Husband won’t seek help for his mental health
My husband and I have been together for 8 years, married for 3 and have a gorgeous almost 2 year old son together.
He confided in me early on that he suffered with bulimia from the age of around 15 due to being very overweight as a child and being bullied mercilessly for it at school. He’s always had issues with his self image and pride.
Shortly after we got together, when he was about 22 he flipped on a night out after someone made a throwaway comment about something to do with his appearance and it resulted in him heading home and verbally laying into his whole family about all his problems and why he blamed them for most of them (there’s a lot of skeletons in the closet). His Dad took him to the doctor the following week and he agreed to go for CBT. This worked amazingly well, teaching him coping mechanisms and showing him that he needed to focus on the person he was today. I can honestly say we wouldn’t be together now if it hadn’t been for the CBT.
For years after that he seemed to have everything completely under control. I knew there were certain scenarios that were challenging for him and I did my research on how best to support him. All seemed to be pretty much fine and we had a happy, loving relationship.
Meanwhile, I cared for my disabled mum since I was a teenager, then in 2016 (when I was 28), she was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away in March 2017, 3 months before we got married. It was a truly horrific time and he was an amazing support throughout it. I struggled a lot mentally during and after, and he encouraged me to seek help, which I did and found to be a true lifeline.
In April 2019 we had our little boy, it was a difficult pregnancy due to me developing severe back problems and an even more difficult birth.
During the pregnancy and shortly after our son was born he went through 2 periods of potential redundancy at work which put him under a huge amount of stress. Although I also work full time and we have savings he sees it as his role to provide for us, and no amount of reassurance would help. He stayed at his company but moved to a different role and it has been nothing short of horrendous since day 1. He’s alone on a project that he has has no experience of, with extremely high and unrealistic expectations and little to no support.
In late 2019 I had to undergo spinal surgery, meaning I couldn’t lift our son for minimum 6 weeks. This pressure on top of work pushed him to the edge of a mental breakdown. I begged him to take time off, get help or just quit and get out of there but in the end I had to get his parents to make an intervention. We managed to get him to the doctors and he took 3 months off with stress. He applied for countless jobs but had zero confidence in himself and despite several interviews he got nowhere. He had to go back there which was soul destroying for him. He has a strong sense of not being good enough as nowhere else wanted him, in his eyes.
The doctor recommended therapy but he refused saying he’s already had therapy, it worked and he’s fine. He also refused medication as he doesn’t want to take anything that would alter his mind. The CBT was 8 years ago and for a very different issue but he doesn’t see it that way. Since all this happened we vowed to be more open and he was talked so much more about how he feels and the things he’s been through. Some of these things have truly shocked me to the core and have been very difficult to get my head around, and it’s been very difficult to think we’ve been together all this time and I’m only finding out these things now.
One of the things that has become very apparent is his issue with food is still very much there. Although he is no longer ‘actively’ bulimic he is very restrictive and obsessive about his food intake and mentally punishes himself if he has as much as an extra yoghurt. These issues have an impact on our daily lives and make me dread social or family events because I know he will be struggling and the second we leave he will get angry about people offering him food. He ranted about my dad all the way home after Christmas because he offered him some Christmas pudding and he felt obliged to eat it and he was angry at him even though my Dad doesn’t know about his issues so was just being a good host in his eyes.
He’s withdrawn from a lot of social groups - he used to be the heart of our local rugby club but now doesn’t want to be around any of the other players because someone joked about his manhood in the shower.
He is also quite rude to my friends and their partners as he just won’t speak to them as he feels they have nothing in common. He makes no effort and I feel so uncomfortable I’ve started to avoid ‘couple’ situations. They’ve all noticed and are asking questions which I struggle to answer.
He’s now started drinking more and he is really not a good drunk at all. He loses the capability to take care of himself and doesn’t know his limits so usually ends up throwing up in a heap on the bathroom floor which is not something I can deal with when he’s waking our son up in the process. He can also very easily switch from being ‘daft’ drunk to aggressive (verbally - but there’s been times I’ve been scared he could do something more).
