How to Be Married to Depression.

on Oct 11, 2013
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Photo: Matt Kowal on Flickr.
Photo: Matt Kowal on Flickr.

What is it like to live with someone who doesn’t want to live?

The kind of immeasurable patience, kindness and effort that must be put forth to support a loved one is not nearly as celebrated as it should be.

A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in October 2004 showed that there was a definite correlation between depression and being happy in a marriage. According to Health Canada, “approximately eight percent of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.” That’s a lot of relationships affected by depression. We don’t need statistics to prove common sense though: it’s not easy living with someone who’s blue.

Every single day, I find myself walking the “good day” tight-rope.

Losing my balance means falling into a pit of “I hate me,” surrounded by a cloud of “what’s the point of being alive.” Existing in this state affects everyone in contact with me, day to day, from a grocery clerk to co-workers, friends and family. Those who are closest, like my husband and children, are impacted the most.

How everyone else is affected by me varies and often depends on how depression has decided to grip me that day. Am I infuriated and unreasonably angry about things that just don’t matter that much? Have I been lying in a pile on the bed all day, refusing to move? Am I walking through the house in a fog, never having gotten out of my pyjamas? Am I running out of the room in tears for no apparent reason?

This must be an incredibly exhausting and frustrating experience for another person to go through.

And what I haven’t said enough (and what I’m saying now) is thank you.

When my misery is blatant enough for my husband to sit beside me and gently say, “Honey, look, I can see you’re not okay, what can I do?” I might run, scared and full of tears to the solace of a hot shower. Being forced to acknowledge I’m deep in the pit of depression is terrifying.

It’s equally hard to admit that my life is generally good (in fact, it’s better than it ever has been, from the outside), but instead of feeling grateful, I’m feeling sorry for myself.

It’s important that I face and try to overcome this illness (or at least learn to be alright, despite it), and I need to do this with care and caution, on my terms and in my own time. Thank you for supporting me in my belief that medication is not the answer (for me).

Taking care of me is ultimately my responsibility. Your unwavering patience, that rock-solid and quiet understanding, is more precious to me than any gift you could give.

Thank you for making me face the day, anyway.

Because of that, I got in the shower, got dressed and here I am, cleansing this demon out of my heart on digital paper and making plans to go outside, into the sunshine and breathe fresh air in the garden. Without you, I’d still be under blankets, wondering why everyone hates an awful person like me.

pema quote

Thank you for reminding me, relentlessly, that I am not an awful person.

Thanks for being my friend when I have pushed away and alienated everyone else around me, and thanks for not being pushed when I tried to sabotage us, too.

Thank you for the “just because” plants (instead of flowers that die), for made-up “wife appreciation” days and for dropping everything to hug me when you can see it’s all I can do not to collapse in a mess of tears and emotional agony.

I know you work hard to be good to me.

With every fiber of my being, I appreciate that you take time to love yourself, explore your own interests and enjoy your life, in spite of me.

It means that you are less likely to burn out and divorce me.

It reminds me that despite the bleakness I feel, I can do the same and that there is a life to be explored. Sharing your joy and excitement with our children and with me is infectious and inspiring.

When I wake up hating every molecule of myself, unable to go further from bed than to the couch and feeling exhausted despite 12 hours of sleep, thank you for making me tea and letting me be, on the couch for a while, just to rest.

Thank you for also nudging me to get outside, get busy, get on my bike and get moving, even when I’m especially stubborn. Even though we both know it’s what I desperately need to try and shake loose this state of mind, hopelessness clouds my ability to see.

You constantly help to put me on a different path for the day, kicking and screaming, when necessary.

Thank you for not trying to fix me. Depression isn’t something that’s simply cured overnight with a bike ride, a hug or one good day. Everything you do to help is done with the understanding that this is going to take time and effort to get through and this is why you are invaluable to me.

Thank you for making mistakes that serve as a wake-up call to me, that I need to get on top of this and defeat it rather than let it fester and eat us, and our marriage, alive.

