Resolutions for depression recovery

It often surprises people when Bern and I talk or write about how hard it can be when a seriously depressed person finds health and recovery. Getting better should be all sunshine and roses, right? What could be hard about that?

Here’s the thing: When one half of a couple has spent literally years in a dark, dysfunctional place, coping patterns inevitably emerge. The well spouse over-functions. The unwell spouse under-functions. The well spouse begins to take the role of a parent, while the depressed spouse takes the role of a child needing care and direction. These patterns may be the only way to keep the family going when depression is present.

With a return to health, these old patterns no longer fit. The caregiver is worn out from all that over-functioning, and the recovering spouse wants very much to step up to the plate. But letting go of the roles taken on during years of depression doesn’t happen overnight.

I’ve been through this cycle more than once. Most recently, my husband has experienced the fullest depression recovery I’ve ever witnessed in our 28 years together. Things are changing so rapidly (for the better, thank goodness) that I can hardly keep up.

Since we’re just about to say good-bye to one year and move on to another, here’s a list of New Year’s resolutions that this caregiving spouse will attempt. I can’t promise I’ll succeed, but just making the list may keep me on the right track:

+Don’t panic when a bad day pops up. Everyone, including non-depressed people, has a downer, negative day sometimes.

+Let go of the responsibilities your spouse is willing to take up. You need the break, and you don’t have to be in charge of everything.

+Don’t overreact when symptoms / behavior you see in your spouse echo his depression symptoms / behavior. It’s been so long since you’ve seen him not depressed, it’s quite possible these behaviors are simply part of his personality. Take the time to learn the difference.

+Make time to have fun together. Get to know each other again on these new terms. Remember why you came together in the first place.

Hoping for the best. Happy New Year!

-Amy

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