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Struggling living with husband with mental illness

Community Member

My husband & I have been together 36 years, married for 32. I was 16 when we started dating & knew I met my soul mate. Our life was really great, we were best friends, never fought & we were so in love. My husband had a couple of bouts of depression which he recovered from with counselling & medication. Then in late 2010 he suffered severe anxiety & melancholic depression which was treatment resistant. Our wonderful doctor (who specialises in mental health) helped my husband through his previous bouts of illness sent him to a psychologist & psychiatrist. After counselling & changes in medication failed to work he was admitted to hospital for ECT. After 10 rounds we decided to stop as he was hallucinating which was distressing. He spent 7 weeks in hospital having the ECT, counselling & medication changes but was still very unwell when he came home. I went to hospital every day, went to almost all of his counselling sessions & psychiatrist visits for 5 1/2 years & during this time I had him on suicide watch twice. My life changed so much & then he finally started to come back. We took a trip overseas which was amazing but when we returned things started to change. It was gradual so it took me until things became really bad that I went to our doctor & explained everything to her. She advised me to go to the psychiatrist again with him who diagnosed bipolar. Once again my husband was not the man he used to be & I struggled to come to terms with another mental illness, more medical visits & more changes in medication. It's now been about 9 months & although he has improved a lot, things between us have changed. I still care for him but my feelings aren't the same & I don't love him anymore. Our marriage has deteriorated so much that it's close to being over. I never in my wildest dreams ever thought this would happen to us. We were an almost perfect couple. Last Friday I went & had a good talk to our doctor & she has strongly suggested we have some relationship counselling which my husband & I have both decided to do. I feel so bad though because it's his illness that has changed him & therefor causing the issues so it's not his fault. But I have been through so much, I am extremely unhappy & I'm scared about the major change that could happen in my life if we don't get our marriage back on track. I'm feeling very confused & no one I can talk to really understands my situation. Just wondering if anyone has been through something similar & what the outcome was?

19 Replies 19

Community Member

Hi to everyone who has posted on this thread recently.

I am sorry to hear you are all in such heartbreaking situations with your loved ones right now. I feel your heartache, your sadness, and your loneliness. I am also one of those tired and exhausted wives trying desperate to support my husband even though he has basically shut me out.

I think these lines from ForeverDewDrop are so relatable for me right now:
I’m sick of people telling me it’s not personal, it’s just the illness. I’m sick of telling myself this 100 times a day. It is personal. How can you possibly seperate the personal from the illness when talking about something as intimate as decades of marriage. How do you reconcile the fact that nothing you can do or say is enough.

I understand it's the illness. And I understand that what they are going through is harder than what we are going through. But I sometimes wish that someone would acknowledge that it is hard for us wives too...without making us feel guilty for admitting that it's hard, or telling us that we are making it about us when it's about them.

I just wanted to let you all know that you are not alone in this struggle. And that you are all amazingly strong for trying to stand by your husbands.

Exhausted wife, SalC, 815 and everyone reading,

welcome to this thread,

It is sad to read so many people affected by their partners mental illness.

I can understand foreverdews quote that it is so hard when people say it isn’t personal and it’s the illness talking.

For myself once was back to being stable I could appreciate Kate how much I hurt my loved ones. I apologised but knew it wasn’t enough but I had been ill and I did not have the insight to realise I was hurting and exhausting myself.

I have also cared for someone with depression so have experienced it from both sides.
I have said before but you need to care for yourself and get support.

You are not alone, you are stronger than you feel and there is support here for you.

Take care

Community Member

Hi quirkywords,

Your perspective from someone who has been in my husband's situation always gives me hope that there will be better days. I honestly don't expect my husband to apologise. As you said, it is an illness, and he shouldn't have to apologise for that.

I guess some days, I just have to acknowledge within myself that it is hard, for all of us, in different ways.

And you are so right. What we can all do now is, take care of ourselves, take care of our children (for those of us who are blessed to have them), while continuing to support our husbands through this illness in whatever way we can, whether it is seen to be enough or not.

