Taking Care of Yourself
If your spouse is unwilling or unable to follow through on social engagements, remember that it is not your job to make excuses for your spouse to family or friends. Letting those you are closest to know that your spouse has been seriously depressed will not only put the issue squarely on the table, but will open up the potential for you to receive the support anyone in your circumstances would need.
Whatever you do, try not to take the depression on as something you can personally “fix.” Although your support, encouragement, and caring are clearly needed, you can’t “love” this particular problem away. Treatment is the answer and the services of a professional are required.
Take care of yourself. You won’t be of much help to yourself or others if you allow your spouse’s depression to envelop you as well. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Stay in contact with your friends. Continue your work and social commitments to the greatest extent possible.
As stated above, don’t hesitate to get some professional help for yourself if you need it. It’s okay to need a private place to deal with your feelings of anger, disappointment, and upset.
Spouses of depressed people often benefit from couples’ work or family therapy involving the depressed partner. A mental health professional can assist the couple or family to recognize and change destructive patterns of relating that often accompany depression in the family. For example, a couple might renegotiate their approach to shared activities and agree to the benefit of time apart. This may remedy disruptions to the social life of the non-depressed spouse and ease marital discord.
Marriage and commitment are for better or worse. Depression is definitely one of the “worse.” It can be trying to maintain one’s own optimism and joy in life when someone you love is under a constant cloud. But with good treatment, encouragement, and caring, most depressed people do recover. With good support, most spouses break through the silence and make it as well.
Benazon, N.R., & Coyne, J.C. (2000). Living with a depressed spouse. Journal of Family Psychology, 14(1), 71-79.
Depression.com (2000). Living with a depressed person [Article]. South San Francisco, CA: Author. Retrieved July 25, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.depression.com/health_library/living/index.html
Johnson, S.L., & Jacob, T. (2000). Sequential interactions in the marital communication of depressed men and women. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(1), 4-12.
National Institute of Mental Health (1994). Helpful facts about depressive illnesses [Pamphlet]. Rockville, MD: Author. Retrieved July 25, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/helpful.cfm