After my husband and best friend passed away from depression, I realised that back in 2012 I wrote a blog about being the partner of someone who suffered from depression.
Depression: The other half of the story
A lot of people in today’s world suffer with depression, it can be a debilitating illness, if you let it.
I would like to highlight another side of this illness and that is of the other half ( the partner to the sufferer).
As the partner you have to watch the person that you love the most go through some very difficult emotions and unfortunately there is no magic cure. We wish that we had a magic wand to make it disappear and to make everything great again. In reality this is never going to happen, you have to be there and be the support they need. This can be very hard, because you are also trying to deal with a wide range of emotions yourself, the first and lasting one is the fact you did not see it happening, you realise after, when looking back, you can spot the signs, but not when it is actually happening.
The best way to describing depression for me, is that the person is in a maze, and struggling to find the correct path out, and as the other half of the relationship, I believe it is not for us to take their hand and lead them out because that is not letting them deal with the reason they are lost in the first place. You always want to find the easiest and quickest way to make them feel better.
You have an overwhelming urge to wrap them up in cotton wool and protect them from the outside world until they get better. You want to nurture them and protect them, like a newborn baby, you want the world to look after them like a newborn, to care and protect. I don’t think this is the answer either. They need to search out through professionals, the answer to their questions, we need to be there to listen and reassure them and this is not always easy. There can be difficult times, when they are searching, because they might be very quiet. This does not necessarily mean that anything is wrong but our need to protect takes over and we want to help.
As the partner, we feel the need to take everything on, to protect the sufferer, to make their recovery easier (we think). This, I have found does not always work. I believe that they need space as well as us.
I think that sometimes we need to walk away and have time to reflect, this can be as simple as just an hour away doing something we enjoy, but if the sufferer is at a low point, it is very difficult to leave them ( The need to nurture and protect). Although it is very helpful to have close family around, it is hard for them to fully understand what you have to face 24/7 as the partner and it can be difficult to explain to them, as they do not live with it from morning till night. This can be different for different people. This is why i feel you have to have a person outside the loop to talk to, not necessarily a professional but a good friend who will let you let off steam and rant, simply because that is what is needed. This is in no way a reflection of anyone, but just a release for you. The sufferer will go through all types of emotions, they will think everything that is going wrong is their fault, it isn’t, but they do not see it that way, it is like their judgement is clouded. This is where the need to protect and nurture happens again. We always want to shield the sufferer, this is not always a good thing to do, but we still want to do it.
The sufferer feels the need to question everything, and it is not easy because we would like to have all the answers for all those questions. Guess what: We don’t.
As the partner, you go from having overwhelming love for the sufferer (nurture) to feelings of desperation. (The need for a magic cure).
Depression has many forms, and can stem from all sorts of problems, no two people are the same, but I think that the partners feelings are probably very similar.
All we want to do is help.
Help can come in many forms
1: As the partner, you must find someone to confide in and let off steam to. I believe it cant be a family member as they can be to close to the situation. (not in a bad way). They would struggle to be objective. Everyone is different though.
2: You must always try to be open with the sufferer (this can be very hard) as again the need to protect takes over.
3:The sufferer can get all sorts of help, from GP’s to professionals. This is to help them understand their emotions. We can help by re-affirming these points.
4: Help them to believe in themselves
Even after all this, as the partner you still want to protect, this feeling never goes away. As long as you can get the sufferer the help they require, and talk and communicate when they feel able to. This can be as simple as listening and understanding that what they say, is not meant to hurt anyone, its just that they need to express themselves to help find the way out of the maze and onto a path they can follow.
As the days go by, there will be additions to this blog, to try and help others going through the same, This is just an insight into the dilemmas faced by the partner of someone suffering with depression.
My husband was first diagnosed with depression 14 years ago, this came as a complete shock as we never saw it coming. We didn’t realise how much depression would affect our lives. There are all types of medication and they can work for many people, but they are not the only form of help out there. There is also many different types of therapy. We found that there was always going to be ups and downs along the way, some of these can be quite large, but we managed to get through them. We have a strong marriage and great relationship, and I believe that our friendship and love will help us through these difficult years.
I feel that for a lot of people, medication can work well, but for some the underlying problem can be bigger, and the professional people can help to deal with this dilemma. Hopefully with this help, the sufferer can find the path out of the maze. I never really know what to expect when iIwake in the morning, he can wake and feel like he can conquer the world, this feeling can last all day or part of the day, we take each day as it comes. This situation can make him very tired. As the partner I have to be aware and it is not always easy and I still have the overwhelming urge to help and lead him.
On the other hand, the day can start at the other end of the scale, he can wake up tired and unable to focus on anything, i have to encourage him to try small things but to make sure that it is something he enjoys. This has led him to feel selfish but i am happy to let him as it can help to pick his day up.
