Why Do My Wife’s Compliments Still Bring Me Down
This article was originally published on the Good Men Project on 5 September 2015.
There seems to be a never ending stream of quizzes populating my Facebook feed. I don’t really care what a few random questions can tell me about my future but my wife enjoys the flavour. This week’s favourite is “How Awesome Is Your Husband.” It poses a series of questions and asks how you think your husband would react.
Not going to lie, I was impressed with myself when my wife told me one evening that I scored 100%. Sure her answers may have been biased in my favour, but even confirmation from some random online questionnaire was a nice ego stroke.
So why did I feel so off the next day? Is it because I’m being forced out of my job for an illness beyond my control, but I blame myself for it anyway? Is it because for the first time since we met I won’t be able to guarantee the financial stability I promised her father when I asked for his permission? Is it because there have been more days than I care to admit where she’s had to take care of our toddler and newborn all by herself?
How can she believe that I’m still such a good husband when I feel like such a failure?
Why can’t I shake this feeling that she’ll wake up one day and realize I’m no longer him?
Depression has been the hardest challenge for me in our relationship. Not that we haven’t had others. Getting through the multiple birth defects our daughter was born with, followed by the necessary surgeries (and surgeries to come) has been an indescribable and taxing process. But we faced it together. And I think that is the difference.
With depression it feels like something I’m struggling with alone, even when I’m not. She’s been there every step of the way, more supportive than I could ever imagine. Even when it’s felt like I’ve slowly lost the understanding (and in some cases the support) of my employer, co workers, friends, and family, she still helps me get through the day.
But support isn’t the same as understanding. Having been on both sides of it I now believe there are aspects of depression most people will never understand or accept unless they have suffered as well. And I hope they never will.
As if we had not been challenged enough, my wife came to understand depression in an intimate way after the birth of our son. I was a year into treatment when she sought help for Postpartum Depression, and I can see how my experience has helped me to help her more than I could ever have before. But those days when we are both struggling, when neither of us feels capable of being an adult let alone a parent, I wonder how we’ll get through another day, another week.
I know her parents are just worried about her, but hearing her mother question how I am going to take care of her hurts. Because it’s my job to take care of her and not the other way around. Even when both of us are suffering. It hurts all the more because deep down, in the part of me that constantly brings me down, I’m asking myself the same question. This is the part of myself that wears at my confidence, undermines my happiness, and celebrates my failures as an inevitable conclusion. This is a part of myself I’ve been learning to live with, learning to quiet, learning to counter at every turn.
So maybe she isn’t wrong after all. With her support I won’t give up, and I will beat this. When she is suffering I will push myself as much as it takes. We have always been a solid team and not even this can shake us. So maybe it’s not my strength that makes me a good husband. And not my struggles that define me.
Maybe it’s that we’re two irreplaceable parts of this team. Maybe it’s her belief in me that makes me a better man.
I’ll need time to search for the answer. Or maybe I’ll just work on quieting the part that needs to ask ‘why’ and ‘how,’ and focus on accepting that she must believe in me for a reason. She usually knows what she’s talking about.
Photo: Flickr/J.K. Califf