Mental illness, marriage, dependency and divorce

crutchWritten by: Dave

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing – ‘Cause I’ve built my life around you” ~ Landslide – Stevie Nicks

Even before the collapse of my marriage, this line carried some weight for me. In the past several months it has become both a trigger and a resounding call to truth.


A Difficult Start

My wife and I married the summer before our senior year in high school. Five months later our daughter was born. This brought with it an unsurmountable amount of stress and pressure. It was rough. I had always been prone to bouts of anxiety, and to some depression at times. I was insecure, but this marriage brought security in the form of a partner. I was never popular, never outgoing, and becoming a father and a husband felt right. It also removed me from a dysfunctional family life that I had resented since I was a young boy. We lived in subsidized housing. We were on Food Stamps. We both worked. We graduated high school, I went onto to college to get a degree in graphic design.

I did not know I had anxiety at the time. I only knew I worried, a lot. About everything. All the time. I did not do well in social situations. My brain was constantly spinning, worrying, wondering. I also kept very high expectations of myself. From the standpoint of a father, a husband, an employee and a student. I was always trying to do better, faster, more efficiently.

Within the first few years at my first job with an ad agency, I began to burnout. My wife began going back to school. We also decided to have another child. This was about seven-years into our marriage. I think we were both looking for something that would somehow tie us back together. We had enough in common, we did love each other – but we were about to suffer the fallout of a couple that had married too young.


Struggling With Anxiety

It was during this time I began to research my anxiety. A trip to the emergency room for a potassium deficiency resulted in a prescription for some anti-anxiety medication. I began reading up on symptoms. I tried to discuss this with my wife, but I was afraid. Things were not right with us. We didn’t know what to do. We decided a change of locale, closer to our parents and friends, would be a chance to reestablish ourselves. I would take a slightly less-stressful corporate gig in a marketing communications group, she would continue school and pick up some work in accounting.

Still my mental struggles plagued me. I ignored or avoided them. It’s only in hindsight do I realize the toll my peculiarities would wreak on my relationship. For example, I could not go into a restaurant and ask for a table. I was horrified of this. I always let her do the talking. Nor could I meet a service man at our house. Every vehicle we owned, she negotiated with the salesman, while I sat there, shy, introverted, afraid to speak. She paid every bill, managed every aspect financially – she was my crutch. I couldn’t make appointments over the phone for my kids, and was deathly scared of attending any and every kind of social event alone. As long as my wife was there, I would do okay. Even though it exhausted me, or made me a nervous wreck, I could put myself out there if I absolutely had too, as long as I had her.


The Downward Spiral

Within two years of landing my corporate gig, I was laid off. This began the downward spiral. At the deepest, darkest depths of the depression I plunged into after losing my job, she contacted behavioural health services for me. She made my appointment, she drove me to my first therapy session. That was over ten years ago. I’m fairly certain that I would not be here today without her help.

Over the course of our twenty-four year relationship she has weathered, with me, the suicide of my biological father when I was 16, the passing of my closest family – an aunt, my grandfather, his mother (my great-grandmother) – culminating with the death of my mom from cancer when I was 33. My wife was there – we took care of my mom as she wasted away. My wife was my rock when I had lost everyone else close to me.

Now, therapy and medication have woven themselves into the fabric of my being. As much as I wanted her to understand what I was going through. She couldn’t. Once during a conversation after our separation I told her that if she had been sick, I would’ve done everything to help her. I would’ve researched her illness to discover what she needed from me. I had the same expectation of her, one that she was unwilling or unable to fulfill. I tried to encourage her involvement, she just seemed disinterested. As a result I reached a plateau. I was not well. Yet, I was not doing all that bad. I was not a happy person, but I was not on the verge of suicide, at least not very often. I was functional, but had not recovered from my depression or my bouts with social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder. We lived in this not quite good / not quite bad place for the next ten years.

My mental health contributed to the overall issues that have brought down my marriage. I felt we were managing well enough. I thought we had a certain balance, a yin-yang to our relationship, an ability to play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Not only was it too much for her to bear, but now I understand, my reliance on her support was doing more to enable my behaviour than to help me recover from it. I had unrealistic expectations of her ability to cope and manage with my mental issues.

The fallout of the separation was severe for me. Not in an ugly, uncivil kind of way. In many respects, our marriage is dissolving rather smoothly. We don’t fight. We never fought. We are still, for the most part, best friends.


The Turning Point

The depression has been severe at times. This was twenty-years of my life going down the drain. This one person, my constant rock, was leaving me. There was a dark place where I had to make that sink or swim decision. I was suicidal, but now this was different. This was the defining moment. Death seemed like a warm friend, ready to admonish all my despair and pain in a single swoop. But, I could not leave my kids. This has become the cornerstone for my vigilant efforts to overcome this tragedy and to share with as many people as possible that there is always a new day.

Despite the depression, the isolation, the loneliness, I know that things can be better. [Tweet this quote!]

I now know, as the years went on, my wife began to feel trapped. She was worried I would fall apart without her. She yearned to be someone that she didn’t feel she could be for me. At the same time, I willingly leaned on her not just for support, but as a crutch that prevented me from taking the healthy approach to recovery that I should have. Now, I am in the process of taking responsibility for my own mental health.

My divorce will be final next month. I’ve weathered the rough waters so far. I’m still here through the help of my psychologist, my friends, support groups, and of course my children. Yet, I’m keenly aware that there is no such thing as lasting security. Life goes on and inevitably springs change upon us when we least expect it. While all manners of support can be helpful, those of us who can muster the courage and strength would do well to draw a distinction between support and an unhealthy dependence that could enable the very behaviours we’re trying so hard to adjust. More often than not, if something isn’t helping us, it’s hurting us, which is why we must not be afraid of change.


Image credit:  tantrum_dan


DaveDave is passionate about good design, typography, neurosciences, mental health, parenting, friends, books and food. In his spare time he enjoys playing guitar and contemplating the irrationalities of being creative and analytical at the same time, while chasing that ever elusive feeling of Zen.







Editor’s questions… I would really love to hear from YOU:

  1. Do you have any feedback on Dave’s post?  Please leave a comment below.
  2. The MHT community becomes really valuable and helpful to others when we write of our own experiences in the comments.  So I would also love to hear from you about how your experience with mental health issues has affected your marriage/relationships.

Thank you, Trish

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  • Neurotic Nelly

    Hi, first off let me say I am glad you are doing better. I expierenced a similar issue with my first husband. I leaned on him for support when my mental illness became unmanageable. Unfortunately, he was unwilling to help me or worse yet started to resent me for not being less complicated. I had to learn to help myself when our marriage ended, which although for me it was soul crushingly painful, turned out to be the best thing for me. Unlike your situation my relationship was toxic and not just because of my mental illness. Sometimes the ending of a relationship forces us to become independent and makes us strive to get better. It does not take away the feeling of loss over the relationship. I was able to get better and I do believe that had my first marriage continued, that would not have been the case. I have also found much like you, that my children make me try harder to be the best I can be. Children are amazing motavators. Just wanted to say that although our stories have differences, I totally understand where you are coming from.

    • Dave Burney

      Thanks Nelly… I definitely think this divorce is forcing me to look at all the things I’ve been running from for so long. For better or worse. It’s been a struggle to learn to live without always having that person right by your side. And I understand that, for anyone, this would be a difficult time. But it has been extremely overwhelming for me. Fortunately, I’m doing better now than in the past few months. And my children to motivate me to be better. I do not want to let them down. But I also try to remember to not make them the sole reason for my recovery – I have to do this for myself.

    • april

      I’m just starting divorce. I its hardest. Idk how get through something don’t believe in doing. Wanted say something good but Idk have good to share. Hardest thing ever done. Sorry Dave

  • Earla

    loved the Stevie Nicks quote – that was me. I too am separated from my husband. When I married him I was a completely different person than the one I am today after dealing with my anxiety and depression. Thanks for writing this Dave – it is so very hard to leave a marriage. I thought doing my work with cognitive behaviour therapy was the hardest thing I had to do, but leaving my husband was.

    • Dave Burney

      Accepting that my wife had pretty much just tossed me to the curb was excruciating. And it has taken a while for me to come to terms with how this can be a good thing. Instead of groveling and begging and pleading for her, I realized that she had made a choice. She needed something I couldn’t give her, and if I had convinced her to stay, then what? Neither of us were happy – we were comfortable. As comfortable as I could be without actively addressing my issues. That loss of security was frightening. It’s still frightening. I can’t describe it – but there’s still this piece I’m waiting to just be fully free from. It may not happen. It may be a connection we always share. And it has eased over the last few months. But there are still times where it feels like a part of me is being torn from myself. I know it is mostly grief at the loss I’m going through. It’s more painful than the loss of my mom, or any relative for that matter. It’s like a twin part of me is being stolen away a chunk at a time. I can physically feel it in my gut and my chest. The butterflies, the tugging, the dread.

      But it will get better – CBT has been working well for me as well. And change is inevitable. It’s how we respond that matters. Hope you’re doing well.

