Last week I asked my husband Tom a tough question and was touched by his heartfelt and encouraging answer. I thought today I would share his response with you.
First, some context.
I am struggling through a bad low. The respite from my last depressive episode was far too brief. Now that depression has returned, I am trying to counter my feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness by pushing hard to establish my “base.” This basically means maintaining a basic routine and meeting my immediate needs by eating regularly, maintaining a sleeping schedule, getting out of bed, etc. I have learned a lot in my therapy the past couple of years, I am trying to apply what I have learned in order to keep my head above water. More often than not it feels like I am drowning, but I’m resisting as best I can.
All that to say that last weekend at this time I was ruminating about my life and what was to come of it. What was going to happen to me? Would I get back to how I used to be a few years ago or would I die soon? What was most likely? Not for the first time, I decided to turn my questions to Tom. Not for the first time, he answered with exactly what I needed to hear.
Here is what he said:
I definitely don’t think on either one extreme. I don’t think you’re going to be dead in the next couple of years or anything like that. And I don’t think you are going to find a magic miracle pill that all of a sudden makes everything peachy. But, I think that right now you’ve got a really great set up with Dr.___, who I think understands you a lot better than when we first started seeing her. I think she’s a really good doctor and she’s really helping.
You’ve also learned a lot of really good coping skills quite recently. I think right now you use them but they’re going to become a lot more so second-nature [with time and practice]. As more of those become more second-nature you’re going to struggle through the day to day a lot less. If you’re struggling through the day to day a lot less then all of the sudden it opens things up and you can be doing things like go out with me or go see a friend or you know, all these other things… Do a chore around the house kind of thing… That’ll really mean that all the sudden your lifestyle will improve a lot just with minor amounts of improvement to building your base. I think with the base right now we’re just locking it down and I think we’re going to get it locked down. And then the next time if you’re ever in a spot where you don’t have that locked down, you’ll know you can do it. You’ll know and it’s going to be easier, you’re going to be more confident and it’s not going to be so scary. Right now, it’s obviously really scary.
I think we’re going to continue to find more things like the click and collect groceries where for a long time we were worried, “we’ve got to find a way to get these groceries done.” It was really tough for you but we found a way to do the groceries.
[Me: Yeah, adaptations that suit our lifestyle. I think we’re getting to a point where we’re realizing that that’s okay.]
Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with it – it’s awesome. Click and collect groceries is growing like mad. I think we’ll find a couple more things like that and you get that base built so that on the days when you’re pushing, you’re pushing to do something like a little more. It’s going to bring the whole quality of life/lifestyle way up there. Just a small improvement is going to make a massive change to the lifestyle and the day-to-day. I really believe that.
There are so many things I love about his answer. I love that every bit of it shows just how much he understands what I am going through and my goals. He lives this with me every day, after all. I love that he acknowledged that I was thinking in extremes without mocking me for it; instead gently helping me recognize it for myself. I also love that the emphasis in his answer is that I have gained and continue to gain information and tools from therapy, the impacts of which are beginning to be established and will grow with time. He is right, if I am able to get to a point in which the beginning of depressive episodes don’t completely wipe out any semblance of my routine and my most basic of self-care practices, I will feel a lot better. That’s within my grasp. His answer places power on my shoulders, the belief that I have the ability to advance to a better situation by continuing my hard work.
Had Tom told me he thought I would fully recover, I wouldn’t have believed him. He wouldn’t have believed himself either. It might sound strange, but that is incredibly validating to me. We both awaited my return to “normal” for a long time. However, as time has gone on it has been clearer that we have to adjust what our perceptions of my normal are. This has been a challenge, but is bringing on some good changes for us. We have begun to embrace adaptations that work for us, like his example of ordering groceries online. This allows me to contribute in a manageable way – I make the list, I place the order and Tom goes to pick it up. I hope he is right that we will continue to find more adaptations that suit our needs.
I have found firmer footing and new motivation from Tom’s answer. What he explained makes sense and it helps me feel like progress is attainable. It reinforces my purpose with my short-term goal: strengthen my base, that alone should help make other improvements easier to achieve. Tom doesn’t think I am a lost cause, he sees me applying what I have learned and believes more improvements will come of it. That bit of hope is enough for now. It has helped me find the strength to keep trying.
P.S. Many thanks to Tom for not only being unfailingly sweet, honest and encouraging but also for patiently repeating his whole answer so that I could record him and write about it.