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MidAge Mom is for women who are parenting in midlife rather than celebrating the empty nest on a beach in Bali . . .

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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Advice

Never before have I gotten so much advice. But then, I’ve never had such a mysterious illness.

For the past four years, I’ve suffered from depression and severe anxiety. It came, unexplained, out of the blue. I’ve tried at least ten different drugs without success to treat it. I get electroshock (ECT)  treatments every two-three weeks but they’re really geared to relieve depression, not anxiety, and I mainly suffer from the later. As a result, perhaps, ECT treatments only make me feel good for a day or so.

But that’s the first line of advice I encounter – from both my husband and the psychiatrist: that I should get regular ECT treatments because I was a wreck before I started ECT. They both believe that although the therapy’s immediate benefits are short-lived, it has helped my overall functioning, allowing me to travel and write. (My husband points out that I am writing this on an ECT high, one day after the procedure; most of the time I am too anxious to write.)

My own instinct tells me it’s not worth it to wake up at 5 a.m. to get a seizure produced under general anesthesia, which leaves you groggy and unable to remember the names of your children. And a neurologist told me he didn’t like ECT because the therapy destroys brain cells. After more than 30 treatments, I can definitely say that my memory is not what it used to be. Yet I find it hard to argue with my husband and the psychiatrist because, unlike them, I can’t remember my catatonic, pre-ECT days.

So I take their advice and get the ECTs. As a result, both my mother and my therapist say I’m not listening to my own inner voice, especially since I get anxious and don’t sleep the night before being electroshocked. They don’t think I should get the ECTs.

Then there is our beloved nanny/housekeeper who gave me five showers in my catatonic, pre-ECT days and who is like a member of our family. I rely on “nanny” as we call her, in all sorts of ways and most of all to help me keep my anxiety in check. She constantly reminds me to take things “dia por dia” or “one day at a time” – by far the most valuable advice I’ve gotten on this difficult road.

This has been hard for her as well as for the rest of my family. Yet I’m just incapable of taking a lot of her advice to get out and do things, like walk the dog, staring out the window drinking coffee instead. Such is the nature of an anxiety disorder; you just don’t want to go out into the world. (I do drive my younger daughter to dance, something I didn’t used to do.)

So while I took up nanny’s suggestion to start swimming, we often end up disagreeing, with her advising me to do something I say I can’t do. Among other things, she thinks I should swim in our freezing cold pool twice a day.

And that’s not to mention those caring and compassionate family members who have made their opinions known in an effort to help me. My sister-in-law got me signed up for a clinic where you send stool samples for analysis so we can see if anything strange is going on in my gut. (She is doing the same for herself.) My brother and mother want me to go to a major center like the Mayo Clinic.

I sent off the stool samples and my husband signed me up for the Mayo Clinic. I then wrote “please cancel” on the information the clinic sent us. I’m scared to travel, so going to the Mayo Clinic sounds like flying to the moon, plus I believe Miami has good doctors.

Still I think I could handle it all if it weren’t for the fact that some of my beloved husband’s advice conflicts with my gut instincts (which he claims are solely to sit staring out the window). In addition to believing more in ECT than I do, Bill thinks it would be beneficial for me to listen to some hypnotherapy tapes I have on my phone and believes vitamin injections help me – neither of which I feel.

He also likes the psychiatrist better than I do, not that I prefer the others we’ve seen.

I appreciate so much how Bill has supported me through this ordeal that I tend to go along with his opinions. And I can’t deny that he remembers the last four years and last few weeks a lot better than I do.

So are my mother and therapist right: am I failing to follow my own best instincts because I’m ill? Or am I just taking the best advice around me like any smart, sick person would do? I really don’t know, but I’d love to hear your comments.

Just because I’m up to my eyeballs in advice doesn’t mean I couldn’t use a bit more.

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Do you have advice for me? Share by commenting below!

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                                                                                 Photo © Artistashmita

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For the Better or Worse

I finally understand the meaning of the phrase “for the better or the worse” when it comes to marriage.

In the past three years, I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression. As a result, my marriage has weathered some difficult times, and my husband, Bill, has faced some tough challenges.

betterorworse_galeverhague_dreamstimeIt’s a testament to how strong our bond is that we’ve made it through and a measure of his commitment that he’s still here. Now that I’m feeling better, I’ve had a chance to appreciate the difficult role thrust upon Bill and how much he’s done for me.

Perhaps most difficult was his decision to get me electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which involves shocking the patient with electric current so that they have a seizure. (I just had a treatment this morning.) Experiencing convulsions and seizures on my own, I wasn’t in any condition to make the decision myself. But the treatment is somewhat controversial and other family members were divided over whether to do it.

Bill made the decision to move forward with ECT after asking himself what I would do if I were well. For guidance, he thought about how I had decided to have hip replacement surgery  a few years earlier. In that case, after trying various therapies for a year, I decided to follow my doctor’s advice and get my hips replaced. Getting ECT seems to have been the right choice; since having it I’ve felt like a new person.

