***So many of you have emailed with questions for Cody, how he manages my depression, what helps and what does not. I can say that it has been a very bumpy road and it has taken years for him to know how to best help me. I’ve never asked how he does it, I’m just grateful that he does. He’s very worried about coming across as insensitive, it’s a lawyer thing. The truth is he’s the best thing that ever happened to me. He gets me. And I can only hope that anyone that deals with this misunderstood disease can have a Cody in their life.***
My wife asked me to explain how I deal with her depression as her husband. I must first note that how I deal with my wife’s depression is not going to be the same for all spouses who deal with their spouse’s depression.
I had to learn and accept that my wife does not choose to be depressed. My wife cannot control her depression. She cannot just “get over it” as I had believed people could do prior to meeting my wife. I have learned to approach her depression from an objective standpoint. I cannot take her actions, inactions or thoughts personally while she is depressed. I had to learn that her depression is not a reflection of how she feels about me.
We now have a rule that she is not allowed to stop taking her medication. It is an unfortunate crutch that she needs in her life, but it is necessary. I try to pay attention to subtle changes in her personality/mood/emotions/interactions to make sure she is taking her medication. Occasionally, she will stop taking her medication and we start the depression cycle.
It is important for me to recognize when my wife is beginning to feel the effects of depression. I must constantly watch my wife’s emotions and how she reacts to her surroundings. I have become so familiar with her depression that I can now recognize the signs of when she is entering a slump. She becomes more withdrawn and quiet the further she slumps into depression. She will begin to “sleep,” meaning lying in bed with her eyes closed even though she isn’t really asleep.
When she is suffering from depression I do things to try to keep her from sinking deeper into depression.. If I allow her to sit in the house and think about her depression she will sink deeper and faster. I try to keep her distracted and occupied by encouraging her to get out of the house to see friends as much as possible, or I will try to find things she can do that may help keep her mind from focusing on her depression.
Ultimately, unless on medication, the depression will get her. At some point it becomes necessary to “help” her hit bottom so she can begin to recover. This is the time that is the most difficult to handle as her spouse. It is tough to see her struggle and to see her not even want to exist. This step is only necessary if she has refused to get help from a doctor. When she is not on medication she will refuse to get help from a doctor, and she will continue to refuse that help until she hits bottom.
Helping my wife reach the bottom may sound harsh, but it is what has worked best in our marriage. To nudge her off the ledge I will talk to her about how her actions and her current state are not healthy for her or the family. That conversation usually results in what she believes is a fight, and if other people could hear the conversation they would believe it was a fight as well.
When she hits bottom she gives up—she will no longer fight getting help. It is very important that I be there when she hits bottom so that I can be there to take her to the doctor for help, and so I can make sure she does not make a poor decision. My being able to be present when she hits bottom is the main reason why I help nudge her to the bottom—she cannot be alone when it happens. Unfortunately, we have both learned from experience that she cannot be alone when she hits bottom.
Everybody deals with depression in different ways—this way seems to work for us best. However, no matter how your spouse deals with depression, you, as the supporting spouse, must view it objectively, and you must focus on not getting frustrated with your spouse’s depression. People do not choose to suffer from depression.