  • joe jordan

    Hi Dave,

    I wanted to thank you for sharing your story of struggle with all of us. I’m so very sorry for what you’ve gone through and can appreciate your experiences better than most. I can relate as I’ve suffered similarly during the last ten plus years.
    I was married for ten years (together for twelve) to the love of my life and lost her to my struggles with major depression and “The Icy Grip Of Fear” that consumed my soul for over ten years. I too lost my corporate job and high income, my home, my marriage, my self esteem and my friends to those two heinous plagues on humankind.

    Among my other misadventures, I was hospitalized at a mental health facility for two weeks after a complete nervous breakdown, I was feeling suicidal, was unable to work, had became increasingly withdrawn and hyper religious and spent almost ten years searching for a solution. I changed prescribers on a feeling six months ago and oddly enough, my problem turned out to be that I was prescribed the wrong class of medications (SSRI’s) for all those years (By several doctors) and had been steadily increasing the dosage over the years to try to cope, which only made things worse. In addition, I also was diagnosed with severely low testosterone, which affects both afflictions very negatively.
    I’m now coming up on the second anniversary of my divorce to my ex-wife, who met someone right away, jumped into bed with him and remarried two years later in Vegas. Now they are the owners of a fine new home, have good jobs and are vacationing the way we used to do. I’m still living with my parents.
    The good news is that I was properly diagnosed six months ago and am now taking a combination of Wellbutrin (an SNRI) and Ativan (an Benzodiazepine). I am feeling much better and have begun the climb out of “The Eternal Lake of Fire”. Wellbutrin stopped the depression dead in it’s tracks. The Ativan has helped my anxiety temendously and I’m in the process of zeroing in on the correct dose.
    When my wife first bailed on me back in 2010, I was also able to begin proper testosterone therapy through the gift of insurance through welfare. (!) I felt better and forced myself to take an entry level job at a bank (my industry). Over the past three years I’ve been promoted first to supervisor and then most recently manager. These gains have coincided not so surprisingly, with my medical improvements.
    I’m still in love with my ex but someday hopefully, I’ll be completely over what happened to me and find love again. She has completely left me behind and has no idea that I’m back to my old self. I won’t reach out to her, as I feel that she suffered enough and wouldn’t want to interfere in her marriage.
    The point that I’m trying to make in this lengthy diatribe, is that for those out there who feel hopeless and are suffering. Please don’t give up. There is something out there that can help you. Change doctors if you must. (I needed to) You can make things better!!!
    Thanks again so much Dave, for sharing your continuing experiences and allowing me space on your forum to share my story.

  • Dave Burney

    Thank you for your comment! It does take time – and appropriate intervention is crucial. It’s unfortunate you spent so much time treating the demons with the wrong meds. But let me assure you, every experience brings with it patience and wisdom. Sometimes you don’t even realize it until months or years later. As you eluded to in your post – your promotions, regaining your confidence, all went hand-in-hand with your treatment. The processes that you underwent shaped you in a profound manner that likely wouldn’t have been possible through any other circumstances. You are where you are today because of what you’ve lived through and accomplished in spite of mental illness, and in spite of your divorce. Embrace the change. Embrace the experience.

    The most important thing I’ve discovered is to be vulnerable, honest and authentic. With myself and with others. No matter how scary it might be, despite the risk of criticism and rejection. At that point, things seem to come together. The stars align, life seems to be full of potential. And I realize it’s because I’ve decided to live it on my terms, not someone else’s.

    Good luck – and thanks for sharing your story!

  • Defeated Wife

    Hi Dave. For years I have been searching for something I can relate to, and today I found it in your post. Thank you! But what I relate to most, is the role of your ex-wife. I’m living with a husband who has not accepted responsibility for his mental health. Unlike your wife I have done my research and tried to do what I can to help my husband see, while there is a huge stigma with mental illness, its not something that I personally see as different from a physical illness. If he was diabetic, I would give him insulin daily if that’s what he needed. I’m very supportive and have been patient while he works on “changing himself”. I have learned so much about his depression, anxiety and mood disorder, I can identify trends in his behaviors, watch his symptoms unfold in textbook fashion, and many of them are similar to the things you mention struggling with in your post. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced/struggled with those things. I do understand how very real they are in that moment. And I’m glad to hear you’re doing much better now.

    When I initiated a separation from my husband, he sought help and saw a psychiatrist (two times), who prescribed him an anti-depressant. He did this because he knew he was losing me, and like your wife, I’m his crutch. Anyway, the medication works wonders… when he takes it the way he is supposed to. But he takes it about 60% of the time. He doesn’t realize that his medication means so much to the stability of our family not just himself. When he doesn’t take his medication, the entire family (we have two daughters) is put on an emotional roller coaster with him. He takes the medication just enough to feel better, on a personal level. But he hasn’t owned the larger scope of his illness, or sought further counseling or help, and he doesn’t see that this is something that our whole family is affected by. He skips a few days of pills, he realizes he feels crummy, and starts taking a few pills for a few more days. But in that time where he feels crummy, he is miserable company for the rest of us to be around… he has insecurities which surface and conflict is created and tension fills the house. He doesn’t see the connection between that tension and his not taking the medication. In those “low” times, he blames things on me, or the kids, as if WE have changed and our behaviors have somehow caused his feeling anxious, angry or whatever. For example, he’ll believe my three-year old is being especially bratty and she is the reason why he’s so irritable. When in reality, she is being her normal self, but he is not coping with her as well as he could if he were taking his meds.

    We are currently living (together) as you put it, “in this not quite good/not quite bad place”, where he too is functional, but is not yet working on an active recovery plan. And while I patiently wait for him to fully embrace the larger picture, I’m to a point where I feel like I cannot wait any longer. For so many years he has not been able to be a supportive partner to me, because he at times could barely make it through his own day, and his own daily routine and basic life functions. And like your wife, I do/did a lot of things for him and the family, not as a means of enabling him, but because if I left any responsibility for him, it just wouldn’t happen because the emotional exhaustion of dealing with things was too much for him. Of course, now that he is “functional” he does do more things, and is a better partner in general. So I feel that he has made some progress over the past couple of years. But as his wife, it is a lonely place to be (emotionally) when your partner is depressed or struggles with anxiety. He’s sitting right next to me, but we can’t connect on an emotional level because he is so preoccupied with his own thoughts. I’m tired of being unhappy and feeling like I’m constantly waiting for him to have an epiphany, which may never come. I feel like we too, have hit a plateau.

    It sounds to me like it took your wife leaving for you to embrace your mental illness, (which I respect you for tremendously). Or rather, the loss of what you saw as security is what prompted change on a deeper level. And certainly the kids are a great motivation, I relate to that as well. But I do fear that my leaving will send my husband into a depression. And there is no loss of love, just loss of hope that I will ever have the partner I need.

    So my question for you is, while you were on that plateau where things were not quite good/ not quite bad, do you think you would’ve remained on that plateau indefinitely? Did you need that life changing event to catapult you into something more? At what point did you feel like you had a good grasp on your anxiety and worked on making treatment a priority in your life?

    • Dave Burney

      Defeated Wife – I absolutely believe the life changing event was the impetus. Because I could not, would not face things on my own. It was my sink or swim moment. We are creatures of habit and change is hard. Most of us have to hit bottom – sometimes more than once – to realize that WE are the only ones that can make ourselves better. All the support, therapy and meds in the world won’t help someone who doesn’t see the value in helping themselves.

      To your second question, I’m still working through making treatment a priority. I have good days and bad days. But I do feel more determined now (at least most of the time) to work towards a better place where I have the skills and tools at my disposal to cope with my anxiety and depression.

      One final note – your husband’s depression is his. While I encourage you to provide him the support he needs and applaud your efforts to be an understanding and willing partner in his battle, you must also provide support for yourself. You deserve happiness just as much as he does. As selfish as it sounds, I’ve realized that I need to take care of me first – then I can see what is left for me to spread around. Sometimes there’s a lot, sometimes only a little. It’s an ongoing process. And I also find it imperative to examine my motivations and see what is helping me and what is hurting me. Can peel back the underlying motives and turn a hurtful thing into a helpful one. If not, why is it still a part of my life?

      • Defeated Wife

        Thank you so much for your reply. I value and respect your thoughts and the path you’re on to prioritize what’s important. And really appreciate your sharing your personal experience. I have found some support of my own in a group for people who are codependent, such as myself. And I really appreciate how clearly you state the following: “I’ve realized that I need to take care of me first – then I can see what is left for me to spread around. Sometimes there’s a lot, sometimes only a little.” I could certainly learn from that!! I’m sure I will revisit your story for inspiration. And I love the “Landslide” reference! Thank you again!

  • Karen

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for sharing your story, I have written for Trish before, and never spoke about my marriage(s) in depth. I had so many other issues to talk about. I have been married 2 times, I am divorced from my first husband, who is one of my best friends now…lol, never imagined that. We have one daughter together. And I am recently separated from my current husband, we will be married 2 years on feb. 24th. ..My mental illnesses did not play as big of a role in my first marriage, I mean looking back I see why I married him,very quickly within 6 months we eloped, but I was so damaged from my upbringing and so was he.

