For the vast majority of my life, depression wasn’t something real. Depression only occurred when the Broncos lost in the Super Bowl or when Utah lost to BYU in football. Outside those instances, depression only happened when someone chose to be sad.
That’s largely how I felt about depression right up until I experienced my wife’s first bout with this illness. Having suffered from depression throughout her adolescence, it wasn’t Casey’s first experience with this. She had suffered hundreds of times prior to my arrival. However, it was my first known experience with the disease, and I got a quick crash course on what marriage is like with someone who suffers from depression.
The first time that I could tell something was just not right, I started to wonder if our marriage was doomed to fail from the beginning. Casey had outright declared that she was unfit to be anyone’s mother, let alone anyone’s wife or friend. The words that came out of her mouth were hurtful, unanticipated, and unsolicited.
Wondering what I could do to save the marriage before Casey’s state of mind got too out of control, I decided to take Casey on a drive up the mountain. We had been visiting my parents that weekend and my dad lent me his cherry red 71′ Chevrolet Camaro for the ride.
I loved that car and loved taking it on a long mountainside road, since it had a long straight-away where traffic was limited. That car had gone from 0 to 60 MPH in first gear on more than one occasion, only to shift to second gear leaving a trail of rubber several yards long. I figured that the experience would be so exhilarating that there was no way Casey wouldn’t just pop out of whatever was bothering her.
My plan completely backfired. I took Casey on the mountainside road, only to look over and see that she had no expression whatsoever when it was over. Baffled by her lack of smiles, I decided to take her the rest of the way up the mountain. I was sure the overlooks from the mountainside would snap her out of her present mental condition.
Halfway up the mountain, Casey asked if we could turn around and go home. I, regretfully, did exactly as she asked. Later she explained that she thought I was taking her up into the mountains to murder her and leave her to be eaten by the bears.
Not exactly the result I was looking for.
Depression is a terrible disease that grasps people and holds onto them as they struggle to free themselves from its grasp. I really don’t know what it is like to suffer from depression, but I do know what it feels like to be married to someone who suffers from depression, and it isn’t easy. It is filled with its own issues that are difficult to overcome; however, as I’ve become more and more familiar with depression, I’ve learned how to cope with those challenges.
Here are some of the feelings I experience as I help Casey through her bouts of depression:
Helplessness 1 of 10One of the main things I had to learn to accept was a feeling of helplessness. Depression isn't something that can just be fixed. It isn't something that someone can just pop out of. I can't just go out and buy Casey a cheeseburger and expect the depression to be gone the next day. There are things I do that help her through her depression, but I have to be reliant on the medication she takes and on the advice she gets from experts.
Reliant on Others 2 of 10I have had to learn to share what is happening in our lives with other people. Generally, I try not to share my family's struggles with anyone outside of our little family. Depression can't be handled like that. I can't quit my job or quit school in order to be home to help and watch Casey through her struggles. At some point I have to rely on family and friends to step in and help. That means those people need to know what is really going on.
Jealousy 3 of 10Jealousy seems to be a prevailing feeling I have whenever depression rears its ugly head. I'm not jealous of those who don't have to deal with depression, I'm jealous I don't get the same kind of help that my wife gets. There are things in my life that are incredibly stressful, but I can't go to my wife for help in the way she can come to me when she suffers from depression. There are times where I want to be the one who is carried through a few days of difficult times. It isn't that Casey is unwilling, because she is, it's that I can't let her because adding my problems to hers only increases the rate at which her depression spirals out of control.
Loneliness 4 of 10Being the other spouse in a marriage affected by depression is incredibly lonely. Although we do rely on help from family and friends, for the most part dealing with the depression is left to me. The feelings I have as I work to help Casey through her depression is left for me to experience on my own. I can't share those feelings and struggles with Casey because she's dealing with the real problem.
Unloved 5 of 10A feeling of being unloved often goes hand-in-hand with the feeling of loneliness. Casey struggles to love herself as she suffers from depression, and there isn't really much room there for her to express any love or gratitude for what I do to help her. Many of my efforts go unrewarded and unacknowledged. Sometimes her actions can even be accusatory. I always try to remember that I must take all of her actions objectively until the depression is gone, but that doesn't somehow make it all easier to accept.
Fear 6 of 10I don't know how anyone married to someone who is suffering from depression can't feel at least some fear. When I was first learning about Casey's depression, I started to wonder if anything bad could really happen if it got too out of control. A trip the hospital, followed by an ambulance ride to the psychiatric ward answered that question. As I leave the house to go to work or while Casey is locked away in our bedroom, I constantly fear that something bad may be happening.
Overwhelmed 7 of 10It's very easy to start to feel overwhelmed. When Casey gets depressed the vast majority of the parenting responsibilities and household chores are shifted to me to handle. It can be downright exhausting to go to work all day and to come home only to get everyone fed, cleaned and ready for bed. Throw in the laundry and the household cleaning and I've taken about as much as I can on any given day.
Like an Actor 8 of 10Casey likes to tell people that she gets tired of acting like she's happy. It has been one of her biggest complaints. When she is depressed I feel like an actor a lot of the time too. There I am completely overwhelmed and consumed with all the other feelings I have already mentioned, but I can't let Casey see any of those feelings. She can't see that I'm struggling to help her. She needs to see that I love her unconditionally and that helping her through her struggles is a privilege and nothing more.
Confident 9 of 10Believe it or not, I also feel fairly confident. I've gone through the process so many times now I can easily recognize the stages and I've learned just what I need to do during each phase. I can tell about how much longer the bout of depression will last and I've learned to trust the process I've developed.
Relief 10 of 10Along with that confidence, I usually get a sense of relief when the depression finally hits Casey with all its force. I'm not relieved that Casey has to struggle through feelings of depression, but depression often lingers in the background for months and keeps her from enjoying life like she should. Having the depression fully enter her mind means that it is just a matter of time before the depression leaves again and my wife is fully mine again.
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