Depression Wrecking Ball

September 16, 2009

bipolar

I suffer from clinical depression.

It’s a wrecking ball, especially destructive of marital joy.

If my bouts with depression were confined to being bummed out, or periods of sadness, I doubt they would have had the wrecking ball impact on the joy of our marriage they’ve had.

But that’s not the case.

In its more sinister forms, depression can manifest itself in paranoia, temper tantrums, enraged outbursts, panic attacks and other expressions of groundless fear, anxiety, and anger.

In my case, these outbursts come out of nowhere, are attached to meaningless things, and scare the hell out of my current wife and scared the hell out of my previous ones.

Thirty years ago, I punched a spider web in our car’s windshield because my first wife bit into a cookie as we were taking off to see her in-laws.

I have suddenly, irrationally, without warning raged at my first wife drinking orange juice from a mug instead of a glass; I’ve jumped two feet off the ground in purple anger because my second wife thought I should be making some phone calls about a publication I was editing sooner than later; I turned purple and screamed in the face of a girlfriend because she spoke ill of a former student of mine who’d been subleasing her apartment.

Over ten years ago, I was laid out by the flu and was resting comfortably in bed, getting ready to either listen to the NCAA basketball final on the radio or watch it on television.

Millie came home from a day of work and burst into the bedroom to see how I was and started opening a window in the room.

God, and I mean God, only knows why this set me off.  My teeth clenched, my face reddened, turning toward purple, my body shook, and I yelled at her to stop.  It was my mental illness taking over, battling with panic and rage against the suffocating feeling that I was being controlled, that Millie was trying to run my life, do what I she thought I couldn’t do myself; or deciding I needed windows open..and, in my diseased mind, if I’d wanted them opened, I’d have done it myself (even though I was laid out flat with the flu).

That moment froze Millie’s libido and it’s never thawed.

She’s told me as much.  I so shocked and frightened her with this panicked, angry, irrational, sick outburst that she has never been able to give herself over to having anything like uninhibited sex with me.

And so began, as I see it, our slow descent into joyless marriage.

I’ve worked hard to deal with and treat my depression.  Medication has helped a lot.  Conversational therapy, less so.  I have never worked with a therapist who seemed to work with me as an individual.   The therapists I’ve talked with always see me as part of what “studies show”.  I’ve never believed the therapist was addressing my unique psychological or emotional make up, but addressed me as a part of some trend, or as a series of abstracted symptoms.

Treating the depression has worked and not worked.  The purple-faced outbursts have almost gone away.  If it hadn’t been for a panic attack when my dog went after Millie’s dog a couple of weeks ago, I’d be pretty clean for the last several months, if not the year.

But, it’s not just the outbursts.  Depression wears me out.  I’m often fatigued and nap often.   My fatigue and the time I spend sleeping or lying down, often while working or writing, really bothers Millie and sucked more joy from our marriage.

Both my teeth-clenching, frightening outbursts and my struggles with fatigue have widened the distance between me and Millie.

As long as Millie feels disturbed, distrustful, angry, ripped off, disillusioned, and distanced by how my mental illness affects me, and her, I don’t see how we can have anything but a joyless marriage.

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