The Bad, Sad & Mad Parts of the Story…Staying Married Through Depression

sing your bravest song

I had a conversation with my grandmother a few years back. I gave her a whole stack of journals for Christmas and asked her to fill them. She wanted to know what I wanted to her to write…and, I told her that I wanted her to write EVERYTHING….she told me that she’d always been told, from the time that she was young, that you just shouldn’t talk about the bad or negative things that have happened in your life…so, in her journals, she only talked about positive, happy things.

I was appalled…..and I said “Grandma…if you died, and I read your journals…I would feel SO RIPPED OFF!!!!!”

Let me tell you why I would feel ripped off….back then, in my twenties, I would have felt ripped off because I would wonder why my life has so many struggles when my grandmother’s life didn’t….now, today…. I can say that I’d feel ripped off because I know FOR SURE that everyone has struggles, shallow and deep, and her withholding hers keeps keys to her treasure chest from me and the rest of her progeny….

And…over the last few years of traveling the road to HE*L and back several times, I have learned how important it is that all of us are open, when the time is right, to sharing things with others. Even if that means we are just writing things, especially feelings, down so that our children can read it all later. Everyone has these HUMAN problems, but somewhere along the way we are taught that if we have problems, we are failing…or we are less as people, or we will never overcome them….so we hide them. We put on shows, on the outside, to make it look to everyone else like we have ‘the perfect marriage’ or ‘the perfect children’ or ‘the perfect life’.

And, fact is….and the dumb thing is that we all already know this….that NO ONE has a perfect anything. But, we make things so much more painful when we turn regular everyday struggles into embarrassing ‘crimes’ in our mind….AND AND EVEN BIGGER THING that happens is that when EVERYONE is doing that…making things look ‘perfect’, we all think that everyone else is perfect except for us.

turn your wounds into wisdom

So here’s something I wrote that I was afraid to post at first, but we gotta tell these stories…we GOTTA….

Staying Married Through Depression

A little more than a year ago, people started coming to me…looking all around first to make sure no one was looking or could hear them, or people would show up in the evening or on Sunday afternoons on my back porch…and again, they would hush their voices and look to make sure no one one was listening before they would tell me…then, they’d say, while looking at the ground, or while looking at me with painful desperation, “my husband has depression” or “I have depression” or “my wife has been suffering with depression for years.”

OK, I’m just going to lay it right out here…first, I want to tell you that I asked my husband’s permission to tell this story…and second, the reason I want to bring up this topic is because I find more and more every day how many couples suffer through this alone and won’t talk about it because of the stigma attached to depression. It’s really time to bring this out in the open so there can be some kind of support.

People started telling me their own stories because I was so open about the pain of my husband’s depression, one of the after effects of his brain injury…the worst one in my opinion.

We have been dealing with severe depression for 2 years now…9 of those months where he couldn’t even get out of bed and didn’t want to live…and I have decided that it is one of the most cruel diseases out there…much of it’s cruelty coming from the lack of understanding and even tolerance that people have for it.

I must admit that I used to judge others with depression pretty harshly…thinking to myself “snap out of it!”…really believing that any person could will their way to happiness, no matter what. Then it happened to us…and I watched the most positive, driven, confident, incredible man I have ever met melt into a pile of paralyzed despair, immobilized by the chemical mix-up in his brain that led to this severe condition. Depression is not a “bad day” that you can “snap out” of. Depression is a disease and it has such an unfair and cruel stigma attached to it that not only does a victim have to suffer from the disease, but from the isolation and embarrassment of having the disease.

You would be absolutely shocked if you knew how many people suffer from depression…how many marriages are wading their way through those kinds of muddy pits…but NO ONE WILL TALK ABOUT IT. I looked for a book or a website or a support group…and there was hardly a single thing…yet, day after day…I have people confiding in me about the turmoil that depression and the isolation that it leads to. And, if the person you love and have devoted your entire life to is suffering from depression…your life is consumed by it. It is the most excruciatingly painful experience you can imagine to have to watch your beloved suffer through it and not be able to help…even if you’d do ANYTHING you could to make it go away. It’s been two years and it still makes me cry big huge tears when I talk about this. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through…

We have been to a lot of doctors this week and it has been rough. Things go up and down and right now they are down. I know they are going to go back up, but what it requires from me is 150% because my husband can only give –50% right now…at least that still adds up to 100% in the end…and that’s all that matters.

When you make the promise of “for better or for worse” and “in sickness or in health” you think it might be all about taking care of your sweetheart through the flu or a cold…even cleaning up their puke…I certainly could never fathom that I’d be more than 2 years into a chronic condition…trying every single thing under the sun to help…but, I’ve learned how to keep a promise, that’s for sure.

