Dear Christine, To Tell or Not to Tell in Taylor

Dear Christine

My wife has been taking some medication recently that is clearly helping her anxiety and OCD, however, she developed a noticeable twitch in (her) eyes.  Fluttery blinking, more in one eye than the other so it’s very noticeable to people.  She see seems unaware of it and so far I haven’t brought it up. She often doesn’t take observations well about herself.  One time she got very mad at me because I told her that her shirt was on inside out while out to dinner with friends.  I was hoping to save her embarrassment so she could slip into the bathroom and fix it before anyone else noticed.  Because of this and many other similar experiences I’ve had with her, I now just keep my mouth shut.  This eye twitch is an ongoing issue though I’m wondering if I should ask her if she is aware of it.  Also worried it could be a symptom of something she needs to address.

To Tell or Not To Tell in Taylor

PS I read your columns all the time, hope you don’t mind that I came up with my own pen name.


Dear To Tell or Not to Tell,

I love that you created your own pen name!  Thanks! And thanks for being a regular reader.  You don’t mention age, physical and medical conditions of your wife, nor how long you have been together, but I assume that she is generally in good health, responding well to the above mentioned medication and that she is sensitive to any feedback, which probably feels like criticism to her.  It also sounds like you notice things more often than she does (the shirt on inside out).

There are a couple of thoughts I have that the medication, while being helpful for the targeted symptoms of anxiety and OCD, may being having unwanted side effects.  Perhaps the reduction in the unwanted symptoms is well worth the side effects as your wife experiences them.  Perhaps she doesn’t even notice the eye fluttering.  So, the medication might be the cause of her eye twitching.  And it is possible something has happened to her eyes, causing them to become dry, needing more blinking than she used to feel.  Many medications have dry mouth and/or dry mouth as side effects.  Or a variety of situations can cause stress on the body and eyes, causing twitching, including fatigue, both in general or from clenching the eye muscles, glare or crying.  Also general stress and/or specific eye stress can cause twitching, as well as caffeine and dehydration.  Perhaps there is an underlying medical condition, which I am not licensed to consider, not being a medical doctor.

Take some time alone to compose your thoughts and what you want your wife to hear.  Then request her to give you some time in her schedule when she can listen to your concerns you want to discuss.  Give her the general topic so she has an idea where this is going.  Let her choose the time and location, just make sure it is private!  Then tell her gently that you love her and want her to be around and healthy a long time but you have noticed a few small things that have you wondering if she is ok.  Ask her if she would like to know what those  concerns are.  She will probably know you well enough to guess correctly.

If she refuses to talk about it with you, try writing and email.  Outline your concerns and that you are requesting she seek medical attention for this eye fluttering that appeared since she went on the mediation for anxiety/OCD.  Ask her to consult with the doctor who prescribed it.  I would encourage you not to ask Dr. Google, however, as without medical training, it is very easy for us lay people to conflate symptoms and not have the correct context for what we read.  That causes anxiety and stress!  Another route is to call the pharmacy where she gets her medications and ask them if the eye symptoms could be related to the medication.  (I have even done this for figuring out what does of melatonin to give my cat who went into heat after spaying.)  The pharmacists have a great deal of information and know what to emphasize or not.

I have approached my wife in the past with similar concerns and have requested that she do the same with me.  I gave her permission to push me to have an honest conversation if she ever noticed that I was acting depressed. I had done years of successful psychotherapy and used medications during that process and I make journaling and self-care a part of daily life.  But the truth is, I can be very bull headed and can get defensive, talking circles around concerns she may have about me.  I asked her to remind me that I have requested this direct conversation and that she has concerns the depression might have returned.  I then can take some time to drop the defensiveness and remind myself that she loves me and wants only the best for her and for me.

Actually, several years ago, we did have that conversation, and I will always be grateful that she is honest and direct, even if I am resistant at first.  Depression is a condition that returns.  If you have 1 episode of depression, you are more likely to have a 2nd.  If you have 2 episodes, you will have a 3rd.  So it goes with women’s hormones changing over our lifetime, and so goes depression.  No matter how self-aware and healthy you think you are, it can hit you again.

So, another aspect to your conversation with your wife is to invite her to tell you hard truths you might resist or welcome.  Let her know that deep down, you know she has your best interest at heart, and even if what she notices comes out feeling like a criticism or complaint, you will remind yourself that it was an observation rooted in love.  If you can demonstrate that you are willing to take from her what you dish out to her, it might go over better.

Meanwhile, watch for that moment to let her know you would like to have a serious conversation when she is ready.  I used to pick late evenings as my time to approach my wife with a conversation, say about money.  Turns out that is the WORST time for her to have to try to crunch numbers and deal with finances.  I learned early on to request those conversations for a day off for both of us, and keep it to morning or afternoon.  And the conversations are much smoother now!

Let me know how it goes for you,

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
3926 Royal Avenue, #A
Berkley, Michigan 48072
[email protected]com
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