Speaking up for myself

Yesterday, I had to confront my husband about something very difficult, having to do with the behaviors he exhibited while severely depressed. I was afraid to do this because he hasn’t been in treatment for very long, and I wasn’t sure how he could handle what I needed to tell him.

In the end, I made the decision to go ahead with it because I found myself pulling further and further away from him, which isn’t what I want to be doing. In creating a better life for myself, I strongly desire a good marriage with the man I married.

I love my husband dearly. He’s a good man who has been ill for a long time, and especially in the past couple of years, the illness nearly destroyed him — and “us.” If you’re familiar with the effects of depression, which I wasn’t until reading several books about it this year, you’ll know that depression has a devastating effect not just on the person, but on those around him/her. The depressed person not only withdraws but can also lash out, blame, become angry (especially men), and wound people in devastating ways.

That’s what I needed to talk to my husband about, because another aspect of depression can be a sort of weird amnesia effect: he has no recollection of some of the events of the past few years, and if he does remember them, his perception was so skewed that his version is quite far from reality.

As a result, I have still been in great emotional pain caused by some of these more unfortunate incidents he either doesn’t remember or doesn’t remember accurately. He hasn’t been able to offer any sort of apology for them for that simple reason: he doesn’t remember them.

To move forward in our relationship and to be true to myself, I had to mention several of these incidents to him and ask for his apology. I had really tried to forget them, reminding myself that they happened while he wasn’t himself. But I couldn’t. I needed him to see, hear and feel the pain that I experienced   — not to make him feel badly, but for him to realize just how deeply his illness impacted me. I wanted him to know that his recovery from depression must happen, or I cannot stay in the marriage.

At one point in the conversation yesterday, I was ready to pack my bags. He simply couldn’t reconcile my version of the worst incident (the true version) with his perception of the event (completely twisted around by the depression). He continued to hold onto false beliefs. I continued to push him. I told him that he could make a choice now: he could choose to believe what he wanted to believe, or he could choose to believe the truth that his wife was telling him. In the latter case, it was going to force him to issue me an apology, from the heart. If he couldn’t do that, I wasn’t going to be able to stay with him in our home, at least for awhile.

I can’t go into any more detail here. I will say, though, that the incident was a huge setback for me at the time, because it happened while I was still in the midst of trauma therapy. It triggered every PTSD symptom I have, some of which still persist today as a result — nearly 18 months later. If he wasn’t willing to look at this situation honestly, I knew I had reached my current level of patience.

Everyone has a breaking point, and yesterday was mine. I knew he would never bring it up on his own because of the way he perceived it. So I had to.

The end result is that he finally — finally — was able to acknowledge the pain he caused me because of this incident and others. He has already apologized for not listening to me all the times I begged him to get psychiatric help. So now, the (ugly) picture is coming into focus for him. He’s having to deal with the fact that much of his behavior over the past few years has not been at all what he thought it was. He knows the depression skewed his perception of himself, but not the extent to which it colored his views on his behavior.

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