Let me make a statement this morning that might or might not surprise you.
Expectation can be the first thing to cripple someone’s day, who suffers with any kind of depression or mood disorder.
If I could say one thing to anyone who lives with, is friends with, or works with someone who battles mood disorders, it would be to adjust your expectations. Please.
Here’s an example from our own home that will express what I mean by this.
For years before my diagnosis, some of my days began with anxiety, and ended with frustration, all centered around something everyone does for their family… make supper.
Yep… everyone makes supper. We grill, we bake, we stew, we roast, we stir-fry, for heaven’s sake, we EAT.
But that simple fact would put my whole day out of whack. And I couldn’t figure out why. I was the stay-at-home mom. My husband was working long hours. What was so overwhelming about putting mac n’ cheese on the table for the kids, and add a salad for the grown ups? I knew it was the LEAST I could do for my family when I had all day to pull it off.
It was, and rightly so, expected of me.
And more days than not that expectation would cripple my whole day.
I would wake up knowing five o’clock was coming. Time was counting down and I was just beginning! I’d stand in the shower and not remember what I had in my fridge. In the cupboards. What would I make them???? Where could I go?
WHAT. WOULD. I DO???
I would start to feel my stomach clinch. Heaven help me if I had to accomplish anything else that day because suddenly I was frozen, stuck in a holding pattern, and the closer it got to dinner time, the more foggy my decision process would get. The more anxious I became. The more irritable I would be. And I knew what would happen, despite my best efforts. I would struggle with the simple task so hard that I would break down, sob over the frying pan, forget what was cooking where, burn things, and then the waves of complete failure would slam up against me, over and over, and over till I’d retreat to my room, leaving my small family to eat on their own, wondering what in the world was wrong.
The other scenario was that I’d be so crippled by the thought of what to make and when, and already so exhausted from trying to function all day without letting on that I was suffering, that it was the very act of my husband walking through the door and seeing once more that I had nothing started for supper that would be in the back of my mind all that day, and every day after till I had an okay day. Depression takes your small snafus and turns them into enormous failures. Failures that cling to you and follow you around, and you’re helpless to stop it.
Christine, why didn’t you just pick up a meal at a store? Order pizza? Take the family out to dinner?
Well with one income that’s hard enough, and it happened a lot. And for another thing, your brain, overwhelmed with that expectation, can see nothing else. Other options don’t occur to you in your panicked state.
I say all that to say this…. if you know someone who may have or does have any kind of mood disorder, please change your expectations. Stop placing requests on them daily that might be the very thing they can’t live up to.
They may not even be able to tell you why. The most normal things we take for granted everyday can be the very things upsetting and crippling someone who is fighting a zillion tiny battles every day already. Change your response to things you assume are supposed to happen.
Be kind. Be understanding.
My husband will tell you now, to be prepared. Prepared to go with the flow. Prepared to be spontaneous. Prepared to rescue. Prepared to understand, and to carry the dinner torch. To carry whatever torch they need you to carry. Whatever the situation.
These days, my honey is prepared to come home and start supper if I say I honestly can’t. He’s prepared to get the kids involved more since they’re older. To make it fun, he tries new recipes. Most days I can manage to stay calm in the kitchen if I have great music playing while I work. It soothes and it boosts my mood. In fact, it was so important to me and how I function, in what used to be the most stressful room in the house, that this year he installed top of the line speakers above the kitchen cabinets so I have music piped in from the stereo right there in the kitchen… and what a difference all of those things make for me!
We’re learning to do that for so many things I grapple with. We’re learning to go with it, work around it, wait it out, smooth it over. He’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met really. He’s never once held my battles against me, even when we didn’t know what the problem really was.
Change your expectations. Understand that they’re doing their best to survive the day. Give them a reason to want to.
Expect that they can’t do it without you.
That’s the one expectation that matters.