Living with depression – the other side.

There’s not a lot of help out there for people living with a partner who suffers with depression.

My husband was sitting at my computer, reading something on the screen. Without looking at me, perched on the armchair across the room, he said “I don’t think I can go to work anymore,” and started to cry. My feeling – just overwhelming relief.

Yes, it might sound a little uncaring. The sight of my husband reduced to a crying, ashamed heap, unable to think clearly or go out and do a day’s work – it’s something I’ve been waiting to happen for over 3 years. Finally he had broken, admitted he was not coping, which meant finally we could start to do something about it. I’m not uncaring, the opposite in fact. And tired – very tired.

There’s lots of information for people suffering from depression – support groups and websites and treatments and medicines. There’s a lot of information about how to help someone you live with if they have depression. What you can do for them.

What’s harder to find is help for the people who live with a depressed person. It’s much like being the father in pregnancy and childbirth. Everyone knows you’re there – in fact you would be criticised if you weren’t – but you are expected to just get on with it because the mum is the important part of the story, the person going through the hormone changes and body changes and birthing pains. Your emotions, fears, worries and the impact on your life is secondary.

Making excuses for depression

It’s hard to talk to friends about my husband’s depression. Firstly, because of his own feelings. He’s embarrassed and ashamed. He feels he is failing us in his role as strong provider. He doesn’t want people to know he is at home and off work, or has, in his view, mental issues. So I can’t go talking freely about what’s happening at home.

That also means I’m constantly trying to think of inventive excuses as to why we can’t go to dinner parties or nights out. Over the last few years he’s been less communicative and friendly when we’ve been out, so the few friends who do still invite us are important to me. It’s rare I get asked anymore, and I hate always turning them down, but turning up alone is awkward. Our circle of friends is diminishing.

My partner has depression

I’m selfishly complaining about my life.

Secondly, I feel like I’m whining. Here I am, healthy, with a home to live in, gorgeous children, food on the table and the occasional holiday. My husband is ill, and I’m complaining about that? How selfish do I sound?

I don’t want to be selfish. I’ve spent 3 years being positive. I’m the optimistic wife, the capable one who manages the house, keeps the appointments, organises the holidays, keep track of the finances.

I’m the parent who always keeps calm, finds a way to divert attention away from the broken glass, the spillages, the lost keys and the puppy accident on the carpet. Because over the last 3 years his ability to deal with these everyday incidents has also lessened, and now the kids are worried the slightest mess will cause a big outburst.

So, yes, maybe I am selfish. But I am so goddamn tired of dealing with everything.

Yes, I am a little embarrassed too.

Thirdly, I’m embarrassed. I am, I admit it. I’m a little embarrassed too. My husband finds everything the kids and I do annoying. I’m embarrassed to admit my kids are a little scared of their daddy’s shouting.

I’m embarrassed that he has been so unsocial, even in public, that he just appears damn rude, but I can’t explain the reasons to people. I’m embarrassed that my house is a pigsty and my kids homework is half-hearted, or not done, and my son is lagging behind in school because as a full time working mum with very little help coming from the other parent, I can’t fit in reading and maths and cleaning as well.

I’m so very angry

It’s hard, too, to watch the man I love change over the years as he gets lower and lower. When we met I was the shy, unconfident one, and he had travelled the world. He could talk to anyone, strike up a conversation in any situation. Everyone loved chatting with him. Seeing him become the surly introvert, losing his friends as they decided he was so difficult, so temperamental, too much hassle to invite out – it’s heart-breaking.

And I’m angry. I’m angry with his friends for not seeing that he is in need. For deserting us, losing patience with him, not understanding, not even trying to find out why.

I’m angry with his parents. They see that he has changed, that he is low, and so they nag me to sort it out. Sort it out! Make him see a GP, they say. If it was so simple, wouldn’t I have done that already? Or, do they also think I am uncaring? Do they blame me?

And I am angry with him – for refusing to get help earlier. Two years ago, one year ago. And even now, when he finally has seen the GP, still refusing to get all the help he can. Because, being a man, he’ll take the medication if he must but he won’t see the counsellor or talk about the causes. No talking, so we are applying a plaster to fix a break.

And finally, I am relieved

I should have got him to the GP earlier. But I couldn’t make him go. I had to wait until he chose to get help. Oh, I told him he was depressed, and scaring the kids. On occasion I lost patience and shouted. Of course I did. But that didn’t get me anywhere.

After years of being outwardly cheerful, being positive, being the person responsible for him in the eyes of his family and friends, I was reaching my own breaking point. Every comment from his parents was a criticism that could reduce me to tears – even when it wasn’t. Every declined invitation felt like the nail in a friendship. Every moment of impatience or irritation felt like a cross in the parenting win list.

My husband has had depression for about 3 years. And I have lived with his depression for about 3 years. I am tired. I’ve spent a long time hovering on the verge of tears. My back is aching, I have tension in my shoulders that feels like stabbing knives and I have a constant migraine. The signs of stress as a visible pain in my body.

