Annie’s mailbox: Depression is an illness, not a choice
When you’re at the point of despair, it’s imperative to get help
Q. I’ve been married for 36 years. The first 20 were loving, but the past 16 have deteriorated to the point of despair.
My husband, “John,” is now 68. Though once athletic and active, John is now frail and weak. He complains of chronic headaches and a host of other physical ailments, and worst of all, he suffers from major bouts of severe depression. He’s suicidal, and chances are good that he’ll take his life if I leave him.
John is taking medication for his depression. I’ve stuck by him because he’s a decent man and I care for him, but I know things won’t get better. I’m afraid for my own future.
What’s also upsetting is that John’s entire life revolves around me. I’ve encouraged him to establish personal interests and hobbies, but he won’t. He’s a chore to be with – negative and difficult to converse with. And no matter what direction I take with him when we discuss his “problems,” he ends up crying – a victim, like his mother and sister. We seldom go out with friends. Traveling is out of the question. I go alone when I can, but he’s hard to leave beyond a week or two.
Five years ago, I saw a therapist who advised me to leave John. I wanted to and still do, but I don’t know whether I can handle the guilt of turning my back on him. We cannot afford to put him in a long-term care facility, but he needs serious help. Our sons live out of state with their own families. They offer emotional support, but aren’t in any position to care for him.
I stay busy with friends, activities and a part-time job. It helps some, but I see my own happiness slipping away. I am trapped in a life with a man I no longer love but feel obligated to care for because he’s sick. What should I do? – N.N.
A. Depression is an illness, not a choice. Please talk to John’s doctor about different medication. His current treatment isn’t doing the job. Then contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline (nami.org) at 1-800-950-NAMI and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (dbsalliance.org), and ask what help is available for you, including respite care. You desperately need a break.
Q. I am 30 years old and decided to go back to college. I have made good grades. The problem is two supposedly grown women in one of my classes. It started when one of them broke up with my cousin. She blames me.
These women talk about me behind my back, scream in my face, threaten me and throw things at me. I have tried to be the bigger person and ignore them or walk away, but it hasn’t stopped. I also went to the dean and the teacher and got no results. I am getting tired of the harassment, and I still have six more months in this class. What can I do? – Fuming in College
A. If these women are threatening you, the school should take action. Go back to the dean and say you will have to notify the police if the university won’t deal with the situation. Then do it.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Concerned,” who objected to his granddaughter having a photograph of her late grandmother at her wedding.
In the past few years, I have attended some weddings of people whose beloved family members had passed away. One niece had a display of both sets of parents and all of her grandparents, including those who had died. Another niece put flowers on her father’s grave the day she got married. I attended a garden wedding where there were three chairs in the front row with ribbons on the back and a rose on the seat for the deceased parents of the groom and the deceased mother of the bride. I thought all of these were wonderful tributes. – L. in Florida
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