    My second marriage I was already unable to work, had several diagnosis of major depression, panic attacks, BPD and Bipolar 2, I was on meds by then and had been in the hospital. But I knew my husband years ago, when I was in my 20s..we have a son together, who is now an adult but we never married. Long story short we reconnected and got married in 2012, he said he wanted to help me and be there for me, unfortunately my illness was out of control, I had intense rage, mood swings, and all my anger issues in my life were directed to him, I cried, I was frustrated. He did come to therapy with me though, I thought he understood but when we would argue, he would say I was crazy, etc…we both hurt eachother. I know it must have been very difficult for him, because the Karen he knew from years ago was gone, I had gone through a deep trauma in 2005 that resulted in a breakdown and forever changed my life. I am very sad, but my mental health was declining, the stress , the anger I could not deal. I was admitted to the mental hospital while we were married, I left him, I came back, I tried to work it out. Sadly I am at the point now where I have to get myself together first, I cannot be a partner to anyone until I heal and can take care of me first. Sorry this was so long,…I wish you the best of luck in your future and thank you for sharing your story.

    • Dave Burney

      Karen – thank you for the well wishes – I’m sorry to reply so many months after the fact. The last few months have been difficult.

      It’s good to hear that you realize how important it is to get yourself together first. It is a long road – and it can get lonely. But yes, self love is the first step. Something I struggle with daily. After all, the love you give has to come from within.

      I wish you the best – be strong and courageous for yourself first. Then things will begin to fall into place.

  • Heather

    Reading your posts just now is the first time I have felt a sense of true hope in over 5 years. I married my husband nearly 20 years ago to the day. He has developed major depressive disorder (and maybe late onset bi polar – not sure as he had a psychotic episode 3 years ago after deciding without consulting anyone, to stop the antidepressants he was prescribed after a serious suicide attempt in 2009. He also seems to have little up swings were he talks about how he never wanted to get married or have children and wants to become a Buddhist monk or live a spiritual life he calls it). He has told me that the only thing we have in common is our 2 children and our address. Comments like that are so painful, as I too see mental illness like a physical illness, it needs treatment and the patient to be treated with care and compassion. He will apologise for his comments when his sleep improves or he seems to have some insight, but because he repeats the theme time and again that he never wanted what we have together, I seem to have finally heard this message after denying it could be true – thinking it must be the depression talking. What terrifies me is that I have researched all about his illness, and been supportive and helpful as much as anyone could be. I know that to be the truth and will never feel any regrets that I could have done more. But a depressed view of life is not the view I hold, and I am so very tired of trying to hold it all together and want it to be okay, when our marriage is so far from okay. He slowly reduced his antidepressants, and stopped them about 4 months ago. I have felt the down hill slide since. It is almost palpable the mood he conveys. There is nothing for me left. He was diagnosed with extremely low vitamin D levels, and very low testosterone (after I did my research and asked for testing which revealed the low results). He took the medication for the low D and 3 monthly injections, however this too he has stopped. I don’t understand how he doesn’t make the connection between when he is feeling better is because of the medication, and exercise and meditation he does, but then stops the medication and reduces the exercise because he feels better! It is so obvious that you feel better when you take the medication so stay on it. He does say he feels side effects which I imagine must be difficult, he says the antidepressants make him feel dull, but interestingly he is more animated and appears happier when on them. It is so confusing not knowing what is him, and what is the mental illness? I feel so guilty about giving up on our marriage as we have two children, but he says he wants out and this time I just don’t have the energy to fight for us, because maybe it is really what he wants not the illness talking. Can you help me understand the thinking of a depressed mind. Do you really know how to make the right decision when you are depressed, especially one as big as divorce which will devastate our children?

    • Dave Burney

      Heather, I can only provide my opinion as someone who has experienced the crippling effects of depression.

      Please realize that, for me personally, my marriage was a security blanket that I clung to for dear life. It was, I thought, all that I had to live for. I was the only person that could change that mindset – so amount of support or lack of support from my significant other would ever help me if I wasn’t ready to help myself.

      Going through the treatment process can be painful. I have been dull, tired, lethargic – all due to a variety of meds. I tend to plateau, feel alright and just stick with that, as opposed to actively trying to manage my depression. This is not a recipe for success. I have to consider my physical activity, my diet as well as my medication. If I’m not committed to trying harder to feel better, I won’t. It’s that simple. And depression and anxiety certainly make it difficult to muster the strength to feel like your capable of feeling better. Because it really seems like there is no hope.

      As far as making big decisions, the depressed brain tends to run for security and away from conflict. Though I would not be as concerned with someone else’s decisions – those are things you have no control over. You only have control over the decisions you make. You deserve happiness – just as much as your spouse. And your children deserve a healthy upbringing. What that entails is up to you. But realize that the sadness is as much a part of him as anything else – until he decides to manage it. And I applaud you for being supportive. So many partners disengage – it truly does require the same effort as any physical illness. Unfortunately, your husband has not found the right mix of treatment options. For some of us, it can take years. Others may never find an effective combination of therapy, medication and other resources. But I can tell you that it is possible – it is difficult, but possible to manage.

      Please remember to consider yourself – we all deserve love and happiness. Even the partners that hang on despite the hardships – at some point things have to change. That’s the nature of the universe, change is constant. If we aren’t busy being born, we’re busy dying.

  • MAC

    Hi, i am in the middle of a marraige with someone with a mental illness, and it is extremely hard. We are young (mid twenties) and her illness is schizophrenia. We’ve been married almost 2 years.

    Basically she is just increasingly crazy. She has become obsessed with Christian cults and spends all day wanting to talk about jesus, or trying to persuade me to spend thousands of dollars (by selling everything we own or getting debt) to fly her around he world to see Christian ‘miracle’ workers. She has been hospitalised 5 times since our marriage for wandering the streets in a deluded state. It’s gotten so bad, she barely dresses or feeds herself anymore, just sits in the room all day trying to have delusional experiences or reading about others delusion experiences.

    I want to leave so badly, but I’m scared that if I do she will die. Sometimes she threatens to kill me, other times herself. When I tell her I want to leave and her behaviour is going to destroy our relationship, she either just ignores me or says ‘no it won’t, it will work out, you’ll figure it out soon’. She’s convinced that if she just keeps thinking that that it will happen an I’ll become her dream man, following in her steps.

    Seriously, it sucks so bad. Over the last few months I’ve started talking to mine and her families, and her case worker. I’ve made it clear that we’re getting a divorce, an that she has 6 months to become aware of that fact and begin living independently. In that time, I plan on withdrawing more and more from the scene (staying parttime in another home).

    Sorry to say all this, I guess I’m venting. And it was helpful to read some of the comments here, so I thought if say my bit. This shit is hard.

    • Dave Burney

      Hi MAC, this shit is hard. And venting is okay.

      It sounds like you’ve made the decision – which is the hardest part. Now it’s all about the follow-through.

      Remember you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. As heartbreaking as it is, you can only control your actions. Not someone else’s.

      And please don’t apologize for being authentic and honest. That is one thing that is missing in great quantities in the world right now. We need more people to tell their stories – not less. More people to say “this shit is hard” – because it is. And so many of us feel like we’re alone, but we’re not. Life is messy – and we exert so much energy trying to hide from that fact.

      My ex was also afraid that I would do something rash earlier in our relationship when she first thought about leaving. And maybe I would have – but that would in no way be on her. Despite whatever mental anguish I might be experiencing at any given time – it is MINE. The decisions I make (good or bad) are mine. I have to own them. And I am nobody else’s responsibility. I appreciate support when I get it. I appreciate advice (good and bad). But to ever blame my ex for my decisions is to not look at the bigger picture. The one where I examine my motives, my ugliness, my selfishness and take responsibility the good and the bad in my life.

      Take responsibility for the good and the bad – but don’t let someone else’s decisions plot your course. Be where you are because you want to be there. Any situation that develops out of perceived obligation will begin to fester. Resentments build. Emotions are strained. You feel trapped. At that point it becomes that uncomfortable security blanket. You hate it, but it feels better than the fear of change, the insecurity of the unknown. And self-doubt that plagues you wondering if you what you really want to do is the “right” thing to do.

      All I can say is we tend to avoid what is best for us because it seems extremely hard. Even when we feel it in our heart – in our gut. We find a million reasons to talk ourselves out of taking action. What will others think? How will so-and-so manage? What if this happens? What if that happens? And so the sky begins to fall. And we look for cover. Determined not to venture out into the unknown again. And therefore depriving ourselves of an honest, authentic experience that might very well have a profound impact on our lives.

      Please take care – and best of luck.

  • Trish

    Thank you Karen, Heather and MAC for sharing your stories. It takes a look of courage to share and please know your comments are helping others.

    I also wanted to let you know that the author of this post is notified of your comments.

    Much love,

  • Dave Burney

    Thank you everyone for your comments. It means so much to me to make a connection with a reader.

