“I’m lucky that my wife still chooses to be with me”, he said. “She’s been through a lot with me. And she has been my support. It happened suddenly about a year after marriage. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, so I didn’t, I didn’t feel like going to the office so I didn’t, I didn’t feel like accompanying my wife for shopping, and so I didn’t. I couldn’t even tell her what was wrong with me because I myself didn’t know. All I knew was I was in this deep dark pit, and felt nobody could pull me out of it. I simply felt like dying. As days passed my wife felt that it was all because of her. Because she had done something wrong. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know how to make her feel okay and I myself didn’t know how to feel okay so that things could improve. I was numb.”
“Depression causes divorce as often as divorce causes depression,” states Peter D. Kramer an American psychiatrist, specializing in the area of clinical depression and a faculty member of Brown Medical School, Rhode Island U.S.
He further states:
“Many studies indicate that divorce results in depression. My belief is that, at least as often, undiagnosed depression antedates and causes divorce. When a patient discovers all sorts of faults in a spouse or lover, or when long-standing complaints suddenly become urgent, I find it useful to consider mood disorder as a possible explanation. Even minor mood disorders can result in a deep sense of dissatisfaction with relationships. …My working hypothesis is that every complaint will look different once the depressed … spouse can again feel pleasure.”
Indeed, depression can erode the intimacy in a marriage and poison the relationship with pessimism, resentment, anger, and isolation. Living with a partner suffering from severe depression can feel like being near a ticking time-bomb. It can create an internal struggle by giving rise to feelings of guilt, anger, and frustration, which need to be suppressed with great difficulty everyday to aid the partner’s recovery.
The spouses of people suffering from depression for the most part in the marriage need to play caretakers. Thus, if they do not take care of themselves they can suffer from stress, feel burned out, irritated, nauseous, have feelings of resentment towards the spouse, all of which that can lead to decreased intimacy in a marriage and finally a breakdown in the marriage.
It is necessary therefore that the person suffering from depression too, despite not wanting to come out of his/her shell takes the initiative to follow a self-care routine which can help him/her cope with the challenge and successfully come out of depression.
In this article we will look at:
Symptoms of depression
Depression in a person can be characterized by a two-week period of continuously feeling any five of the following:
- A loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were earlier very interesting
- Sudden changes in appetite
- Sudden weight gain
- Insomnia/sleeping too much
- Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down
- A continuous feeling of fatigue or feeling drained of energy
- Diminished ability to think, or indecisiveness
- Lack of focus
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Persistent thoughts of death or suicide
The symptoms of depression can also be divided into:
- Behavioural symptoms that include behaviours which are usually not normal such as:
- “I just want to sleep all the time.”
- “I don’t feel like doing anything.”
- “Nothing interests me.”
- “I do not want to be with my friends and just want to be alone.
- “I am worried.”
- “I feel restless.”
- “I don’t know what to do.”
- “I am not interested in sex anymore.”
- Emotional symptoms arise from generally repetitive sad and hopeless thoughts that cause emotional disturbance such as:
- “I feel life is not worth living.”
- “Nobody understands me.”
- “I am feeling overwhelmed.”
- “Nothing seems to make me happy.”
- “I feel like crying all the time.”
- “It is better if I die.”
- “I am so lonely. Nobody needs me”
- “I feel helpless.”
- “Why am I alive? My life is useless.”
- “I am a complete failure.”
- “I don’t deserve happiness.”
- “I don’t enjoy anything anymore.”
- “I am useless.”
- “I am all alone.”
- “Nobody cares for me.”
- “I give up.”
- Cognitive symptoms which show that the person’s ability to think clearly is impaired:
- “I am forgetting things frequently.”
- “I feel confused.”
- “I a not able to take decisions.”
- “I am not able to focus.”
- Physical symptoms which lead the person to complain:
- “I am hungry all the time.”
- “I have no appetite.”
- “I am unable to sleep.”
- “I’m getting fatter and I cannot control it.”
- “I feel drained.”
- “I don’t feel like eating anything.”
- “I want to eat all the time.”
- “I am exhausted all the time.”
- “I feel drained.”
- “I feel lethargic.”
- “I have a headache.”
- “I don’t feel like doing anything.”
Self-care habits to come out from depression in a marriage
If you are one such person who suffers from depression in the marriage and you cannot bear to see your partner walk on eggshells around you at all times, you can make the effort to follow these self-care tips that can help you navigate through depression in a marriage and lead a normal, fulfilling life.
- Acknowledge and express how you feel to yourself and your partner: Since your depression makes it difficult for you to know what you need it becomes even more difficult to express needs to those around you. You may want to disconnect from everything around you for awhile but you need to express this to your partner by saying, “I need some time for by myself for awhile. I know we planned to go shopping today. But can I stay back today?”
