Monitor Your Own Moods And Thinking
Enduring barrages of negative comments, holding the household and family together, and losing the sweetest, most supportive aspects of your marriage isnt easy. Over months and years, the non-depressed spouse may give in to confusion, self-blame, demoralization, and resentment, notes Anne Sheffield, author of Depression Fallout: The Impact of Depression on Couples and What You Can Do to Preserve the Bond. You may conclude that you must leave to save yourself. If this sounds familiar, get help for yourselfand insist that your mate do the same. Depression separates couples with surgical skill and is a major home-breaker, Sheffield wrote in her book.
Support Them During Treatment
If your partner decides to go with some type of therapy, support group, or treatment plan, its a good idea to celebrate it. You may tell them how brave you think they are, for example. Say something like, Im so proud of you for prioritizing your mental health. Its a really big deal.
To help them in the process, you might want to offer practical help. For example, offer to drive them to therapy, wait in the waiting room while they attend a session, or plan a debrief afterward so they can tell you how it went if that is something theyre OK with.
If theres medication involved, you may want to learn more about dosage, times, and side effects. You could also encourage them to work with a therapist, explaining the importance of getting medical advice, before they make any changes to their medication on their own.
Tell Her Shes Doing A Good Job
Your wife needs to hear that shes doing a good job.
She needs to hear that you believe in her and that things are getting better.
Ideally you can be specific. Try to find things that shes doing well that you can praise her for. Heres an example:
“Good job watching Eden this morning! I saw how cranky she was, so it’s really impressive that you kept your cool. That seems like great progress!
See, there youre being specific about something she did. It doesnt matter whether you saw something she could have done better, or if it wasnt perfect, just praise her!
Even if you cant be specific, or if you think that anything specific will come off as pressuring her to perform, go for the supportive side Say stuff like, I know this is hard, but I really think youre doing an amazing job at this.
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What You Eat And Drink Can Also Affect How You Feel
Theres no magic diet that will treat depression. But what you put into your body can have a real and significant impact on the way you feel.
Eating a diet rich in lean meats, vegetables, and grains may be a great place to start. Try to limit stimulants like caffeine, coffee, and soda, and depressants like alcohol.
Some people also and have more energy when they avoid sugar, preservatives, and processed foods.
If you have the means, consider meeting with a doctor or registered dietitian for guidance.
Professional Treatment For Depression In Men
If support from family and friends and positive lifestyle changes arent enough, seek help from a mental health professional. Be open about how youre feeling as well as your physical symptoms. Treatments for depression in men include:
Therapy. You may feel that talking to a stranger about your problems is unmanly, or that therapy carries with it a victim status. However, if therapy is available to you, it can often bring a swift sense of relief, even to the most skeptical male.
Medication.Antidepressant medication can help relieve some symptoms of depression, but it doesnt cure the underlying problem and is rarely a long-term solution. Medication also comes with side effects. Even if you decide that medication is right for you, always pursue self-help steps as well. Therapy and lifestyle changes can address the underlying causes of your depression to prevent it returning when youre able to come off antidepressants.
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Dont Try To Fix It Its Not Yours To Fix
Sound familiar? This is very similar to my first piece of advice if your wife is having an episode, and thats because this fact forms the foundation of how you help your wife through PPD.
This “Fixer” mindset will be your Achilles’ heel.
Im a fixer by nature, so this was a HUGE struggle for me. If I see a problem, I want to fix it. And if I cant fix it, that means Im doing a bad job.
The thing is, your job right now is not to FIX your wifes postpartum depression.
Why? Because its not yours to fix. You cant fix it.
Your job is to support your wife, love her, encourage her, forgive her All of that. But not to fix her. You just cant be the one to do that.
This fixer mindset will be your Achilles heel. It certainly was for me.
Trust me, I tried many, many times to fix my wife’s postpartum depression for her, in many different ways. It only made things worse.
Your wife can and will find her way out of postpartum depression. But only she can do it. You cant do it for her.
Meet Yourself Where You Are
Depression is common. It affects millions of people, including some in your life. You may not realize they face similar challenges, emotions, and obstacles.
Every day with this disorder is different. Its important to take your mental health seriously and accept that where you are right now isnt where youll always be.
The key to self-treatment for depression is to be open, accepting, and loving toward yourself and what youre going through.
