Hubby is a patient man. Strong, loving, considerate too, but mostly patient (in the extreme). He has a tough job sometimes - he has me. Granted, I have my good points (too many to list, obviously) but then there's also that nasty cloud/dog/bubble aspect just waiting in the wings, ready to pounce as soon as I let my guard down. And when it pounces on me, it pounces on him too.
Image credit: Matthew Johnstone 2006
But there are varying degrees of pounce. This last few days, things have slipped a little. I'm getting by, I'm managing the kids, I'm interacting with people, I'm doing my share at home. I'm functioning fine. But underneath it? Underneath it things are a little grey and empty, and I'm having to push that much harder than I'm happy with.
So how does this relate to Hubby? In the answering of the age old question - 'How are you doing?' My standard response this last while - 'I'm fine'. And we all know what that stands for, right? F*cked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. He knows that too, and somewhere in my mind, I know that. But always, always, it takes time to see it. We had a chat about this a couple of days ago, after I finally conceded that I'm not in great form. Needless to say, he already knew, and has known for a while. But in neglecting to tell him, I set a chain of events in motion, a pattern that we both recognise and dread. The potted version goes something like this:
- Hubby: 'How are you doing?'
- Me: 'I'm fine, why?' Usually said in a terse, defensive tone
- Hubby: 'Just checking'
- Now my internal monologue starts - why does he keep asking me that? He's the one in bad form, not me. But it always has to be my fault, doesn't it, it's always me that's the problem. Well feck him anyway, I'm just going to keep out of his way till he cops on to himself.
- What he sees - me getting angry for no apparent reason and withdrawing, being snappy and short, claiming to be fine when clearly I'm not.
- What he does - goes into self defense mode. It's too hard to be on the receiving end of this angry version of me, and so he has to protect himself. He withdraws.
- I withdraw further.............and so on and so on.
I'm sure you can see how quickly this could spiral out of control. Thankfully, after many years of living with this, we're both starting to recognise more quickly when this is what's going on. We sometimes even manage to laugh about it. And that's when it starts to get easier again. Once I admit that I'm not doing so well, the hard shell around me seems to soften a little. I'm still not great, but at least he knows, and instead of pushing him away, we can hug. This helps him too, because then he knows it's not personal. I don't expect him to make it better for me, that's not up to him, but he can support me, and in turn, I can reassure him that he isn't actually the problem. More importantly, I can see that he's not the problem.
We're learning, all the time. Every time I slip, every time we talk and see what we can do to make it better, we're gaining another level of defence against depression. So while these blips are unpleasant, we can take something from them. That's what counts.
So how am I today? I'm f.i.n.e. It's not awesome, but it will pass.