As much as you would like not to pull your partner into your deep pit of misery, if he/she does not hear from you how you feel, he/she will feel extremely confused, keep wondering what did he/she do wrong and feel guilty. To save him/her from this misery and also to keep your marriage intact, explain how you feel. If you stay silent your partner may assume a lot of things and makeup stories often blaming himself/herself for this situation. Start by saying, “I know you feel I have not been myself lately. But this is how I feel. ”Relate to him/her hat the problem is not him/her.
Simultaneously, you need to remember that you too are separate from your illness. You are not your depression and therefore you can manage this illness. Tell your partner about the suicidal feelings that can crop up any moment.
The more your partner understands your disease and how it makes you feel, the easier it will be to come out of the depressive episodes together without much marital damage.
- Exercise daily: Studies have shown that patients with depression who exercise for 30 minutes at least three times a week, actually had fewer symptoms of depression compared to patients who only took the prescribed medicines and did not do any exercise.
Exercising releases the feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin, which are the neurochemicals targeted by the popular drugs prescribed for depression by the doctors.
Exercises such as swimming, cycling, jogging, can make you feel refreshed and energized. Activities such as gardening, washing your car, a walk around a park with your pet, can also work wonders to uplift your mood. Yoga and Tai Chi too are known to provide great mental and emotional benefits. Exercising can actually prevent depression from recurring altogether.
- Get sufficient sleep: Sleep deprivation is known to trigger depression and mood disorder. Apart from depression, sleep deprivation is also known to cause serious health issues. It is known to cause memory loss and interfere with the ability to think with clarity. Get a minimum of 8 to 9 hours of sleep everyday.
- Do not miss counseling and therapy sessions: A one-on-one counseling session can be immensely helpful for you if you suffer from depression. Sometimes it is easier to open up to a stranger instead of to family members and friends. Besides, a stranger who is not emotionally involved with you will be able to give you a better perspective, without any form of judgement, or preconceived notions, even if your thoughts, experiences, and feelings sound weird or bizarre. In platforms such as askmile.com, you can engage a counselor of your choice to guide you through this troubled period.
Counseling can help you look after your own well-being and provide you with the tools, guidance, and support to be able to handle things even on the most difficult days. This will make your partner’s role in the marriage easier as well.
- Avoid Narcotics, Alcohol & Smoking: Substance abuse of any kind, including smoking, will hamper the depression treatment.
Alcohol is known to be a depressant, and it would be wise to completely abstain from drinking alcohol, or if that is not possible at least keep a track of how much you are consuming.
Ask for your spouse’s help here if need be.
- Drink plenty of water: Depression can dehydrate you easily. In fact, studies link depression to dehydration because 85% of brain tissue is water. Energy generation in the brain decreases due to dehydration. Make sure you drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
- Journal your way out of depression: Journaling can be highly therapeutic. Many mental health experts suggest journaling to patients of depression as it makes the therapy more effective.
Journaling brings clarity to your mind as you express all that is inside of you and brings about self-awareness.
It can help you clear out your mind and figure out what exactly is bothering you. Clinical psychologist Perpetua Neo, Ph.D., says, “When we write down things they feel more manageable.”
Journaling empowers you by making you take an active role in managing and treating your depression.
Through journaling, you can identify potential triggers that can make your symptoms worse or recognize when you feel worse. You can use your journal as a medium of positive self-talk that can be highly empowering and also write down happy memories that can in a way counter the negative feelings depression brings up.
- Eat healthily: Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet and watch your caffeine intake. Several foods such as almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, vitamin B rich foods, and omega-3 fats can help trigger the production of serotonin which is a natural mood stabilizer.
- Make an effort to maintain a connection with your spouse even when you don’t want to: You may want to retreat into your shell but there will be times in the marriage when your partner will feel immensely lonely. He/she will be there when you need them, but you may not be there when they may need you the most.
So, make it a point to express through little gestures how much your spouse means to you and how much you appreciate his/her support.
It could be writing notes, buying some flowers, or telling them to hang out with other family members and close friends because you are not upto it. That way your partner will not feel isolated in the marriage and will know that no matter what, you care for him/her even though there are times you are unable to show it the way they may want you to.
- When you are ready show it: There are days when you may suddenly feel good and energetic. It means you are back.
Make sure that you announce to your partner that you feel good and that you are reconnecting back.
This may come as a shock to your partner especially if you had withdrawn to your shell during the depressive phase without letting him/her know. They may feel confused and not know how to connect with you. So, make it a point to clearly state that now you are feeling okay or good even and are looking forward to reconnecting and spending time together again.
Depression can certainly be a strain on your marriage, but the marriage need not crumble under its weight. As long as you proactively take steps to manage the illness and work as a team in the marriage, you can successfully stay connected and overcome the challenge.