Him: I just groomed the cat. I used a cat-a-comb.
Me: *total silence*
Him: Hey, honey! I just groomed the cat – with a cat-a-comb!
Me: *more silence*
I was depressed, and he was trying to cheer me up. Using exactly the same joke that had gotten no response only seconds before. I don’t know why he thought it would work better the second time.
Many men have the instinct that, when confronted with a problem, they will try to solve it. When something is broken, they will try to fix.
I wasn’t broken, exactly, but I was deep in the Pit of Despair, aka the lower mood swing of my bipolar disorder. At that stage I am immobilized, uncommunicative, and utterly humorless.
The fact that Dan had worked in hospitals and psychiatric facilities was actually a bad thing, despite what you might expect. He had run laughter therapy groups, he knew the jargon, and he sincerely wanted to be helpful.
But he didn’t know – viscerally – what depression was like. How it felt in your body and mind and soul, how it damped down your personality and blunted your reactions and removed your ability to view life as anything other than miserable. Certainly not funny.
Later Dan learned all this when he experienced his own bout of clinical depression and became another one of my Prozac pals. But until then, he would occasionally come shrinking at me, until I had to tell him to stop. I could accept a hug, but not a joke or a “remedy.”
But all that was early in our relationship and before I had begun to heal or even get proper treatment. And I literally would not have made it this far without Dan. I need him and likely always will.
When it’s Pit of Despair time again (which it sometimes still is), he checks on me to see if I need that hug, or some food, or a kind word, or just to be left alone. When I am better, he still does the cooking and shopping, and reminds me to eat regular meals and take showers and tells me I smell nice after I do. Sometimes he can coax me out of bed with a tape of The Mikado or out of the house with lunch at Frisch’s. If I’m too nervous to drive to my appointments, he takes me. When I’m together enough to work, he keeps the house quiet and fixes food when I need a break and validates me for being able to bring in money, even when it’s difficult.
But he can’t fix me. And now he knows that.