    • Dave Burney

      I’m so sorry for the lack of responses everybody. Things have been rough for a few months. But I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. More writing is on the agenda, as well as trying to actively engage with readers from various sites on the state of mental health. Please keep reading and making comments!

  • Conflicted Wife

    Thank you so much for this article, and for the comments above. I am married to a man with mental health isses (as yet undiagnosed, but pretty severe) and we have a young daughter together. We have been together for a long time, but the last few years have been really tough.
    I really feel that what I am going through now very much echoes the experiences described by Defeated Wife and Heather above. I have no idea what to do.
    I am really sick of trying (and failing) to cope with my husband’s unreasonable and irrational behaviour. He frequently talks of suicide. He often blames me for his depression, or for little things that aren’t my fault. He often addresses me in a rude disrespectful way. He repeatedly says that I forced him to have a kid (in my eyes this is untrue, we made a joint decision) and that he wasn’t ready, and that I have effectively ruined his life. There are some things he has said to me that are so hurtful that I feel the love I had for him has been eroded down to a sliver of what it once was. I have tried so hard to be supportive to him for such a long time. However I just feel that I don’t want this life (with him) anymore, I cannot go on with it. I am like a single parent but also trying (and failing) to care for him. The lack of mental health services support has been difficult, and I have been the one pushing for help (he wouldn’t have done). He doesn’t have a diagnosis (other than ‘depression’), is not taking medication, and we are waiting to hear about therapy. I have realised many things retrospectively, that he has always had these problems to a less obvious degree throughout our relationship, so I feel like they will never go away. I am worried about him taking his own life if I leave him (he has said he would not want to live if we split). However I am also worried about his own impact on our young daughter’s life, and I feel fiercely protective of her; I don’t want her to grow up surrounded by irrationality, anxiety, and conflict between her parents. I also don’t want him to start blaming *her* directly for his bad feelings. He is already becoming very stressed by her – normal developmental – tantrums when she is tired. He does also accuse me of being “completely mental” and sometimes he calls me names. I feel emotionally drained and exhausted.

    • Dave Burney

      Conflicted Wife – it takes a lot courage to come to terms with the adverse effects of someone who refuses to address their own issues. At the end of the day, he is the only one in control of his moods, his behaviors and his decision to seek help (or not to seek help). Most of the time when we’re depressed we blame ourselves. Yet it is not uncommon for it to mask itself as anger, bitterness and even abuse. Holding someone else hostage helps relieve oneself of the blame and the desire to seek help. Because at that point, it’s someone else’s fault. Not our own. Which is entirely not the case.

      Please keep in mind that his actions are his own. At some point you’ll want to think about your mental well-being and that of your daughter. Once a relationship is toxic, it is not benefiting any of the participants. Unless a rational heart-to-heart can address the underlying issues and needs and a plan of action is put into place, it will likely continue to foster animosity and resentment for both of you.

      Threatening suicide is a means of control and a reaction out of fear. I wish I could tell you there is an easy solution. But ultimately you are only responsible for yourself and the well-being of your daughter. I would encourage your husband to seek treatment, I would encourage you to voice your own needs for the benefit of your own well-being. Therapy, couples therapy, medication, attending group meetings, it can all make a world of difference, but only if everyone is committed to being fully involved.

      I know it is hard. It’s scary – it’s an unknown. We get wrapped up in the comforts of our discomfort. We’re constantly struggling for security and that is a futile effort. Because we don’t really know what tomorrow or the next day will bring. So we settle, we dig our claws into it. Because change is hard. But without exerting some effort and tenacity, nothing will get better.

      I wish you the best of luck – and I wish you’re husband a heartfelt recovery.

  • Heather

    Dear all,

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for acknowledging my post back in May. I was so scared and felt really desperate at the time, as I could sense something ‘big’ was about to happen. I haven’t been able to respond until now as so much has gone on and I have been very emotional. Reading your posts made me cry, which was good to let some feelings out and I felt less alone. Not long after my post my husband announced that he was leaving to become a Buddhist monk. My initial reaction was to convince him to see his psychiatrist, who prescribed some low dose medication. I think he has been taking it, but the dosage is very low so maybe not enough to really make a difference. He went off on a course to stay with monks, then another meditation course. He stopped working also, and has not found another job. He now says his monk plans are on hold. He seems confused about his life direction, but that has always been a major struggle for him. He has moved into a shared accommodation arrangement. He also sent a txt that was so long and rambling about the bad state of the world, and then ended it with it is over between us. I have finally accepted there is nothing I can do to ‘make’ him better. No amount of support or love can change his state of mind. I struggle as all partners who have not ended the relationship must do, but there is the added layer of his mental illnesses in trying to accept the ‘why’ it is over. In his current state of mind he is different. My teenage daughter told me that he seems different, and he is, but that is mental illness – the person becomes someone else for a while. You grieve the loss each time. He takes great offence that I would suggest he is unwell. I have accepted though, and your posts have really helped, that he needs to figure that out on his own, there is nothing else I can do. He is very angry towards me as sees me as a part of the ‘system’ that he is against so I am also part of the problem for him. He behaves like a rebellious teenager and I am the mother. That is not a sound relationship. It does break my heart to see him in this state. I do worry about him, but I feel relieved that I can now run my life and my kids life more how I feel it should be -without the cloud that he emanates of a depressed mind and world view. They see him a couple of times a week and I hope that he does get help and get better, but to be off the roller coaster that you are trapped on when someone you love becomes unwell is a relief. Now I can watch the roller coaster and try to get him off it, but I don’t have to be sitting next to him on the ride. I feel such a deep sadness, as he is the love of my life, the father of my children, and a sensitive good person. He is not psychotic or suicidal so cannot be forced into hospital to get the help he needs, so is exercising his self determination to be on his own. The question remains is it him or the mental illness that has made this big decision to leave?. I have pondered it for days and realise it doesn’t really matter, it is what it is and I have to now focus on myself and my kids. You can’t force someone to stay who doesn’t want to, painful as that is to face, and for whatever the reason. After a few months of pain and struggle I can see a future ahead, I can feel some happiness returning at times and what felt like my life ending now feels like it is not over. I can feel the real me returning, not the person who made compromises against my better judgement. When you live with someone who has a mental illness you get sucked in to their unhealthy decision making at times, as you hope going along with an idea will make them happy! It can’t be over when you have kids. They only have one precious childhood and I want to enjoy them as well. I put so much time and energy into trying to help my husband, at times to the detriment of my kids, and look how it turned out – he just left anyway. What helps me to know what to do now is to think about how they will write their life story and describe their childhood. That guides my actions every day now. I hope they write that I coped well and can be a good role model for them of how to respond when life doesn’t’ t go as planned but most importantly I hope they write they felt happy and secure and loved by me. I hope they write about their dad that he realised he needed to take meds and other treatments prescribed, to attend talk therapy and was well most of the time and they felt loved by him. But that really is up to him now. To Defeated Wife, I wish you all the best and I am thinking of you and understand how complex and hard it is to know what to do right now. Heather