What I’ve learned about depression is that people who are living with the effects of it need support…they need love…they need to know that other people have made it to the other side of it…they need to be reminded that THEY ARE NOT THEIR DEPRESSION, they are still inside there, and they’ll be able to break out of the bondage they are in…they need to be accepted and supported without conditions and without expectations. People need to know that it’s ok to talk about it…that it won’t be judged as a character weakness or punishment from God or all of the other mean judgments that can easily be made about depression.

What depression HAS taught me is what TRUE love really is…it is being able to love someone even if you don’t get a single thing back…you love for the sake of loving…without any conditions or expectations. It’s been a painful journey, but when I learned the power of this kind of love, it made me want to give it to everyone I meet. And…I do look at every other human being differently now…I just KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE that even if someone is walking through life with a smile, there may be something very painful and almost unbearable going on in their life right now…and they don’t need to be judged….no one does. What we need from each other is a big hug and the words “you can do it.” Or “I am here for you no matter what.”

You can post anonymously on this thread…your identity will never be revealed…but I want you to share your stories…I want you to share what you’ve been through and how you overcame it. If you know someone who is dealing with this right now…please forward this to them, because believe me…they feel very very very alone right now….

I have found from experience that the only way to tell our stories and really really help each other out is to not leave the sad and difficult parts out of our stories….it is in the discomfort that we grow…but sometimes, we just need to know that someone has made it through what we are going through right now. I hope you’ll share….you’ll be helping so many other people when you do.

your life is your song...sing it

Comments

  1. Thank you for these words. I have battled depression for several years and know that the shame and ugliness can sometimes be too much to face. My greatest fear as a mother is that my daughters will have to someday fight the same battle that both my mother and I have endured. I have learned to cover up my pain by putting a smile on my face and pretending that it no longer exists. However the cost of this is I have learned that I lack authenticity when it comes to myself. The hardest part is knowing you deserve better. After reading this I called to schedule an appointment to get back on medication. I took myself off it a year ago because I was ashamed that I needed it and that I wasn’t strong enough to just “make myself happy”.

    Brave Girls- you are a blessing to me and women all over the world. Thank you.

  2. Allison says:

    I too deal with mental illness. I have bipolar disorder and it has a lot of stigma of its own. I remember being in high school when the depression was the worst and when asked why I starved myself, I told the doctors that I wanted them to see just how empty I felt. I was told my life would be spent in hospitals, if I even survived high school. I turn 23 years old next month and I am so amazingly blessed with the life I have today. I am a full time college student, a loyal friend, a grateful member of a wonderful Celebrate Recovery family, and the Godmother to my beautiful 2 year old niece. I battled for 8 years to get on the path to my meaningful life and there were so many times when I was ready to give up. I hated being told “hang in there, it will get better” because I was tired of fighting… But today I can say with absolute certainty that my experiences have shaped me for a purpose. I don’t know exactly what my future holds, but I am alive today for a reason! Thank you to all you Brave Girls out there who continue to inspire others- the youth of this generation needs us to be real and help them be brave in this messy world. I am so glad for amazing sites like this that help with that goal!

  3. nic says:

    Melody~ thank you for as always being so open and raw with your feelings. It is horrible to be the spouse with depression and be judged with that “shake yourself out it” theory. Instead my spouse turning in to help me he turned outside our marriage into a arms of another. As you can imagine this only thrust me further into the dark abyss that became my life. You deserve “Wife of the Lifetime Award”….

  4. tink says:

    Lovely to come across you site and your write up. Yep I’m going through this just now. And I have also developed depression after some years of hubby having it. Funnily he battles on as had it many years but I’m struggling. Thanks or your honesty. I think isolation is the worst. And my dear east friends don’t understand and just want the old me back. I’m trying to be brave/ and fight for her xx

  5. Dee says:

    I read your words many days, and I feel them in my soul. I am in the midst of fighting back a downward spiral of depression. I have a great doctor and an amazing husband and friends who support me. While the depression from which I suffer is more mild, it affects everything in my life, including my marriage. Your post today answered the question I just asked my husband last week, “Why do you stay?” I, as the “ill” person, just don’t get it. His response was similar to yours, but I understand your words better. Please know how much your husband appreciates that you are there. It has to be so hard for those of you who can’t fix it for us. I don’t know what I’d do if my husband left. Your love for your husband and your words have helped me know that my husband’s words are not empty; people stay because of love. Thank you for sharing your personal story. I have started two classes through BGC so that I can “find my way” again, and my husband has been so open to everything. I am not an artist, but feel connected to everything you’ve done on this site, so I’ll give the books a try. Thanks for offering these posts. I appreciate a place to share.

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