Help! My Spouse Is Depressed

When one of the two spouses is depressed, it is at that critical moment in which love is being tested. Not a love of feeling, which may or may not exist at the time, but a love of surrendering, self-giving, forgetting of oneself to help the person you love.  It is in this moment where one can see if the promise “to be faithful in sickness and in health… until death do us part” was sincere.

It will test the patience, perseverance, hope, and ability to be next to the person who suffers without receiving anything positive in return, but instead receiving rejection and indifference.  Isn’t this the way God behaves when facing our sicknesses of the soul?

I know it's not easy. One experiences tiredness; life becomes more and more unbearable when the depressed spouse does not do his/her part, does not want to cooperate, makes everything more difficult with his/her attitude. And I ask, do you know what is to be sick with depression? He or she is sick, that is, unable to lead a normal life. It is not a whim, or something with which the sick person chooses to annoy you. The depressed, more than anyone, would not like to be like that. If you do not accept that your spouse is sick, that he/she is suffering a lot, that he/she needs help, that he/she is asking for help at every moment with his/her attitude, then you will justify hardening yourself, which is the worst thing you can do.

Keep in mind these three things:

You may need the help of a psychologist. Ask a professional to guide you as to what to do, what action to take, what to say, and when to keep quiet. This is especially important in severe cases of depression to avoid the risk that the sufferer might feel tempted to want to end so much suffering by taking his/her own life. It will not be a matter of a day, a week, a month.  It's going to be long and expensive, but you're not alone.

You are not alone. Many times, we forget of our spiritual dimension, that we have a soul. We are not simply hormones, impulses, and genes. Therefore, if my soul is strengthened with the grace of God, I will then be able to fight with more strength, and not lose hope. I will find in God the motivation to fight along with my spouse without falling apart due to the apparent failures. The one who fights is betting on health, on life. A war is not won in a day, nor is lost because there are battles that are not won. Those who have faith notice God by their side. Even if the depressed person is not a believer and it is difficult for he/she to see God, know that He is there, especially close to those who suffer, and who are doing His work.

Distortion of reality. The result of this illness is that your husband or wife has a negative view of life that pushes them to interpret reality in a distorted way. That negative view is of his/her own person, of the world and of the future. And this pushes him/her to act as he/she does.   The negative view of the world makes him/her perceive the demands of the environment as excessive or full of insurmountable obstacles. Therefore, the sick person loses interest in this world, which in his mind does not bring him/her gratifications or joys.  He/she firmly believes that everything negative that he/she now feels and experiences will not change in the future, but that the suffering will be even greater. And the sick person sees herself/himself as inadequate, incompetent, unhappy. He or she is not there in spirit, suffering from a deep sadness, feelings of guilt, and indecision. These all cause him/her to live in despair, in inactivity, in apathy, in continuous weeping, preferring solitude and isolation, although to us it is incomprehensible.

When one is depressed, there is a lack of motivation to live, and a lack of the will to overcome the loss of motivation. The meaning of life is lost, the why, and purpose to live.   Only by recovering that meaning can the person find the motivation to fight. Only God can give us back this motivation, and make us discover again the meaning of life, but He will need one’s collaboration and possibly that of a professional.

A trick perhaps. Do not ask your spouse every day, “How are you?”, since this will sink him/her more, as it leads the person to look at himself/herself and his/her negative mood. It is about the sick person coming out of himself/herself, that he/she stops putting the attention on what he/she feels, of strengthening the will and that he/she can go back to doing the things that he/she did before, despite what he/she feels.  Ask instead, “What have you done today?”, and congratulate him/her even for any minimal effort he/she has made in the activities programmed with the psychologist. Cooperation with the professional is fundamental.

And finally, don’t get tired of waiting, of hoping; don’t get tired of loving, of being unconditionally by his/her side. Let him/her know that he/she can count on you, that you care. It’s worth it. The depressed person is fighting for the life of his/her spouse and the family. When it seems that you can’t do any more, pray more intensely to God, who knows to give us what we need in each moment.

Article contributed by Sr. Virginia Jimenez, S.H.M.