Yesterday I wrote a post called, “So You’re a Minister and You’re Depressed.” Apparently it’s a topic that hits home with a lot of people. I am hesitant to piggy back off of that topic for a few reasons, the main one being that I don’t want to be “that guy.” I don’t want to be the guy that deals with something, and parades it around for the whole world to see in order to meet some kind of deep seeded childish need for affirmation that I matter to the world. Let’s be honest that’s a lot of what social media posts are about. With that being said; I did walk away from yesterdays post feeling like there was something left unaddressed. It gnawed at me for a while. It was too neat, a little too tidy. I had the affirmation that I had spoken some truth into someones life so I could go ahead and dust my self off and ride into the sunset ready for the next big adventure.
Then my wife sat down beside me on the couch last night as I was zoned out, and said something that made it all click. She said, “I’m sorry if I was not very understanding of your low time this weekend, it’s just really overwhelming sometimes.” The truth hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s something I think I’ve always known about the journey we have been on for the past couple of years but have not been able to express with any clarity.
Depression affects more than just the depressed person.
Ground breaking? No. An issue that is severely over looked? Yes.
Think about it for a minute. So much time and care is given to the one dealing with the depression that sometimes we forget that there are spouses that have to live with that person day in and day out. That can take a toll on a person. I realize that this is way too big of a subject to tackle on this dinky little blog, but I did want to give some very specific reminders to a very specific set of individuals who deal with this issue. These are nothing you don’t already know. Just consider them as encouraging reminders. If you are the spouse of an individual that suffers from depression here are some things to keep in mind.
1) It’s not your fault.
When he or she won’t get out of bed, get off the couch, look up at the dinner table, or generally won’t engage you or the family in any type of meaningful interaction it is not your fault. There is nothing that you have done or will do that makes him or her this way. Can you help? Sure you can, more on that in a moment, but for now just realize you’re not the reason they are acting the way they are. They might be angry, they’re not angry at you. They might be anxious, they’re not anxious because of you. They might curl up in the bathroom, lock the door, and cry. That’s not because of you. You can’t keep the house neat enough, the kids quiet enough, or the atmosphere cheery enough to make it go away. When you realize this hopefully you can get rid of some of that guilt. Here is what I know. When I get in a low spot I feel guilty for it. I feel guilty because I’m not pulling my weight in the house. I also feel guilty because I know my spouse feels guilty. That’s the funny thing about guilt, it feeds off of each other. There are few things worse than laying your head down at night feeling guilty for something you have no control over.
2) You need to take care of you too.
Chances are if you are living with someone who suffers from depression they are seeing a counselor. You need to be seeing one too. You can do it together or you can do it separately but it needs to happen. It is taking a toll on you physically and mentally to keep up with the needs of your spouse, and eventually, if it hasn’t already, those feelings of abandonment, helplessness, and aggravation that accompany caring for someone with depression are going to seep out. If they are not addressed they seep out in unhealthy ways. If you don’t take the time to care for yourself you will find yourself beginning to resent the one your taking care of. If at this point you are arguing in your head with me that you don’t have the time or resources i.e. money to do counseling for both you, and your spouse get in contact with me I’ll point you to some really good people who would love to help.
3) Keep pulling the covers off of us we need you.
It’s Saturday. 11:00 a.m. The kids are in the living room screaming. I’m huddled in the bed listening, and groaning, and my heart is saying, “get out of bed you lazy good for nothing dad and help your wife.” My mind is saying, “If you move a muscle the world is going to collapse on top of you, stay put. They are better off with out you anyway.” Sometimes it’s at this point that my wife lovingly walks into the room, pulls the covers off of me, looks me straight in the eye and says, “I need you today.” It doesn’t make my depression go away. I don’t feel any less anxious. Heck, sometimes it makes me down right angry, but don’t be fooled. We need you to do this. I can’t tell you when and when not to do this. My wife is a master at feeling out when it’s appropriate to pull this stunt, in fact I’m hoping that she will soon guest post on here and talk more specifically about the challenges that come with this department, but for now just hear this. We need you to pull the covers off, throw open the shades, pick us up off the floor, kick us off the couch, make us look at you at the dinner table, and generally remind us that what we suffer from does not define us, and we still have a part to play in this world. I realize it’s tough. It’s not pretty or romantic. It won’t be seen in a movie or read about in a teeny bopper magazine, but in the end your spouse will love you more for it.