What i learned from supporting my wife with mental illness

Alain & TriciaWritten by Alain.

When I first met Tricia, I knew she was a girl that was strong and intelligent and wasn’t going to get pushed around in what was at the time a male dominated industry of technology. I liked that! While working together we developed a friendship that grew into much more.

We had lots of fun and did things without much planning and were free spirited. I remember after a long work week we were sitting at the table having a drink and the next thing you knew we were out on the open roads with no destination in mind. We ended crossing the border and spent our first night in Watertown New York which was 375kms and 5 hours away. We had a great time.

This is how we spent our first few years together.

A few years into our marriage, Tricia quit her successful career and was suffering from depression. That didn’t stop her too much as she started her own web business and took on a few projects. However, little by little she was evolving in odd directions.

In 2007, Tricia experienced psychological trauma resulting in severe PTSD. Please read Tricia’s blog post “If you’re psychotic, raise your hand!” to learn more about her journey.

I felt I had to help Tricia anyway I could but not because I had to… I wanted to! She had developed many fears and illnesses and needed support in facing them.

How did my life change?

At the beginning (at its most serious), I had to be very attentive and around to assist Tricia. Luckily for me I worked at home and was able to take Tricia to her many appointments and shopping. During appointments I would bring my laptop and find a hot spot and do some work. This changed my schedule quite a bit as I use to work straight through the day without any interruption, most of the time not even eating lunch.

I took on many of the house chores.

It couldn’t have all been positive for me and it wasn’t. At time it was draining trying to help Tricia and keep my life going. I could no longer leave the house for any long period of time. I could no longer travel at a whim for work. We had to make plans to have Tricia in good company in my absence.

I attended many family gatherings without Tricia. Having to explain to family about Tricia was very difficult. Not that I couldn’t do it but people did not understand.

Tricia’s telling me out of nowhere that she decided to go live with a friend over 400kms away without knowing if she would come back to me was extremely hard on me (thankfully she didn’t go through with it).

The worst was feeling helpless.

Learning along the way

I learned to accept her neurosis around the effects of foods on her body and from the small changes in her body. I could have told her anything but knew that it wouldn’t change how she felt and reacted. I simply tried to comfort her thoughts the best I could.

I became a better listener. I would cuddle her while she cried without saying anything. Every night, I would rub her back and feet to help her relax for her unknown journey overnight.

I believe that we survived the worst because we love each very much, my understanding of mental illness, and Tricia’s willingness to try and try until she finds what works and what doesn’t. I am very proud of how far Tricia has travelled on this journey. She is still challenged but taking bold steps to help others and stomp out the stigma around mental illness by sharing stories.

Her journey will continue as with most people with mental illnesses, but she’s heading in the right direction. She’s very passionate, caring, loving, funny, warm, understanding, compassionate, and a little crazy. I can live with that!

The best words of wisdom I can provide is “be educated, patient, and loving”.

 

Photo:  Tricia and me, 1996

 


Tricia and me 2012Alain is married to the editor and creator of Mental Health Talk. He is the technical guru and co-designer of Mental Health Talk (blog) who works his magic at the whim of his wife’s creative ideas (and past experience in technology!) He sometimes even gets paid for his technical expertise and has a company that offers web, development and ERP services.


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Comments

  • The Bipolar Project

    You are a gorgeous couple (in 1996 and now)! Alain, you sound like an amazing husband and I admire your strength and the strength of your love for one another.

    • Alain

      Thank you! I truly believe that our relationship plays a big role. We are very open with one another and share our feelings (Tricia more than me 😉 ). I have become a good listener over the years by listening and not trying to solve the problem but provide support.

  • Julies Mum

    Wow Alain, what a fantastically sensitive account. That phrase “her unknown journey overnight” really stuck with me. You really capture the essence of being both involved with your wife’s illness, but at the same time always on the sidelines.

    Wish everyone with illness had someone as honest and patient as you.

    • Alain

      Thank you! Every day came with something new. I truly never knew what to expect and Tricia didn’t also. The morning would tell us how the day would be.

      I hope that any spouse would do the same in this situation. As for me, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and know what it is like to have your body and mind play tricks on you. I can sympathize which most spouse may not. The stigma of mental illness is still very strong. People think you can just snap out it.

      Thank you again for the kind words.

  • JM

    Very touching Alain, I’m proud of both of you and you are always in my thoughts!

    JM
    XO

    • Alain

      Thanks JM! This post was not the easiest to write but was a very positive experience. I can now see she’s better. The creation of the site (a year ago yesterday) was also great opportunity for Tricia to share her stories, met new people, and allow others to post their stories and wisdom.

