Depression isn’t a fun thing to talk about, but for many of us, it is a familiar part of our lives. The fact that it is still taboo to talk about among some circles honestly baffles me, but then again, I am no stranger to talking about mental health.
Depression has been a third wheel in my own marriage as my husband and I have both dealt with some pretty difficult times. We went through some trials before we got married, but they were nothing compared to what our time in the neonatal intensive care unit did to us both mentally. That is, of course, on top of postpartum depression and physically recovering from intense and life-threatening complications during pregnancy.
I don’t normally talk about depression (though I do talk about anorexia and NICU PTSD), but after a conversation with my husband last night, we decided this post would be helpful to many and worth writing. And so, here we are.
Here are 5 pieces of advice for helping your spouse through a period of depression!
1. Don’t deny it
I’ve found that if I try to hide the fact that I am depressed (or if my husband tries to hide his depression), it ends up getting worse. Trying to hide pain only makes it worse because you are afraid (afraid people will find out, afraid it won’t ever get better, etc), and fear amplifies pain. Don’t act as though merely admitting to it will give it power over you. The sooner you admit to being depressed, the sooner you and your spouse can address it.
2. Don’t be afraid to get help
If you or your spouse is depressed, it is important to get some kind of professional help. Even if you think you don’t need it, it is worth the trip to the doctor or counselor just to know that you have options and that there are resources available to you. You shouldn’t feel ashamed for going on medication for a while to help stabilize your mental health or for going to a counselor to talk about your depression.
3. Take care of yourselves
If your spouse is depressed, encourage them to talk care of themselves. Help them remember to eat, make sure they get adequate sleep, have them take any supplements they are supposed to, offer to exercise with them, get outside with them and get some fresh air, and remind them to take some time to just rest and relax.
4. Remember your vows
When you got married, you probably recited the typical wedding vows of “in sickness and in health”. Remember those now. Yeah, you probably thought there was never going to be an “in sickness” part of your lives and that everything would be perfect, but that isn’t realistic.
Everyone gets sick sometimes, and mental illness is just part of that. Remember that, even when times are tough, you married your spouse because you love them, and who they are when they are depressed may not seem like the same person, but they are in there somewhere, deep down. Stick with them until they can climb out of the darkness and into the light again.
In the meantime, don’t treat them like a burden or a pain in your butt. They can’t help that they are depressed, and blaming them for it won’t make it go away.
5. Get some perspective
Talk about a time when neither of you were depressed. Reminisce on some good memories and then talk about the things you want to do to make more (plan a vacation, a trip to the movies, etc). Gain some perspective on the depression. It won’t last forever, so act accordingly.