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Enduring Depression in a Relationship

How does depression affect a relationship?  How can someone else’s depression affect me? How do you survive when someone you love is depressed?

These are questions Bernadette and I deal with all the time.  We discuss it with each other, as our own two-person support group.  We discuss it with others, in workshops, presentations, and support groups.  And most of the time the response we get is along the lines of “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe someone else is having the same experiences and feelings I’m dealing with.  I thought I was the only one.”

As with most issues involving mental illness, fear and stigma tend to rule the day.  No one wants to talk about what’s going on at home when what’s going on at home involves a loved one collapsing into tears at the drop of a hat, sleeping all day or never, growling constantly, hyperventilating due to panic or anxiety. We’re still burdened by the archaic belief that such symptoms are due to character flaws, that people should just “buck up,” “put on a positive face,” “look on the bright side.” So we keep quiet, and we continue to believe we’re the only ones suffering.

So Bern and I have made it one of our goals in life to talk about this stuff as much as possible.  Often that’s in groups of people who have been there themselves.  But often it’s with people who might be shocked to hear mental illness brought up in the course of regular conversation.  We encourage others to do the same – every time we speak the truth in public, we chip away at that hurtful, stifling stigma.

So when I read a blog post yesterday in which a wife interviewed her husband about his depression, I sat up and took note.  Here was someone else who had the guts to speak the truth.  She begins with: “I have many friends who have a spouse who struggles with depression. We share that story. I asked my husband, if I could interview him, with the hope that we could be of some support to those couples who are in the midst of “the black dog.”  Visit this blog and read the whole post at http://creatingsacredcommunities.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/talking-to-your-spouse-about-depression/

It focuses on what it’s like to be depressed and how a person can support a depressed spouse.  Important stuff, and we applaud the effort to get the word out there in public that this is a real illness for real consequences for many people – more people than we know.

A big part of surviving depression in a relationship is supporting the depressed person through the process of treatment and healing.  We want them to get better because A) we love them and care about how they feel and B) depression can be contagious, and we want to get it out of our household and lives. But just as important as helping the depressed person is the survival of the caregiver.  We have to take the time to focus on self-care, or we won’t make it ourselves.

If you have depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses in your home/relationship, be assured that there are, indeed, others out there dealing with this stuff.  Know that there is help available (check out NAMI, which offers support groups for loved ones of people with  mental illnesses, link to the right). And know that you have the right (as well as the need) to take care of yourself through this time – you deserve health and wholeness.



5 Responses

  1. Excellent post, and as an advocate for OCD awareness, I could have written it myself and just substituted OCD for depression. You are so right, we need to talk about mental illness in every day conversation. Whenever I do, I invariably come across someone who thanks me because either they or a loved one are going through something similar.

  2. So so comforting, I feel a lot calmer now, thanks heaps 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on sharelistenhelphug and commented:
    Comforting words for those who love someone with a mental illness…

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