Depression is being color blind and constantly told how colorful the world is. – Atticus
Depression is not a feeling but an emotion. A depressed person goes through a lot of emotions like pain, anguish, sadness, distress and considers life as a living nightmare. When a spouse is going through depression it can put a lot of stress on their married life. Living with a partner who constantly experiences negative emotions, is angry most of the times and unhappy isn’t easy. Standing aside and seeing your partner battle his/her depression can be a daunting task. You yourself go through a storm of emotions, feel confused and frustrated. With a feeling that every attempt to help them is ignored. This can lead to a state wherein the person trying to help starts blaming themselves for their partner’s state of mind. Please know you are not alone. Depression is a serious mental illness that can create havoc and leave a long lasting impact in a person’s life. It results from shift in brain chemistry that influences mood, sleep, thoughts, appetite and energy levels all these factors could affect marriage life and in turn disrupt the family life. You can’t cure your partner’s depression, but you can help your partner along the road of recovery.
Tips to help Spouse deal with depression
- Understand what depression is
To know what your partner is experiencing you need to understand what depression is what are the essential features, the symptoms, the effect it has on the person and everything related to the illness. This helps you deal with the mood swings, change in appetite, sleep disturbance, loss of interest etc.
- Be available
Just sitting there and listening to the person vent out their feelings helps them know that there is someone who cares. Offer hugs, help and keep assuring them of you being there for them at all times. Create the positive atmosphere around them (decorating home, having positive talks, playing soothing music etc). Your simple actions can help them recover. Help them develop a healthy life style, exercise together, help the person stick to treatment plan as decided by the professional (make sure they attend sessions on time, take medications if prescribed, follow the therapy sessions effectively etc.)
- Seek Professional help
The illness might prevent the suffering person from understanding he/she needs help. Depression doesn’t improve without getting treatment. So when you start noticing changes that are disturbing their routine seek professional help as soon as possible. Share the symptoms you have noticed, express your concern and the willingness to help. Motivate them throughout the process.
- Create a plan to deal with depression together
Avoid taking the symptoms of your partner’s depression personally, but don’t ignore them. Being supportive and loving can be of huge benefit and help the partner recover soon. For which both of them need to work together constructively and guide each other. This includes understanding what the partner is experiencing and taking practical steps to deal with the issues they are currently going through.
- Give your partner space
In spite of the ongoing treatment, some days the person might wake up feeling hopeless and helpless even after all the hard work put in. It is important to recognize these bad days and give the space the person needs. At the same time remind them about your love and that you are there with them in the ongoing struggle. It needs to be made sure that they don’t slip back in their old routine. Accepting them in their struggles is the key to fast recovery.
- Create small goal
Depression is an over whelming process. You can help your partner by setting up small goals and daily achievements. (For ex: If the person was working previously and quit due to depression, let them prepare a resume and then slowly try taking up part time job) Break the larger tasks into smaller ones and help them take smaller steps towards returning to the normal routine they once followed. By doing this the treatment effectiveness improves.
- Know the warning signs of suicide
The risk of suicide is elevated with depression. It is important to know the warning signs of suicide to understand the behavior of your partner and notice if there is any suicidal tendency being shown by them.
- Help them challenge negative thinking
When negative thoughts overwhelm your partner, it is important to remind them that it is a symptom of depression and the irrational thoughts which is the cognitive distortions aren’t real. When you try to explain more about it to them they will be able to understand that it makes no sense. Help them replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Depression can feel like drowning except everyone around the person is breathing. Understanding the person suffering is the key to helping them get back to normal. Treatment doesn’t work in a day the person struggling and the people around need to be patient to notice changes. Your support, love, dedication, encouragement and understanding can create a spell of magic in the depressed spouse’s life and help them get back on track. In the mean time you might also need help. Turn up to a trusted friend or a therapist for emotional support when feeling overwhelmed.