My wife is stuck in a mental hole. Need ideas.

by Travis
(New England )

My wife of ~50 yrs very depressed & anxious (as diagnosed) last 5, her first retirement years.

“Losses” hit her hard: 2 family deaths, her retirement & her fave therapist’s, empty nest with adult kids out & not nearby, chronic autoimmune disorder that’s well under control with Rx, need to downsize house, sibling sister rivalry and inherited land ugliness, fear of future & of poverty though we are financially fine, consistently expecting worst outcome, constantly need of reassurance & nudging to get active and engage with life, purposelessness, no joy, no more intimacy, no interest in travel, once a passion. Not the happiest childhood or best parental role models. You get the picture.

Professional counseling and all known prescriptions have not helped. Trying ECT now; no solid signs of progress though depression has eased a bit after 25 sessions.

Now anxiety rules. Needy, wants me around all or almost all the time. Each day a challenge.

This is affecting me negatively as it undermines the happy couple-retirement I’d envisioned. I’m trying to remain optimistic, upbeat and super supportive, but it’s getting harder and I’m losing sight of see light.

Any ideas? Hope so. Need help, please.

Already doing “couples counseling for 6+ months.

Comments for My wife is stuck in a mental hole. Need ideas.

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by: Mitz

I really like Joyce Meyer's book Battlefield of the Mind. And excellent read. And get out and do things for yourself, join a pickleball league, a hiking club, meet with your own friends.

You have to look after YOU as well as her.

been there
by: vicki /N.C

you are strong person. your wife reminds me of my daughter in law. meds work well, if and when she takes them. she has been chronically depressed for the entire 20 years i have known her. at times the house was unlivable.

my son and her divorced and she got custody of 3 boys. they are 19, 21, 23 now, but they all show signs of depression. they live at home, don't work and don't leave the house. I don't know if they are mirroring what they have grown up in or if its heredity in their case.

my son attempted to have the boys live them him when they were younger but she cried and made the kids feel guilty for living with dad. they were only 15 minutes away! the middle child was prescribed meds in high school but he didn't want to take them and she agreed! she refuses to seek therapy.

i don't know what the answer is :(
i think my daughter in law is so far down the rabbit hole, she doesn't see a way out.

you are in my thoughts

You are in the right place
by: Jane Curtis/Texas

All of us have experienced what you and your wife are going through. Many have had the depression rather severe, like your wife and others have had the task of trying to overcome someone else's depression without become caught in the quick sand it becomes. Your trying to be supportive without getting sucked in.

If she won't do anything else... read to her. Read the blogs on this site. There are many. Start out with some funny stories. Light hearted things. I say that because if you start reading a lecture to her about being happy or depression she will just turn her ears off. Get her talking about funny things you remember while traveling. Ask for her help in writing your story.

Then after a while you can (without telling her what you are doing) go to one of the nursing homes or senior citizen centers. Find someone who needs someone to read to them. Tell her you want to start volunteering.

Since she wants you two to be together... she can do it too or wait for you while you do it. She may never trust you again but she will get the message.

Also, check her diet. Make sure she is getting enough B12. The lack of certain nutrients in our diets can actually cause a lack of energy and happiness. Find the natural way to feel more energetic. Beets are good for the circulation, B12 for energy, B6 for excess fluids. Potassium and iodine are two others that are important and sometimes lacking in the older person.

Start doing some sort of exercise and ask for her help in completing them. Message her legs. Just keep fussing with her (I do not mean verbally); I mean keep exercising her legs, her arms, her feet. She will fight back... but she is doing something. Get creative.

There may also be some hormone changes she is going through right now. There are several things like Echinacea that help balance the hormones. I sounds to me like she has the beginning of menopause and the depression that comes with the beginning of retirement.

She will get so tired of having you 'fuss' with her she will start getting up just to prove she does not need it. I still think the hormones and diet changes may help you the most. Until you get that under control read the blogs and stories on this site to her.

I know I have given you a lot to think about. I have been where she is. It is unpleasant for her and you. Don't be afraid to get silly. You just might actually find a way to start enjoying one another again.

Believe me persistence is the key. And a lot of love. She needs it. That and some chocolate.

by: Linda/Texas

It sounds like you are doing everything possible to help her out this. At the same time what are you doing to help yourself.

Do you have someone to talk to so that you don’t end up getting depressed too? Be sure to look after your mental and emotional well-being too.

Maybe her therapist can recommend an adult "daycare" so that she can be in a more social environment without you once or twice a month.

I hope things turn around soon for you both.