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Be Mad At The Situation Not Your Spouse
This is much easier said than done, but do your best to be mad at the situation, not your spouse. As you might already know, attacking your partners personhood or character is not a positive way to go. In fact, this could even cause them to spiral further into depression.
When all else fails, try to remember that your partner is not making a conscious decision to feel bad. At the end of the day, their mood swings are not your fault or theirs.
Dont Wait For Your Spouse To Hit Bottom
Letting a depressed person sink low before offering help is an old-school approach borrowed from the early days of alcohol and drug addiction treatment. But the reasoning behind it is flawed and dangerous. Long-term depression is harder on your marriage, tougher to treat, and more likely to recurplus, it leaves its victim in despair, Walfish says. The most chilling risk: It leaves open the very real possibility of suicide. About 60 percent of people who attempt suicide have major or minor depression or another mood disorderand depressed men are four times more likely than depressed women to take their own lives, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Dont miss these 14 signs of suicide.
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Pick Your Battles & Respect Her Limits
If there is something that you disagree about, let her have the final call, especially if it affects her more than you.
Ok, I have to give some background on. Here are two examples where I did NOT follow this advice:
I Pushed Too Hard For Breastfeeding
Both times that Kalee suffered from postpartum depression, there were major instances when I held on to what I wanted for too long.
If I could go back in time, I would say, “Kalee, I trust that you know your limits better than I do.”
After Eden was born, it was the breastfeeding. I really wanted to wait at least 6 months before even starting to introduce formula. This is something Id decided before Eden was born, and I stuck to it even though Eden had a tongue-tie and even though our pediatrician wanted us to start using formula at the 3-month mark.
Kalee was pumping around the clock and Eden still wasnt getting enough, but I held onto what I thought was the right decision.
I refused to see that the added pressure or breastfeeding was killing my wife, and that despite what the breastfeed-only camp would have me believe, formula wouldnt ruin my daughters development. In fact, it helped it because she was finally getting enough to eat.
If I could go back in time, the moment that Kalee told me that she wanted to start using formula, I would do one thing I would say, Okay, I trust your judgment.
I Pushed Too Hard For Foster Care
With our foster son, we were in a similar-but-different situation.
Questions To Figure Out The Impact Of Their Symptoms
These arent questions to diagnose whether or not your partner has depression, anxiety, bipolar, or related disorders. Thats something for you both to find out with the help of a mental health professional.
Instead, these questions are designed to help you determine if your partners symptoms are getting the upper hand:
- Are you sleeping more or less than you normally do?
- Are you eating more or less than you normally do?
- Are you tasting your food when you eat?
- Do you feel tired no matter how much you sleep?
- Are you capable of enjoying things right now?
- Is it hard for you to do personal grooming?
- Are you having thoughts of your own death?
Karen reminds us that theres a difference between simply feeling down and experiencing symptoms of clinical depression. These questions help determine which is happening.
Julie says that, as a partner, you probably already know the answer to these questions, but asking them helps your partner feel respected and gives them agency.
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Be An Active Listener
Depression may impact cognitive functioning, like concentration and decision-making. It can also be hard for some people to put feelings into words.
If your loved one seems like they want to talk, offer to be present and provide a listening ear.
Its important to validate their experience by reflecting what youve heard back to them. If they say something like, I feel like theres no reason to get out of bed, try saying something like, It sounds like youre searching for a sense of meaning.
If they present a problem and seem unsure of how to fix it, ask them what they are hoping to get out of the conversation. Ask, Are you looking for my advice on this, or do you need to vent? Oftentimes, those with depression just want someone to listen, without attempting to fix anything.
As they open up to you about what theyre feeling, you may want to reassure them that you love them and that you are here for them.
Those who live with depression often feel guilty for the burden they feel they are putting on others. It may be a relief to learn you arent going anywhere.
What To Do When Your Wife Is Depressed
Many men struggle with how to help when their wives are depressed. Having a depressed partner is obviously difficult for either gender, but men have often been trained by society to add value in any given situation. Not being able to solve the problem of a depressed spouse may therefore be highly frustrating for them. Instead of feeling helpless, there are some concrete steps that men can take to try and help wives who struggle with depression, and these steps will often also benefit their marriages and families as well. This post is for those whose wives have been formally diagnosed with depression as well as those who have not . It is even for men whose wives do not say or even know that they are depressed, but after research, the man concludes that depression is likely responsible for his wifes change in mood and behavior.
