Just joined, looking for help supporting my husband

Just joined, looking for help supporting my husband

Hello everyone, thank you for reading this, and being here to listen to each other.

My husband has had depression for almost his entire life. He grew up in an abusive and neglectful environment, where nobody understood his health issues - he developed OCD, anorexia and depression, and had to figure out underlying digestive issues by himself (we still don't understand it, and he's still sticking to the extremely restricted FODMAP diet). He also served in the army for three years as a medic, so now has been diagnosed with PTSD in addition to the above, and is unable to work. He has made two suicide attempts, been to see multiple therapists, and tried numerous medications in the US, but was managing his mental health without any of that for a number of years now after bad experiences with medication and institutionalisation.

Now this is where it gets a bit different. I have also suffered from mild depression (I know, we're a cheerful couple) which unfortunately spiralled into an incident where I damaged the skin of my wrist after an argument with him last year. I wasn't sure if it would scar, and he mentioned researching tattoo artists that could cover it for me, so that I could heal through that in some way (in addition to seeking "real" therapy, of course).

So he found a tattoo artist for me, whom he also really liked. I explained that I couldn't afford it, but that I'd try to help him book an appointment when they were released. He misunderstood and thought we were each trying to book an appointment for ourselves, and much like concert tickets, of course one of us missed out. He gave me his appointment, and therefore his choice of tattoo, because he wanted me to have something beautiful to remind me to be kind to myself.

Now, he's really kind and selfless, but there was a LOT of arguing over that whole thing. I knew he wanted it for me more than for himself, because of course the whole reason we even found this artist was because of me and my mistake, but I knew he was sad that he missed out. So when more appointments were released, I was ecstatic when he managed to book one, and he went last month to get it done.

Unfortunately, something that was supposed to be a celebration of beauty and art in spite of all the things he has gone through, is now something that he actively hates. He's a perfectionist, and he can only see the flaws in his tattoo. It's large and on his forearm, and his first ever tattoo. I think it's absolutely beautiful, and really well rendered from the image he chose, but no matter how much I reassure him he doesn't see it. He keeps thinking people are judging him, that it's botched, that he disfigured himself etc.

This sounds fickle, I know. He isn't vain, he isn't careless, he just places a huge amount of importance on who he is and how he presents himself, how others see him, and he feels like this is a huge mistake. He had been doing better before this, and now he's overcome with sadness, anger and guilt. He's worked hard all his life and wanted one thing to come together for him, something for him instead of giving things to everyone else.

I've tried everything to encourage him, and he said there had been a few moments where he felt he could make it work, but the rest of the time he's said things like he wants to cut his arm off, have it removed, and in his worst moments he's planned his death. He thinks about death almost every day, and always has done, but this is acute now.

Is there anybody out there with depression, anxiety, PTSD or OCD tendencies who can better explain to me what would help them in a similar situation? Or someone with body dysmorphic disorder? Or just a tattoo that they regret to this degree?

He won't listen to my suggestions about going to the GP or self-referral for therapy. He feels like it's stupid to do that over a tattoo, but it's my belief that it's his underlying mental health that makes it so difficult for him to cope right now. He keeps telling me that depression doesn't exist and that there's nothing "wrong" with him - effectively that he's right to be sad when there's so much to be sad about in the world. Of course there's nothing wrong with him, but how do I help him understand his emotions constructively?

I'm really struggling to be a good partner and friend in all of this. I can spend hours talking positively and giving him different points of view, listening to his own, all for it to end in tears because I get frustrated when he shuts down. Then there'll be okay moments in the day, then a shadow passes over him, and it all starts again.

Any ideas, advice or thoughts would be really, really appreciated. Anything that I can share with him to remind him that he is who he is, and his body is his own again.

Here's a picture of the tattoo - even if you're not a tattoo person, it might help give context to his personality. It's not a rubbish drunken choice, it's a piece of Mucha's art.

Thank you for reading, and for your thoughts.

8 Replies

oldestnewest
  • Oh my, dear lady...you really have your plate full. Too full, actually...but I know and feel strongly that you have the 'right stuff' in you to overcome all of this.

