Mental Health

Six Cats and a Black Dog: To Tell or Not to Tell

Donna Brown480 views
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This year I’m blogging about mental health as part of my Blog For Mental Health pledge. Find out more about Blog for Mental Health here.

When my latest bout of depression occurred, I was just working part time. Despite some difficult times – my black dog didn’t always like me working – my work proved a tonic, something to give me structure and purpose. I was thankful that I worked as a virtual assistant with hours that were fairly flexible. A normal 9-5 wasn’t a possibility – there were many many nights when I couldn’t average more than 3-4 hours of sleep – but working from home was ideal. Over time, my hours increased, but I had a problem. I was still struggling tremendously with my condition and my insomnia. My medication was increased and Dave and I worked hard every day to keep taking one step forward. It was working but it was slow. We reached a plateau. I knew I needed more support, couldn’t handle full time work, housework, shopping, visits, all the day to day minutiae of life. People do it every day – I’d been one of them for a long time, working full time for most of my adult life – but it was time to wise up.

Blog for Mental HealthWe faced a difficult decision. I wasn’t someone ill who could manage to work. Work was actually an essential part of my day to day coping strategy and, over time, my recovery. I could also earn more than Dave. We finally made the difficult decision of a role reversal: I would work full time and Dave would take some time out and eventually go part time. He took on every chore, all the shopping, anything that he could take off my shoulders he did. And it worked. Gradually I began to incorporate other things back into my day-to-day routine, visits with friends and family became enjoyable rather than overwhelming, I started to sleep, to eat properly, to feel that little bit better and brighter every day.

There was a reason we made the decisions we did, but it’s not always easy to explain. Now I am as well as I have been in over four years and Dave has been looking for full time work. We face a new difficult question/decision: to tell or not to tell.

People are divided. Some think we should think of other reasons for Dave’s time out (he’s also a writer, he was focused on his books). Some think honesty is the best policy. We’ve decided to go the honesty route. In an interview today Dave was asked candidly and frankly – which was very much appreciated – ‘Is your wife really ready?’ It’s an important question.

I’m not ashamed of my condition and I know my husband isn’t. We know, in our heart of hearts, that if he’d taken time off to care for me after an accident or if I’d suffered with another condition, there would probably be no question of ‘To Tell or Not to Tell’. My circumstances would be lamentable, his sacrifice admirable. In these current circumstances, both of those things are still true, but there’s still stigma.

We’ve decided to tell. I’m off medication now for the first time in years and have been for months. I’m sleeping solidly pretty much every night, bar some pretty crappy dreams. I’m eating, exercising, enjoying things, loving our home. I can’t promise there won’t be a relapse, any more than Dave can, but if I did relapse, would I want to have lied about my condition? To then really have something to hide because Dave would never be able to talk about a difficult night or take a day off work during the really dark times? It’s a difficult choice but I have to believe that honesty is the best policy. I have to believe that others will feel the same.

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Donna Brown
Avid reader/audiobook listener, fan of podcasts, prone to the odd Netflix binge. Mum to six crazy and incredible rescue cats. Occasional writer of short stories and poetry.

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