Prologue: August 1, 2003
It started with an argument—or, I should say, it nearly ended with an argument. That's how it was, and that's how I think back on it, when I relive the events of that horrific, life-changing day.
We had just come from the therapist's office the afternoon before. It was the first time during this whole ordeal that I had made an effort to look after me. It had taken me a while, but I'd finally realized I needed some kind of lifeline, some way to deal with what Phil's depression was doing to me as well as to him. I was worn down, and desperate for some kind of help. What I felt I needed most of all was to talk to someone who wasn't all wrapped up in Phil's treatment, someone whose knee-jerk response wouldn't be to tell me to hang in there. That was always the message: suck it up, give it some time, do the best you can, be strong for Phil. Every time I heard something like that I wanted to scream. Doctors, family, friends . . . they were all just trying to be supportive, but I was beyond supporting. I was drained, and hopeless, and impatient. Of course, I knew that these people were all well intentioned, and I guess I would have been the same way if I'd been on the outside looking in, but I wanted them to live under my roof, to sleepi n my bed, to see what it was like to care for a man in the throes of a depression nobody seemed to want to do anything about, and at the same time care for our infant daughter. I wanted them to understand. I needed them to get that I was trying to hang in there but that it was impossible. I had been strong for Phil, for the longest time, and it had gotten us nowhere. I had given it time, and sucked it up, and everything else that was reasonably expected of me, but there was no relief, and no end in sight.
The Other Side of Patience
I was the strong devoted wife for about a year and a half. Smiling, and running the household. Putting up a good front at the office. Making apologies for Phil. Taking frontline care of Toby. Coordinating our schedules and doctor appointments with our babysitter. Picking up all the pieces and trying to make a good go of things, all things considered. Eighteen months, and that was about all I could handle, and I look back on that period now and wonder how I kept up such a good front for so long. Really, it takes a lot out of you, caring for someone in a depression, especially with a toddler underfoot. It's like being a single parent ten times over, because there's the baby to take care of, and on top of that there's your partner, and there can be such wild, unpredictable mood swings that you never know what to expect. And there's no letup. Most new parents, they give each other some downtime while they take turns caring for the baby. Or they put the baby down for the night, and they can at least spend some quality alone time together, or unwind with a glass of wine or a good book, but we didn't have any of that. There was always some new crisis or agony to get past. There was no sense that we were in this thing together. Phil was off by himself, battling his demons, struggling through his illness in whatever ways he could, and I was off in caregiver mode, doing what I needed to do to keep him reasonably safe and well-fed and nurtured enough to find room to get better, all the while looking after Toby.