I am writing this raw and wiping my tears after yet another chat with my young kids to explain that: “Daddy didn’t mean to get so mad. Daddy still loves ye and loves me. He just sometimes can’t take being busy and gets angry. Daddy didn’t mean to shout and say those horrible things to us.”
You see, their daddy – my husband – suffers from depression and unfortunately when he feels under pressure his anxiety comes out as anger and we, as his family living with him, have to bear the brunt of it.
He does see a doctor and is taking medication and openly discusses his depression and anger with me and his doctor so that is why these ‘episodes’ are not constant.
If you took what he does and says when he gets angry on its own, then anyone would be saying: “Take yourself and your kids out of there and don’t look back.”
But I know that it is the depression that makes him that way and when he is not suffering from a bout of it then our home life is great and he is a great dad, husband and family man.
But now I am hearing myself sound like so many women that are victims of abuse that make excuses for the treatment they get at the hands of their partners and say things like: “Ah but really he is a good man.” It sounds like someone completely taken in by the abuser.
However, I also feel my case is different because in the general running of things in the house and on the farm I have complete say in what we do and, in a lot of cases, I take full charge of organising things. We always, always discuss any financial spend, and my husband is not a man to go on weekends away with the lads or nights out – like I say, he is a very good family man.
When he feels like this then a controlling side comes out in him
That is, of course, until he gets under pressure with work or when faced with a problem and he just can’t handle it and then the angry and not-so-nice side comes out. It is horrible and upsetting and really stressful and disruptive to us as a family. When he feels like this then a controlling side comes out in him, sometime questioning where I am and why aren’t I at home working on the farm.
But now I come to the point. I would love to get advice from anyone – professional or a person in a similar situation – to know how to deal with these episodes and also how to use the correct language (other than that of a mother who loves her children and wants to protect them) to explain to my children that their daddy doesn’t mean the things he says and he does love all of us.
There is plenty of advice for people with depression but I would like there to be more for the spouses and families of people with depression. I feel this is particularly needed for those that are living and working on farms, as there is the added element of dealing and caring for animals and keeping the business running.
On top of all of that, I then need to cope with a husband that is not 100% all of the time
To be honest, it can be wearing for me a lot of the time on top of trying to work in my own job and on the farm, trying to keep on top of paperwork and bills, trying to keep the house running, trying to ensure shopping is done, meals are cooked, laundry is done and homeschooling. On top of all of that, I then need to cope with a husband that is not 100% all of the time.
Then I have the added task of trying to manage my own hurt feelings for what he has said and trying to ensure our children are not affected by the outburst and to reassure them that daddy is just in a very bad mood, his behaviour is not right and that he will be better tomorrow.
You know sometimes that tomorrow comes within an hour and sometimes it may not come for a few days. But I feel someway thankful that it does come and glad for my kids’ sake that their nice daddy does come back to them and does say sorry for his bad mood.
Am I just making excuses? Should I leave what a lot might perceive as “an abusive relationship” or should I continue to be understanding of my husband’s illness and also understand his regret when he has been really angry? Because he does always say sorry and explains to the kids that he just got really mad over something but he still loves them.
So if there are any other wives or, in particular, wives of farmers who are also living with this type of situation or have been through it and have come out the other side then I would love to hear their stories to know that I am not the only one. It would also be helpful to get some advice on how best to deal with it all – and I mean all of it: husband, children and farm.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter,
Name and address with the editor
I am sorry to read about the difficulties that you, your husband and children have been experiencing.
In his book Flagging the Problem, Dr Harry Barry describes depression as: “A biological illness which damages the body’s mood system.” It is good to note that your husband acknowledges his depression and anger with both you and his doctor.
From what you have shared in your letter, it would seem to me that your husband really needs to seek further professional help to manage this situation. If we could delve underneath all the layers of anger, I believe we would find some unresolved issues that are in need of healing.
Counselling is non-judgmental and offers the client a safe and confidential space to talk about what is troubling them
These may include fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of betrayal and grief. When we constantly suppress our emotions, the body will eventually find a way to deal with them. Anger turned inwards can lead to serious depression. While medication helps to ease the symptoms, it does not deal with the underlying issues. His doctor may be able to guide him to someone who can help. Counselling is non-judgmental and offers the client a safe and confidential space to talk about what is troubling them.
According to Dr Lisa Lawless (aware.ie), there are a number of treatment options available to help manage depression. These are lifestyle changes, talk therapies, medication or a combination of these.
