(As told to Joie Bose)
It’s the hardest thing to do – to accept that your partner is a mental patient. Had she had a disease that was tangible, like cancer or even Alzheimer’s, it would have been easier. But it was not. It was clinical depression. It was as if her brain was wired differently, and sometimes she just seemed so indifferent that I ended up wondering if she was human. Her indifference bordered on inhumanity. I would have even been able to understand if she had that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde syndrome, for that is serious mental illness, but she had depression? And that was serious? On one hand, I could not take it. On the other, it was a release. This was complex, even for me.
How she changed
She and I had been best of friends. We could talk for hours. Then we got married, for we realised that a girl and a guy couldn’t remain as just friends, if they were that close. We got married and had kids. But something was changing about her and I thought it was just growing up. She was maturing with responsibility, I thought. But it wasn’t.
She first lost her vitality. Then her zeal. She left her job on the pretext of looking after the kids, but she didn’t look after them. Her mother did. My mother did. She just lay in the room, looking out of the window. She had even stopped eating. I thought perhaps she was tired from dieting, but it wasn’t that. I thought perhaps she was having an affair, and kept tabs on her phone and emails and social media handles but she wasn’t interacting with people either.
All this didn’t happen overnight. It happened over a period of six-seven years. But mind you, this behaviour of hers didn’t last forever. She would be like this for some time, say a few weeks and I would wonder, perhaps she is mad at me. Perhaps I have done something wrong. And then I would try to understand her and her words never made sense. We would end up fighting. She would cry and I would shout. These fights were about small things but they always snowballed, because she was never logical and I’d lose my patience.
Related reading: 5 ways depression affects and destroys relationships
What it did to me
She was a stay-at-home wife and I had no qualms with that, I can support my family. But imagine this. I would come back after a tough day at work and she would be asking me for a glass of water. Or say she would cry if I asked her to come with me to a colleague’s wedding. Or she would fall ill everytime there was a parent teacher meeting at school. My kids love her and she has never scolded them, she just smiles at whatever they say. So I had become the one who oversees their homework and manages their school and I ended up being the evil one. Was this affecting our relationship? Yes! I was hating her. She made me seem like the Devil in front of the kids and never helps me with anything.
She wasn’t even bothered about my life. She’d got into some group where they did meditation or so they said and she was always meditating or staring out of the window. One day when the kids were in her parents’ house and my parents had gone for a vacation, I had asked her to cook. She used to make very good mutton curry. When I got back from work, I found her lying in bed with her veins slit. She had tried to commit suicide by slitting her wrists and on being unable to do so, she had consumed a few random tablets. We had to get her stomach pumped. And that was when she was detected with severe clinical depression.
What the doctor said
Depression is a disease. I needed counselling myself, to help me understand that. When she is down, or if her mood is off, I give her extra attention. I hug her more. I talk to her. Even if she shows indifference. That was something I never did. And when I do that, she flowers.
Somehow accepting that she is not well has made me love her more. Right now, no one other than me can fathom what depression can do to her. It kills her inside and it sucks the feeling of happiness. The positive feeling or hope is sucked out. I can’t understand that totally, but I can empathize. It’s like someone losing ones eyesight. Or even losing ones ability to walk. I am fiercely protective about her. She takes medicines. It’s OK. Depression is one of the most common diseases and people don’t accept that. If they did, I think there would be lesser marital problems.
Related reading: Depression taught me a lot about love
You know I had grounds for divorce. But I have decided to hold on. And the beauty is that this decision has made me fall in love with her again. You won’t find a 50-year-old man in love with his wife like I am, and she? She holds on to me now like I am her anchor. And the kids? They are growing up. The growing up never stops with kids, but the love between couples does. Somehow I have not let my love stop, and this gives me happiness. This is what life is all about, at the end of the day – happiness.
Read the story from the wife’s point of view.