When The Gorgeous Redhead and I first got together, we were the proverbial skunk and turtle respectively. She conducted her business at the top of her lungs and I withdrew into my shell. Neither of us understood that the root cause of these behavior models was to be found in the oft misunderstood and shunned illness we know as depression.
Depression is among the most treatable of mental disorders...you are not alone!
At first I was angry. She was saying things to me she would not think of saying to anybody else. I told her that she could just control her behavior/temper and she should snap out of the vitriol. I even took her to be "fixed."
Depression runs in our family in several different directions and it has often gone undiagnosed. Marriages all over the world suffer as a result of undiagnosed or untreated depression. We tell couples all the time that the one absolute thing we cannot help them overcome is an unwilling spirit. They must commit to a willingness to learn new information and practice new skills if they want a successful marriage. However, there is a caveat: undiagnosed and untreated mood disorders complicate the process profoundly. Normally loving, affectionate spouses can become mean or abusive, which devastates intimacy and can lead to divorce.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.
More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness and you can't simply "snap out" of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don't get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both. The majority (80 to 90%)of people who receive treatment expericnce significant improvement.
Depression involves mood and thoughts as well as the body, and it causes pain for both those with the disorder and those who care about them.
Keep in mind, in an ideal situation, your depressed spouse will be willing to seek support and treatment. However, this is often not the case. Because of the stigma attached to the illness, sufferers will often deny the issue with words like these, "That's just the way I am...deal with it!" or "I'm not depressed, I just am sad today or I don't feel well today, or..."
When it got too "hot" at our house, I took Barb to a man I trusted, Dr. Ken Pepper, founder of the Pastoral Counseling and Education Center of Dallas, to get her "fixed."
I had a bill of particulars I wanted him to address with my bride. I had my speech ready.
To my surprise he told me my job as a loving husband was to, "Love her just the way she is." "But, but..." I replied. He told me to stop talking and go sit in the lobby. That was a shocker.
Then he gently began to lead my Sweetie with questions like these: "Barb, do you like the way you are behaving and thinking?" "Would you like to change?" When she said she didn't know how "This is just the way I am", he asked her, "Would you like to learn how?" Dr. Ken taught her that clinical depression is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with depression cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Depression is highly treatable.
That began a pilgrimage for Barb of cognitive behavioral therapy, and a medical diagnosis that settled on a medical Rx to augment what she was learning. We also engaged together in education, mentoring and coaching to help us create a happy, healthy functional marriage. I learned to show compassion and support her journey to finding peace and joy. She learned how to manage this disease called clinical depression.
Many studies show that the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, which addresses problematic thought patterns, with or without the use of antidepressant drugs. In addition, evidence is quickly accumulating that regular mindfulness meditation, on its own or combined with cognitivetherapy, can stop depression before it starts by effectively disengaging attention from the repetitive negative thoughts that often set in motion the downward spiral of mood.
I can tell you for the gospel truth that I'd gladly rob banks if that's what it took to see that my trophy wife got the medication and help she needs. I like her better with it and she likes herself better as well. It is working...we celebrate 28 years together on April 23.
One Final Note
Please don't let this subtle thief rob you of your joy. It's so not necessary. Get Help!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!