    • Layla

      Hi heather,
      Maybe ?? I might be able to shed some light on a few comments your husband has made or how he might be feeling from someone who relates a little to his world from what you’ve said. I don’t know if you’ve read my original post to Dave but I suffered a lot of trauma as a result of abuse, divorce, neglect etc as a child. I grew up she’ll shocked in a total state most of the time of hyper vigilance unable to feel real emotion because I was in a state of survival and looking back, my feelings and who I was were unimportant and never validated so I believed I wasn’t important or worth validating either. As a young adult I often clung to relationships I had strong feelings about not wanting to be in but felt I had no choice but to as these people were ‘normal society’ and I ‘should’ do the normal thing and grab it with both hands. I was making these decisions still not having a real sense of self and self importance and self love as I was surviving but completely unaware of this. The person I projected to the world and to myself was for all intents and purposes a functional (for the most part and on the surface) normal looking person. At 22 or 23 I had been with my then partner for 5 years and we decided to end the relationship for various reasons, it was at that point I was diagnosed with depression/dysthymia which the psychiatrist described as something he believed I had from childhood.
      After this relationship I was then with someone I felt I actually wanted to be with and fell in love with. The first relationship ever where I felt this. Unfortunately this person had an abusive side and even though I loved him I realized he didn’t love me and was very unhealthy and I had to end our relationship. After this I became increasingly sensitive and hyper vigilant again, I was re traumatized. I became untrusting and felt extremely anxious. These experiences I believe concreted some limiting beliefs that at the time I felt were protecting me like I’ll never let this happen again and I trusted my feelings and I ended up in a bad place. So since then getting my life back on track required me to distrust my feelings because I make bad decisions and to avoid taking risks and staying safe at all costs. To really do this requires cutting off from your sense of self and as a result of this severing I developed another ‘self’. This self was already in me to some degree because I would go to this self when bad or harmful things were happening as a child or young adult and it allowed me to function however this false sense of self didn’t feel great happiness any sense of connectedness to others or the world and no real sense of purpose, mind you I had no awareness this wasn’t me and I was happy for it to be that way. By this stage I had been on antidepressants and a few other medications for nearly 15 years. Looking back because I never had the awareness to explain to the original psychiatrist I suffered other symptoms like panic, hyper vigilance, a constant state of shock and now due to increasing aggravation dissociation these issues weren’t addressed and I believe from what I’ve witnessed in others, research I’ve done and numerous therapies and courses depression and or anxiety on its own in a person that for one of a better term is ‘fully integrated’ e.g has a sense of self that is one whole being and is not split or suppressing significant parts of their identity is treated well by antidepressant meds and the like. However, if that person is actively but not necessarily consciously repressing a significant part of their identity (most of the time to keep them safe) which most likely is made up of certain beliefs, ways of being in the world, views, opinions and personality traits etc then I believe antidepressant meds etc can help to keep this original identity or part there of suppressed. I believe they do this because the feelings attached to this original identity state are depression and anxiety and to ‘make these better’ by default keeps the awareness of this original part of yourself hidden. When I came off my medications to try for another baby I felt things I had not felt in a very long time. I felt pain and sadness but I also felt joy and I recovered a longing to really live that I didn’t even know was possible. The combination of being really able to feel whilst spending more and more time like this in the presence of my 3 year old daughter recovered or uncovered these lost identity states. Who I ‘used’ to be before I decided it was way to unsafe and deadly, what I used to feel, what hobbies I had, what my view of the future looked like and also most importantly to me who I would be if ever I got the chance to be a mother. Unfortunately with all this eventually brought with it panic. I looked around at my life and it completely didn’t make sense. It was like I’d been given a box of puzzle pieces that didn’t fit together at all… My husband didn’t understand at all. I was desperately trying to hang on to this new found want for life after so many years in the dark and my biggest motivator for this was my daughter. I knew that to show her love and happiness and wonder and gentleness and all the things a loving mother wants to convey to their daughter I had to hang on to this part of me even though it fully seemed as though my husband was now married to someone else. All these feelings didn’t come gently they came with full force and at times I was confused ! I rambled, I talked about how the world was and how I wanted things to be and a lot about how this relationship (between my husband and I) didn’t seem to fit. I didn’t receive the help I needed to organize the thoughts and feelings I was having, I wanted to know what to do with them but still keep this new or in fact old me alive. I didn’t want to go back to living just for safety I didn’t want to lose the insight that there is so much more to life than being scared and pleasing others. The mental health professionals around me had a set of tools to work with, the ‘right’ tools. When picking up a nail and a hammer we all know these 2 are a match, the hammer is the solution without a doubt. I believe the system as your husband referred to it as is unfortunately extremely limited. I have found in my own experience and also talking to the rare unconventional psychiatrist or health professional that mental health is not an exact science as much as we’d like it to be and there’s still so much the up to date convention doesn’t ‘fix’ my situation unfortunately is still not resolved and I too am trying to learn what’s worth saving and what is a situation that needs to change however painful. I hope for what it’s worth this may have shed some light on your husbands situation. He may well say ” no, this is not at all a story that resonates with my own” I just thought though when you mentioned that he was trying to explain that he wasn’t sick and that the system is apart of the problem I would share my story. Only a few decades ago the same system and educated experts used to administer shock therapy to those that realized they were gay. Now we realize that the experts were wrong and those individuals with nothing more than their feelings to guide them have spoken out and changed the world rather than being labeled as misfits that need treatment. I hope that this view or story helps in some way rather than adding to more suffering. All the best Heather

  • Heather

    Sorry above post comment at end is to Conflicted wife. Heather

  • Layla

    Hi Dave,
    I’m always googling to try to find others that are or have gone through the same thing as me so I feel as though people with mental illness that do go through divorce not only survive but grow and can be happy. I married my husband 5 years ago and we’ve been together 8. At the time when I met him I had all these loud hesitations that I shoved down he’s too naive not strong enough insightful enough too young (6 years younger than me I’m 38). I think I thought who was I coming from servere childhood and early adult trauma to listen to this voice and not cling on and make this persons happiness the be all and end all, who was I to think I deserved what I wanted however ludicrous I thought it was.. I was on antidepressants and had been for 11 years at that point. When I got pregnant I stopped them straight away and I was happy through the pregnancy I had a purpose and was fulfilling a dream. When my baby was born I went through chronic post natal anxiety/panic so chronic I ended up on antipsychotics because nothing could relieve the panic and ongoing sleeplessness. After my daughter turned one I managed by then to become well again ( on the surface) my husband never wanted to do any research, and doesn’t communicate and communication is lead by me so I’ve always felt disconnected and a problem. 18 months ago now which literally seems like yesterday I had been off my antidepressant and mood stabilizer for a month or so, we said to the psych if it got bad I’d just go back on but it didn’t not how I thought it would anyway. I came off to try for another baby and instead I realised how much even though I was the ‘sick’ one I had to push my husband to do anything, with us as a family, to have a serious conversation, to know when he had weekends off from work and the list goes on. I suddenly after 20 years on meds was without depression and I had feelings of deep love and connectedness for my daughter (2/1/2 at time) and that this relationship seemed to be built on safety and dependence and possibly nothing more ! It terrified me…. I was so terrorized I didn’t sleep for for days and had diareah and vomiting and servere panic like I was on fire every morning. I ended up at the hospital… to cut things off here 18 months on form this I no longer have that sense of love etc and me that I was a very long time ago I’ve become serverly depressed suicidal and at times dusions and chronically panic stricken. My question to you after some background is how do your children cope when your on your own, no friends or family and your serverly I’ll ( which I’m imaging I’ll be if I decide on divorce/separation ) I don’t want my daughter to suffer all her life like me…thanks

  • Dave Burney

    Layla, I feel that the most honest way to approach this is understanding what is necessary to make you happy. If that leads to separation/divorce, then so be it. Children are resilient, and with time can come to understand and cope with a variety of situations. That does not mean that they escape unscathed, but through owning up to your circumstance you can become a positive roll model – both in dealing with mental health issues and relationship issues.

    We all gather baggage from our childhood – a parent that is willing to recognize this and help their child manage and cope (whether if be in their younger years or well into adulthood) helps break the cycle and stigma associated with mental illness. We are a culture that continues to sweep these issues under the rug. We stay in broken relationships, we numb our insecurities, we’re expected to do what is “right” – but there is no right. There is no wrong way – only finding YOUR way. For your sake and that of your daughter.

    Therapy has been a great help to me. As has medication and group. I was not “alone” when I was struggling through my divorce, even though it may have felt like it at the time. My therapist played a key role in maintaining my sanity – always calling me out on my irrational thoughts and ideas. Helping me to nurture myself back to feeling somewhat whole.

    That does not mean I don’t get anxious. Or that I don’t get depressed. Just that I have a set of tools that help me manage. And in breaking down how/where/why my relationship went wrong, I’ve been able to see areas that I need help emotionally. Some things I can work on – other’s not quite yet. But I’ve been determined to stay on the path of learning to like myself. Be kind to myself. And when I get anxious or depressed, I look deep inside to figure out why? What about my current situation has me so wrapped up in these horrible feelings? Often it’s a fear. An insecurity. Then I can begin to break down how to deal with it in a meaningful, heartfelt way, without judging myself. Without beating myself up. Which I know can be very, very difficult.

    I hope I’ve helped a little. Everyone’s story is different. Everyone’s path is their own. But sometimes relating to what someone else has been through can be encouraging. That’s why I wrote that piece. Thank you very much for reading it and responding.

    Please take care.

  • Erin

    Dear Dave,

    Thank you for sharing so eloquently your struggles. Like Conflicted Wife, I stumbled across your posts in search of my own answers dealing with a mentally ill husband. Your words reinforced my belief that my husband is stuck…that he won’t recover further while I’m still making sure our lives don’t fall apart. Our youngest child is 16 and I’m trying to hold on until she’s finished high school. I wish you all the best as you recover…please know your transparent honesty continues to help others.



    • Dave Burney

      Erin, thanks so much for the reply. I’m sorry it has taken me a bit to respond. While I struggle daily with transparency, I definitely realize the value in it. And it is a hard truth to swallow – that recovery of any type has to come from within, and that there’s a fine line between support and enabling. Just realize that despite any choices your husband may make on his own – those are his choices – we’re very good at blaming others before looking inside ourselves to discover the true motivations for our actions. I wish you the best of luck. And please keep exploring for resources that can help you better understand what your husband is dealing with – and also discover how you can help yourself.

