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Putting recovery to the test

Lately I’ve been writing about how amazing it is to watch and enjoy my husband’s current triumph over depression and anxiety. As Bern and I have both said before in this space, recovery can be an up and down thing, hard to trust.

Most recently my husband has had a major physical setback (a fall that caused a broken rib) that forced him to postpone his new career until he heals. Knowing that his joy about that new career that was largely responsible for his depression recovery, my first thought was whether he’d have a significant setback emotionally.

Initial readings looked good. When he phoned from 8 hours away to tell me the bad news, I was surprised by how positive he sounded. So positive it was a little frightening, actually…he was trying so hard to reassure me that I was afraid he was just acting.

When he got home and had to spend days zoned out on pain killers and muscle relaxers (NOT a great thing for someone with brain illness, in my experience), my concern grew. He was irritable, illogical. He provoked arguments and assumed ill intent from everyone at every turn. All typical of his worst depression behaviors.

Thankfully, when he was able to ease up on the meds, his former healthy (well, healthy emotionally…the rib is still not in great shape) self returned. He’s thinking clearly, making preliminary plans to return to work, dealing with the regular ups and downs of life in a productive way.

But the point of Depression’s Collateral Damage isn’t the depressed person him/herself – it’s the loved ones who have to struggle through the illness right alongside the depressed person. Notice how I wrote that even though my husband sounded positive initially, I immediately worried that he was just covering? And how, rather than shrugging his rotten moods off as the effects of strong pain meds, I quickly jumped to imagining them as depression symptoms?

It’s a constant trap we caregivers have to watch out for. I’ve been burned so many times it’s hard to trust the recovery when it’s put to the test. So I write to remind myself. And to remind others out there who are supporting a depressed family member. Hang in there, everyone.



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