  • NB

    You really don’t realize what a partner goes through. It takes a special person to hang in there with a mentally ill person.

    • Alain

      Love is all it takes. Thank you. <3

  • JGH

    In my book, Alain, you are the perfect example of a good man and a good husband. Have known that all along. You and Tricia have found the strenght and courage to overcome some of the hardships life often throws our way. May God continue to reward you with the greater love and happiness you so much deserve.

    • Alain

      Thank you!

  • David T

    Excellent post Alain and quite appropriate for valentine’s day!

    • Alain

      Thanks David.

  • Cathleen Spacil

    Alain, this so touched my heart and my soul! Sometimes we think we are alone in this crazy thing called mental illness but to hear you explain what you and Tricia have been through sounds very similar to what my husband, Steven, and I have been through! I often am amazed at his strength and wonder how it is that he has stuck by me through all the craziness, depression, ups and downs… You two should get together :-)… Actually the four of us should get together! We’d have a great time! This just so resonated with me. Thank you for loving Tricia and being by her side through all she has been through, and continues to go through. I know for myself, it’s “one day at a time, startiing each day with a JOYfilled perspective”. Some days are brighter than others but when we know we have the support of a loving husband, the journey seems so much safer. My best to you!

    • Alain

      Great to hear that Steven supported you also. Love makes us do crazy things 😉

  • Amit Maharaj

    Alain – I have known you all these years as a work colleague, but never knew this side of you. It was my folly that I never cared to ask you more. But reading this makes me aware of some of the things going on with your life and I admire you for the effort you make to take care of the ones closest to you. Very touching post….

    I wish you and Tricia the best !!

    • Alain

      Thanks Amit for such kind words!

  • D

    Alain, thank for the touching post. I am wife struggling with mental illness. After surviving a trauma in my life, I was left to battle with mental illness. Some nights are endeless as the panick strikes of nowhere..I am not sure how my husband handles all of this.

    • Alain

      D, sounds like you might need to open the dialog and ask. It isn’t easy but will be helpfull in the end.

  • Law

    Alain, you have a strong determined love from your wife!!! That, in itself, is worth commending her for. You are right that LOVE is all that is required but if your wife was not strong and determined in Love, it may be extremely messy.
    I personally wish both of you the very best as you did one thing right – YOU DECLARED HER ILLNESS AN ENEMY TO YOUR LOVE AND YOUR MARRIAGE.

    All the best with your GROWTH in LOVE!

  • Neil

    I am going through a major crisis with my wife at the moment. She has become convinced that I am trying to make her go crazy, an example, she asked me where the old vacuum cleaner was and I told her it was in the usual spot in the garage. She went to look but couldn’t see it and came back saying it wasn’t there and went to the bedroom. I went out and got it out for her (from where i said it was) and put it out where she could see it. When she went back out to the garage and saw it there she was convinced that I had hidden it the first time then made out it was clearly visible all the time to make her think she was crazy. In another example, I took a book from the bookshelf and as I did the other books fell over knocking a decorative plate off the shelf and breaking it. She said that I set this up deliberately to get back at her. There are many other examples which are similar to this. We had an argument a couple of weeks ago because of a similar incident and she stormed out, I have not seen her since nor do I know where she is. I have had some contact via email and she has labelled me a vindictive crazy making maniac as well as calling me a wife abuser and numerous other names. She is so convinced that I am deliberately trying to make her insane that she will not listen to reason. I am scared as her mother has dementia and both her brother and father committed suicide. I have spoken to her family but they won’t do anything to help and sound like they don’t really believe me. She is convinced I am her enemy and so any suggestion I make for her to talk to someone about how she feels is met with anger and rage. I don’t know how to help when i can’t get through to her that I would never do any of the things she is saying and when she simply won’t talk to me about it. I feel like I am abandoning her, I just don’t know what to do, does anyone have any advice?

    • Trish

      Hi Neil. If you think she is going to harm herself then I think it is best you call the police. If I understand your situation correctly, you don’t know where she is but the police may be able to find her with your help.

      I know when I was convinced that my husband was trying to kill me, it took someone I trusted (and there weren’t many people who I didn’t think had an alternate agenda) to tell me that I needed help. This seemed to snap me out of the psychosis and realize that I wasn’t thinking straight. For me this person was a alternative health practitioner and someone who did not know my husband. At the time, I felt he was looking out for my best interest… so I considered him on my side and not my husband’s/family/friend’s side. Does your wife have someone in her life like that?

      I am not suggesting your wife is psychotic. I don’t know and I’m not in a position to diagnose. But based on my similar experience, this is what worked for me and my hubby.

      Your story also reminds me a bit of Cathleen Spacil’s (a former guest blogger on this site) story.

