My husband is 37 and his parents are in their mid-70s. After fighting in Vietnam, my father-in-law came home with numerous injuries and to date has had 84 surgeries. My mother-in-law had 2 consecutive strokes when my husband was 17 and 18. Mainly my father-in-law has been the one with consistent health problems due to medical mistakes made during his war recovery, and it bothers my husband, of course. Well this year, things got worse. In March, my father-in-law went in for yet another war-related surgery that was life-threatening and he almost had his leg amputated. Days later, my mother-in-law had a stroke. Now again in October, my father-in-law went into the hospital and was diagnosed with CHF and two days later my mother-in-law had a heart attack which led to emergency bypass surgery. Each time they have been sick, he and I are the primary caregivers as his sister is useless. To make matters more stressful for my husband, I am working on my doctorate and our furry son (dog) was killed last December (his "deathaversary" is in 6 days).

Since my MIL's heart attack, my husband has been despondent, is isolating himself, lashing out at me and continues to say he just feels "lost." He talks in circles - one day saying he wants a divorce and in the next breath begging me not to leave. He refuses to see a counselor or medical doctor and acknowledges he is a bit depressed. He confided in me that he wishes God would take his father just to put him out of his constant suffering. Mike holds his breath every day for the next thing to be wrong and every time the phone rings thinks that will be the call that something else is wrong. He keeps saying no one can relate to what he is going through, and he is right, because those around him are blessed with healthy parents 20 years younger. He said he is just burned out from all of it.

The reason I am posting is because I am looking for suggestions of how to help him. Thus far I have dealt with the mood swings, tried to be a source of comfort, made him communicate (which is tough for him) and given him space when he needs it. But I don't know what else to do for him. He keeps saying that one day, someplace, somehow he will "crack" and then be fine again, but every day is a roller coaster ride and I feel helpless. I hate seeing him so upset and despondent -- he is the person everyone always loves and now everyone is noticing how different he is.

Can anyone help suggest how I can help him?

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Invite any of his friends over, so they can talk, get to see the problem. Maybe a respected male can mentor him, unofficially.

You need to walk out if he lashes out at you. So many symptoms you have described may point to drug abuse.

Be his wife, not his counselor.

Yours would not be the first marriage to break under the added stress of the wife being distracted by an education, then there is everything else. You may need your doctorate to support yourself soon. However, don't panic! Be the best wife and student possible. You and hubby take breaks together. The in-law issues sometimes just have to be taken out of the mix for a time. Stop talking about them for a day-off. Try it. You will worry, but save yourself. Why in the world would he want to divorce you? I get that you are trying really hard. Try less, just take care of business. You can figure this out.
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Being depressed can be caused by chemicals that need medication to treat. I would ask, then insist that your husband get a physical and seek help for his anxiety/depression or whatever it is. It's tough to watch a spouse in mental pain. Plus, it plays havoc on your body too. I think I would have to insist that he do this. Even if he refuses at first, I think I'd have to really insist. I mean, put it on the table that it must be done, because you care about him and he needs help. Volunteer to go together, so you are sure he is open about his feelings and behavior with the doctor.

Not to alarm you, but when people talk the way you describe your husband, I would take it seriously and not let up on it. I would hate for it to get worse. You both are so young and should be having some happy times and creating wonderful memories. There is time for sadness, of course, but it shouldn't overwhelm you. It's really affecting you. That should be enough for him to seek help.

Oh, the ideas in the posts above are also excellent.
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I think you are doing an excellent job of supporting your husband and I see little more you can do without professional help. Garden artist has excellent suggestions about finding help so try and follow through on those.Try getting some counciling for yourself which will better help you understand your husbands needs and your roll in this family. Does your husband have a job and is he able to get up each day and go to work.Think ahead to the future. Do the two of you want to become full time caregivers for your inlaws. You may love them dearly but that job will take over your life and possibly destroy your marriage. Talk to the VA about long term care for the parents and assisted housing that can progress to skilled nursing care. Do not be tempted to take them into your home or for that matter move in with them. You may both love them dearly but most on this forum will tell you those feelings can quickly change to resentment with many years of caregiving ahead. My best advice would be to help and supervise but don't take over. This is your time of life when you should be looking forward to starting your own family. Your husband is 37 and assuming you are of similar age time is getting short for your maximum fertility. By all means extend your studies which seems easy to do with a doctorate but don't give up.
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Another thought - some of the service organizations such as VFW, American Legion, and others might have suggestions on how to get counseling outside of the medical venue since your husband doesn't want to go that route.

Or try congresspeople and senators. They should be able to make suggestions on how to get veteran related counseling support for your husband.

And I wish you luck; your poor husband must be so distraught over the situation with both his parents.
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The VA has stepped up its depression counseling, beginning with the basic questions of whether the person is depressed, despondent, has suicidal thoughts, etc. It was part of the intake procedure when my father re-enrolled for medical assistance.

I don't know whether as an adult son of a veteran your husband would be eligible for counseling, but I would find out, ASAP.

If your FIL hasn't qualified for medical assistance and perhaps other assistance through the VA, that might have to be the first step. I don't know for sure, but I would contact the closest VA hospital, both in and out-patient, as well as research the VA website to find out what counseling benefits are available to adult children of vets.

I would also contact the service organizations of the branch of service your FIL was in. It's my understanding they offer family assistance to veterans, and I believe that includes counseling.

Your husband is understandably upset if not despondent and is having difficulty selecting a course of action. Step in and help him, even if he objects, adding that you're trying to help him make decisions that will address his emotional pain.

I think I would also help to slow down the pace of courses for your PhD to allow more time to support your husband. Just my opinion, but at this time in his life I think his needs are more important. With everything going on, it's time to prioritize for those things which have immediate needs and those which can be subordinated in priority.

(It took me years of night school to even get close to graduation, and I know how slow it can seem when working toward a degree, so I don't suggest this lightly.)

Are there any tasks that you can take over for him, or that can be hired out, to relieve the sense of responsibility he has? Responsibility for household and similar tasks can be overwhelming when emotional crises are present.

I think your husband is also suffering from a very high level of anxiety that's interfering with his ability to think clearly. (I went through a period like this when my sister was dying and at times when my father has been close to death - it's hard to even concentrate on anything except the overwhelming uncertainty, fear, stress and other intense emotions.)

Since he won't see a doctor, try to spend time doing activities that you know relax him, whether it's walking, yard work, going out to dinner, listening to music (there are usually some free concerts of holiday music this time of year)....what he used to enjoy doing. I would keep it just between the two of you so he isn't embarrassed if he has an anxiety attack or switches emotions (such as one day wanting a divorce and the next day rescinding that alleged desire).

Your goal is to reach into those relaxation and strengthening activities that can help balance the anxiety and despondency. And it isn't easy, either.

I'm really sorry to read of the many challenges your family has faced. It just doesn't seem to stop, does it? But I'd look to the military for help for descendants of veterans as the first course of action.
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