October 11, 2013

How to Be Married to Depression.

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 to me 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 pajamas? Am I running out of the room in tears for no apparent reason?

This must be an incredibly exhausting and frustrating experience for a partner to witness, and to go through alongside me.

And what I haven’t said enough (and what I’m saying now) is thank you to those who support us.

When my misery is blatant enough for a friend or family member to sit beside me and gently say, “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, 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 to those who support me in my belief that medication is not the answer (for me).

Taking care of me is ultimately my responsibility. A loved one’s unwavering patience, rock-solid and quiet understanding, is more precious to us than any physical gift they could give.

Thank you for helping us face the day when it’s the last thing we want.

Because of that, we get in the shower, get dressed, and spend time cleansing these demon out of my hearts, make plans to go outside into the sunshine, to breathe fresh air in our gardens. Without those people, we’d still be under blankets, wondering why everyone hates awful people like us—a contradiction, but a common one.

pema quote

Thank you for reminding us, relentlessly, that we are not awful people.

Thanks for being our friends when we have pushed away and alienated everyone else around us, and thanks for not being pushed when we tried to sabotage those last relationships too.

Thank you for the “just because” gifts, for made-up holidays, and excuses to celebrate, and for dropping everything to hug us when you can see it’s all we can do not to collapse in a mess of tears and emotional agony.

We know our loved ones work hard to be good to us.

With every fiber of our beings, we appreciate also that our loved ones take time to love themselves, explore their own interests, and enjoy their lives too, in spite of us.

It means that they are less likely to burn out and divorce us or abandon us. 

It reminds us that despite the bleakness we feel, we can do the same and that there is a life to be explored.

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, I appreciate those who will make me tea and let 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 I know it’s what I desperately need to try and shake loose this state of mind, hopelessness clouds my ability to see.

Our loved ones constantly help to put us on a different path for the day, kicking and screaming, when necessary.

Thank you for not trying to fix us. Depression isn’t something that’s simply cured overnight with a bike ride, a hug or one good day. Your understanding that this is going to take time and effort to get through goes a long way.

Thank you for loving us and reassuring us that we’re beautiful, even if we gain weight. Depression can sometimes make us dormant and being dormant makes us fat. And with one or two kind words, my loved ones have reminded me that being fat doesn’t make me worthless.

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

Thank for seeing the person buried underneath the weight of this illness.

Thank you for being married to the person, and not the depression.


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American Psychological Association

Public Health Agency of Canada

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