According to allaboutdepression.com, 19 million Americans will suffer from depression during a given year (SOURCE). With rates this high, the world is focused on accurately assessing and treating depression. However, the silent sufferer from depression, the spouse, is often overlooked and forgotten. The trials that the spouse of a depressed individual faces are sometimes just as difficult and overwhelming as those facing the depression sufferer themself. Spouses of depression sufferers are often expected to pick up the slack left, be strong, and be supportive, all while dealing with their own individual ups and downs. The struggle that they undergo is often overlooked and underappreciated.
Seek necessary treatment for your spouse’s depression.
This is the most important thing that someone can take in the battle with depression. If your spouse is depressed and unwilling to seek treatment, it’s important for you to continue to encourage this necessity. If your spouse is still opposed to seeking treatment on their own, consider consulting your physician and discussing the situation. Depression can’t be overlooked, not only for the health of the individual, but for the health of the family unit.
Find someone to talk to about your own feelings.
Seeking counseling for your own feelings when your spouse is suffering from depression is incredibly important. Though regular counseling sessions might not be necessary, consulting a professional about your situation and your own feelings about it can help remind individuals that their own feelings are important, too. Often, individuals dealing with their spouse’s depression put their own feelings, thoughts, wants, and needs on the back burner in order to care for their spouse and offer the help that their spouse needs. While this is admirable, it isn’t healthy. Be sure to make time for your own feelings, and if seeing a counselor is uncomfortable, confide in a friend or start a journal.
Don’t take it personally.
Real, true depression is not the result of something that anyone has said and done. If your spouse is depressed, don’t blame yourself. This won’t help your spouse’s depression, or your own handling of the situation. Though situational depression does exist, major depression is the result of a chemical imbalance. It can often be treated by counseling and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) but for many people the imbalance must be corrected by medicine. Blaming yourself for your spouse’s depression will do nothing but hurt you, and it isn’t justified in most cases.
Read up on depression.
Understanding your spouse’s illness can help you cope, too. Though people don’t often admit it, many truly believe that depression isn’t real, and that the depressed individual can simply snap out of it if they try hard enough. Consider reading books such as The Feeling Good Handbook, by Dr. David Burns, MD, which discusses CBT as a method of treating depression, but also explains the biological components and medication. Other options include Depression Fallout and What to Do When Someone You Love is Depressed, which both attempt to focus on dealing with depression within a relationship. Reading and learning about depression can help a spouse through this difficult time.
Above all, remember to make time for yourself. Don’t lose sight of the love you have for your spouse, even though depression might be coloring that. By seeking treatment for your spouse and yourself, remembering that it isn’t personal, and become knowledgeable about depression, spouses have the potential to become advocates themselves, instead of victims.