When I Can't Make Sense of Being a Husband and Dad With Mental Health Issues
I had one of my meltdowns Sunday night. It has been a while since one made a cameo appearance in the movie of life, but when it came, it was a 5-star performance.
Sundays are fairly relaxed, and this one was no different. Instead of dinner at the in-laws combined with my baby boy Finn getting smothered by his loving grandparents, football took its place.
Exhausted when we got home, I did not think I had the energy to even feel anxious. But boy was I wrong.
Midway through stirring the chicken for our red thai curry, I felt an old friend return. My chest felt like it was being squeezed between a human-size vice, and after moaning or making a flippant comment to my wife Carolina as we bickered over something trivial, the dam came tumbling down.
The trigger words are always the same: “What’s wrong?” — the tone changing completely when Carolina realizes something is not right.
I turn to look at her holding our baby boy, and the tears start falling. She reaches in closer to hold me, and the second she does and we semi-embrace, my other arm stirring the chicken trying to regain composure, the heaving shoulders begin their cycle.
Within seconds I am arched over the countertop sobbing as heavy tears hit the granite. Yes, I am a sensitive guy, yet I have not watched “The Notebook” yet.
In this moment I’m ashamed, vulnerable and child-like. Carolina is somehow still strong, and as she does in almost every scenario, what every person should do, reassures and just is there.
As I try to fathom what is happening, I can only shout inside my head, “What the f**k!?” I worry my boy would think I was pathetic. I must be a shit husband and dad.
Some deep-breaths later, I am attempting to serve our dinner, blowing my nose into the kitchen roll. The tsunami wave has crashed and passed, and now it is just lapping at my ankles. Exhaustion sets in, and a strange calm returns. I feel pretty empty.
After dinner and being deadly quiet while Finn sleeps, Carolina smiles and tells me everything I needed to hear. I still feel lousy, but for the first time in several months, I have no interest in answering emails and helping others, working on Mr. Perfect or doing “life admin.” I fully intend to go to bed as soon as I can.
I bath our boy, and it helps hugely. I have missed just one day of bathing him in almost 10 weeks. It is our time. His big blue eyes stare at me silently, even when I deliberately try to move out of his vision, he follows. It doesn’t make sense. I have this boy, a supportive wife that keeps me pushing forward, a job and some great people around me.
Then I was truthful with myself, something I have worked on over and over again in the past few years.
We have a 10-week-old boy, I am back playing football and working out regularly, we have multiple projects on at work, my site Mr. Perfect is taking off, and I am helping several other people with making sure they are OK and happy.
Combined with the fact I talk more openly about my struggles, I thought I had ticked off the four or five key strategies I use to get by.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all of this. And as much as I can be machine-like at times and continue to perform at work, at home, as a dad, as a husband, I am not a robot.
The other issue, that I conveniently pretend is not there, dawns on me. I have stopped taking my medication. Although it was only a small dose, I made a decision I was doing well. My psychiatrist, no matter how good he is, became more of a listener as I quite cheerfully updated him on my life since my last visit.
Regardless of this I made a massive rookie error. I live with my relentless mind every day. But the cloudy spells and meltdowns are a fairly obvious reminder to shape up. I do not know better than my doctors and already I have booked to see my GP this week, cap in hand like a naughty schoolchild to confess and work out a better strategy.
Monday was a new day. So was Tuesday, and so is today. I feel better, not great but much better.
So if you are reading this thinking it sounds like you, that you wait for the storm to pass and worry about the damage later and think the next storm is never coming, go look up your doctor or mental health professional. They did not go through the stress and debt of medical school and training for nothing. Despite the barriers governments put in front of them, they did it, and with a bit of hard work, it can all make sense.
Follow this journey on Mr. Perfect.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.