How to be married to a depressed person from someone who has been depressed
By Bonnie Theis, Therapy Intern
©September, 2017 Threads of Hope Counseling
You may be thinking to yourself “Why am I reading something from someone who knows absolutely nothing about what it means to be married to a depressed spouse?!”. Well, let me answer that question: Because I have been a depressed person and I have gotten through it with the support of people around me. Here are my thoughts on how to deal and what you should consider doing for the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with.
Remember this is a disease.
Your spouse is not out to get you. Depression changes your brain and the happy person that you’ve fallen in love with is not the same person that currently sleeps next to you. Think of depression as a broken leg; you’re not going to blame someone when they don’t want to walk on their leg after they were in a horrible skiing accident right? Right. This is the same way that your partner’s brain does not function the way it did before. These changes can include problems sleeping, lowered energy level, depressed or irritable mood, or overall lethargy. They can’t necessarily change these symptoms of their depression, just like someone cannot magically heal their broken leg.
Depression Should be Treated.
Just like a broken leg, depression can be treated and SHOULD. It is not just magically going to disappear (I know, this point sucks). The best way to begin the treatment process is to be in their corner. If your spouse has you to support them, they could potentially get off the couch. We all know how comfortable the couch can be and getting up and moving to a different spot can be the absolute worst! Just think of yourself as the person that can metaphorically (or literally) grab their hands and pull them up when they reach out to you. You can even help them to move to an exciting life changing couch.
Move to a Life-Changing Couch
“What? A life-changing couch? Really?” Yes. It’s called getting help from a counselor. A counselor will be able to help them learn ways to deal with their depression and help to get them out of the hole that is depression. They can also educate you on what depression looks like and how to combat it. This could be through individual therapy for your spouse or even coming together as a couple to work on ways to improve life for both of you. They can also refer you to a doctor if more action needs to be taken for your spouse’s health. You can and probably should also consider getting a counselor for yourself because there are no better people to talk about dealing with depressed people than counselors. They are trained in this area and can help teach you how to be an expert with your spouse and take care of yourself.
Educate Yourself About What you are Dealing With.
Have you ever tried to battle a cold? Probably. You probably have a general idea of how to deal with this virus: You get rest, vitamin c, take Nyquil etc. Depression is similar in this sense. You are not going to be able to battle it if you don’t do your research on treatments, so get out google and do some searches or ask your counselor or anyone you know who has been there. Again: there is nothing to be ashamed of in asking for support.
Focus on You.
Now to focus specifically on you: you should always remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in this fight. Depression can be isolating for family members as much as the affected person. Feel free to reach out to friends and family and say “Hey! I don’t know what I’m doing. Please help me, please, please, please!” They can be a great source of support to your spouse and to you.
There is no need to feel guilty for NOT being depressed.
This is a tough one because the statement stands by itself. Life can be good for you and that is nothing that you should change or feel bad about. Think of it like the weather: Just because it’s a sunny day in Florida, does not mean that there can’t be a snowstorm in Alaska. The weather is going to be how it is and nothing is going to change that (unless we’re talking climate change but that’s a whole different story)
Remember you are a person too!
My last and probably most important point is to always remember that you are a person too. You can’t expect to take care of a person (your spouse), if you aren’t one (a zombie, a maid, your spouse’s pseudo-therapist, etc). You will need to take time for you, whether that means getting ice cream with friends, spending time with your family pet, or running a marathon (good for you!) Get yourself out of the house and make sure that all of your needs (Food, water, exercise, love, fun etc.) are being met. You are just as important and you can be the one that changes everything!