Brenda: Adjusting to Life Changes

Brenda wondered whether she was contributing to Don’s struggle in some way.

Before he actually got diagnosed and before he moved out of the house I was to the point where I thought maybe there is actually something wrong with me. I was starting to double question myself. Am I being unrealistic here? I talked to a gal at work and she had suggested the employee assistance program. I went to four counseling sessions with the employee assistance program. I didn’t tell Don about the first two times I went. But the third time, something came up and I had to tell him I wasn’t going to be home from work until later because I was going to see a counselor. He’s like, “Oh, so when’s the divorce papers coming?”

She asked, “What in the world did I do to deserve this?” Although her first husband passed away after living with alcoholism and drug abuse, she did not realize the potential future complications she would face in living with Don.

I didn’t see this one coming at all. Living with alcoholism and drug abuse was one thing. But going into the world of mental illness was totally different. I grew up in mental illness because my mom had major depression. I never knew my mom to be well. She had always been sick and struggling with depression and anxiety and anger. But never to that level. Okay, we are in the twilight zone here. I was reaching out to friends and neighbors and pastors and nobody really had any answers for me.

Now, the couple has established a routine. Brenda works, gardens, and keeps up with exercise. Don is more active in the summer but hibernates in the winter. He sleeps a lot, usually until 10 or 11 am in the morning. Because of Don’s medications, the couple has had to adjust to the loss of intimacy. He told her, “We can cuddle, we can hug and kiss, but that’s as far as it goes.” Brenda says she can deal with that because, “It’s not the running force in our life.” She is pleased that Don is more open to discussing finances and his feelings than in the past. He doesn’t remember most of his bizarre behavior. Brenda has let go of the past“That’s done and over with. We make the best of today and we go forward.” She is working at balancing trust with limiting setting in her relationship with Don. She contrasted Don’s reality with her own daily life.

I wake up at 5:30, 6:00 o’clock in the morning and I just can’t wait to get out in the garden. It makes me really sit back and look at how miserable Don must be or how anxious. He’s told me there’s times when he will stay in bed until one, two o’clock in the afternoon because he’s afraid something will break or something will go wrong. He’s the first to admit he can catastrophize anything. Sometimes he’ll say, ‘I’m worried about this and that.” He tells me, “You don’t understand this.” I say, “No I don’t, but sometimes you make a mountain out of a molehill. You just have to take a step and go forward.” He said, “Well yes, madam counselor.”

Brenda’s children have asked her how “Madam Mess” ended up marrying “Mr. Clean.” Brenda acknowledges they have had squabbles about housekeeping, but they have made some compromises and she has learned to cope with his OCD symptoms. Currently, Brenda sets up Don’s medications once a week and will check with him at night to make sure he has not missed any. His medication plan is working for him, but it took a year to figure it out.