- Get Help
My best advice to someone with a spouse who suffers from depression is GET HELP! Yes, I know I used capital letters. That is how important it is. Don’t try to handle this alone. Strongly encourage your spouse to see a counselor or therapist, and if necessary work with a family doctor or psychiatrist to try medication. In my opinion, medication alone is not a solution. Medication helps get chemical levels better regulated so that therapy can do its job to help instill coping mechanisms for stress.
- Don’t Isolate Yourself
I’m all for respecting your spouse’s privacy, but don’t isolate yourself. Find a friend you can trust with your pain. Consider getting therapy yourself or find a support group of some kind. Looking back I wish my husband and I hadn’t kept ourselves isolated for so long. I wanted to respect my husband’s privacy but inside I was floundering on my own. I needed to find support from other women. Eventually I told one or two people. Now that we are both in a good place emotionally we are fairly open about our past struggles because we want to be a resource of support to others.
- Pray Pray Pray, and When You Can’t Pray Anymore Ask Others To
There were times when all I could do was pray. When I ran out of words I prayed with tears and heaving breaths. But knowing that others were holding us up in prayer really helped a lot.
- Cultivate Gratitude
I know this may sound cliché, even impossible but it made all the difference for both of us. I remember specifically one night during the darkest times when my husband wished he had never been born and felt like he had nothing to be grateful for. So I began listing all the things we had to be grateful for from the moment of his birth. His mother prayed for a baby boy and he was the answer to her prayer. He should have died at birth from low blood platelets, but he didn’t. Medical procedure said he shouldn’t have a second blood transfusion, but his father convinced the doctors to try anyway. The list went on until we reached the present day where I thanked God for the loving friends and family we had around us, the roof over our heads and our beautiful baby girl. At the time it didn’t seem to help and I often had to rehearse my own gratitude list to keep my spirits up, but ultimately it was one of the foundation points of his recovery. (Gratitude was also a key to my own recovery from severe anxiety several years earlier). Find something to be grateful for, even if you can only think of one thing. Repeat it to yourself, write it on a card and put it on your bathroom mirror, make up songs about it. Whatever it takes.
Remember that depression is an illness like any other. No one thinks someone with diabetes is weak but depression is often seen as a failing, especially in men. And just like a condition like diabetes, it must be monitored and looking after by physicians and therapists. Your spouse didn’t cause this and he or she can’t “just get better,” but steps can be taken to reduce the effect this has on your daily life. This may be a temporary condition or a life long chronic struggle, but either way your spouse needs your love and support to recover. I know it’s hard. I’ve lived it. Be encouraged. There is help available and things can, should and will improve.