I am always here to listen and talk, he will communicate when he feels ready. I can not force the situation, just be there and be ready.
This is me, i feel lost sometimes, and i mean in the sense of not being able to come up with the right answers. (The magic cure again). I try to keep the house and home going whilst always keeping and eye on him (need to nurture). However sometimes the little things can aggravate him, probably small insignificant things, but to him they are large. We have to find a way to communicate and deal with these situations without getting upset. He has to learn to express what he needs to say in a way that does not hurt peoples feelings (he would never intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings) so we have to listen and talk it through. This can be hard, but know one ever said it was going to be easy.
I know that I will always be there for him, he never sets out to upset anyone, this is where both of us are learning. This is a giant learning curve for both of us. I would always do nearly everything in the house, bu only because i thought I was helping him, ( taking the pressure off him) but I have had to learn not to do that, because it doesn’t help, he likes to feel like he has achieved something. (A sense of purpose).
As for me, I have times when I just feel quiet and think, probably about not a lot, but he worries if there is something wrong. (There isn’t). I am quite a bubbly person, not know for being quiet, but I have to explain to him that I am okay. I do think sometimes that I would like to throw something at a wall, but never have. (wouldn’t solve anything) and just create a mess to tidy up.
There are lots of different types of help for people suffering with depression. In our story, my husband was first prescribed medication, which at the time seemed to work, with the medication and an adjustment to his lifestyle, things seemed to pick up. Along the way, there was times when the medication didn’t seem to work as well, but the doctors always adjusted it and again things seemed to ease. There was also therapy which helped him to adjust certain aspects of his life, this was also found to be helpful.
As time went on, the down dips seemed to be longer and more frequent, again the medication was adjusted and seemed to help, but looking back now ( further down the line) maybe it didn’t help as much as we thought. Time moves on and things get worse, he ends up being taken of medication as this is not really helping at all. The next stage is back to therapy, which is good but takes a long time to sort out any appointments, which is frustrating for him (feeling in limbo) and for me because, I feel like I am helping him through this by myself.
This scenario is not great in any situation, but at least my husband has me and the family around to try and help him through it. I do feel very sorry for anyone who does not have this network of family support, because you would feel very alone and helpless. Although this is our story, everybody else has different views and experiences.
This is ours.
Sometimes it feels odd writing a blog, but it helps to get out what is going on in my head. Since my last blog, we have had ups and downs as usual, but different things have happened. I always feel that I should take more on, to help ease the burden, but over this last month I have learned that this is not helping him. I am always saying to him to tell me what irritates him so that I can try to avoid making him stressy, but have found out that this is not the way it works. One example was I was unwell and he was cooking dinner (he cooked well), but my kitchen is mine and I don’t like to relinquish it, so I am always inferring, only afterwards when talking about it, do I realise that when I was trying to helpful, for him it was taking any confidence he had away. When I found this out I felt awful, I am trying all the time to build up his confidence and in one quick swoop, I had swiped it away.
We have been away for a holiday and it was lovely, it is nice to relax and get away from it all, and he does seem yo relax but only when we return back to the safety of home, do we realise how much it takes out of him.
We do now have some good news that he is finally getting the therapy he needs to help him sort out and deal with his emotions and feelings. This however has been a long time coming but hopefully the assessment has been done and he seems positive about it which is nice. These sessions will go on for several weeks and we don’t know what is going to happen but I have a good feeling about them. I hope I am right.
One of the things we both have noticed is how shocking his short term memory has become, from the point of going into a room and forgetting what he went in for (even I do that), to me asking him or reminding him of things and within an hour maybe, totally forgot until he is reminded again. I did say that when I have to ask again for things to be done I feel like I am nagging, so I will do it instead, this then causes the problem of his self confidence again.
A never ending circle.
We have had lots of conversations about this and we are working through it. It is a two way street, we both have to learn. Although, I think I am helping by not telling him how things are in my head, to be told off, because I am always trying to get him to talk and help with what is going on in his head and I am not helping.
We are a strong family unit and do discuss these things and however hard it is you do need to talk.
This was written over a one to two year period from 2012.
After being in therapy and finally finishing work, I thought we had finally started to adjust to a new beginning. Unfortunately depression was still there and no matter how hard we fought it and all the help we gave him, with therapy and volunteering( which when he did it gave him a lovely sense of purpose, which had been missing for a long time), the black dog of depression was never far away.
All that is left to say, is that he will be missed greatly, a loving husband and amazing dad.
Thank you for everything you gave us, some fantastic memories which we shall always treasure.
You are now at peace and the black dog has gone.
My best friend, loving dad and husband xxx