Dealing with Depression (When it’s Not Yours)

It’s been almost two years now since CBG was diagnosed with, and began treatment for, major depressive disorder.

I was the one who urged him to see his doctor to begin with. It can be easy to miss the signs of depression, particularly in yourself. And especially since we all have an idea of what depression is “supposed” to look like, and when it doesn’t, it can be easy to pass it off as something else. Or even worse – as nothing at all.

I’d like to say that since beginning treatment, things have gotten back to normal. The truth is that they haven’t. Yes, there has been a big improvement, but in the last two years we’ve faced a lot of extra challenges. We’ve dealt with CBG being additionally diagnosed with ADHD, then losing his job and going through an extended period of unemployment, before beginning a new job back in late spring. We’ve dealt with me changing jobs not once, but twice in the last year. So to say that we’ve dealt with our share of challenges recently would be a bit of an understatement.

In the interests of honesty, I’ll admit that it’s been a tough go these past two years. CBG and I haven’t exactly been our best selves. We haven’t always been putting the effort into our marriage that we should. Some days, some weeks, some months have been worse than others. But still — we are trying.

Continuing with the theme of full disclosure, I’ll also admit that it’s been tough for me, dealing with CBG’s depression. I know it makes me a bit of a selfish arsehole to say it, but those of you who have lived through a spouse’s depression know what I’m talking about. This is particularly true for those of us (like me) who struggle with their own mood. As I’ve written about before, winter is always a tough time for me, mentally and emotionally. Add to that a depressed spouse and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years, about having a depressed spouse. I’ve learned how easy it can be to empty your own emotional tank while trying to carry the load for two people. And how once that tank gets emptied, it’s often filled back up with anger and resentment, with a good-sized chunk of guilt thrown in for good measure. I’ve learned that self-care is more important than ever, but can very easily fall by the wayside. I’ve learned that it can be very easy to blame oneself for how your spouse is feeling, even though logically you know that its just stupid brain chemistry to blame. I’ve learned that (for me, at least) it can be very easy to get sucked into the vortex of negative feelings along with your spouse. And when that happens, instead of being able to lift one another up, all you do is pull each other down deeper. Like two drowning people with no life preserver in sight.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As part of closing the gap and being the person that I want to be, I know that I have to take greater responsibility for me and my own self care. That means taking a step backwards, away from CBG, in order to give both of us the space that we need to figure out our own individual stuff and do something about it. For me it’s about taking responsibility for myself – my thoughts, my mood, my actions – and doing something about them. It’s about encouraging CBG from the sidelines, from a loving distance. I can’t be responsible for the two of us. I’ve tried that route and it hasn’t been good for either one of us. And frankly, that’s not the person that I want to be. And I’m pretty sure that’s not the wife that CBG wants, either.

So (for right now at least) I am focusing a bit more on me. On my own health. My own self care. My own actions and attitudes. My hope is that CBG will be inspired to do the same, but the truth is that if he isn’t, I can’t be the one to wear it. I love him and I love myself too much to allow that to happen.

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