Thank you for loving me and reassuring me that I’m beautiful, despite my 30 pound weight gain on an already overweight frame that I blamed on quitting smoking, but that we both know is just an excuse. Depression makes me dormant and being dormant makes me fat. And with one or two kind words, you help me remember that being fat doesn’t make me worthless.

Thank you for keeping the good days in mind during the bad ones and sticking with me, for encouraging and nourishing those brief moments of inspiration that keep me aflame and alive.

Thank for seeing the me buried underneath the weight of this illness. Thank you for being married to me, and not the depression.


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American Psychological Association

Public Health Agency of Canada


About Catherine Beekmans

Catherine Beekmans is a shy, friendly Canadian living in a small house with her two nearly-perfect children, two kitties and a goofy dog. Cat spends her free time reading, growing vegetables and cooking them, traveling and learning life lessons courtesy of and along with her family. Cat began contributing as a typo vigilante and now eagerly serves as an editor, writer and student of the mindful life.


24 Responses to “How to Be Married to Depression.”

  1. Gerard Beekmans says:

    Despite what it sounds like reading this, it’s not hard to love you. You’re awesome. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon so you might as well get used to the idea.


  2. Renée Picard smallgrl says:

    Awww, Cat. <3

  3. Michele123 says:

    Thank you for writing this. It's an amazing piece. You have verbalized a lot of feelings I never could properly describe.

  4. Cat, this rocks. You rock. Share some more. xo

  5. Gali says:

    Thank you Cat for sharing. You’re beautiful and honest. Through your writing I saw some aspects that resonate to my own life, though my ex & I were’nt as supportive as you two.. You have strength in your words, with patience & care to the great in life. Keep growing, compassionatly learning and carefully embracing it’s all.

  6. Betsy says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I understood every (well written) word all too well! And for giving us single folk with depression a little hope that we may find someone with the same fortitude and love, too. When people can see the real "us" behind all the ick, they are worth more than their weight in gold and it sounds like you found a keeper. :)

  7. Ted aka HastaDas says:

    Thank you for this heartfelt piece. I have suffered from deep depressions all too often in my life. I had/have much to feel sad about, eg. I never really had a family, and don't now, an abused and neglected childhood, and more on this list….in spite of this I CURRENTLY have little to be depressed about…I'm in good health, financially ok, have friends, etc., yet those insidious, crafty, sleuthy samskaras/grooved habits keep my mind reeling in sadness. For the longest time I've believed that I'm an organically depressed person, that that is my biochemistry, that that is 'who I am'. Now for many this is may be the case, and their brain chemistry is askew, and major therapy both psychological and pharmaceutical is in order. Yet for me, who has never wanted to be on long term antidepressants, (which echos your sentiment Catherine), I knew I could overcome this debilitating state, yet I knew not how. I have come to believe that Ive been addicted to feeling bad, its a nasty, self sabotaging habit, which has far, far reaching effects. I dont want to sound simplistic about this. This is not the case with everyone, but for me I KNOW that a major component of my depression is a strong habitual thinking pattern, which once recognized, can be observed and dealt with, which I am now in the challenge of my life to shift.

  8. ral1124 says:

    Very moving. Might more aptly be titled "How a depressed person feels about their supportive and loving spouse".

  9. Gerard says:

    i would be interested to hear from the husbands point of view…this is great as is, but i am the husband of a depressed wife…i have felt alone and misunderstood in loving her. I just can't stop loving her…she deserves love, we all do…thanks

  10. earthsky23 says:

    I have been almost terminally depressed
    for most of my 58 years,
    but have recently enjoyed a major transformation of this dark reality,
    by using a ridiculously simple technique

    that being to jump up and down on the spot
    until my breath and heart rate quickens,
    several times a day …

    that simple … :~) …

    the most time effective Way of shaking off the dust
    (on the many levels)
    that I have yet to discover …

    if you try this
    please do let me know how it affects you …

    may the force be allWays with you ………

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