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Dark Days: "My husband says I'm not depressed, just lazy."

I’m a mom to two very little kids (ages three and one), and I’ve been dragged through the mud by depression really hard. I’m losing my grip on sanity. My husband is not supportive of me getting counseling or taking medication. He believes that a lot of mental health problems would be solved through his spiritual beliefs. He says I’m not depressed, just lazy. It’s really hard to cope with this. I don’t know what to do. – At The End Of My Rope

Dear ATEOMR,

It sounds like you’re stuck between a rock and a holier-than-thou place.

Our advice in this case is very straightforward. You need to get help. What you are experiencing is real and potentially dangerous – to you and your children. Your husband’s beliefs are real to him too, but it doesn’t sound like you necessarily share them, and it definitely doesn’t sound like they’re giving you the help you need in this situation. Whether or not it’s even possible for postpartum depression to be remedied by faith alone is questionable. But you don’t have time for questioning.

You need help. Now.

Perhaps if your husband is averse to formal psychotherapy, you could pursue a postpartum support group or a general new mom’s group and use that to segue into more personalized care if necessary. The group leader should be able to direct you to resources, or perhaps even help you work through some of your issues directly. It’s not clear how connected you feel to the spiritual side or what the belief system in play is, but perhaps it could be helpful to discuss your concerns with a religious leader. You’ll have to gauge whether you think this could be helpful or would simply reinforce your husband’s position. The denial of mental illness (or its interpretation as a moral failing) by the clergy is pretty common and can be an impediment on the path to care.

You may have more luck going straight to your medical doctor, or even your child’s pediatrician, to say you’re worried about being depressed. Your children’s welfare is at stake, and depression is well within the purview of the medical profession. Some doctors are much better talking about these matters than others, so you may need to push a bit if you’re not getting a response – or look elsewhere.

Your husband’s attitude is almost definitely contributing to your depression. There’s quite a bit of research suggesting that postpartum depression is exacerbated, if not caused, by a serious lack of support. It’s one thing to feel overwhelmed, and another to feel that your concerns aren’t being taken seriously. To be called lazy on top of it adds a layer of antagonism that makes us worry.

We rarely suggest that one partner operate behind the other’s back. But if you have reason to believe that your husband will stand in the way of you pursuing help, we urge you to work around that, even if it means doing it without his knowledge. Are there other people in your community you can trust and lean on for emotional and logistical support during this time? Do you have friends who will care for your children while you seek counseling? Can you reach out online, or via a phone hotline? There are some great resources available to point you in the right direction for deeper support; we’ve listed some below. A phone call is a great place to start. There are many other wonderful mothers out there who have been through this before and can guide you to the kind of support you need.

Once you have reached a level of equilibrium for yourself, you can consider whether you want to go back to your husband and talk to him about his role in your emotional life. If he’s not hearing this cry for help, he may need to work on his listening skills.

Here are some excellent resources:

Postpartum Progress is an amazing website that includes many links to other resources – groups, hotlines, books, etc – as well as a piece addressing religion and postpartum depression.

Christian PPD Support offers help to a specifically Christian community.

Have a question? Email beingpregnant@babble.com

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