As The Wife Of A Husband With Depression

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I thought long and hard before publishing this post, primarily because it is one of the most personal pieces I have ever written. After trawling the internet, however, I realised that whilst there are many sites written from the perspective of someone battling depression, or a doctor or psychiatrist on the effects of depression on a relationship, there is very little written from the perspective of the spouse or partner of someone in the grip of a depressive episode.

Depression isn’t a pretty illness. It’s downright ugly, not to mention cowardly. It sneaks up on its victims, often rendering not only them, but those around them, helpless in its grip. So, before I start crying (yes, it’s been that kind of a day), here is my perspective. You will notice that I have used the words “spouse” or “partner”, as I do not wish to give the impression that I am aiming my words purely at women. No matter who you are, if you live with or love someone battling depression, chances are this post will resonate with you in some way. All I know for sure is that it has helped me to write it. If it helps someone to read it, then so much the better.

As the wife of a husband with depression, I can honestly say that it is one of the hardest things to be. To witness someone you love cry inconsolably; to hear them say, with so much venom, that their entire life is shit; to bear the brunt of their anger, simply because there is no one else there for them to vent against; to have moments when you yourself feel low or a bit weepy, and yet you can’t go and talk to your spouse or partner because they aren’t in the right emotional state to comfort you; to hold your loved one in bed, but they don’t hold you; all of this results in a feeling of being left in a very lonely place indeed. In fact, when my husband is in the grip of a depressive crisis, it would be more than fair to say that I have never felt lonelier.

These feelings of loneliness, and, dare I say it, helplessness, are compounded by the fact that society, the medical community, self-help books and websites, rarely give the spouse or partner of someone with depression a second thought, other than to remind us that it is our duty to be there in support of our loved ones, giving them a listening, non-judgemental ear, a shoulder to cry on, and generally navigating the eggshell-strewn minefield of knowing what to do for the best, whilst simultaneously biting our tongues when a verbal salvo is launched in our direction.

The fact that depression is episodic, doesn’t make navigating the minefield any less difficult. Indeed, in my experience, it makes it all the harder. To metaphorically be enjoying a beautiful sunny day, with birds singing and everything full of colour, only to have a black cloud appear literally out of nowhere, is as hard and distressing to witness as it must be to experience. Winston Churchill called his depression the “black dog”. If that is so, then being the spouse or partner of someone with depression is like being afraid of dogs, but having to live with one nonetheless.

My husband was diagnosed with depression around six years ago, although he has suffered with it (undiagnosed) for far longer. For around three years following his diagnosis, he was on medication, which, I cannot deny and which he himself would admit, did help. However, the side-effects were horrendous for him. The worst was the inability to control his body temperature, resulting in his sweating profusely both day and night and with the slightest exertion. Given the fact that he had, at that time, a manual job, it was hardly a pleasant experience to have to change his clothes three or four times a day. His medication was changed a few times, but still the side-effects were less than desirous. Therefore, three years ago, he made the decision that he lo longer wanted to take pills, realising that he could either spend a lifetime switching from one pill to another, or he could take matters into his own hands and work through the episodes in his own way.

For the most part, it has worked, and when depression hits, he will more often than not sleep if he feels the need to, or work in the garden, or work on his motorbikes, or we’ll go for a walk together, anything to stop him retreating into his mind. However, it is at these moments when I feel uniquely alone in the eggshell-strewn minefield, for if I happen to suggest doing something, and that something is not the thing he wishes to do, I will be met with either a disdainful look, or words and facial expressions that contain so much venom, it takes all my strength not to shout “Well fuck you!” and run out of the door.

So, how do I handle it? I hear you ask. How do I handle the loneliness, the resentment that my husband has changed from the man I married (even though I know the change came unbidden and unintended), and the sheer stress of it all? Well, I am lucky in that I have my writing, and so can (given the right amount of caffeine and willpower) escape into a fictional world of my own choosing. I also find that writing down my thoughts and feelings helps a great deal too. I practice meditation and have breathing exercises (inhale for a count of three, hold for a count of three, exhale for a count of three) which helps me to slow down my mind and concentrate on nothing except breathing and counting. Most importantly (to me, anyway), I tell myself four words, four words that I use as a mantra, especially when meditating: This too shall pass. All of this helps me to bear that which – and I choose my words carefully here – would, in any other circumstance, be unbearable.

I love my husband more than anything in the world. He is a good, honest, wonderful, loving man and my best friend, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. That being said, I cannot deny that there are not times when I wouldn’t gladly trade him on eBay for a couple of bottles of vodka and a Tom Hardy box set!

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12 thoughts on “As The Wife Of A Husband With Depression

  1. Hello there. Nicely written. I am a person with lifelong depression. Through a lot of hard work and determination, I learned in therapy to see my husband’s life through his eyes. It was a hard truth, but well worth it. Thank you for writing the article. Hopefully someone with depression can read this and realize that depression is a family illness, and affects all people around him or her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! You’re so right. It is a family illness, affecting everyone, not just the sufferer. I almost didn’t want to tell my husband how he made me feel, as I didn’t want to make him feel worse than he already did. Talking is very much the key, though. And you’re right, if someone with depression can see that it is affecting everyone around them, or if someone caring for a loved one with depression can see that they are not alone in how they feel, perhaps it will encourage more open conversation, which can only be a good thing. I wish you and your husband all the love and light in the world. If we can love our partners through depression, we can love them through anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a husband with depression, I very much sympathize with you. Just remember, your husband loves you, too, and it kills him to know just how he treats you. He really doesn’t mean it. And he very much appreciates you standing beside him through all the dark times. Trust me, your love for him is his anchor. Best wishes to you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I know how much he loves me, and I understand full well that when he’s in the grip of a depressive episode, it isn’t him talking, it’s the illness. We have spoken at length about it, and I have told him that although I understand that, I cannot deny that it hurts, and he can appreciate that. Talking is key though, as I’m sure you and your partner know. It cannot be denied though that depression can tear a marriage apart, and if this piece can help just one partner see that they’re not alone in how they feel, then it’s worth it. We’ve been married for 21 years, so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Best wishes to you and your partner too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Uninvited guest” … what a fabulous analogy! As I said to another reader, if we can love our partners through depression, we can love them through anything! After seeing what my husband goes through, there’s no way I would let him face it alone, no matter how hard it is on me. I just wanted others, both carers and sufferers, to realise that it’s only human to feel the way they do. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. As someone battling with very very mild episodic depression I’ve never once gave a complete thought about how it effects my loved ones. I’ve always appreciated them for supporting me but this just melted my heart. I can never thank my boyfriend for always being there and I’m sure your husband appreciates you even more so. I will remember you and your husband in my prayers. You are a brave one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! My husband only realised how much it affected me after we spoke at length about, with honesty on both sides. Talking is very much key, especially when the depressive episode has passed. I will remember you and your boyfriend too. It’s only through those of us who are affected speaking out that we will end the stigma, and show people that it is OK and safe to talk. I wish you both all the very best in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Life In The Front Row | Do Not Annoy The Writer

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