Of all of the illnesses that can descend upon a happy family, I consider depression to be among the worst.
Suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in Canada. In my age group, it is the #2 killer, after accidental death. I am more likely to die by suicide than from cancer. I am four times more likely to be killed by myself than by a murderer.
My husband is even higher risk. He has a 20% chance of dying by suicide… that’s a 1/5 chance, worse than a toss of a die.
Shortly after my miscarriage, my husband, who has always been prone to depression, became suicidal. He was committed, he went on short term disability, he got put on a bunch of medications, none of which seemed to help.
For months I spent all day at work worried that I would find a corpse when I came home, and wondering how I would explain his death to our three year old son.
Now he seems to have leveled out a bit, and while he still has suicidal thoughts, the chance of him acting on them is much less. But he’s still unable to work, unable to do much of anything. He’s not himself.
I miss him.
Depression affects the mind and body. Not only is the sufferer often physically unable to function, but they also suffer personality changes. That makes life extremely hard for the spouse, because even though I KNOW it is a disease, even though I KNOW my husband is in pain, even though I KNOW it is out of his control…
I sometimes have to work hard not to get frustrated or angry.
Because, quite honestly… a depressed spouse closely resembles a jackass.
For the past 6 months, I have essentially been acting as a single parent, while my husband lay on the couch.
If I was on the outside of this relationship looking in, and I didn’t know about the depression, I would think my husband was a major ass.
But depression is NOT the same as being an ass, and if you are married to a depressed spouse, there are little things you can look for to assure yourself that, yes, they are, in fact, sick and not actually jackasses or jerks.
How To Tell A Depressed Spouse From A Jackass
- A jackass sleeps in every morning, while you get up with the kids…. But a depressed spouse physically cannot be woken up at times, and may sleep for 24 hours straight.
- A jackass doesn’t help around the house… But a depressed spouse knows that your workload is too heavy and is grateful for any housework you manage to do.
- A jackass leaves you to do the majority of the childcare… But a depressed spouse still exerts special effort to stay involved every now and then. He will physically collapse after attempting this.
- A jackass never wants to do your favourite things with you… But a depressed spouse never wants to do his own favourite things any more, either.
- A jackass snaps at you out of the blue all of the time… But a depressed spouse sometimes cries out of the blue, too.
- A jackass wants to live… But a depressed spouse may not.
All you can do is be as kind as understanding as you can. I like to ask myself, “Would it be okay for me to expect this of him if he had cancer?” or “What would I say if he had cancer, instead of depression?” and then I do that. Because he has a deadly disease, and I need to remember that.
The best thing to remember when trying to get through life with a depressed spouse is to constantly remind yourself of this:
- A jackass will always be a jackass… But a depressed spouse used to help with the housework, used to contribute equally to childcare, used to do fun things with you… and will again some day, when he recovers.
Do any of you have loved ones with depression? How do you cope?
Photo credit to Paranoid Monk. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.