Q: My partner and I were married last October. It was a lovely wedding, filled with laughter and plenty of hiccoughs, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Well, maybe I would change one thing. The Thank You cards.
Sometime after the wedding, I slipped into a pretty deep depression. I’ve experienced mild depression and anxiety for the last six years or so, stemming from a few things: my mother’s adultery, parents’ subsequent divorce, oh, and my primary caretaker/grandmother was murdered when I was nine years old. Somehow, my partner and I navigated through the wedding process without having too many of my past issues crop up. I was focused on organizing a fun weekend and a meaningful ceremony, and that kept me driven for the year before the wedding. But once it was over… the sadness came back.
When you struggle with anxiety and depression, sometimes you do or don’t do things that you wouldn’t normally do. Mundane tasks seem to take on a new life and become these giant obstacles to overcome. Laundry, dishes, hair brushing, even getting out of bed is a struggle. Not to mention talking to people. Over the last six months, I’ve successfully pushed away all of my friends and immediate family members. To some extent, I’ve pushed away my partner, too. Depression can make you do some seriously self-deprecating stuff. So I put off sending the Thank You cards. They were ready to be mailed in February. But I held onto them. I don’t know why. My partner thought I had mailed them. But there they sit, on a shelf in my house, taunting me, making my stomach churn every time I think about them.
To make matters worse, my aunt sent me a four-page letter last week detailing how I am an ungrateful person, and should be ashamed of my behavior. She said that not showing my thanks to my father and our guests is inconsiderate and despicable. She said she cannot support our marriage if this is the person I have become since getting married.
Since last week, I’ve been to the doctor and have a new medication to help with my illness. I am working on gathering the courage to see a therapist. My partner and I have been talking about how I am feeling regularly. So, I’m thankful for my aunt’s letter in that it spurred me to address the downward spiral I’ve been in.
But… what do we do about the Thank You cards? Do we send them as is? Do we slip in a note, letting everyone know that I’ve been slowly losing it? Do we add a simple “better late than never” on the envelopes? Do we completely re-do the cards, with an update on how our first year as a married couple has been?
Girl Unconsciously Ignored Late Thank Yous
A: Dear Guilty,
First of all, I’m so sorry that you’re going through it. Many of us understand how badly it can feel when depression or anxiety creeps over the horizon and leaves you paralyzed. I am sure it’s taking every bit of strength you have to battle this. From this vantage point, you’re doing a fantastic job taking care of yourself, which is hard enough on a good day and a thousand times harder when you’re going through a rough time.
So be kind to yourself, and just send the cards. Don’t open them, don’t re-write them, don’t try to explain, don’t add a note. If people notice that they’re late, they’ll think it’s because you’ve been settling in to the first year of marriage, or that you’re navigating stressful times at work, or just scattered, like the rest of us. I bet that loads of them will draw no conclusions at all, and just be delighted to hear from you. It sounds like the cards have now become an Insurmountable Task, like so many things do when you’re dealing with anxiety or depression. So go easy on yourself, and get them off the shelf and the list of things that are making you feel like a jerk. Because you’re not! You don’t deserve an iota of the guilt and shame you’re heaping on yourself. You’re not a bad person; you’re a good person going through a bad time.
Of course, by “just send the cards,” what I mean is that you should ask your partner to do this for you. The two of you are going to be juggling responsibilities, shoring each other up, and taking turns supporting each other for the rest of your marriage, and right now, that includes your partner making the Thank You cards vanish into the postal system.
Now let’s talk about your people, and the distance you feel like you’ve created. There was a time when I was so heartbroken that I couldn’t get out of bed, and a friend came over and sat on the end of my bed while I talk-cried for hours. I never paused to ask her about her day, or relationship, or even her commute. When I realized this, I cried harder. “I’m sorry I’m such a bad friend,” I wept. “What if I never feel better? What if I never get out of this bed?” And she said from the end of my bed, “Well, then we’ll come over to rub your feet.” It did not make the grief any better, but it was deeply comforting in that one small moment. And I bet that’s what your people are going to do. It’s true, they might have missed you or been confused by your distance. Maybe they’d even agree that you can be cold or remote when you’re sad. It probably did not feel good to them when you were inexplicably distant and stopped returning texts, but people are going to show up in all kinds of different ways when you say, “I’m sorry. I’m sad. Life is really hard right now.” Sometimes you just have to get up the nerve to admit it.
And the ones that don’t show up, the ones like your aunt who say all of the mean things out loud that you’re already thinking in your head when you’re depressed, well. There’s a common expression in my household called NMP, short for Not My Problem. It is not your problem that your aunt was cruel and insensitive. She’s responsible for her own behavior, and you’re responsible for yours. All you can do is apologize and repeat that life is hard right now, and that you’re working on it. And as you battle back up the hill, we’re all pulling for you.
Team Practical, how do you get through seemingly mundane tasks when you’re anxious or depressed? How have you leaned on your partners or friends when you can hardly articulate how badly you’re feeling?
Elisabeth Snell is guest writing Ask Team Practical columns while Liz Moorhead is on maternity leave. If you’d like to ask Team Practical a question, don’t be shy! You can email askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer not to be named, anonymous questions are accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!