Raina with a chronic illness is pleased to introduce her guest, Elizabeth Holly, from chronic wonderer. picture of Elizabeth HollyElizabeth Holly is a Women’s Fiction writer and blogger with a BA in English & Creative Writing. She writes about chronic and mental illness, self-care and loves talking about books. Check out her blog, A Chronic Wanderer where Elizabeth shares her journey as a writer living with chronic and mental illness and encourages others to create and thrive despite their illnesses. You can find her on her blog at www.elizabethholly.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Depression

Everyone gets sad, frustrated or struggles with sleep from time to time. That is a normal part of life. Depression, as in major depression or clinical depression, is a common but severe form of depression that lasts for longer than 2 weeks. It is a combination of symptoms, including irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, …changes in appetite or sleep patterns, feelings of worthlessness or guilt or helplessness, a loss of enjoyment in your usual activities, and possibly suicidal thoughts. Depression affects the ability to feel, think, and handle daily activities. Yet, men and women display their symptoms differently making it difficult to diagnose men in a timely manner.

All of this can be detrimental to a relationship or marriage.

My Experiences with Major Depression and a Spouse who also Suffers from Depression

Unhappy, Man, Mask, Sad, Face, Sitting, Depressed

As a long-time sufferer of Depression, I told my husband up front that it was something we would deal with. But that warning hadn’t been enough when a depressive episode hit. Diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder (MDD), I’ve dealt with the darkness of depression since childhood but nothing prepared me to deal with it within a marriage or while raising kids.
My husband had been trying to transition from working at his current job to working for himself with a partner. Things fell through with the partner and they never finished their business plans. Naturally, he was in a funk. A major one.
We argued over unimportant things, snapped at each other and stopped showing each other the compassion we each deserve. What clicked for me was when I realized that I was just as easy to argue with him or even pick fights. Moody and tired, I realized I hadn’t been sleeping well and struggled to enjoy my usual hobbies. I stopped caring about TV shows or movies, books or writing. I’d also started watching more dark and depressing shows or documentaries than usual. Those were some of my signs I’d entered a depressive episode but I’d missed them.
That’s when it clicked for me. We weren’t upset with each other; we weren’t even upset with ourselves. We were dealing with depression and it caused us to lash out at each other unexpectedly. But deep down, I knew that neither of us wanted that and one of us would have to recognize the problem if we had any chance of fixing it. Me.
I had to be our advocate because I had the foresight and experience to be able to recognize the signs, only because I’d familiarized myself with the facts of depression and how they affect men and women differently.

Dealing with Depression

More than 5 million men in the U.S. experience depression each year.
Depression can affect marriage in many profound ways. So what do you do if you or your spouse suffers from depression?
  1. Know the symptoms – knowing the symptoms can help to prepare you for dealing with depression.
  2. Know the differences in the way they can manifest in men versus women can help to identify if that might be what’s happening to you or your spouse. There is no set standard outside of the symptoms themselves.
  3. Know that everyone is different and is not expected to show every symptom to have depression.

The Differences of Depression in Men and Women

signs of depression in men and women

This could also include Substance Abuse, forgetting or struggling to pay bills even if the money is available, struggling to balance finances, and other research has found that because of cultural pressure to act “manly,” men may feel that it is weak to show despair or self-doubt. So instead of self-doubt men can become irritable and angry. Men are also more concerned about the social stigma attached to depression because doctors considered it a women’s disorder.

If You are Suffering from Depression:

