It’s not easy being a spouse to someone who suffers from a depression disorder or anxiety disorder. There’s much patience required and it might be harder to understand if you have never experienced it before. Some spouses go into marriage with someone who suffers from depression not knowing how much of a mental and physical toll it can also have on themselves. And sadly, many couples go into marriage thinking that because they are so in love with their soulmate, their depression is gone. But as I stated in this previous post, you can’t depend on your spouse for your total happiness, or expect them to “fix” your depression.
Because your marriage is very influenced by each of your individual choices, moods, and circumstances, I think there are a few important things I haven’t quite said yet when it comes to depression. These are some things that your spouse might be thinking or feeling but won’t say to you. These are things that maybe they have said to you but haven’t really listened to. Maybe you need a third party who has experienced all this personally and has studied this area to tell you in order for it to stick. That person is me. Telling you these three things:
Realize that your depression/anxiety isn’t just about you. It affects your spouse and your kids, too.
It can be humbling to accept that you may need help. However, you are doing yourself and your marriage a favor by doing so.
It’s OK to get help! Sometimes your brain needs some rebalancing with medication. Sometimes you just need a therapist to talk your feelings out to.
I want to be sensitive here because I don’t want to discount how hard it is to think about others when you’re drowning in your own corner of darkness. You are entitled to focusing on yourself, and you should be focusing on yourself in order to be better for them. So please don’t interpret this as: “So I’m a huge burden to my spouse and my kids? Great.” What I’m trying to help point out instead, is that you gotta do something about managing your depression at some point.
Management could be finding new hobbies or interest to be involved in, reprioritizing your responsibilities, doing more of what makes you happy, and/or asking for help. Help can come in the form of reading books, talking to your doctor, seeking a therapist, asking your spouse, family, or friends for help. It isn’t easy accepting that you need help. People view it as a weakness. However, I choose to look at it this way: asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak, it means you are wise. You recognize that something is broken and you take steps towards repairing it.
The ways that I have asked for help have been through both getting on medication, and counseling with a therapist a few times since I was 16. I feel like I need to share my experiences with some of you out there, because unlike the negative stigma medication and therapy get, I feel like I have a good handle on managing my anxiety and depression, and have done it in ways that don’t take over my life.
Depressive disorder ran in my family and instead of denying that it got passed onto me, I accepted it and started managing it early on. Many people don’t want pills to always be the answer, but sometimes they are necessary. When I was 17 and again when I was 19, I went off my medication for a few months because I didn’t want to depend on it. After this didn’t work out both times, I realized that anxiety medication was actually helping me and that I did great on it. It takes a few types of medication to find what works for you, so understand there might be some trial and error. I have been taking the same medication since then and am grateful for it helping my brain balance out.
The times that I have been to therapy were life-changing. I went so that I could understand how to manage specific difficult situations happening in my life that were on-going. My favorite part is that I only go when I notice I am consistently struggling with something and the changes I have tried to make are not working. That has only happened 3 times in the past 10 years and I only went for a few months each time. I view talking with a therapist a very freeing and clarifying step, so it bothers me when people assume therapy is a life-long commitment as if you are chained down by it!
How my anxiety and depression affected my spouse
Since I’ve struggled with this for nearly ten years, I have become pretty self-aware of my emotions, so I have kind of pinpointed how my anxiety and depression gets triggered. I think I have anxiety much more often than depression. Certain situations turn me into a big ball of worry and nervousness that I feel mentally, physically and spiritually. These situations can seem needless to get anxious about in the eyes of other people. Sometimes the anxiety triggers depressive feelings if I feel it for days straight. Other times, however, depressing days come on their own accord.
I recently went back again to my therapist about something I have complained about frequently and was affecting my self-esteem consistently. After realizing that my venting to Trevor was not effective at helping me feel better, and it was instead bringing him down with me, we decided I should go back in and see if she could help me get over it. She was the one who helped me understand that I was harming my marriage by carrying this around and bringing it up all the time. So again, this was something that had been happening for a few months in my own head that I couldn’t fix on my own. It was my problem that had nothing to do with our marriage, and yet it was harmful to it. If this sounds familiar to you, consider getting help. Because that’s exactly what it is– help!
I’m not embarrassed about my story. I’m not embarrassed to say I go to therapy occasionally. Life is tough, crappy things happen, relationships aren’t easy. We all could use a little third party help! So if you have any questions about anything like this, PLEASE don’t hesitate to contact me! I’m open about it when many people aren’t. I’m happy to share with you more about what it was like doing the medication route, and the therapy route. I might even have other resource suggestions for you. Either way, I want to be a listening ear.
I hope this series has helped you gain a better understanding of what it’s like living with depression, how your depression affects your marriage, and what you can do to help your depressed spouse. For more information on these topics go here: