Thursday, December 15, 2011

When one family member struggles , the rest of the family does too

This is not totally my story to tell , but I will share with you how this has affected me .
I can tell you that now that we have told the church this is public knowledge.We are in a situation in our home where the REV has had to take a medical leave of absence from work for 3 months. Its been a long time coming and he has pushed it off for a long time. Pride has made him go on, the love of preaching keeps him going and the people in our church whom we love so much kept him trying to forge through , but unfortunately that can only take you so far when you are dealing with stress/depression/burnout. He has hit the wall and is struggling.

He was able to hide it for a long time with others and still does, but it is harder to hide at home. I am reminded of our retriever Tanner who passed away this past October. My friend Pam said that Tanner had been sick a long time but was trying so hard to make us happy that he hid it. But he could only do it for so long before it catches up. The Rev is like our old retriever.

Most peoplewho struggle with stress/burnout/depression try their best to hide it, but stress left alone becomes dangerous and life threatening.
Since sharing this with the church,  I feel like a weight has lifted for me. I don’t have to “hide” how I am feeling. I don’t have to put on my “happy face” all the time. I can now say I am sad, or I am struggling and people will know why.
We have all felt stressed in our lives especially at this time of year trying to get things done for Christmas. This stress and the stress that has people go on medical leave are vastly different. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, an end in sight with Christmas stress or moving etc. With the stress the Rev is going through there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for him. It appears dark and dismal and tiring. There appears to be little hope and everything appears to be caving in all around. It’s a difficult time not just for him but for those who love him.
Not everything I share from this point on is what is exactly what is going on in our home, but is typical of what happens with stress/depression.
 Here are some of the symptoms that one might  go through

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms
Behavioral Symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

So for someone who doesn’t struggle with any of these issues and all of a sudden does, it causes huge changes in relationships. The person you love has now become someone you barely recognize, especially when they are exhibiting symptoms that have never been part of their personality or an extreme opposite of who they once were.
As a wife I struggle with what to do. I go from being supportive and understanding , to being frustrated and angry. I think “enoughs,  enough lets get going”. But its not as easy as that. Its not something you can just snap out of. And its difficult for someone who has never experienced depression or burnout to understand.
This is going to take time to heal and the reality is we might never get back to where we were. That’s a scary thought for me. I don't know how long this will take before he is feeling better. I don’t’ know what the future holds The good thing is I know who holds the future and I trust HIM!!
The Sunday before telling our congregation that Bill was not well, I was an emotional mess. In the evening there was a healing service here in town and so I went. I went up for prayer and prayed for healing for my husband , for our marriage and for our family and church. The men praying for me prayed that Bill would not have to take a leave of absence and that he would be healed. Did God heal Bill??? Not instantly? and Not specifically what was asked.  Will He heal Bill? I believe He will! BUT GOD did heal that night. He healed me !   As I said I went in an emotional mess. I felt beaten and discouraged. I was angry and hurt!  I left there filled with PEACE! My anger was gone, my hurt was gone my heart felt healed. I had hope! No matter what happens I KNOW that God is in control!
I know I will have days that will be a roller coaster ride. Today is one of those days. I feel overwhelmed with all I have to do for Christmas. The majority of the work in our home is on my shoulders.  As well as keeping my foot in the door for church. I have to remind myself if I don’t’ get it all done it’s not going to be the end of the world.
Here are some things I am learning through this:
A support system is a MUST! I started counselling last year which helped a lot. I finished just before summer. My counsellor and I thought it was time and I was doing well. My one mistake is I SHOULD have gone back in September when things were coming to a head here. I needed someone to talk to and felt alone. I couldn’t talk to anyone from church I felt like I would be betraying Bill if I did. I am thankful for my daughter Christine who I shared  some of my issues with. That kind of took the edge off. If I had a do over I would have run back to my counsellor right away. I also didn't realize that Bill was going through burnout. I just thought he had changed and I didn't understand it. Talking to a professional would have helped me understand.
So my advice to anyone going through this is get help and support. Don’t hold it in and try and do it on your own. Its impossible to do. We are called to carry one another’s burdens. There are people that can help you.
SEPARATE the behaviour from the person. I say this, but have a hard time following it. I have mentioned this fault with Jayde and her FASD. It is so hard to do but it is necessary.
Look after yourself!  It is a good thing I love to exercise. I know my body doesnt’ show it, but my stress levels do. Going to the gym is so good for more than just physical reasons. It releases endorphins which are happy hormones. It alleviates stress. I am thankful to my friend Marcella who meets me twice a week which makes me pumped to continue on the rest of the week.
I also LOVE hot YOGA! It gives me time to breathe! Deep breathing also helps alleviate stress. I am also able to pray while I am there and just focus on me and GOD!
Pamper yourself, go for massages for pedicures. Look after you. That’s the only way you will be able to look after others.
REMEMBER that you don’t have to do EVERYTHING!! Its ok to say no and it’s ok that not everything will get done. Its okay to ask for help. (another tough one for me, but I am learning)
GO TO GOD! PRAY! If you are not a spiritual person , try praying ! you have nothing to lose and everything to gain! My testimony of the healing service is proof that prayer works. If you still doubt than again I urge you to try it for yourself!
As much as I don't like going through this with my husband and family I  know that one day  I will be able to share and relate to those who struggle with this It  is giving me a new perspective and understanding of depression/mental illness. . One day I will be able to share how God brought us through it as well.


  1. I can see so many blessings interspersed throughout this story and I am so thankful for those. I am mainly thankful that Bill is taking a leave and will have the time and mind space to deal with this. I will continue to pray for him and for your marriage and your family. I know this must be so hard. I am also glad that you have found some healing.

    Thank you for being willing to share this, as I am sure there are many wives who will be blessed by reading this and realizing that they are not the only ones going through something like this.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear Bill is unwell. I know first hand how hard it it on the whole family. My Mother suffers from severe depression her whole life. i couldn't begin to explain the affects it had and has on me and now my children. I'll pray for you all and my hope it that things wont go back the way they were but even better! Somethings end up making us stronger,closer and better people.

  3. Thank you for your openness and honesty, you will touch the lives of many through this... I am standing on Gods promises and believing for complete healing to your family. Love you Karen.

  4. thank you Sharla, Janelle and Caroline. I am trusting that God will use this to help others

  5. You are one of the very best people I know. God is so good and is faithful. He is working in a mighty way through you. I love you so much.

  6. Candy I love you too! you are such a blessing to me. I dont' know what I would do without you!

  7. Opening up to those around you that you are struggling is a hard, but one of the most important steps to everything working it's way out.

    I have a friend who is now in her 80's and she told me of the stigma of being 'depressed' and 'asking for help' when she was a house wife. Family against her, she went to a group counseling session and soon found out OTHER people felt the way she did.

    Remember, you are never alone. You just have to let others into your head, because we can't read it.

  8. You're a good wife Karen. I contrast your commitment and long-suffering with what I just read about a famous couple who 'grew apart' after 7 years because he was working in Europe for 6 months. That is the reason they split. Brother.
    Way to hang in there. You're an excellent example to us all. And thanks for the list -- confirming that my husband is also depressed though not debilitatingly so -- yet.