  • Erin

    Corrected: “conflicted wife” should be “defeated wife”…

  • Tom

    The internet is a great tool for finding out what others are going through and that we are not alone in our struggles. I am married to a women who was first diagnosed as bi polar at the age of 16. She had ECT treatment for whatever reason and I was told of this after we were engaged. She had shown no signs of a problem that I noticed. She had a few problems early on as was on some medications. After our son was born she started to become worse. Shortly after she was in a car accident with a severe head injury. It has been a battle ever since trying to find the right balance of meds and without much success with several therapists who weren’t successful helping her. Our son is now in college and has amazingly dealt with the situation of a crazy disfunctional home life. Kids become more involved with outside activities to get away from the situation. I am at the breaking point considering divorce and the impact it will have on me and my wife. I want her to be cared for and know in her present condition she will require daily help making sure she takes her meds. I don’t think she has a clue how difficult this has been on her family. I’m sure this will cost me dearly from my retirement funds but and I know how others feel trapped as I do. I have looked to her side of the family for some support for her but even as Cristians I don’t feel they are willing to take on this burden. My wife does not have any close friends other than mine and they understand her illness. I think most wonder how I have dealt with this for so long. I am not helping her but only giving her a place to stay. I do think that she might be better off away from the stress in this household but I may be kidding myself. I don’t have much to look forward to in our current situation. Any type of vacation usually results in more anxiety and then things spiral down from there. I believe it is time to set her free and also to myself. It does give one a sense of guilt to do this. So many people get divorced for reasons that seem so trivial. It is the sickness and in health part that is difficult for me.
    I wish all who deal with this peace of mind,

  • Denise

    So thankful I found this. You describe everything so well. I am an anxiety sufferer and it has affected my health and I suffer from depression now. I have a husband who doesn’t support me in the right ways in regards to me getting help for this. I fell apart after a year of doing well when i was weaning off of effexor xr. And he made me leave our home and family. My psychiatrist said for him to take a family leave from work to help me because I couldn’t get out of bed much but to use bathroom . I came back home again although he really didnt want me to and by a year or so heft me here. I don’t drive alone or go places alone because my fear of being alone and having a health problem or anxiety attack horrifies me. I cook clean love our family and try to be as normal as I can but I suffer sacmuch from all of this I dream of leaving him so i wont bother him but being able to drive myself to the doctor or store or to drive my teen daughter anywhere would be a real problem so I feel dependant and I know to a point he is my crutch and I have no job so I solely depend on him for support. I have been a home maker and also worked when he was laid off or in between jobs. I just feel like if I leave I will fail in being able to support myself because I can’t drive alone or do new things alone. He has told me that he guesseshescrazy because he drove me to my psychiatrist appointment.I am hurt mad feel betrayed and used after 25 yrs of marriage. I beg him for help getting to the doctor for some pretty severe issues and he takes me to a couple of appointments and figures I should be OK but I can’t get everything treated that fast. I guess he cant help me get any help for my physical or emotional illness. I cry so often and wonder where his heart is because I want to overcome this and live again. I used to be strong I think him doing this is easier for him but not me.I just about gave up and left him a week ago but I’m still here and don’t know what to do. He says he doesn’t want me to leave and that it won’t fix anything yet he gets upset with me and tells me I’m insane amongst other things because of my problems. I just don’t understand how I will ever be able to get off of this medicine and find another that might help me when he abandoned me when I am emotionally unwell. That alone makes me feel so insecure everyday.

  • Sally

    Dear Dave
    Thank you for your post – and to everyone for these comments. I am another person in the role of ex-wife, and am so delighted to read that you have found your way. I have been described as a rock and a crutch, but I’ve had to do what I’ve done for my own sanity, despite it being incredibly hard, and upsetting. I hope we both come out the other side. I’m reasonably confident that I will one day, and your words make me feel that there is hope for my husband. I hope so – and well done you. I will come back to this site a few times and read all the comments in more depth. Thank you all for sharing. You have made me feel a lot better.

  • nikki

    Hello Dave,
    I am so blessed to have found this page. I too am in a similar situation. i have been married to my husband for about 22 years. We started dating when I was 16. After H.S he entered the military and we married when I was 19. We now have 3 Children, and my life has been a complete living hell for the last ten years. He has had a terrible upbringing. A mom who was never present, a complete set of different brothers and sisters from other men, and a dad who died from drugs when he was 11. His family moved a lot , and he was never close to any of them. I was completely opposite, I came from a large family with lots of love. Initially i would see small things in him, but after I announced I was pregnant with our son, he completely switched. He started cutting off credit cards threatening to take everything away. He would even close bank accounts without my knowledge. My pregnancy was horrible. One day I came home to cable boxes ripped out the wall. This was the start of my hell. He accused me of getting pregnant w/out talking to him, We talked about it, but to him I guess this was more pressure to take care of now 3 kids and a wife. No more than 2 weeks after my son was born, He came home from the doctor with a vasectomy he never told me. I was devastated. This was the first time i left. I went to my parents and he drove up 14 hrs on Christmas eve begging to stay w the kids and I for Christmas. He then convinced me to come back. This has played out for ten years. There were two other times when my kids and I left stayed in a hotel, because he was flipping out. He always flips out at the holidays and tax time. He know holidays are my favorite time of the year. He says its tough for him because all he can think about is the money being spent. At tax time he will claim me and the children get a really huge return and then spend the money before i know its in the bank. and then question why I’m upset. His issues are deep and they revolve around money. Once the taxes are all spent on “BILLS” , then he will run up the same bills, he will go charge furniture, tv, buy a new car, whatever. It has gotten so bad that we have been to court 2 times to dissolve the marriage because he threatens me and says that he wants a divorce. Everytime I get the process started he cries and wants his family back.We have even had to have a financial plan in place by the courts where he has to give me so much money a month, he really resents this , but there was no financial stability for me and the kids because we’d wake up and he would say he spent all the money on bills. and then tell me to get a job. because he would shut me out of all the money and say it’s his when I did get jobs he would always say you don’t need to work or leave that job and be with the kids I’m always gone so just stay home. He too suffers with insecurity and he has no friends. I have plenty of friends. He never wants to really do anything because he’s always thinking about money. Then he’s happy. For 6/7 months out of the year he is happy it starts after he feel like he’s gotten what he wants 0 balances on his credit cards. So around March he becomes someone new, then when October comes he’s miserable always talking about money and saying we don’t have money for the holidays. He will totally ruin Christmas, Thanksgiving, and anytime between Oct and FEB/March. We have been to counseling for 10 years with his first episode. I always tell him if something is wrong I will help him. I am so tired of this cycle. He says really awful things to me and i just question why I stay. Now he is retiring from the military and my life is being turned upside down once again. He’s telling the kids things are tight I’m losing my job. Now for the next 11/2 years until he retires he says he has to save every penny and we can not do anything unless I pay for it. Now my kids are anxious. I do not want this to harm my kids. just last summer he was deployed he was trying to convince me to buy a home. He had me running all over to get the most added features to the home, he bought a new car, he spent bunch of money on the credit card bought new dining room furniture and now according to him we are poor. we are not going to have money when he retires. the whole situation is doom and gloom. My heart hurts when i see him coming. I have to figure out what to do . I can t take this anymore. He needs help.
    Thanks Nicole

  • Dave Burney

    Nikki, I’m so sorry you find yourself in this situation. Relationships are difficult even when things are going well, without the added stress of emotional instability.

    A lot has changed for me since I first wrote this piece. There have been many ups and downs. But I own it all, I’m wholly responsible for myself, my mental health, my happiness – even when it eludes me. This allows me to acknowledge that I alone am in the driver’s seat.

    Starting over can seem extremely overwhelming. And that may be where your path leads. Or it may mean a heart to heart – a very painful one, with your husband. You can’t make him change, you can only offer support if it is something he is willing to commit to. But that is his baggage to accept – not yours. We all carry our own demons – often it leaks out onto everyone else around us. Until we take responsibility for ourselves, the leakage only worsens. It has profound effects on our relationships.

    Ridding myself of toxic people has been one of the most difficult aspects of my growth. I realize that I hold the power over who I choose to have relationships with. If they do not make me feel good, then it’s time for me to reconsider exactly what I am getting out of the experience. And is it healthy? Struggling to help someone doesn’t have to be a drain, unless they are unwilling to help themselves. Then it falls upon our own shoulders to determine what is the healthiest course for ourselves – both emotionally and physically.

    And there is nothing easy about it. I would encourage you to keep working with a counselor – as a couple and perhaps individually. It would appear that your husband may benefit from both. But eventually, you too have to make a decision. One that is right for you and your children.

    Early on in my struggles I frequented an online support board @ – I also sought out local support groups that would help me connect with those in the same situation I was in. This may well be helpful to you too.

    I wish you the best – we all deserve the opportunity to take responsibility for our own happiness.

  • Adam

    My situation has been very similar. Due to my anxiety and depression my wife asked me to leave 18 months ago, and we’re now going through the divorce.

    I am desperate to get better, but struggle daily. I had a failed suicide attempt 2 years ago and broke my back which has left me with discomfort.

    I have taken on board your story and the stories of others on this blog who are either the sufferer of the condition, or the partner who’s had to live with the sufferer.

    I am even to anxious to deal with my divorce, yet feel I am ‘owed’ a significant share of the matrimonial assets upon separation.

    I would be interested to know if their debilitating condition (including the inability to earn) has had an impact on how much they have claimed/been awarded, or felt justified in requesting.

    PLEASE anyone who has a view on this, email me: adamjohnread

    Love and best wishes to all.


