel like PH should be able to help again, because he’s clearly doing better.
But when I asked him about committing to helping put Owl to bed every night, I saw the look on his face.
And I knew that he is not as much better as we pretend he is.
I really want him to be better. I’m afraid to push him, afraid he’ll go into crisis mode, afraid that if he pushes himself, he’ll go off the edge entirely and Owl will grow up without a father.
And then I’d REALLY have no one to help - I would really learn what being on my own would mean then.
I won’t let that happen.
So I need to stop thinking that he’s better. I need to stop waiting for someone to step in and save us.
I need to find a whole new battery pack.
And I’m going to do it.
Because I don’t want to see that look on his face again. I don’t want to feel disappointed like that again. I want to shut up the voice in my head that keeps waiting for things to be “fair”. Because life isn’t fair. My husband is sick. I need to work more than him, carry more load than him.
When he’s well enough, he won’t be asking me what he can do, only to tell me that I’ve asked too much.
When he’s well again, he’ll just do it.
And until then, I can do this.