    I did not like reading that he is not willing to visit with a dr (so a therapist would probably be WAY out of the question)... You sound SO much like I was, years ago, when I was married (for only 5 yrs) to a man I was constantly making excuses for. And NOBODY could tell me I was wrong for doing this... I wouldn't even associate with anyone who would criticize him because 'they didn't understand like "I" did'... Anyway... he finally agreed to our both (together seeing a psychiatrist)..my husband was quiet and sullen and I blabbed away. When we got up to leave the Doc asked me to stay behind...He said "Mrs)______How many children do you have?" And I said, "Like I said before, two children"...He said "No, you don't...you have THREE." that spun me around but of course, the Dr was "wrong" ...I would keep helping and defending him. A year things got so bad, even though I kept blaming myself and being the martyr...that he finally asked ME for a divorce. That was a Divine Blessing. (didn't think so then)... a year after that, you couldn't have handed him to me on a silver platter with an apple in his mouth.

    I know you most likely will resist this, but dear lady, you have GOT to start thinking about YOURSELF and STOP worrying about HIM. PLEASE see a therapist, even if you don't tell him because he'll probably guilt you... You have GOT to take care of yourself...___He is feeding on your sympathy.___ I am very sorry for anything hurtful I have said...but truly, I've been there, done that...

  • Thank you for replying, and for your encouragement. I'm sorry for the difficulties you've experienced too.

    Of course we're all responsible for our own well-being ultimately, and I do need to be careful not to take on the troubles of everyone else I care about.

    My husband has always been brutally honest about his struggles from the very start of our friendship, as I've been about my own, and we're very open about the ways in which we can be fairer to ourselves and each other.

    The trouble is that right now he's struggling, and I simply have limited understanding of what makes him think the way that he does, and how other people might have worked through something similar. I want to be able to share with him that other people have felt the same way he has about this, from similar emotional perspectives, and how they managed to work their way through.

    For now I'll just have to keep encouraging him where I can, I suppose.

  • I think it looks beautiful a work of art can't see any flaws.

  • I have read Betty30 reply differently to you as she clearly went through something similar with her own husband. She did say she couldn't see the problems though others could, are you sure you are not doing something similar? I have read your post and her reply carefully and this is what strikes me. You are not interested in 'non' success stories.

    I understand from what you are saying is you want experiences from others of being able to successfully work through this but maybe there is no answer. You say he is 'brutally honest' about his own issues why then is he saying he hasn't got a problem and isn't suffering from depression? That sounds like denial to me.

    As you said you have tried everything and it's not working as he shuts down then maybe you are trying too hard to help him and should stop? It seems clear he doesn't want help or to really talk about it. I understand how frustrating this must be but why not try just concentrating on enjoying your life together and leave this alone for now? Maybe he is happier in his 'man cave'.

    I don't expect you to agree with this but it is my opinion.

  • Thank you for that, it's true that I probably was reading it in one specific way, as I read it on the same night that I posted, so I really appreciate hearing how you both see it differently.

    I know there's a chance that I don't want to consider failure of any kind, and want to help at any cost. I think you're both making a valid point about stepping back and letting him figure this out for himself, as I can only offer so many different ideas. So I'll try that for now, combined with learning from other people's suggestions too, just so that I can have an idea of the things he's going through. They might even help me, too.

    Thank you again.

  • Hi I do agree with you that there is much more behind his feelings than just a tattoo and he really does need to seek medical help again. If he won't then how about the self help route? This includes things like mindfulness, meditation and yoga. There is lots of info online about these. He can even do counselling courses online too such as CBT.

    If he refuses to even consider these then there is not much you can do. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink after all. He does have to be responsible for his own feelings and decisions and if he refuses to help himself I think there might come a point for you when his behaviour is more than you can cope with. I hope not. Mental health disorders are notorious for helping to break up even good solid relationships.

  • I understand where you're coming from my partner has Ocd, bdd he's a perfectionist its part off bdd I'm struggling to get him to get the help he needs to recover to, he's had some talking therapy but it didn't really help hes not on meds, I also suffer with anxiety and depression, no matter what you say about his tattoo or anyone else it won't help him it's how he see it that's the problem and how he thinks other people see it. Don't get in to it with him no matter what you say it won't help.

    read up on bdd anorexia is part of it.

  • Hello there moons_

    You've had several replies and I jus wanted to add some resources which you will find helpful.

    Here are guides to OCD, Depression, Anorexia and PTSD

    shawmindfoundation.org/supp...

    There is an excellent book I have read and can recommend by The Shaw Mind Foundations Founder Adam Shaw and Lauren Callahan, a leading psychologist.

    Pullingthetrigger® – OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression. The Definitive Survival and Recovery Approach.

    shawmindfoundation.org/prod...

    Best wishes

    Chloe

You may also like...