Annie Lane: Screen-addicted husband

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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Dear Annie: I find your column to be informative and entertaining.

One subject that emerges often is the grieving of a loved one. I agree that acknowledging and allowing loss is an individual process and our pace should not be judged by others, except in the matter of compassion and support.

My personal concern is with grieving the loss of a loved one through dementia.

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In many ways, my husband, mate, best friend, even handyman, is gone. He is not coming home from his long-term care residence, yet he is physically fit, present, healthy, sociable, fun and engaging.

Friends and acquaintances see me as “just dandy” as I suit up, put on a happy face and participate in social activities, but I am not OK.

Having fun and being happy are surrounded by guilt.

It’s not the same as grieving the loss of a parent or grandparent.

Sometimes people say, “Oh, yes, my grandfather had dementia.” There is an expectation that our aging relatives have some degree of diminished ability. They are loved, respected and accepted.

But I have lost my hugs, foot-warmer, protector and friend, only to take on trying to do everything as before and trying to do more with less. I don’t fit in the “singles” or “couples” category. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to this isolation.

I could use a helping hand with heavy lifting, auto and yard maintenance, and financial planning. Sure, there are goods and services available for these things, but not all of us have an unlimited expense account.

I hope my letter enlightens hearts and minds.

—Dancing in the Rain

Dear Dancing in the Rain: Thank you for your beautiful letter. Your situation is difficult but not uncommon. My hope is that your message will help others know that they are not alone in the grief they feel for the person they once knew.

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Dear Annie: Please tell me, how do I deal with my husband’s depression and phone addiction? It’s starting to hurt my self-esteem, leaving me feeling as if I’m incapable of making him happy.

He has never been medically diagnosed but says depression runs in his family. His mom and all of his siblings have been diagnosed and take antidepressants. He can easily switch from being a fun-loving husband to a very crabby one in less than a minute. I constantly feel like I’m walking on eggshells because I don’t know if what I’m going to say next might trigger him.

Sometimes it could be something as small as my not wanting fish for dinner. Then he gets upset and doesn’t talk to me for days. Days! I ask him what’s wrong, and he says he needs his space from me and our girls; hence, he escapes into his phone or video games.

He spends countless hours on his phone. He hides in the restroom with his phone. He wakes up and goes to bed with his phone.

I try to be the fun girl I used to be. I schedule camping trips and little outings to give us something fun to look forward to as a family. I try to run my household as smoothly and neatly as possible by adopting a minimalist lifestyle so he can unwind from a long day at work and not come home to a chaotic household, and he simply resorts to his phone once again.

I’m emotionally drained. I don’t fit in his virtual world, and when he’s not on the phone, he’s depressed.

—Living with Grumpy

Dear Living with Grumpy: You are doing a wonderful job trying to create a loving, adventurous and nurturing household —all while living with a man who is unhappy and needs professional help for his depression. It can be hard to tell whether too much video game and phone time is making him depressed, or if his depression is making him self-medicate by withdrawing from the family with his phone, video gaming and temper. Regardless of which came first, he needs professional help.

Try to focus on your daughters and yourself while he gets treatment. Don’t allow his sadness to take away your joy.

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