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Late last week I was at a large performance event with a family who I know has struggled long-term with the father’s depression. I knew, behind the scenes, that they’re under constant stress from every direction due to this illness. The importance of the event only served to bring that stress to a head.

Neither of the two parents handle stress well in the best of times, but what I observed spoke to me of a relationship at the breaking point. Hurtful tone of voice. Sarcastic, irritable comments. Confusion and miscommunication.

I wonder if I would have picked up on the undercurrents of pain and distress had I not known their circumstances, and if I hadn’t been through the same myself. Husband only barely functioning, and taking his depression out on the wife. Wife exhausted with over-functioning and caregiver burnout. Daughter snapped at for no reason, trying to take it in stride because it happens so often.

It’s a story that replays itself in many, many families in which depression has taken hold. And, of course, it can just as easily be the other way around – depressed wife, caregiver husband at wits’ end.

I don’t have an answer. Bern and I have written two books on the topic of dealing with a family member’s depression, yet I have no answers. I have empathy. I try to reach out to the caregiver with support and concern. But bottom line, all I can do is watch and recognize the pain.

I really hate depression.