Been There
by: Canadian Retiree

Wow,I know exactly what your wife is going through. After I retired over a year ago, I experienced a complete breakdown. I was recovering from Breast Cancer treatments and was on sick leave for about a year and a half. I was going to return to work for one more year before retiring but didn't have the energy and motivation so ended up retiring one year earlier than I had planned. I started regretting my retirement decision and missing my job, routine and coworkers. I thought I made a huge mistake.

I spiraled into despair. I imagine this is what your wife is going through. Just like in your case, My husband didn't know what to do. I did finally get help by seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist. The correct antidepressant got me out of my depression.

I started doing activities that I enjoy, like water colour painting, ice skating, exercise and just getting out and meeting people. It's still a struggle from day to day. I always will wonder if I should have gone back to work for that last "kick at the can" before retirement.

I hope your wife can find the help she needs, it is possible to get out of that mental hole but it takes a lot of work, patience and understanding.

I wish you the best. Don't give up!

Overwhelmed just reading this
by: Laura in Vermont

Your wife must feel totally overwhelmed. While reading your list of challenges she faces, I got the terrible sinking feeling she must have.

There's not much to be done about some of it--lost people are just gone--but she might pick out something she does have some control over to work on. That way she gets the feeling she isn't helpless, that what she does matters. I'm guessing right now she doesn't feel that way.

What if she tackles one thing and it turns out good? It could happen. She just needs to choose one project, break it down into tiny steps, and work at it step by step. She should make a list of things that are burdening her, like the one you made, and highlight the ones she could do something about.

So, for example, she could decide that downsizing would be good to work on so you two would not have to worry as much about money. If she broke that down room by room, or by types of stuff to get rid of, and then chipped away at it, she'd get positive results and feel better about herself.

If she has a bad day during her project, ask her if she needs help and if so, what does she want you to help with. Show her you value this work of hers but are not leaving her to do it alone.

Hope this helps! It's a version of what I did to get out of a hole and get back to work and life years ago. See if she'll give it a try.

Mental hole
by: Wee-zer

Wow, I have no experience with a person having such depression and mental issues.

You didn't mention if she talks to you about her feelings, her mood, her inner feelings. You did mention she is anxious about finances. Have you sat her down and shown her the numbers so she understands that you are in good financial shape? Do you discuss what monies are readily available to support your lifestyle?

You mentioned downsizing. Does she want to do that or is it your idea. Maybe she would prefer to stay where she is.

I would try to bring joy to her by doing things that are fun. Can you plan to go out to lunch a few days a week to different restaurants? Can you suggest that you have special dinners that you make together as a team? Followed by an enjoyable movie. Have you considered going to your local senior center to partake in the activities they offer. If not, look up your local center and see what they offer. They usually have a brochure you can look at on line or call them and they may be able to send a monthly brochure to your home.

You say your wife loved to travel. Maybe you could start with baby steps and go on an overnight trip to a nice location where you can window shop, eat meals out and see some sights.

So sorry you are going through this but I am sure your wife's struggles are very hard on her too. No one wants to be depressed.

Best wishes to you and your wife.

Wow, you are dealing with a lot!
by: Junebug in WI

First, congratulations on your commitment to your wife. This takes courage and optimism which you seem to have a lot of. I am sure counselors have told you that she is the only one who can heal herself. That said, it sounds like you are making great efforts to find the "cure".

All of her symptoms, seems to me, are focused on herself. Time for her to look outward for purpose and happiness.

Maybe the little book, Make Your Bed, by a Navy seal would give her some push to realize that everything she wants can be hers with effort!!!

Past Interests
by: Ian Manchester UK

I have had a similar situation with my wife, although she has not been so badly effected as yours.

I would suggest that you look back at your wife's interests throughout your marriage and in her youth. I would suggest you try to rekindle those past interests so she has something to look forward to when she gets up in the morning.

My wife has always been interested in needlework but never had enough time to pursue it until retirement came along. May be there is some past hobby your wife would be interested in taking up again.

Fear of Fear
by: Ben, KY

Hello Travis,

First, I'm no doctor but I believe the major problem here is a very common one. Anxiety fuels fear and fear instills many upsetting symptoms. These sometimes terrifying symptoms (even if they are completely unfounded) pour gasoline on the fire and promote more fear.

She must, after being assured that any particular fear is unfounded-lose her fear of fear. Easier said than done. That sometimes sounds like double-speak but it's true.

I almost am hesitant to recommend a book since she is seeing a professional therapist but it is still a powerful tool in her toolbox. You see, a book like "Hope and Help for Your Nerves" by Claire Weekes (available on Amazon) can be referred to anytime for reassurance.
The middle of the night, weekends, holidays, whenever. Certain chapters will be her go to for calm and understanding. Many people find books to help a lot becuase they are always there. Might give it a try.

Good luck,

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