But that was just one of Bill’s challenges. For three years, he dealt with a weepy, needy, anxious wife. One day Bill left his desk at work for a few minutes and returned to find seven messages from me. In addition, he had to communicate with numerous doctors, manage my medications, deal with my frequent fainting spells and make the difficult decision to hospitalize me three times. I can’t say I enjoyed it in the hospital but putting me there seems to have been the right thing to do.

And that’s not to mention all that Bill’s done to cover with our two children during my anxious period. My husband took our older daughter, Isabelle, to four cities to visit nine colleges the summer before last. I don’t even remember them going. He also took Isabelle to the hospital for a kidney infection and accompanied her to the emergency room for subsequent complications while I was sick.

My older daughter says that seeing us get through all this has helped her understand what marriage is all about and why I married him. I can’t think of any better decision I’ve ever made.

So consider this post a thank you, Bill, for all that you’ve done in the past few years. I wouldn’t have gotten through it without you and I’m sure some husbands would have left.

In our case, for the better or the worse has also meant for the crazier. I’ve been lucky to have a husband who has stuck with me through thick and thin, and no one could be happier or more relieved than Bill to have me back.

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Have you ever suffered from anxiety or depressionShare by commenting below!

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                                                                                      Photo © Gale Verhague/Dreamstime.com

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Marriage Vow: Stop Talking to the Wall

I don’ t know how it started. One day, we were talking over a candlelight dinner. The next, it seems, we were each talking to the wall.

Sound familiar? From the kitchen, you hear a voice from afar, decipherable from years of familiarity. “Is the pickup at 7?” he asks.

“Yes,” you shout back. “Did you call the school this morning?”

And so it goes. Time passes, the household grows, and you communicate with your spouse from farther and farther away. You get used to talking across rooms over the sound of children, dogs, and in our case, a noisy aquarium filter. Requests and responses resound from one floor to another. Then one day, it gets worse.

The other night, my husband, Bill, was talking to me in the bedroom. Then he entered the bathroom to take a shower, closed the door, and kept speaking.

Geez, I thought. No wonder our relationship has been feeling a little frayed around the edges.

You Say What?

This fall, our kids’ complex activity schedules have encouraged more on-the-go communication. My husband and I have managed to get each other to the right places at the right times. He does what I ask him to do and vice versa. But stuff that isn’t related to when crew starts or ballet ends, like the comment from the bathroom, often gets lost in translation. And while any one of these little exchanges isn’t important, together they act as a kind of glue, holding a marriage together.

Communicating from a distance is also difficult. I can decipher news from the living room about the handyman while doing dishes. But it would be a lot more relaxing to just listen to the water running.

In addition, I’m not just struggling to hear my husband. Communicating from afar has taught our children to do the same. Was that exam grade a B or D? Talk about stressful!

The Culprit

So why did I start this?

For women are probably more to blame for this phenomenon. Studies find that we speak 13,000 more words per day than men. In our house, the disparity is likely greater, my husband being a man of few words. Bill’s default mode is silence, not speaking across rooms.

My kids are well behaved, and would have stopped this nonsense years ago had I insisted. Yet as a multitasking mommy, it has always seemed so efficient to communicate from afar. When you have a bread knife in hand, no one wants you in their room anyway.

The bathroom door in my face, however, was the last straw. For a moment, I thought of texting Bill from across the house. But my man doesn’t own a cell phone. (Don’t get me started…) I considered leaving him notes. However, they would just get lost in the pile of stickies to myself on the kitchen counter. Anyway, those things wouldn’t solve the problem. For I craved eye contact, not just understanding.

So we set up date night again. I walked into the dining room to talk to Bill instead of shouting from the kitchen, and he did the same. When he was a room away, I held my thought until we could speak face-to-face. (The latter was surprisingly difficult.)

Look Into My Eyes

You can’t always run a family from the same room. Yet what a difference more direct contact has made. Some vague anger I’d felt building towards Bill since the start of school dissipated. My husband and I stopped struggling to understand each other, started communicating more easily. I started feeling married again, like a wife and partner, rather than a co-captain shouting down a field.

My new marriage vow is to talk to my husband instead of the wall. Assuming that goes well, I’ll work on my interaction with the kids. However, we’ll have to overcome another obstacle to improve communication.

Last week, I started using the little microphones on my iPhone and iPad. I was dictating a search request into the iPad’s browser, when my husband walked in. “What did you say?” he asked.

“I’m not talking to you,” I said. “I’m talking to my iPad.

Oh those iThings – life has become both simpler and more complex now that they understand me. But we’ll save those communication issues for another day.

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Working on any communication problems? Share by commenting below!

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Photo © Stephanie Frey/Dreamstime.com

Disclosure: I use some affiliate links. If you click and buy a product, I make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

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