His personality has completely changed from the man I married - every smile seems forced, as though he really has to make an effort to show he’s ok when he’s not. All he really talks about is work and how stressed it’s making him, but if I even suggest he speaks to his manager about it we end up in a huge row. I find myself treading on eggshells because if I say the wrong thing I know it’ll escalate very quickly.
He’s told me how he had suicidal thoughts when he was off work with stress but that he would never do anything like that because of our son. He also promises that he won’t get in that way again as he knows the signs and will seek help before it gets that bad. The problem is I can already see the early signs but if I even suggest it he flips out. There have honestly been so many times I’ve expected to walk in and see he’s done something terrible to himself.
I feel our relationship has broken down to the point I don’t want to be in it anymore. Nothing I say is right, he gets angry at such seemingly small things. It’s obvious he’s depressed but he won’t accept that in any way, shape or form. He won’t go for couples counselling either so I’m running out of ideas.
I feel like he spent so long supporting me through losing my mum, the pregnancy, the spinal surgery, that he must have bottled so much up until it literally popped and that makes me feel incredibly guilty. As does the fact that he didn’t give up on me yet I can feel myself giving up on him. I think the difference is I accepted help, but he won’t even acknowledge there’s anything wrong.
Being completely honest I struggle to see any of the man I fell in love with and I can’t face being this miserable for the rest of my life. But at the same time despite everything he is an amazing dad and our little boy adores him.
I guess I’m trying to find a way to get through to him so that we can start to try and mend what we once had. We’ve been through too much together to just give up, but I don’t know how to get him back.
Thanks for sharing, LAUKW. I too, will be praying for you. Always pray first. With that being said, let's explore what can be done with prayer.
First keep yourself and your son safe. You have suggested you can read the signs, but addictions can be very unpredictable. Perhaps by setting up a safe plan for you and your son, and sharing this plan with your husband while he is feeling OK, your husband will better understand the seriousness of your feelings (fears). Then, if you ever needed to use the plan, your husband may better understand your behavior and not react emotionally.
Secondly, keep your husband safe. If you sense self harm by him, you may need to have a safe plan for him, also. This usually begins by having him identify 3 trusted sources that he promises to turn to if he ever has a plan and the means to hurt himself. One of the sources could be calling the hot line (1-800-273-talk or 8255). The other two sources must acknowledge their role of being unconditionally available for him. This is a promise by him to himself and you. It sounds like he still loves you and your son, but the past (and addictions) complicate his ability to interact safely with everyone.
Third, continue to pray and seek professional help. This relationship has been compromised with many old and new issues that require profession help, but sounds like it is well worth saving.
Let us know how it goes.
I'm so sorry that you are going through this difficult situation. Have you given any thought to getting counseling just for you, to help you deal with the stress of this situation? You sound like an intelligent person, so I'm sure you know that if your husband keeps denying that he has a problem, everything is going to get worse; the drinking, the belligerent attitude, the self loathing thoughts. And all of that is going to cause him to spiral down to a dangerous level with his mental health. You're already worried you'll come home to find that he's hurt himself, that right there is scary! Even though it will be a tough conversation, you need to put your foot down, for the safety and well being of your son, and for yourself. How are you supposed to function properly when you have this type of stress hanging over your head everyday...at work, on your days off, when you're being a mom and a wife. Your mental health is just as important, and if you're not at your best, you won't be your best at being a mom. Either he is going to try and work on getting better, or he isn't, and neither of you should just wait around for things to get worse. So you have to decide to either move out, or have him move out, until he gets his act together. He's not only living in denial about his individual problems, he's being selfish about how his behaviors are affecting you as a person, as a wife, and your marriage; as well as how all of this is already affecting your son. Children are extremely intuitive, and I'm quite sure that your son is picking up the vibes that something isn't right...the vibes of fear, discontentment, and anger. If he's not concerned about your concerns and feelings, and if he's not even going to make an effort to change, then you need to be the one to initiate the change. I'm not suggesting getting a divorce, but I am suggesting you separate until he starts to 1. admit he has a problem, 2. he gets himself help, and 3. he actually starts changing. You can then begin to repair your relationship.