Part Two of Series (View Part One here:)
If you’ve never experienced depression, imagine trying to run a marathon while just getting over the flu. You’re achy, exhausted, unmotivated, feeling hopeless and wondering why-oh-why this is happening to you. The whole ordeal makes you so emotionally and physically wiped out, you just wanna cry, or crawl in a whole and hide until the whole mess is over.
Sounds pleasant, right? Not even close.
Depression is not something that anyone chooses; it’s not a result of laziness, or carelessness. Depression is an illness like any other, and can affect anyone.
Chances are, you or someone you love has struggled with depression at some point in their life. This blog is specifically for spouses of those suffering from depression. Supporting a spouse with this disease is no easy task, and can leave you feeling frustrated, tired, helpless, or even depressed yourself. What follows are some tips and information on what you can do to help get you and your spouse back to a healthier place.
How to Help
1. Before you can fully help your spouse, you need to help yourself. You will need to cover the basics (rest, diet, lots of water, exercise) to maintain a foundation of health strong enough to endure the task of caring for your spouse. You may also consider getting individual support from a therapist, spiritual director, or support group to give you a neutral place to express your concerns, fears, questions and feelings in a way that will build you up for the task at home.
2. Assist your spouse in getting a proper screening by a mental health professional. Clinical depression often responds to medication in addition to therapy, so a proper evaluation and diagnosis is crucial. Having depression can result in low energy and motivation, so offer to research clinicians in your area, make the appointment, and/or accompany them to the appointment. Your spouse may be feeling embarrassed or ashamed, so be sure to tell them you understand it’s not their fault, that it’s an illness and you still love them more than ever. Your acceptance can be much welcomed and may encourage them to receive help.
3. Educate yourself on what depression is, what the symptoms are, what treatments are available, and what current research is out there. There are many resources out there, and the more you know, the more you can find support for yourself and your family.
4. Gently encourage couple or family activities such as easy walks around the neighborhood, family movie night, or a scenic drive. Even light physical activity and family interaction can help.
5. Be present and patient. Your spouse may act like they don’t want you there, or may act like they don’t care if you are present or not. Truth is, they both want and need you to be present. Your tendency may be to leave, which is a natural response, but have patience and stay with your spouse despite their lack of feedback. Your support and consistency means more than you know.
6. Avoid blaming or criticizing your spouse. Guilt comes easily on the heels of depression, and blaming will only fuel the fire.
7. Know where to go for help. If your spouse begins displaying suicidal thoughts or ideas, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to obtain suicide prevention information and support. If you feel your spouse is in immediate crisis or danger, call 911. If you are in the Austin area, you may also call (512) 472- HELP, which is the Psychiatric Emergency Hotline for Travis County.
8. Take breaks. This may be a repeat of number one, but it bears repeating: practice self-care by giving yourself breaks when you get frustrated or feel like your spouse will never improve. Remember that healing from depression can take time and work. When you get overwhelmed, take a step back, ask for help, and go to God in prayer. Which brings us to…
9. Pray, pray, pray! Don’t forget that God’s light can shine in the most hopeless of places. Seek refuge in His love through prayer.
10. Have faith. Depression may be a daunting illness, but it is treatable and manageable. What looks hopeless now, may not always be so. RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. Don’t give up.
Couples who are able to support each other through the darkness of depression, can come out the other side stronger, more resilient and more in love than ever before. You can overcome.
“How to Help When Your Spouse is Depressed”: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional_health/depression/how_to_help_when_your_spouse_is_depressed.aspx
“Suffering in Silence When Your Spouse is Depressed”: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/suffering-in-silence-when-your-spouse-is-depressed/all/1/