I resent my depressed wife
A reader and his wife had it all: a thriving business, a good income and two children. Then she began to suffer from depression
The only thing that I used to hate about my job was having to be away from home a couple of nights a week, but there are times now when I welcome it, though I would never say so to my wife, Katie. I miss my daughters, and hearing them chirp “goodnight” down the phone makes me feel bad. But then Katie comes on with a brave, long-suffering sigh and says “Don't worry, we're fine”, and it takes every effort not to snap at her and slam the phone down.
For nearly a year now I've been tiptoeing around Katie's depression, though I didn't start off being as unsympathetic as I sound now. We have been together for nearly 15 years and have always been a team, until recently. Our backgrounds and personalities are similar - both the first child in the family to go to university, perfectionists and hard workers - and being in business together could have been a total disaster but we played to each other's strengths, with fantastic results.
The first few years of marriage were mostly about work, although we loved our twice-yearly holidays and a couple of nights out a month. Turning 30 within weeks of each other was a significant milestone, as we could quantify how far we'd come businesswise, not just by our healthy bank balance, but also by the awards we'd won along the way. We had always planned to have a family, and now seemed the perfect time, so we were thrilled when Katie became pregnant. Everything was great until the 18th week when a routine scan showed that the baby had died. Katie had to go through a labour because she hadn't had a spontaneous miscarriage. Throughout that time and for weeks later we simply clung to each other, both of us unable to cope with something going wrong in our charmed lives.
We went away for a break and when we came back Katie was soon pregnant again, but this time the pregnancy was ectopic and our despair seemed never-ending. However, the next pregnancy, though a nerve-racking experience, resulted in a perfect baby girl, followed by her sister two years later. Katie came back to work part-time when our second daughter was 18 months old. Everything seemed fine for another two years. My wife is very good at what she does and, although we both still worked hard, I thought we had the balance about right. It came as total shock when she started suffering from depression.
My initial feelings were of total sympathy. I thought it must relate back to the loss of our first two babies, so I urged Katie to see our GP, who was excellent. She prescribed some low-dosage medication and counselling. But to begin with things continued to worsen. Katie had to drag herself out of bed after dreadful wakeful nights and it was as much as she could do to spend time with the girls, never mind make it to work.
We have an excellent nanny and a very capable housekeeper who does everything from food shopping to the laundry, so my wife has no responsibilities there. I took over her main roles in the business, delegating less important issues to staff. It took months, many changes in medication and hours of counselling before Katie started to show some progress, but eventually she seemed to be on the mend. To begin with she hadn't wanted to tell anyone what was happening, seeing depression as a sign of weakness but, as she started to recover a bit, she decided to tell family, close friends and the main management staff in our business. I left that decision up to her, just grateful that she felt better, and everyone was very supportive. I think women build incredible support networks and I was very touched by the way her closest friends were unobtrusively there whenever she needed them.
There were a couple of moments that did give me pause for thought, such as when she decided that everyone was talking about her and saying she couldn't cope. Then she got cross and quite challenging with someone who not only works with us, but has been a good friend to both of us for years. Katie demanded to know what she had been saying about her to other people, when all she had done was respond to a question about her health, and said that Katie had had a tough couple of months but was on the mend. My wife totally lost the plot, saying that she wanted no one to know that she was depressed and wanted life to go on as normal. What is strange about that is how often she refers to being ill in public. If anyone asks how she is, she does a sort of martyred “Oh well, no choice but to soldier on” sort of response, while hinting that everyone has a much easier life than she does. She picks what she wants to tackle in work and, despite claiming that she finds public speaking a real strain, she is always accepting invitations to chair events, or to be a guest speaker at a big dinner. At the same time she keeps turning down invitations from friends, saying that she's not quite up to socialising yet.
I know nothing about depression, but I'm starting to feel very resentful. I also feel that Katie's milking it a bit. Our mothers worked long, hard hours while bringing up big families, but neither of them ever had the luxury of being depressed. Katie went through a lot in losing our babies, but we have to move on and enjoy what we have. Maybe if we didn't have the nanny and housekeeper and the luxury that we now take for granted, she wouldn't have the time to be depressed.
I can't say anything about this as I'm scared it would trigger a relapse, whether real or imagined. Once, Katie got really angry at me and said that I simply wasn't sensitive enough, which I resent enormously.
I was absolutely shattered when we lost the first two babies, and she's perfectly happy for me to get out of the house and work every day so she that can lie around telling everyone how terrible she feels. I want my wife back for my daughters as well as myself, but sometimes I imagine life without her as she is now, and it is a relief.