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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Job Loss: When Anxiety Depression Hurts Your Family

 by egrandeventures


My husband of 17 years lost his limousine business in October. I picked up extra hours at my job, so our personal finances are not as bad as they were at first. But now it's difficult because I'm away from home more than usual, and we have two boys, ages 15 and 11. They don't know what to do with their Dad being so shut down.

Josh quickly wrote out his resume and circulated it everywhere he could imagine after the business went under. About 30 places called him and he got 6 interviews, but no call-backs -- and no offers. I think he's basically stopped looking at this point. I can't bring it up without him exploding.

He basically withdrew from everyone, including me and the boys. He said "No" to just about everything during the holidays and just let me handle everything, including decorations. He didn't buy or initiate anything.

Now when we are alone with the kids, he doesn't talk. He looks at his plate during dinner and lets me do all the talking. He doesn't eat much and has lost about 15 pounds.

The boys just look at me when they ask him something and he doesn't answer. They are worried and have asked me what to do. I am at a loss.

Josh sleeps a lot and doesn't want to talk about how he is feeling. He just leaves the room when I bring it up. But what can I do to help him? He really needs to see a doctor but refuses to get any kind of help.

Unfortunately, many families are going through similar things right now. Men often define their self-worth in terms of their work, and when that suffers a loss, they think they are failures. When any of us get repeatedly rejected, we are vulnerable to humiliation and despair. Men typically have a harder time finding words for stress and negative feelings, so they go unvoiced and misunderstood. Men also tend to express their emotions through action, fixing, and doing. When they experience connection to other by being top dog and suddenly find themselves on the bottom of the heap, they often don't know how to maintain their connections. They pull away and shut down. They feel alone, even when loved ones surround them.
Help Him Get Re-Connected

From your description, it does sound like Josh may be depressed, with the lack of motivation, appetite and over-sleeping. Helping him get connected to you again will probably be difficult, but there are some specific things you can try to find your way back to him.
1. just "be" with him in a way that isn't critical, judging or belittling. sit with him and breathe at his rate. let him know with your tone, eye-contact, touch and presence that he is not alone. you are a team and you are with him, no matter what, and especially when he is miserable.
2. defend him when he needs protection, from himself as well as others. don't let negative comments or judgments slide into conversations about him or with him. you are a fighting unit with a man down. you are a family and together you will survive.
3. take care of business with a decisive, yet respectful hand. do what needs to be done without resenting him for his inactivity. take firm and loving action by calling your family physician.

Without mentioning any names, just ask the receptionist if the doctor treats depression and anxiety disorders. If not, ask who the doctor trusts most as a referral. You might need to call your insurance company to get a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist who is covered by your plan. Most companies have websites now that you can check for names.
Speaking to Your Husband

When you speak with your husband about it, prepare him for the appointment by taking these steps:
Step 1. Waiting for the Right Time

Wait for one of his better moments, and ask him when he is available to discuss something important with you. Tell him you'll need no more than 15 minutes, but you'll be wanting his full attention.
Step 2. Get Clearance for Uninterrupted Speaking Time

If he wants to talk right then and there, tell him you would like to be able to speak your peace for the first few minutes and that you just want him to hear you out before he responds. You may want to let him know that no one has died or anything like that, but it is important to you that you get a chance to be fully heard. If he's not up for talking right then and needs to schedule a later time to talk, agree to whatever time he offers.
Step 3. Start the Conversation

When the appointed time arrives, go to him, remind his that it is time to talk and kindly ask his permission to be heard without interruption. Tell him that he'll get his turn to speak uninterrupted after you do, just so he knows you are bring fair. Wait for him to agree before proceeding. You want to set a good tone, so do whatever you normally do when you both are comfortable with each other. This is not the time to be stiff or formal.
Step 4. Put the Focus on the Job Loss

Start by sitting with him and saying something like this, using your kind and loving voice, "I love you very much and have gotten worried lately. I can only assume you've been down about the job situation and lack of new opportunities so far. I'm thinking you'll feel a lot better when you get a job. Am I right? Wait for him to answer.
Step 5. Inform Him

"Because we love each other, we don't need permission to get help for each other. I know for sure that you would get help for me if I were as down as you've been lately. I checked around and found that Dr. _____ treats depression and anxiety and I'm going to make an appointment for us both to go in together. What would be the best day for that appointment?

You are not asking him if he wants to go. The assumption in your approach is that he is going with you and the decision is already made. You are asking "when" and not "whether" he is going to join you.
Step 6. Be Loving yet Clear

If he flat out refuses, tell him that he doesn't have a choice. Soften your voice at this point, and make sure he hears your statement as kind and loving rather than stern. Say something like, "As your wife, I won't just stand around and watch you go through torture without doing what I can to help. You wouldn't let me or the boys suffer alone, and I'm not going to do that to you, either. We are a family and we're going to do this together, for the sake of all of us.
Step 7. Go by Yourself

He will probably go, but if he flat-out refuses, plan to go by yourself. In the moment of refusal, just be kind and drop the subject without recrimination. There's no need to threaten him in any way or say that you are going by yourself.

Call the names you were given by either your trusted doctor or your insurance company. Ask the doctor or receptionist to return your call at times that are most convenient to you, that is, if they are accepting new patients. When you have them on the phone, briefly explain your situation and ask them about their experience in working with husbands who are not seeking help. If they seem uncertain about how to handle it, disengage from the call and keep calling other doctors until you find one that you personally feel comfortable with. Make an appointment.

Be smart about it and pick a time that your husband can join you, if he changes his mind. When the appointment day arrives, tell him you are going to see that doctor you mentioned to him that other day, and that you "want him to join you just to get educated about what to do."

Men are usually geared toward action, so use verbs that are action-oriented, rather than "feeling" or "examining" or "discussing." You are going ... because you want to know what you and the boys can do to help. Tell him that you will be talking about him the whole time, so he might as well get up and come speak for himself.
Step 8. Maintain Your Stance, and Your Privacy

If you like the doctor, plan to go until this situation is resolved to your satisfaction. If you don't like the doctor, go see another one the very next week. Keep looking until you find one who earns your trust. You will know him or her when immediately.

If your husband continues to refuse to go with you, he is likely to ask what the doctor said at some point. When he does, tell him that she or he "had a lot of very helpful things to say" and made you understand a lot more about what you can do, like not take things personally. Avoid telling him too much. The more you say, the less he will need to go see what's happening for himself.

If he pushes to know what you told the doctor, don't, and I repeat, don't give him the details. If he wants to know, he can come next time, because you "liked the doctor so much" that you made another appointment.

Tell him that the doctor said it would be "a lot quicker and less expensive" if he would join you, but that, of course is up to him. Keep making appointments, inviting him, maintaining your privacy etc. as long as you are getting something useful out of it.

To continue reading,

Dr. Marlene M. Maheu is the Editor-in-Chief of SelfHelpMagazine, an award winning online electronic-zine. Visit and read more articles from Dr. Marlene and other professionals on how to reduce stress.


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