Having a depressed wife is a very difficult situation, and no man wishes for it. However, if you commit to trying all of the above suggestions, it is highly likely that things will improve, at least to some degree. At the very least, you will know youre doing all you can and being the best husband and man that you can be, for the sake of your wife, your kids if you have them, and yourself. Best of luck, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, And Of Course Gender-Reverse This If Applicable, Or I Have ThesePostsOnDepressedHusbands.
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Dont Withdraw From The Relationship
I know when Iâm depressed, my instinct is to shut down. Thatâs a mistake, marriage and family therapist Vonda Schaefer told me. âDonât give into that call to isolate and withdraw from your spouse,â she said. âNot only will your depression worsen, but your marriage will be weakened.â Even if you arenât feeling up for deep conversation, Schaefer said to find small ways to stay engaged. She suggested planning healthy meals togetherâa win-win scenario because nutritious foods can help shorten the duration of a depressed period and âsharing the load of lifeâ reminds us that we arenât alone.
Ask About Suicidal Thoughts
Be aware if your spouse begins giving away prized possessions or admits to feelings of hopelessness or unbearable pain. A suicidal person doesnt so much want to end life as to escape the pain. They are too tired to fight to live anymore. They just want to get away from the hurt, the confusion, the darkness.
A gentle way to approach this subject of suicidal thoughts would be to say something along these lines: Honey, theres been a lot going on lately. Have you been doing OK? Ive been concerned. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Have you had any thoughts of hurting yourself?
Do not leave your spouse alone if you think they are suicidal. Remove any firearms in the home. Having thoughts of suicide is a medical emergency. Call 911 and tell the operator that your spouse is at risk of hurting themselves or potentially someone else. If you feel your life is in danger, seek a safe place. Keep your phone with you and stay in contact with the 911 operator.
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Remember To Take Care Of Yourself
It can be very stressful coping with another person’s depression. It’s OK to take some time out for yourself. Self-care is not selfish. In fact, you’ll both be better off if you carve out time to safeguard your mind, body, and spirit with habits like:
- Spend time in nature
- Stay socially connected
Caring for yourself might also mean knowing when it’s time to say goodbye. Certainly, this decision should be weighed carefully , but you may need to walk away if you or your children’s emotional or physical well-being or safety is at risk.
Encourage Them To Seek Professional Support
As much as you may want to support them in all aspects, remember, you are not your partners therapist. Its important to know your limits and how to encourage seeking out the support of a professional.
Its a good idea to try a gentle approach. You may try something like, I think youre doing a great job handling this I know its not easy. I want to see if were doing everything we can to get through this. What do you think about working with a therapist, to give us more tools to work with?
You might want to suggest couples counseling, especially if the symptoms of depression are affecting your communication or sex life. If your partner would prefer to go alone, let them know that you think thats a great idea too.
If your partner is not ready for a therapist, you may suggest a support group or scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician.
Its a good idea to reassure your partner of your motive you want to see them as happy and healthy as possible.
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Dont Try To Force The Mood To Go Away
It’s not that you’re not allowed to help your wife feel better. It’s that you can’t make her feel like the only way she’s doing a good job is if she immediately feels better.
Along the same lines as the first one, you really, really have to get rid of the fixer mindset.
Know this: Nothing you say or do will instantly make her feel better.
Therefore, your goal is not to make her feel better in the moment… Your goal is to help her find the tools she needs to start working out of the funk. Theres no shortcut. Dont try to make her feel better. It will just come off as presumptuous and controlling.
Here are some of my most common mistakes that I learned to avoid:
You can’t make her feel like the only way she’s doing a good enough job is if the depression goes away.
- I tried to correct her feelings or tell her why she should feel better.
- I tried to tell her its not that bad.
- I tried to tell her that she could feel better if she wanted to, that she was in control of her feelings. This is not true when you’re suffering from a mental illness!
Admit That You Cannot Cure Your Partners Depression
Your spouse needs your love, support, and concern, but these important qualities cant reverse depression any more than they can control blood sugar, ease arthritis pain, or clear out clogged arteries. Just as you wouldnt rely on love alone to cure a medical conditionor withdraw love because it didntdont expect that your feelings or attention will be able to alter your spouses off-kilter brain chemistry. Use your love to get help and to remind your partner of his or her intrinsic worth during this challenging time, Walfish advises.
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