  • Educate yourself on all possible symptoms of depression and understand that you won’t get all of them.
  • Communicate with your partner openly about what you have experienced and how it has affected you.
  • Respond honestly if they ask questions that you aren’t ready to respond to yet. If it is something you are uncomfortable with, tell them and do your best to explain why you’re uncomfortable.
  • Try to identify when you first felt symptoms and how long ago.
  • Seek treatment from a licensed professional for a proper diagnosis and for a treatment plan. Getting treatment early can prevent the symptoms from worsening
  • Depression can make you more negative which can lead to more fights, be honest if you think this is a factor and tell your partner so they can remove themselves if necessary. People fighting depression can have a tendency to pick fights.
  • If talking face to face is too difficult, write e-mails, leave notes, or write short letters.
If Your Spouse is Suffering from Depression:
  • Believe them when they explain their symptoms. Trust is invaluable.
  • Educate yourself on depression to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments.
  • Understand their depression isn’t about you or because of you. It’s not even something they did, it is a medical condition. You can’t fix them and that’s okay.
  • Don’t ask questions if they aren’t open to them, yet. Reconfirm your support. Tell them you are there for them when they are ready to talk (don’t say if). Chances are no one wants to talk about their depression but by saying “when” it informs them that this wasn’t a one-time offering and you will hear them out.
  • Assure them you are there for them even when they don’t want to talk. Even if that means sitting with them quietly. Show them you are there.
  • Engage them, encourage them to be active but don’t push.
  • Suggest talking to a doctor but don’t push it. Be sensitive to their concerns about seeking help.
  • Remember that they don’t want to feel the way they do, no one does.  They may lash out, this isn’t easy to control, there is no on-off switch. Be compassionate but it is not an excuse for abuse.
  • Remember that depression can affect libido so encourage being close but don’t push for an outcome.
  • If your partner picks a fight, don’t give in. They may not see right away what they are doing but if you can, remove yourself from the situation, do not prolong a fight. It can only tear your relationship further apart. Instead, try to diffuse the situation.

Some Important Resources

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Author

Raina is a psychology student who understands the importance of caring for mental health. She blogs about depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, men and mental health and parenting kids with ADHD.

12 Comments

  1. This is a great post – we need more people like you talking about depression and mental illness to reduce stigma and let others know they’re not alone. So brave, so wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

    • Katherine,

      I appreciate your kind words. I hope others will be able to share their experiences with mental illness and how it affects their loved ones.

  2. This is a very informative post on an extremely important topic. Thank you so much for sharing. Unless you live with mental illness yourself, it can be difficult to understand how it can affect a relationship. When both people in the relationship have mental illness, it can make for difficult times.

    • Malinda,

      One can only get the full picture of living with mental illness from the experience itself. When both partners are dealing with mental illness in a relationship, it surely makes things a lot more complicated. Thanks for your thoughtful input.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience with depression in relation to marriage, Elizabeth Holly. (I’ve visited your blog and enjoyed reading your posts!). I can imagine how hard it is to juggle kids and relationships when you are going through depression. Even those without find life quite hectic to manage. The tips you’ve offered are effective. Communication is the greatest gateway to solving any health issue because that’s where empathy starts, followed by treatment. Wonderfully written post! Thank you!

    Thank you Raina.

    • Vidya,

      I am sure Elizabeth Holly would appreciate your kinds words. I am honored to have had her on my blog for a guest post.

  4. Thank your for sharing this. I hit a massive depressive state just 2 months after getting married and I struggled to communicate it with my husband. As much as he tried to help me through it, I couldn’t understand it 100%. All I can say is that I’m so grateful that he stuck by me and tried to help even when it was difficult and he had no clue what was going on.

    • Nicole,

      I am sorry to hear you had a massive depressive state just after getting married, it must be difficult for both of you. I am happy to hear he stuck by your side even when he had no clue what you were going through. He is one of the good ones.

  5. Felicia Austin Reply

    I have suffered depression my whole life and just this past year my husband was diagnosed with depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety. You are right when you say the symptoms may be different in men than in women. I will go into a silent state and don’t want to be talked to touched or even looked at. My husband on the other hand gets mad a silly things and gets frazzled easily. I really enjoyed reading this post!

    • Felicia,
      I am sorry to hear about your family diagnosis. In my opinion, I think it helps that you have experience with depression, this will provide you with an in-depth understanding of what your husband is experiencing. I am glad that you have educated yourself on the subject matter and know the signs and symptoms in men versus women. I am thrilled to know that you enjoyed this article.

  6. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish depression from life in general. Because reading at some points for depression, we often find ourselves in these situations even with not dealing with an illness. But the general point you made with this article is true. We have to educate ourselves and be more compassionate with other people, spouses because life can be hard with or without an illness.

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