I went out for coffee with good friend of mine a few days ago and after a few quiet minutes I could tell something was wrong. He confessed to me that his wife had just been diagnosed with severe depression. He went on to tell me about her not leaving her bed, not taking care of responsibilities. “It feels like I am taking care of a child,” he sighed. “I didn’t sign up for this.”
As the conversation with my friend continued he went on, “I can’t communicate with her. I wish I knew what was inside her brain, I feel like everything I do is wrong….I wish she would just go back to normal.”
I feel like it is an unspoken truth that living with someone with a neurological disorder is hard and that sometimes we wish it was easier. But, they are our family, and we signed up to love them for who they are. There are breakdowns and struggles, and sometimes we wish they were different. We wish we were different. We wish something was different.
I have been watching this show (loosely) based on Los Alamos, in which one of the main characters has a boy with autism. In one of the episodes they travel to an alternate time line where her son is without the disorder. She can talk to him (he was nonverbal before), he has friends, a girlfriend and he is a different person. In previous episodes she constantly is saying, “I wish he could just tell me.” In this one, however, she states, “we have no secrets.” She was so happy with the new him but, in my mind, all I could think is doesn’t she miss her son?
I had a really great conversation with a mom who has a little boy named Henry. She was asked by another mom the question, “what do you think Henry would be like if he was born without autism?” She replied, “Henry is just Henry”. She later told me that although she found the question annoying, an interesting scenario popped into her head. Henry has always liked a series of comic books. After therapy he still enjoyed the same series, but he seemed to get more “out” of them. She reported that “he laughed more when reading them”.
For my friend, it is really hard right now. I want to tell him that it will go away, but depression is not the flu.
In the end I ended up saying, “the depression is a part of her…not her.”
I don’t know if that was the right thing to say in that situation, but I hope I was at least able to give him some comfort.