While I acknowledge all the positives you have shared in relation to your husband, I need to stress that it is not OK to constantly use his depression and anger as an excuse for the abuse you and your children have to endure. By putting up with it in this way, you are actually enabling the situation to continue.
This is not a judgement. It is simply a fact.
In putting up with the abuse you are indirectly teaching your children that it is OK to use ill health as an excuse for this kind of behaviour
Abuse is never OK and it is important, going forward, that you try and speak to your husband about getting professional help. He needs to know that from now on you refuse to let him treat you and your children in this manner. In putting up with the abuse you are indirectly teaching your children that it is OK to use ill health as an excuse for this kind of behaviour.
You mention control. The desire to control is often coming from a place of fear and uncertainty. Again, a very valid reason for your husband to receive professional support to help him manage this.
I note that you are constantly trying to juggle several jobs and now, at times, homeschooling has been added to the list. What I am seeing here is a risk of burnout and also a need to look at ways of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Self-care needs to be top of everybody’s agenda every day. We need to adopt a holistic approach to minding our health and look after mind, body and spirit. It is time to put yourself on top of your to-do list.
I would also be suggesting you treat yourself to a little pampering
You have a lot going on and there does not seem to be much support available to you. I believe it would be of great benefit for you to seek professional help and talk to a counsellor. As previously stated, counselling offers a safe and non-judgmental space for you to talk. It is also confidential.
If we were not in lockdown, I would also be suggesting you treat yourself to a little pampering; regular facials, reflexology sessions, hot stone massage therapy – nice things just for you. I would also be encouraging you to take time off regularly to meet up with friends for a walk, coffee and chat.
For now, I suggest you treat yourself regularly to walks in nature and nice long soaks in the bath if you have a bath in your home. The alternative is a nice long warm shower.
Guided meditations, journaling and mindfulness, alongside a healthy diet and exercise, are very beneficial. It is about rescheduling your day and including plenty of “me time”.
Is it possible to get some help from your husband or children around the house and farm? What would it be like for you to ask? If that is not possible, maybe you need to sit down with him and look at ways of making life on the farm a little easier.
I believe individual counselling may help you both
It is not fair that you have to carry such a burden on your shoulders each day. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Your marriage deserves every chance it can get. I believe individual counselling may help you both, with the prospect of attending couples counselling at a later date when you are both in a better place and might wish to avail of it.
It is very easy for others to say to get out of there. Nothing is that simple. Know that if the situation does not change, there is help and support available to you and your children should you decide that the marriage cannot be saved.
In answer to your questions at the end of your letter: “Am I just making excuses?” Only you yourself can truly answer that. Sometimes we make excuses until we are ready to accept a situation as it truly is. Don’t be hard on yourself. You have taken a huge step in writing and posting this letter. You have started to take your power back. You are not on your own. Remember, there is help and support at the other end of the phone should you require it.
“Should I leave what a lot might perceive as ‘an abusive relationship’ or should I continue to be understanding of my husband illness and also understand his regret when he has been really angry?”
It always helps to be able to look at a situation objectively, ie seeing the bigger picture. It can help us respond rather than react to unpleasant situations. It is not about condoning it, just understanding it. If the abuse continues despite all efforts to ask him to change, then I believe you need to seek professional advice and support to help you make an informed decision about you and your children’s future.
You talk about love. It is obvious that despite the anger and mood swings that you both love each other and your children. Love is not enough to sustain a healthy relationship. There needs to be respect as well. Where there is abuse, there is a lack of respect. For a relationship to work, both love and respect need to be present as well as the ability to communicate effectively.
I will leave you with this quote from Mary Copeland: “Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful and believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.”–
Always remember you have the freedom to choose how you want to live your life.
I wish you and your family well,
Claire Lyons Forde
Claire Lyons Forde is a counsellor based in Co Kerry. Claire runs clinics in both Killarney and Listowel. For more information, see ‘Claire Forde Therapies’ on Facebook.
In Ireland, approximately 335,000 people of all ages and genders are family carers, says Finola Colgan of Mental Health Ireland. More often than not it is a seamless and hidden function that family members take on without any training and in many cases without expectation. While the family bond will be strong, the responsibility can be overwhelming. At such a point in time or feeling, it is important that the family carer makes time for self -care. It is not being selfish.
Mental Health Ireland, in partnership with Family Carers Ireland and with family carers, co-produced and developed a five-week programme for carers called mental health and family caring: supporting the supporters. One of the main strengths was bringing together people in similar caring roles and circumstances. The true learning for the participants was the sharing of lived experience.
More often than not I believe that less is more in life, and that the little wins are invaluable. Small steps can lead to welcome change.