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The Monster in Our Bed

Image credit to WotansKriegerin

Image credit to WotansKriegerin

Okay, so there’s not really a monster in our bed.  My husband’s two-week-old CPAP actually sits next to the bed.  All that’s actually in the bed is a substantial hose and a large plastic mask that constantly emits a gale-force wind.  We feel pretty confident this contraption is doing him a lot of good.  And, to be honest, it’s not bugging me too much, even though I’m a light sleeper. But imagine trying to sleep with an air compressor hose strapped to your bed partner and trained on your face. It’s weird.

We had read and heard quite a bit about the connection between depression and sleep apnea.  So when my husband’s depression and anxiety ramped up AND we realized he couldn’t stay awake in the afternoons/evenings to save his life (literally – one day he fell asleep and completely missed our smoke alarms going off when I burned our supper), the psychiatrist’s suggestion that we try a sleep study made sense.

Three months later we know he does have sleep apnea, we know he probably has “atypical narcolepsy,” and we know the CPAP does him a lot of good in terms of staying awake and alert.  Unfortunately, we also know that for him, anyway, treating sleep apnea does not currently have any effect on his level of depression and anxiety.  Instead of being sleepy, depressed, and panicky he is now wide awake and even more depressed and panicky.  Progress, yes, but certainly not enough.

So far this post has been pretty breezy and light-hearted, right?  Well, now for the reality.  Someone I love is currently leading a life of misery.  His life is so dark right now he can’t even recognize that he’s sinking under the crushing weight of depression and anxiety.  I have to be his mirror; I explain to him what I see, how he seems to feel.  I remind him that he has an illness and it’s not being adequately treated.  I encourage him to keep busy, to exercise, to call his psychiatrist and get an appointment to re-start the quest for more effective medication.

I live in close quarters with all this misery. I experience gut-wrenching pain as I watch someone I love, someone who has so much potential, someone who is such a good and lovely person, collapse into tears regularly.  I feel guilty when I’m secretly relieved and at peace when either he or I is out of the house.  I feel uncomfortable when I have to speak the truth at work, explaining that I’m falling behind and dropping balls because I’m dealing with so much at home (though I have extremely supportive coworkers who genuinely care and rush in to pick up the slack – thanking God for that).  And I feel resentful, because my own emotional state isn’t a picnic.  I’m still coming off SAD, I’m grieving about impending empty-nest syndrome, I’m stressed constantly about our financial issues, which are a fairly direct result of long-term depression in a family member.  But my emotional state has to take a back seat.

And that, in a nutshell, is what it’s like to live with and care for someone with a mental illness.  All this is why Bernadette and I do what we do; we know how hard it is, and we know how little support there is for people living through this stuff.  So we write about it, we talk about it, we lead workshops and support groups to help people learn how to cope and to help decrease the stigma.  We hope we’re making a difference to the people we work with.  I know it makes a difference for me.



3 Responses

  1. worth it for the picture alone! 😉

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