How to Help your Spouse Fight Depression
Don’t blame yourself
When it dawned on me that my husband was suffering from a depression, I immediately blamed myself and went back into our mutual past to identify in which situations I had reacted wrongly. I was sure, I had contributed to his problem and that he wouldn’t be sick if it hadn’t been for me. Blaming yourself is a natural reaction when you find out your loved one is depressed. It is important to understand that blaming yourself does not make the situation any better. You cannot change the past and it will make the situation even more unbearable if you let feelings of guilt crush you. You will have to carry a lot of weight during your spouse’s treatment anyway, so rummaging in the past can only make it worse.
Marriages affected by depression are nine times more likely to get divorced. In my case, my head was spinning with a million questions:
- Can I handle this behavior for months/years?
- How are we going to come by financially?
- Is he/she ever going to be normal again?
- Can he/she make me happy again?
- Will I fall back in love with him?
- Are we going to get back our intimacy?
- Does he/she really love me?
- Is he ever going to thank me for this or make it up to me?
Many marriages break due to depression but some of those spouses who are able to withstand their partner’s disease come out of it stronger and happier than before. The success rate of depression treatment is between 80 and 90%. However, going through that phase together puts enormous pressure on the spouse/relative and makes life so much harder. You are going to have to carry a lot of additional weight on your shoulders. It is physically and emotionally draining to live together in the same house with a depressed person. He will most likely not give you any of the things for which you feel in love with him such as acknowledgement for nice things you did, love and intimacy, financial support and help around the house. In the worst cases of depression, your partner won’t be able to help you with anything. So apart from working a full time job, you need to make doctor’s appointments, do house chores, cook, take care of your kids or pets and still handle his moods. Your spouse/relative might treat you disrespectfully, attack you verbally, disregard your feelings or make you cry, in spite of all the help you are offering. You have to always remember that this person is not himself at this time. You can regard depression as a force that is trying to take your spouse away from you and manipulating him constantly to push you away. When he attacks you verbally, it’s the disease that is attacking you, not him. You have to learn to filter those attacks and not react aggressively or blame him or her and make him feel guilty. He doesn’t really want to hurt you. His reactions are triggered by changes in the brain chemistry that can affect his/her thoughts, mood, appetite, sleep and energy levels. At times you might wonder about extreme mood swings; one second he is telling you he is a nobody, a failure or weak and minutes later, he’s back to normal and you can actually lead a normal conversation. It’s a disease just like diabetes or heart disease. It can change your life and the life of your family on a long-term basis. It won’t do him/her any good if you tell him to “get over it” or “stop making a fuss about it”. He needs treatment.
Help Your Spouse Get Treated
If you notice a change in your spouse’s or relative’s behavior or reactions that you have never seen in him/her until now, then these could be the signs of a depression. These are some symptoms of depression:
- Increased aggression
- Not able or hardly able to make decisions
- Verbal attacks
- Struggles to handle basic tasks
- Caught up in his/her own world
- Sexual inactivity
- Emotional absence
- Not able to show much love or affection for his/her partner
- Thinks the whole world is against him/her
- Feeling of emptiness
- No feelings except sadness (this is how depressed people often describe how they feel)
- Does not see a sense in life anymore
- Unusual and maybe excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs
- Engaging in risky activities, maybe even illegal
Those are just some of the symptoms you may notice in your relative/spouse and if you do, it’s high time you take him to a psychiatrist or psychologist as soon as possible. A depression is a disease and if you think you can treat it by simply offering him/her love and support, you are wrong. You can only be there to support him/her and hold it out but it’s impossible to treat it as a relative/spouse. Don’t try to do your own therapy sessions with your spouse/relative. There are too many emotional bonds between you and him/her. Depressions need to be treated by a professional with a neutral perspective. Treatments can vary and some may require medication while others may simply require regular therapy sessions. Your relative/spouse may not feel comfortable with the first psychologist/psychiatrist he/she sees so don’t hesitate to take him/her to several therapists until you have found one he/she feels comfortable with.
Make sure your spouse/relative takes the prescribed medication at the right time. If he/she is not able to cook, you should make sure he has regular meals and drinks enough water.
Is Depression Destroying Your Marriage?
The role of sports
Sports are another element among various elements that will help your spouse overcome depression. Sports raise your self-esteem and trigger the production of endorphins, the happiness hormones. They reduce anxiety levels and stress and help the patient get on his feet faster while being treated.
Talking to a counselor/therapist
Some spouses find it extremely helpful to talk to someone about their partner’s disease. Some seek support by talking to a friend or a family member while others find it soothing to talk to a counselor or therapist, in mutual sessions with your partner and/or separately. You have to be aware of the fact that spouses and family members of depressed people are much more likely to spiral down into a depression themselves. None of us are robots and even if you are a professional at shielding yourself from your spouse’s symptoms of depression, your emotional health will inevitably be affected, if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
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Leave the house and spend time with positive people
You should definitely spend some time away from your partner, even if it is only an hour or two per week. In order to keep yourself strong and offer the best support for your partner, meeting healthy people with a positive attitude who make you laugh is definitely a good way to make sure you are staying strong.
Research about the topic
The more you know about this disease the better you can handle the situation. The internet offers information en masse and there are uncountable books on the market dealing with the issue. It can also help to talk to people who have gone through the same thing. You may have someone in your circle of friends or in your family who has gone through depression and successfully treated it or if not, you can seek out a support group for family members.