      Here is the link to her about page that tells her story: http://www.brainbehappy.com/about/cathleen
      And her is the video interview she did on this site which touches on some of it: http://mentalhealthtalk.info/2012/01/15/joy/

      I hope this is helpful Neil. I am sending loving vibes to you and your wife.

      Love,
      Trish

  • Twyla W

    Hi Neil-
    My heart goes out to you with your situation. It sounds like you want what it is best for her and you are concerned that she will not get the help that she needs. I bet you feel as if you are back into a corner with your hands tied- unsure what to do to help your wife. It does sound as if there is a sudden shift of mood and I agree that is a cause for concern no matter what family history is like.

    Although you may not be able to force her to get help unless she is a danger to herself or others, you can get support for yourself. There are times when a loved one will go to talk to someone to get help and support with the stress that they feel and perhaps suggestions on what to do to help the situation. Remember that you do not have to do this alone- there are people out there who are willing to help you with this… you just need to find the right people and reach out to get support.

    Remember that your wife is experiencing something that is not her but rather a symptom of an illness perhaps. She just does not know this which makes it even harder to communicate with her and convince her that something is going on. It is fair to say that when you do this she thinks that you are attacking her character if she does not see an issue.

    Don’t lose hope and don’t give up. Blessings to you.

  • Neil

    Thank you Trish and Twyla W I appreciate your advice. I have reached out to her in every way I know how and tried to get her to talk to someone but she stills sees that it is me with the problem and not her. I simply can’t convince her that I love her and would not do these things to her. Don’t get me wrong, I am nt perfect and at times she is well within her rights to be mad at me but to say and think the horrible things she does about me destroys my soul. I love her and would never do these things to her. I just feel like all hope is lost as she will not get the help she needs. I have made one more attempt tonight to get her family involved so hopefully somethings will come from this.
    Thank you again, I appreciate your support

    Neil

  • kevin

    My wife suffers from mental illness. She seemed so stable for awhile than began cycling down
    as a result of not taking her meds. She changed into a personality that I never imagined.
    I know it’s not her fault, she can’t help it. She has left me and I don’t know what to do. I love her
    so much, we had the best relationship a couple could have. We never had a fight, perhaps a couple of minor normal dissagreements. But I believe in my heart of hearts she truly loved me.
    This is such a shock to me. My heart is crushed and the tears and emotions just keep showing up.
    Its so hard right now. I hope she is safe and I hope God will bring her back to her senses.

  • Marie Abanga

    Dear Alain,

    Permit me to say that l have two very special Alains in my life so anyone with that name, draws my attention. Next, I must salute your person in its entirety. l dare think that the ‘suicide’ stats are ‘high’ because of an acute ‘shortage’ of people like you both in our families and societies. l join the mission of stigmatising stigma, l almost hit the ‘craze’ road, got depressed, did so bad and dropped the knife as recounted on my blog. l am unconventional and glad to know l am or better still we are not alone. More grease to your love and best wishes to us all. Kind regards, Marie author of My Unconventional loves. 🙂

  • Andrew

    My spouse is in denial of her mental illness. She refuses to take her prescribed medications. Even though I am her legal spouse, my spouse has only authorized her mother and a sibling to speak with her doctors. Against the advice of professionals and family members, I have refused to leave/divorce my spouse. All background medical information is second hand details.
    It pains me to leave her home alone, but I am our sole income provider since her illness manifested. Reliance upon family during my absence is the only recoarse. Ensuring that there is always enough money for her personal needs is a major concern. Ironically, too much money at her disposal is a concern because of threats to leave the country to parts unknown.
    I live my life in fear of losing my spouse to this illness on many levels. Watching her lose cognitive abilities. She mistrusts me and states she does not love me anymore is sometimes almost unbearable. Regardless, I push on in the hope that the doctors will some day get her stabilized. Whether we can survive this illness and continue our marriage is questionable. Personally, I believe in my marriage vows and think it would be unethical to divorce a person in her mental state. Our love must prevail over this illness.

  • Sandra

    Dear Alain; Bless you and your wife. There are very few in this world who would have stood by her side through all the challenges depression throws at you. Being someone who has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder I understand. Unfortunately my husband of 25 years did not and still does not. He continues to try to break me both mentally and emotionally so he can prove to the courts that I am just lazy. He has drawn our children into the middle of all the lawyer’s documents. I didn’t sign up for depression, it found me. I am working my way through the assaults and the legal quagmire surrounding family law. I have learned far more than I ever would have if not for my depression. There are days I wish….well I just wish. I am going to move forward and I am hopefully going to meet a decent, understanding man who can see and work past my flaws with me.

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