When loved ones can’t give you what you need… yet, perversely, give you the most comfort too…
S is amazing at practical support. Like nobody else I know. He, as mentioned in a previous post, picks up the slack in household chores where I am unable to keep up.
He cooks if I am too exhausted or mentally depleted to. Also he takes over with the children when I need space and what’s more he truly enjoys spending time with them so this is never done begrudgingly. He brings me blankets and dressing gowns when I get attacks of chills, and he does bedtime and baths with the children all but solely now.
He does not become resentful if I lie in. A million cups of tea are provided without my having to ask or even hint. If I develop a penchant for a particular food or drink the kitchen cupboards will be kept well stocked with said item as if by magic until I become positively sick of it.
Who Thinks Of Things Like That?
I recall months of him bringing home chocolate without request, which he then promptly switched to crates of the most succulent cherries when I decided to attempt a new diet! I don’t have to be too concerned with groceries, unless I decide I want a specific thing that day.
Should we have guests he is the best of hosts. He takes the pressure off me and makes it easier for me to cope. And he actively encourages me to avoid stress. It was he who first suggested I ought to take taxis more. Hell, he has even begun rinsing fruit and salad vegetables in warm water to spare my currently hypersensitive teeth from the pain of the cold going through them.
Who the hell even thinks of something like that?
I Appreciate What He Does For Me
There is much comfort to be found too in the minuscule things that are barely perceptible. Certain understandings. The inside jokes. Words that are meaningless to others. The fact I never felt like I fitted in anywhere or with anyone, yet I have since day one felt like I fitted in with him. This despite our clashes and contradictions. Our shared sense of humour (well, mostly). So many small but vital things that are tricky to articulate.
I appreciate and value each and every one of the things S does for me. Also I recognise that I am very very lucky to have somebody so willing and content to do so much. I consider him to be utterly wonderful in this, as well as in many other aspects.
The Dark Side Is the Criticism
Yet my extreme good luck in this area, whilst appreciated, does not detract from the dire lack of emotional support. In fact rather than just a mere lack of emotional support, I often feel completely torn down by him.
It is hard to be with someone with depression. I don’t need to be told this. And as described above S takes on a lot. Still I can’t help but feel that that is not a justification for the immense amount of criticism I seem to receive. The blame…
“You are making everyone miserable”
or ”You are being really unpleasant”
and ”You are so selfish”
No dear, I am deeply unhappy.
He Resents My Mental Health Condition
There’s a frequent (albeit not constant) lack of tenderness or kindness, in tone and attitude, in his words. When I’m sensitive, beginning to feel low or on the verge of a crash, I’m met with criticism, blame and anger rather than understanding and sensitivity.
Implied insults. Direct insults. Dismissal.
One might be quick to point out that I stated he takes on so much practical support contentedly and without resentment. However, his attitude here would suggest a great deal of resentment. To be clear, S does not resent the tasks. He resents the condition of my mental health.
He Left Me Emotionally Crippled
Naturally, to be met with such things when what you desperately need is the polar opposite is only going to serve to make things worse. I try to cling on to keep my mind steady and prevent further deterioration but he is rather adept with his words. My resilience is not tough enough to hold against the barrage of either direct criticism or strongly insinuated criticism.
It has at times written me off for a whole day. A day in which I’d started off with good intentions in spite of myself yet an exchange with S left me huddled on the sofa, emotionally crippled.
A Knee-Jerk Reaction
I often feel worthless as a result. It has taken a great toll on my self-esteem in particular.
It occurs to me as I write that S seems to be quite capable of being reasonably emotionally supportive if the cause of my depressive symptoms stems from the outside world. However, if what I’m feeling is suggestive of a criticism of him or home and hearth then it results in a knee-jerk defensive reaction. If for example I’m drained and feeling yuck from an encounter on the street I’m met with sympathy reassurances and understanding.
If however I say, “I am so lonely!” it’s the sort of thing likely to set off blame, criticism, anger, emotional withdrawal, etc. He has feelings too of course and I guess this touches upon them more. The problem with this is that he is so busy defending, he isn’t listening. My attempts to express myself have been futile and have only served to drain me and cause tension.
We All Have Limitations
With no outlet, I absorb the feelings back up. Someday soon I’ll remember to stop trying, but the problem is, I have always had a need to let out big feelings (could you tell?) So the urge to speak about it will inevitably take over at some point.
Now, we all have limitations.
All of us. And it may well be that emotional support is a limitation of S. Except I’ve known him a decade now and I know the capability is lurking beneath the surface. I’ve seen it. But perhaps it is subject to the situation at the time? Perhaps he’s so caught up in the practical support he no longer has the capacity for sufficient emotional support? It is tiring after all. I don’t know. But I am quite sure that it isn’t deliberate. Yet the effects are what they are, regardless of intention.
I Cannot Thrive With Unbalanced Support
Despite however much he may love me, however much he does practically for me and the children, out of everybody in my life S is the one who causes me the greatest mental damage. I have said to him recently that I do not think I will ever heal as long I am around him. For every time I feel I begin to, an exchange with him sends me plummeting once more. It is heartbreaking for me, it tears me apart.
Practical support is vital to those with mental health conditions. I do not dismiss the importance of that nor, again I stress, how lucky I am to have someone in my life who is so fantastic at it. But I have always had a need for balance, and I cannot thrive in a situation where it is all of one and none of the other.
I Desperately Need Emotional Support
At this stage, I would gladly give up all of the cups of tea and lie-ins and blankets and room temperature vegetables for just an ounce of understanding and emotional support from him.
I do desperately need it.
On the plus side, he still brings me tea even when he’s tearing me down…( Joke. JOKE!!)
Reproduced with permission, originally posted on whatkirstydid