  • Supportive by Exhausted wife

    I have read everyone’s comments… I’ve also searched the internet for people with similar situations. My story is similar, yet different. I’ve been w/my now (2nd husband) for 8.5 yrs, we’ve been married for 5. This is a second marriage for both of us, we have kids from prior spouses. When we were dating, my husband had a history of depression and a failed suicide attempt. He still wore his depression on his sleeve, like an identity badge. On the one hand, he helped share his story with others, on the other hand, people could not figure out why I was with him. While I’ve done plenty of work on myself (and I’m a health care professional), I have watch this man decline, like the snowball going down a mountain. My husband has always been jealous of me, jealous that I am attractive and fit for my age (and he is paranoid that I am the object of every man’s lust – I’m not, its just his psychosis)… I fell in love with my husband because he was kind, sweet, attentive and said all the right things… his actions & words are another story. The past two + yrs, he was extremely verbally abusive to me… my teenage children could not stand it. I stepped out of our marriage & had a very brief extra-marital tryst that he found out about. THAT sent him in a tail spin, he left and refused to speak with me at all. Meanwhile, I had heard from so many people how bad he was doing. Before he left we attempted couples counseling… he didn’t like our therapist b/c the therapist called him out on his sh-t behavior and would not enable my ex. My ex called up my parents, my siblings, friends & even clergy to tell them all that I cheated on him. I was mortified to say the least. A few months ago, we agreed to try to work on things… (he was not living in the house). His mental health was bad… it affected his work. He asked his employer for time off for proper treatment & instead he was fired. I know this is a lawsuit. He asked if he could live with me (b/c he hated living w/his parents or his brother – who all bad mouthed me while we were not speaking). After he was fired, I was afraid he would kill himself, so I discussed in-patient treatment with him… he agreed. He spent 2 weeks in-patient, then 7 weeks in an out-patient program. His diagnoses were all over the place – bipolar, anxiety, depression, personality disorder not otherwise specified, ADHD, OCD – you name it, he has it. For a short while, I saw a glimmer of his old self, the one I fell in love with, but now he’s back to being neurotic again. He is CO-DEPENDENT and exhibits all the characteristics of an abuser (emotional). He promised to go to CODA meetings and has not. He has a great new therapist and a new psychiatrist (I think we have a malpractice case against his former doc)… but he still has a totally distorted mindset & what freaks me out – is that he relies heavily on some of his “new friends” from his programs – but the fact is – they all have their own issues and a group of sick people getting together to help each other are folks who are still enabling the inappropriate behavior/mindset. EVERY DAY he brings up my transgression… I told him I am tired of it – its been 6 months. I wish he’d spend as much of his energy and time looking for a job versus micro-analyzing everything I do (down to his watching me get dressed & analyzing my choice in undergarments, thinking I have an ulterior motive for wearing them). A part of me loves what we USED to have, but he just can’t let go (and trust me, he’s done plenty in our 8 yrs together that someone else would not have forgiven or tolerated). To boot, there is a woman his own daughter & family have said he spends a little too much time with (and he lied to me about it). I do harbor very serious guilty feelings about wanting to separate & divorce, b/c if he had a physical illness, it would not be an issue. However his mental illness is going to make me physically ill (from the stress & emotional abuse)… and it has impacted my productivity (and I’m self-employed). He’s delayed finding us a new couples’ therapist b/c I refuse to pay out of pocket (he’s already putting us into further debt with his being unemployed and not contributing to the house bills for 6 months)… I put the responsibility of finding a new therapist on him b/c he didn’t want to go to the former therapist. I think the only way I will feel SAFE having an honest conversation w/him is in front of this objective third party. He is so sick, that he accuses ME of (a) needing therapy b/c he thinks my moral conduct is wrong and (b) being the reason why he lost my job, (c) being the source of all his problems… yet I feel he is using me b/c our living conditions in our home are more comfortable than his other choices. He has serious Demand/Withdraw behavior AND repetitive compulsion. He tells me that his little army of “everyone thinks he’s right and I’m wrong” all the time. Meanwhile, my support network have told me enough is enough and that I should ask him to leave. I am sad b/c my family never liked him… and I know there is a kind, sensitive and loving soul in this man, but am afraid he’ll never truly get better and learn from his experience. PS – his ex-wife threw him out b/c after his suicide attempt, for 5+ yrs he never got his act together to get ANY job, she told him to man up… and he never really did.

  • Looneytunes

    Hello, I don’t know where to start. I’m in my late 30s, married with no kids. I fell in love with my husband last 2004 and threw everything up just to be with him. We started living together and I noticed that he wasn’t really what I thought of him. I still stuck through it coz I am just like that hoping things would get better. 2008 I got diagnosed with old when I went to a walk in clinic coz I was so anxious I couldn’t drive and was freaking out that I’m gonna get hit by cars. I went to my primary doctor and she said maybe a little bit ocd gave me diff anti anxiety and sleeping pills. I was a complete nut job. My husband who was a bf back then didn’t give any support, ridiculed me, hid my meds so people can’t see when they are visiting and give embarrassing rude jokes wether we are alone or with other people about me being crazy and weird. We got married in 2011 even if I knew it wasn’t a good idea coz of family pressure. I was in a student visa and he had a green card and the only way I can get my green card was if I get married and later on be petitioned by him. There was love and the idea of comfort of being with eachother so long. His unsupportive stance and cruel name callings and always identifying that this and that is caused by my illness. I told him lots of things that he does triggers my attacks but he never changed any of it. I became fragile, sensitive and insecure. I don’t think he’s happy at me but I can see how happy he is with his family, friends and even compassionate with others, basically everyone except me.i became very down even after the marriage. I got tempted and had an emotional affair with someone over the Internet which made my husband to throw me out of the house. After awhile when he realized that nothing really happened sexually about the online guy he persuaded me to come back by promising he will change and help me out with house chores and most importantly supporting me with my illness, so I went back last 2012. It’s 2016, he got 10x worse and reminds me about my infidelity and punishes me everyday since I came back. I’ve been prescribed with Wellbutrin, celebs, Ativan and Xanax, I guess the only reason I’m functioning. I feel like I can’t take it any longer and thinking of filling for divorce. I know what I did was wrong looking for affection in the wrong places but until when should I be punished and pay for it? He makes me feel alone, miserable and always put down however I tried to work things out. If always been a fighter, hard working and loving. I feel like he’s beating me down to pieces and breaking my core. So many nights I lay in bed awake imagining my funeral if ppl will attend and cry. Wonder if those 12 yrs of my life was a mistake. All I ever need and wanted is to at least get half of the emotions and support iv given him. I found a part time job that I get to leave 1 week in a month and I’m so happy when I’m away and working then I come back and suffer the abuse for 3 was till I leave again. I feel delusional thinking maybe one day he’ll wake up and appreciate me. I feel worse than an animal. He hates my best friend because he thought she’s the one who taught me to stray and I’m not allowed to see her. Him and his mother basically talk things that me and him should be deciding about. I just can’t imagine someone to treat their wife like this knowing I don’t have any family to run to. I just don’t know what to do, I feel like a dead she’ll being puppeted by medications just to go on everyday. Sometimes I wanna die but I rem that I have 2 dogs that I love and only two beings who really loves me. I crave for the attention and love. I don’t know how love feels anymore. I just feel broken.

  • Harriet

    Some spouses just won’t be there to any kind of prolonged illness. When my husband experienced depression, I researched it and took care of him, he stayed home and didn’t work for almost a year while I took care of everything. When it came to me that I experienced burnt out from work and PTSD, he was insensitive, complained when I couldn’t work and called me lazy. My conditions worsen. Then he left, cleared out the bank account and left me to deal with all the liquidation of our assets. He said my illness took too long.

    Marriage seemed like a disposable thing these days. It is only good in health but not in sickness.

    After my ex left, things got worse for a few months but I recovered quickly and started doing things I didn’t have time to do before like my hobbies in writing music, writing, martial arts, running. It was actually good that he left because being with a spouse that is unsupportive and critical of your illness is worse for your condition. My doctor and mother said that they were glad he left, because he made things worse for me.

    Sometimes it takes the tough time to learn about a person’s real character. I love my ex but I realize that selfish and unsympathetic people like him is not someone good for the long haul.

    Good luck to you


  • Harriet

    Just to share with everyone but I had PTSD and BPD, after my ex left it took me a almost a year to be back to my functioning self. I decided to stop taking sleeping pills and drugs because I noticed it made my symptoms worse. I did therapy DBT and Zen meditation with daily exercises for 1.5 hours at the gym. Within 6 months of that my Suicidal episodes completely disappeared. I used to attemp suicide once a week and had debilitating panic attacks where I crawl into a fetal position for hours at a time.

    I realized from Zen/ mindfulness practice that although feelings and emotions hurts and seemed unbearable but in fact when we stop running away from it or trying to stop it, it comes less and eventually subsides. Emotions are bearable!

