I ask these questions....and then I do it all, and in the end, I am exhausted - my hope droops, my heart feels like the Grinches' puny one before it gets big - I get angry, I feel weak, I feel faithless, I become someone I am not.
At the first sign of trouble, I wanted to educate myself on depression, but found that I was too far removed to do so. What was the point of educating myself on It if the one person I love the most is so deep in It to want out? What good will it do to have answers or potential solutions when the strain It wreaks of the feeling of inadequacy?
Just as the water comes up to take me down to its depths, things start looking good. The water becomes smooth as if there was never a storm. I begin to swim and to relax and play in the water.
Then the storm hits, and I struggle against it and fight hard. Sometimes a lifeboat comes to rescue me. Sometimes, I am strong enough to defeat the storm and stay afloat. Sometimes I take quite a beating and wait it out until the storm is over. This time, the water almost won. That is when I decided it was time.
I begin my research. I want to destroy It....and I want to defeat the storm.
The blog: Focus on the Family: How to Help When Your Spouse is Depressed, shares a story about a couple who managed to make it work, through It. The article tells the story of Sandra who went to see a doctor about her sudden and abrupt bought of depression, she shares,"Tim and I were both raised to believe that true Christians were happy, thankful people. I was convinced that my misery was caused by a lack of faith, not a medical condition. But truthfully, I wasn't sure which option scared me more. I couldn't even bring myself to tell Tim that the doctor had called my mental health into question."
Over the next few months, Sandra tried to bury her secret — but her sorrow was too pervasive to hide. Their frightened children began asking what was wrong with Mom.
In the meantime, Tim admits his concern turned to frustration. "I'd ask again and again what was wrong, but she never had an answer," he says. "Not only was I aggravated by my feelings of helplessness, I was angry the life I'd worked so hard to provide wasn't enough to make her happy."
"And the more angry he got, the more he'd withdraw from me," Sandra adds. "Then I'd feel guilty and withdraw even more. We just kept drifting further apart."
Despite her efforts to pray during that time, Sandra admits she found it almost impossible to muster the strength or the words. She felt she was not only losing her mind and her family, but now even God had abandoned her."
Then the article then states these beautiful words, BEGIN QUOTE:
Preparing Yourself to Help Your Loved One
Flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone next to you. In the same way, it's important to prepare yourself before attempting to assist others when a spouse is depressed. Deep sorrow can be infectious, and it's not uncommon for caregivers to develop symptoms of depression themselves. Guard against this possibility by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and staying in the Word.
Also keep an eye on your kids. Children are often vulnerable to a parent's anxiety. One study indicates that 20% of 10-year-olds whose mothers suffered from depression were themselves victims within five years.
Don't underestimate the value of caring friends and family at times like this. Let loved ones help you with day-to-day tasks, and allow them to listen to and pray with you. The surest way to intensify your struggle is to isolate yourself and your immediate family from those who love you.
Reaching Out to Your Spouse
When a care-giver understands that clinical depression is a genuine medical condition, he or she may actually feel empowered. It's encouraging to realize there are a number of tangible ways to help a spouse who is depressed:
- Pray fervently with and for them.
- Share meaningful Scripture verses.
- Help them see that the family needs them to get well.
- Listen; give credibility to their feelings.
- Seek help for yourself and offer to see a therapist with them.
- Encourage them to consider medication; research shows that 80% of those suffering from depressive disorders can be treated successfully with modern medications.
- Show affection; encourage them to get out and do things with you.
- Tell your loved one to just pray about it or make them feel like healing would come if they'd simply trust God more.
- Make them feel guilty for the impact of their illness on the family.
- Blame or criticize them.
- Imply that they need help because they're weak. Also, don't immediately exclude other family members from counseling. Sometimes, complex relational issues involving several family members can spark depression.
- Expect medication to solve everything. Also, don't discount the need for prayer — and possibly therapy.
- Let them continue in a pattern of sleep and isolation.
While It does not define me or my sweetheart, the experience certainly does and will. Now you know....and now you can share what you have learned with me.
Maybe this article and your advice will be the floating device I need to win over the storm this time. With helpful Do's and Don't's maybe, just maybe things will get better. Maybe that will be us sitting on the porch swing holding hands. Thinking about the future like this again gives me joy, even if only fleeting. It gives me hope, even if only a sliver.