How to Be Married to Depression.

Via Catherine Monkman
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 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 my 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


About Catherine Monkman

Catherine Monkman is a shy, friendly Canadian living in a small house with her two nearly-perfect children, two kitties and two goofy dogs. 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. David says:

    You're an amazing man. I've been the spouse as well for 15 years. While Cat was writing this, it felt like it was you….or me. Namaskar.-D

  3. @DanaGornall says:

    <3 Now that is love.

  4. smallgrl says:

    Awww, Cat. <3

  5. Michele123 says:

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

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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. 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. ral1124 says:

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

  11. 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

  12. Cat B says:

    Thanks for commenting David!

  13. Cat B says:

    Thanks for commenting Dana. 🙂 xo

  14. Cat B says:

    Thanks for commenting Renee! 🙂 xo

  15. Cat B says:

    You're welcome Michele & thanks for reading & commenting!

  16. Cat B says:

    Aw, thanks Jennifer! xo

  17. Cat B says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Gali! Wonderful words!

  18. Cat B says:

    You're so welcome Betsy. And yes, keep up the hope—they are out there!

  19. Cat B says:

    Thanks so much for your comments!

  20. Cat B says:

    Thanks so much for your comments, Ted! It sounds like you have been through quite a lot. Much love and healing to you on your own journey.

  21. Ted says:

    Thank you Cat…right back atcha!

  22. Cat B says:

    My husband's name is also Gerard! At first I thought this was his comment and thought it odd, until I checked with him and discovered the coincidence! I will let him know and maybe he'll be inclined to write something of his own. I agree, we all deserve love, so thank you for being there for your wife as well.

  23. 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 ………

  24. Cat B says:

    Thanks so much for reading & your comments! This is an interesting idea, and definitely worth a try!