    I recommend everyone who wants to help themselves deal with anxiety to seek a meditation class and start doing at least half an hour daily. If you are at home and can do more it is really helpful. I was doing 5-6 sessions a day of 15 mins each and it helped tremendously. Along with therapy, all my symptoms went away in 6 months.

    Good luck everyone!

  • Suellen

    Hi, I was with my husband for about 12 years. Second marriage for both of us and no kids. He has severe OCD and Anxiety Disorder. I have chronic severe depression and anxiety. He had a breakdown about 2 1/2 years ago. It pushed me out the door and ultimately to file for divorce. That caused him to escalate and me to have to get a restraining order. He was obsessed. I was scared. I moved out of state. I’ve been getting help and dealing with my own issues. I have had the hardest time getting “over” him. In the past, he relied on me for everything and eventually totally checked out because everything overwhelmed him. The breakdown was the icing on the cake. I relied on him as someone who accepted me when I was depressed. No one else had. But, I was sinking deeper and deeper and through his own illness couldn’t see that I was absolutely going to die if something didn’t change. Eventually, after no contact, we have been talking on the phone and via facebook. He is getting help for his illness. He seems so much better and yet I know the illness is there. I worry that even long distance we are going to get into the same pattern and not be able to move on. I don’t know…the way you described what you went through … I’m worried that we should have never started talking again because maybe it is just the illnesses that are attracted to each other? And yet, when we have stability and normal conversations it feels so right and real. Thoughts?

  • David Burney

    Hi Suellen… I’m incredibly sorry for your situation. It’s totally different when two people still feel like there’s a chance to connect. Stability and normal conversations are great… but they’re not really a good gauge of a successful relationship. Because it’s how one deals with the instabilities and the upheaval that matters. Particularly how couples communicate. And mental health issues create a different set of hurdle. It’s a huge priority that each partner’s needs are heard and addressed. Acceptance is not the same as support. My wife accepted that I would get depressed and anxious, but offered little support. Mostly because she didn’t know how and I did not express what I needed. It became a feedback loop of co-dependency… feeling like I had spent so much time with this one person that no one would ever accept me the same way. I’d have to start over. Open myself up. Etc., etc.,… it’s scary and overwhelming. I would recommend talking to your therapist and possibly reading up on some co-dependency literature. Not that this relationship is or could be co-depdendent, but the nature of co-dependency is eye-opening concerning how we deal with and manage our relationships. Please take care, I hope the best for you.

  • Darrell Christie


    After 24 years of marriage, and 27 years of being together, my wife told me she no longer was in love with me.
    I’m 59 … she’s 49. We have two children whom are now adults, with the youngest being 18.

    I was sexually abused when I was 3 … not by a parent / relative. It happened only once … and was not discovered by anyone. I “froze” that moment … then 6 years later I was traumatized again. The effects of both of those events, coupled to an unloving home run by a dictator and supported by my mother’s passiveness, my sexual development was warped and I became very adept at being alone. This lifestyle caused me great shame and guilt and I could never understand why I didn’t fit in – anywhere. So I tried suicide at 23 … and from that failure I ended up getting professional help for the first time – to gain understanding of “why” I was the way I was. This took time, and I was doing ok with the new found insights … and I left therapy thinking I was now ok and that I needed to move on in life. Soon, I reverted back to what I was doing to prior to the attempt to get pleasure. And I continued living this new “lie” – was a real Jekyll and Hyde … until I met my wife – who had / has a heart of kindness I had never experienced before.

    I was so glad to finally have someone to love … my first and only love … that I stopped my destructive behaviours and together we were the quintessential happy young couple – we were never great at sex, but for all other aspects of marriage – even communication, we were as happy as good be. And I never told her of my past … until we started to drift apart – sexually – after the birth of our second child, which was 6 years into the marriage. Sex left the building – and life really took over. The issue of lack of intimacy would come up every now and again – always from her, and always as to why “how come we never have sex anymore”. I never understood why I could not commit this last bit of my love for her … and she admits that she has issues of closeness also … so … more time goes by, and we keep “trying” … “working” … yet even after attending marriage counselling together … it never did get resolved. And I knew that deep down inside my pysche I had unresolved issues – or aftereffects – of the early abuse, and the damage to my “self” that had never been repaired, let alone looked at.

    Then 2017 came and both of the kids are on their own, and I decided to try and retire, and my wife and I committed to working on the intimacy / sex issue again … and we even planned a vacation for August – which we took and was the first for us together in over 20 years. We had a great time … but never had sex. Then we came home … talked more … and again neither of us made a move towards the other.

    I then made the mistake of writing down what had happened to me when I was a child (I had, over the years, told my wife all of this – this was my first time ever writing it down) and from completely out of the blue … my wife’s response was to say that she knows I’m in pain over all of this but that she “no longer loves” me, and that she wants a divorce, and that she does not see us ever getting back together.

    That was at the end of September. I took this announcement very badly and as I had already “opened” up all that shit in my mind re the abuse, neglect, etc … I had a breakdown and two days later I woke up to my 3-year old self holding onto an exacto blade knife in one hand and my penis in the other as I was attempting to cut that part off of me. I was so scared … and so alone … and it was all of a sudden.

    I realized I needed help, again, and I have since been doing that. I was forced to leave my home as there is no available help there at all – and what help that is available is on a “wait list” and is for a facility outside my territory only (and the wait list is between 6-10 months long).

    My wife’s response was a complete shock – I truly believed she still loved me as much as I have always loved her … she was my only love … I have never loved anyone else and I never once fell out of love with her … and in actuality I was the romantic in our marriage. I never had a clue … and so I could not understand her response. In the month it took for me to pull myself together enough to find the help I need and make the arrangements – she moved out of our home – and withdrew from me even more. Granted, I was pretty screwed up … but I found a new place, was diagnosed with PTSD, arranged therapies, and prepared to leave.

    And, while cleaning up our home computer, I found a file of pics. It seems that 3 weeks before my writing her my history and my concerns for us, she had an affair. That discovery changed my fragile mind even more – it made my physically ill – and my immediate thought was that I had caused so much angst with this lovely woman that she changed her values … and that … that PAIN … is what really kills me.

    I’ve now been in intensive therapy – EMDR is a blessing – for two months and have made great progress with insightful linkages and all fuelled by as brutally honest with myself as possible. It is good.

    What bothers me the most though is the effect this has had on my wife … I really don’t know her anymore she is that different to me now … and I suspect she has been in pain for a long while and it took her that long while to get up her nerve to leave … and I understand that on an intellectual level. Emotionally, I’m so very lost without her so yeah it’s very hard to hear that she’s already planning a vacation for next month (February – something we had wanted to do ourselves but never did) … and that she is so so quickly leaving me in the dust. This is so hard on me – trying to work on the issues of my early life which is so deeply tied to my present … and my present is imploding.

    Too much pain … too alone … and so full of guilt / shame / etc that I let my marriage fail. I had the best and I fucked it up by not dealing with my issues that were born in the childhood abuse … catch-22 at it’s finest.

    • Trish

      Hi, Darrell. I am not the author of this post; I am the creator and curator of the blog and I review and approve all comments. I wanted to say thank you so much for your courage to share your story here. I am so sorry for the abuse you have suffered and endured, that your vulnerability was rejected by someone who is so important to you and you love, and for the pain and loss you are experiencing right now. I am happy to read that you are finding treatment for the PTSD helpful and you are making great progress.

      I hope that someday you find forgiveness in whatever form that is meaningful to you… as I hope that for everyone who has commented on this post.

      Much love,

  • Susie

    Hi Darrell, oh my goodness can I relate to your post. I am 51 yoa and grew up with a drug addict mom and unavailable dad. I experienced years of sexual abuse (not by relatives) during my childhood, was abandoned and neglected. I’ve been in and out of counseling for years but I always minimized the sexual abuse or buried it completely as being not as important or detrimental as the other types of abuse. I’ve dealt with my family issues, my major chronic depression and anxiety disorder, my compulsions, suicidal ideations…but never until two years ago did I even start digging into the sexual abuse that had a huge impact on my worldview and behaviors and inability to be truly intimate (emotional, physical, spiritual) with anyone. My marriage was highly dysfunctional but it eventually imploded too. I cannot even begin to explain to anyone that overwhelming realization of how what happened to me as a child is tied to so many things in my life. I never even talked about it until a couple years ago. I couldn’t see it and I couldn’t really see myself. I am now on the path to recovery too, recovery to forgive the perps and to forgive myself for my own acting out because of my warped sense of who I was and the world. I have a great counselor who specializes in this specific area, I go to a Christian support group that is safe and I can share some things I can’t share anywhere else, I also consistently take my meds, and I can say that I am making progress. I’m sorry for your pain and the betrayal but hang in there, it will get better. I talk to my ex occasionally in an effort to kind of get some sort of resolution to the hurt, guilt, questions, shame, to explain but it doesn’t do any good. He only sees how my struggles impacted him. I get that but I also know that he is not totally innocent in the dysfunction and letting our marriage fail either. You might have made mistakes but you aren’t solely responsible. just my opinion 🙂 Susie

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