Battling intense depressive episodes is never an easy task. While each episode may vary in frequency and severity, one thing is for certain, your spouse will be left physically and psychologically exhausted and so will you, especially if you've been through a number of those episodes with your spouse. You're caught between a psychological and emotional rock and a hard place. You love your spouse but you're at your wit's end because you don't know what to do for your spouse or yourself. As a result you may be seriously thinking about a separation or divorce.
There is no doubt that depression, especially clinical depression, can ruin a marital relationship. The depressed spouse begins to physically and emotionally pull away leaving the other spouse confused, angry, afraid, and alone. The spouse who is not depressed may soon begin to feel alienated from the others affections and perhaps insist that the depressed spouse just "snap out of it " thereby intensifying the depression. As a result the gap between the spouses grows wider inevitably ending the relationship.
That was just one scenario. There are many more but they virtually all lead to the same outcome. My second marriage ended primarily because of my depression. However, the good news is that yours does not have to. Many spouses take the time to learn what is necessary to get through the depressive episodes and overcome the symptoms of depression so they can rebuild their marital relationship. You can too.
Here are 7 fail safe ways for you to help your clinically depressed spouse:
1. Learn about clinical depression - There are different types of depression. In order for you to help and support your spouse to the best of your ability you need to learn and be aware of the signs and symptoms of clinical depression also known as major depressive disorder which is the severest kind of depression. Some of the symptoms include feelings of sadness or unhappiness, irritability or frustration even over small matters, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, crying spells for no apparent reason, and frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide.
2. Encourage treatment -If your spouse has not yet been diagnosed as being clinically depressed but shows any of the symptoms you need to gently but firmly encourage your spouse to seek treatment. Then set up an appointment for you and your spouse to talk with your doctor. If you have a husband showing signs of clinical depression, you might have to be a bit more firm with him because many men believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. He may resist at first, but it is important to let him know that the only way he is going to get better is by getting treatment and staying with it.
3. Be supportive, not enabling - By all means make suggestions, offer encouragement, and give praise to your spouse whenever necessary but never do a task that needs to be done by your spouse in order for him/her to start feeling better. One thing that both of you certainly do not need is for your spouse to become dependent on you to do what he/she needs to do. For example, if you've both made it a goal for your spouse to get out of bed every morning and eat breakfast at the kitchen table, do not bring the breakfast to your spouse in bed. That would defeat the entire purpose of treatment. The only way anyone who is clinically depressed can ever begin to overcome their symptoms is if they are proactive.
4. Suggest a support group - An important way for you to help your spouse, during what often turns out to be a very chaotic time, is for you to suggest that your spouse join a support group. People who are clinically depressed often feel alone and isolated. Meeting others with the same mood disorder or other emotional issues typically relieves that feeling of loneliness and isolation. Sharing feelings and experiences plus making connections will usually make a person feel better about life in general.
5. Begin walking with your spouse - There are many physical and psychological benefits associated with walking. Just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day will do wonders for your spouse's mood as well as yours. Walking actually increases the level of serotonin (a neurotransmitter regulating the feeling of happiness in the brain) enabling us to feel better. Walking is also a wonderful way to show your support. Remember however, there is a pretty good chance that initially your spouse will not want to walk. If so, that's fine. Just be encouraging and offer to go for a walk again after several days.
6. Be patient - I know that this can be easier said than done. Try to remember that your spouse is behaving erratically because of the depression. If you are still having a hard time remember why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. Also remember why you got married. The spouse you fell in love with and married is undoubtedly still there but the depression is masking the real personality.
7. Take care of yourself - I could not begin to tell you how many forum posts I've read where the spouse who is not depressed simply burns out, becomes resentful, and is ready to call it quits. As the "healthy" spouse you absolutely have to take care of yourself. If your spouse has upset you, you need to let him/her know. There is a way to express your feelings by being tactful and still getting your point across. Do not let your feelings build up inside of you. That could, and very often does, lead to disaster. Maintain your own life. Continue to keep your own appointments and see your friends. Nurture yourself by eating right and exercising. I highly recommend joining a support group for yourself and if you need to, by all means see a counselor or therapist as well.
If you need to review these steps again please do so and then begin to implement them as soon as possible. In point of fact, the more you deal with your spouse's depression together as a team, the more likely you are not only going to remain together with your spouse but the more likely you'll strengthen your marital bond as well.