I’m tired of smiling, of being the barrier between him and world. I’m tired of dealing with everyone else’s expectations and disapproval. I’m tired of being the only one coping. I’m tired of the constant pressure.

But it’s not about me. He is ill and I am just the passenger.

So, when my husband broke down in front of me and admitted that he could not go to work, that he could not think anymore, that he had considered, and even researched suicide – I was relieved.

Because by finally reaching his low, we can start to climb back up together.


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Living with depression – the other side. — 17 Comments

  1. Oh, you must be tired. He is blessed to have you. I love how you conclude this piece, because it is so filled with hope. Having hit bottom there is nowhere to go but UP! Hope you find skillful help to make the journey with you.
    May recently posted…FrustrationMy Profile

    • It is tiring – very much so. Sometimes I just feel the need to curl up in a warm corner and be quiet for a while. Alone. But, that’s the point, we are not alone and we need to work together. Up – yes, up is the only way.

  2. There’s no group to help support the people who suffer from depression, I get that. You are brave and wonderful. I wish I could say something heartfelt and important, but all I can offer is mental and emotional support. I’m glad you look at this low point as a starting point. Hang in there (there isn’t really too much choice) and be kind to yourself. Stolen moments of relief.
    Valerie Newman recently posted…Ten Things of Thankful – Is It Spring Yet?My Profile

  3. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom and then work your way up. I pray you two can start to get the help he needs. Ain’t no shame in having a mental illness. The brain can only take so much before it sort of checks out and needs to be rebooted. I understand his embarrassment, and it’s hard to convince many men that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, but hopefully he gets over that fast. It’s just another human frailty, like a broken bone or whatever. It needs to be addressed so he can be a happy, healthy part of your lives again. Best of luck to you both!

    • That’s what we tell him – it’s like a broken bone, so we need to put it in splints or plaster or whatever, but just saying it will get better on it’s own is not a fix.

  4. Your husband is a lucky man. And you are a terrific person for researching and understanding that mental illness is not straightforward. And it is a shame that there there are so few resources out there for the spouses/partners of those suffering from depression. This piece of writing is much needed in the mental health awareness circles. Good for you for finding the strength to write it and the courage to hit the publish button.

  5. You are far from alone Piper. Though the details are different, I can definitely relate to this. You’re right there are few support groups for people in this situation. What we can do is take care of ourselves, as best we can, and that helps everyone.
    Yvonne recently posted…Where is Home?My Profile

  6. Sounds like you carry the world on your shoulders with everything going on.
    I don’t know exactly, but I have been in a relationship with a deressed person in the past. We did not have kids. This must be hard, so hard on them too, seeing their father suffer and their mother so stressed.
    I hope you can slowly climb back up, as a family.
    Kerry recently posted…Flower of the Night, #SoCSMy Profile

    • I feel that the world is beating down right now – but there is no room for self-pity here, there are people in the world right now who have lost homes, children, their entire life as they know it. Whining about the pressure I am under, from the comfort of my sofa, heating on, after a full meal, well, it seems a little outrageous.

  7. wow – tired yes… but brave too

    as i was reading your post my first thought was, it is strange how roles come to us – such as who will be the good cop or the bad cop when parenting – and who takes on the brunt in a relationship…. then i read how when you first met, he was the outgoing and charming partner in the relationship; i am certain that back then you never thought you would be where you are today – and yet here you stand… i ask you to feel that its a power your power that came from somewhere a strength that you didn’t know existed, but it did – a never mind the in-laws; yes grieve the lost friendships – but look at yourself be proud you keeping it together for you and your children and the husband too so i think it is always OK to express your feelings too.

    I am sorry there isn’t anything out there for the family members – i hope truly something comes to you –

    hang in there – 🙂
    marisa recently posted…Ten Things of Thankful – Happy Weekend Is Number OneMy Profile

    • Thank you Marisa. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to reply. Our roles change through life and experiences, and as the needs of the people depending on us change. I think we rise to the situation as far as we can, but sometimes it does take it’s toll. x

  8. My dear, all I am is in awe of you. So much of this read like echoes of my own marriage, of my childhood, of the ways my mum must have felt, of the way I felt, and all I can feel is absolute AWE and respect and just…everything, because you still want to work with him to make things better.

    And my goodness, I hope they improve for you. For both of you. For all of you.


    There’s no ‘Wives of Depressed Husbands’ club, but there bloody needs to be. There seriously bloody needs to be.
    Lizzi recently posted…Ten Things of Thankful 142 (Sick note) #10ThankfulMy Profile

    • There does seriously bloody need to be – it’s amazing, once you do get talking, how many people we know who either are suffering themselves or live with someone who does. So – where is all the conversation? It’s bloody hard work – and when we have shitty days ourselves, we have to take that away, push it back down, to keep it from impacting on the person who is depressed, save them from added guilt and shittiness. Argh.

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