Hi Quirkywords,

Thank you for sharing, your post has given some hope in my situation. Like everyone here, my partner is also suffering from anxiety disorder. Like 815 , I I don't expect him to apologise.

He wanted to split up with me, on separate occasions, he told me I am no longer his priority, I worth nothing to him and the latest from him is I am not fun to be with. As hurtful as it can be, I told myself that is anxiety and depression that is talking , not him. I told him in order to be able to have fun, he needs to heal himself and be happy. I told him my way of having fun is to spend time with people I love most that is our little family (him and our child), he just kept quiet and walked away. I was not hurt or angry when he uttered all these nasty remarks, I know my value as main income of the family, I pay bills , mortgage put dinner on table.

I often wonder if I am in denial that our relationship is over, or just his anxiety. Anxiety has made him a very arrogant man who behaves like a child. Our close friends said he had never been like this, used to be a loving man, doting father, someone with good sense of humour.

I was about to write him a letter to tell him that I am giving us until end of this year to sort ourselves whether to stay or separate but, after reading your post, I decided to hang in for the sake of the man I love so much, stay strong for my family and educate myself by reading up on mental health illness and look after myself, captain of the ship.

Hi Blue Banded Bee,

I can relate so much to what you have written in your post here.

I sometimes think I'm in denial about our relationship also. But I just keep telling myself that his words and actions are a symptom of his depression.

I have thought to leave, many times. But then I think, he is unwell, and that should not be a reason for me to leave. And then that makes me feel extremely guilty. And so I find determination and strength to stay and hold on for another day.

Quirkywords as someone that knows from both sides, can I please ask once you started feeling better; did you appreciate the people that stuck by you? Did you realise who was there for you and who was not?

hope that makes sense

Community Member
All of you are amazing for sticking by for such a long time. I am only on week 3 of trying to support my husband and am really struggling. He has said some hurtful things like he doesn’t love me anymore. He will be happier without me. I have been wondering if it is the illness or actually how he feels now. I guess only time will tell

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hello Mrslaura, I'm sorry to intervene in this conversation, my apologies.

We certainly do appreciate anybody who has supported us throughout our weeks/months/years of being in depression, these people we hold in high esteem to help carry us through this illness, and yes, we quickly know those people who we thought would support us but haven't, straight away, they vanish out of sight with no contact or any interest, and many times its people you never thought it would be, that's so disappointing.

People can say some awful remarks when suffering from any type of depression, but you have to remember that your husband is not the same person as he was before this started, simply because what was said he may say something to the contrary, that's why we suggest you have counselling yourself where you can become stronger.

We know it's not easy and know how you are feeling, we are very sorry for you.

Take care.


Community Member

Hi Mrslaura311,

Just my thought from the perspective of someone supporting a loved one through depression. I think we have to believe that through their recovery, they will eventually see that we are here, doing our best to love and support them. What hope can we hold onto otherwise?

Community Member
Your story almost echoes mine. My husband has been suffering depression on and off for the past 25 years, we have been married for 36 years. He managed to go through bowel cancer last year and underwent chemo and suffering a double embolism and then having to have stents and two week before he had his checkup colonoscopy he decided to try and end his life. As a result he ended up in a mental health hospital which seemed to make him more depressed. His colonoscopy showed he is clear of cancer. Two months later, he is home but suffering major depression. I am finding it extremely difficult to understand why he is so depressed and unable to motivate himself to do anything. ECT has been suggested but he is reluctant to try it and it sounds like it is not all that successful. I have suggested to him that he is the only one with the power to heal himself. Paying Psychiatrists and physiologists to do what he know he should be doing seems to be really extravagant. We live in a lovely home with two lovely sons that are taking strain. I can't understand why he is so miserable. I try and be positive and encourage him to exercise, read books, watch TV speak to friends but his most common reply is "I can't" or "no".