Husband struggling with toxic self-shaming / depression
I’m seeking insights/tips/advice/reassurance/anything from people that have/are going through something similar from either perspective.
I’ve been with my husband over a decade, we also now have a young child and are expecting our second. We’ve lived a great life thus far (from my perspective), had a lot of great travels, grown personally & professionally together etc.
My husband has always been hard on himself and would sometimes get down/frustrated but it wouldn’t last long. It’s quite heartbreaking just how much he is ashamed of himself and past decisions made. He overthinks almost everything and sends himself into a spiral of shame and regret. He really despises himself. Whereas I still see the great man, husband and incredible dad he is. This extends to him almost wishing our child would ‘look up to him less’ as he feels he is not worthy of the love/devotion and does not want our child to turn out like him.
For the most part it isn’t impacting our daily life, as in we still do usual activities, talk & engage as a family etc. However, it peaks and this might be monthly or in a bad month weekly, or in a bad week a couple times. When this happens he becomes erratic and agitated and seems to want to fight. We ultimately argue because my patience runs thin with the negativity being spoken, I become defensive as in the moment the negativity extends beyond himself and to the life we’ve built, and me. I find it difficult to disengage and be logical as I am so emotionally entrenched in his wellbeing, and our future together.
We’re gratefully past the denial stage and instead he admits he is struggling mentally and will talk to me about this with his heart on his sleeve. It’s heartbreaking to see how genuinely down he is in himself. He isn’t interested in ‘talking’ to someone and would prefer to just get on with life, tick off his todo list and be healthy in the hope he will come good. I want to support him the best I can. Is there anything I can do to help him progress through this if professional help is off the cards?
Welcome to the forums and thank you for reaching out to us.
It is obvious how much you love your partner and how much you want to help him, it says a lot about who you are as a person.
I think my first question needs to be - are you aware of why he feels the way he does about himself? For example, has there been a history of family issues, bullying when he was at school, etc.
I have been dealing with Dysthymia and Major Depression from about the age of 12 (now 63) and I am aware of where it started and why. Has your partner been able to work this out, what the trigger was?
Once you know what started the ball rolling, you can then begin the healing process. That is not to say that it is easy, but it certainly helps to have a starting point. If seeing a counsellor is out of the question, do you feel he would be open to books that would help him process his feelings. From what you have said, there may have been some trauma in the past that is playing a role in the present.
I am happy to talk more with you if you wish, you are not alone, we will be here to support you.
Thank you so much for your response.
There isn’t anything in his history, it seems to have stemmed from a series of life decisions he deems as bad and that has pushed him into this deep self shame where nothing is positive anymore. He is stuck in the past with a lot of regrets.
We are not in a bad position by any count but a couple of decisions along the way could have landed us in a much better position and that seems to be the crux. Particularly now with children involved, he seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Says he loves us to no end and wants to be better but he is stuck in this mindset.
I will keep trying to be ears and listen and support but we just go around in circles, some okay days but many more are bad. Anything can send him deeper too, such as an innocent conversation with an acquaintance who ‘has it all together’ or has ‘done so well for themselves’
Anyway enough of my rambling, thanks again for your reply I will keep reading and educating myself.
In that case, you need to do what he refuses to do and get some support for yourself. You can't keep supporting someone with mental health issues without help. Perhaps if he sees you feeling better, it will persuade him to get some help for himself. I am able to see both sides of your situation, I know how hard it is to pull yourself out of a black hole, but I also understand that it is pulling you down into it with him. One of you needs to take control of the situation and seek support. He is an adult and you can't make him do what he does not want to do, but that doesn't stop you from saving yourself from potential mental health issues.
My suggestion would be to see your GP and discuss what is happening so you can get some help. If your GP is the same one as your partner's GP, all the better, maybe the GP can influence your partner to take some action and get some support. You can't do it all by yourself, and you shouldn't have to.
I have made some decisions that I very much regret, but I can't do anything about those, all I can do is learn from them and be cautious to not repeat them. We all make mistakes, but the rest of our lives should not be defined by them.
Please don't think you are rambling, you need to get some of your feelings out, that's why we are here.
Everyone in this community unloads when necessary, it's a healthy way to deal with your emotions with people who understand what you are going through. Then someone may offer just the words you need to hear at the time to start to turn things around.
Please continue this conversation if you would like to, I am happy to listen and help where I can.
Take care of you too,
Not exactly sure where it comes from, the 'you' factor, but a lot of people I've spoken to experience it. Whether what comes to mind for us is 'You're running late. You have got to hurry up and get the kids to school on time' or 'You need to leave this job, it's destroying you', the 'you' factor can act as a great guide in a lot of cases. As I say, not sure where it comes from (everyone's got their theory) but it replaces 'I am' or 'I have' etc, when it comes to inner dialogue. For example, when asking 'What's wrong with me?', what some people hear next is not 'I am hopeless' but 'You're hopeless'. It's a rather strange phenomena indeed and occasionally met with the comment 'Something's telling me I'm hopeless' or 'Something's telling me to leave this job'. Hope all that makes sense.
While the 'you' factor can be experienced as a great form of guidance, it also has a dark side. In depression, it can be so deeply impacting. For example, if someone was to ask themself 'What's wrong with me?', what could come to mind is 'You're hopeless. You fail at just about everything you do. Not only do you fail but you bring others down with you. They'd be better off without you' and so on. As far as inner dialogue goes, it's dark and depressing stuff. Just want to make it clear, it's not about hearing voices, it's more about 'hearing' or sensing dark inner dialogue.
In order to manage that 'you' factor, some people give it a name. Whether we call it our 'harsh and brutal inner critic', our 'saboteur' or something else, giving it some form of identity can mean managing it when it comes to life. For example, if I say my harsh and brutal inner critic has the following traits...it's depressing, brutal, harsh, often full of exaggerations and packed with lies etc etc...then I know what I'm dealing with. I actually know of a guy who decided he'd give his harsh and brutal inner critic an actual name. Can't remember what he called it but let's just say 'Fred', for example. He came to the realisation 'Fred' could not be trusted at all and was an incredibly depressing facet of himself. Everyone manages differently. It's a matter of finding whatever works. Works in positive ways too. If you can identify the sage in you, such as the part that might dictate 'You need to leave this job, it's destroying you', and you learn to exercise channeling that part of yourself, it's like you have a built in trusted guide. Whether it's all referred to as 'the dark and light (enlightening and brilliant) facets of self' or the old 'angel on one shoulder, devil on the other' or we call it something else, it can help explain what it means to be in 2 minds about something, where we feel like we're kinda stuck in the middle, in some tormenting battle.
Would be interesting to know whether your husband can relate to the 'you' factor regarding inner dialogue. A lot of people, myself included, acknowledge how incredibly convincing and depressing it can be at times. Should add, the harsh and brutal inner critic or whatever we choose to call it can have a comeback for everything. If someone was to say 'Look at all the things you've achieved over the years', it can come back with 'On the other hand, look at all your failures'. If someone was to say 'You're such a good person, everyone loves you' the retaliation could be 'No one really thinks you're a good person and they don't love you, they just say they do'. My harsh and brutal inner critic can actually have me compiling lists at times. 'Think about all the things wrong with you'. One of the toughest things is the list making, as the list becomes 'proof' of all that's wrong or all the things we've failed at. Inner dialogue would have to be one of the greatest challenges in a depression, that's for sure.