Thursday, October 12, 2006

Living with Depression -- Lesson #1

Hello. My name is Lisa. My husband suffers from Major Depressive Disorder. I know there's Al-Anon, but is there a support group out there for spouses and family members who live with people suffering from depression? I have thought for a number of years that perhaps other people could benefit from my experience and what I have learned living with a depressed person. Perhaps it's time I started sharing those things here.

I'll start at the beginning. Eric and I were married on June 17, 1989 -- on Eric's 30th birthday! I don't think I realized at the time the extent of Eric's depression. But I knew without a doubt that I was to marry this man. I believe that God placed Eric in my heart even before that first blind date we had. Eric would likely say that he has battled depression since his late teens. It's been a long road for him.

The first couple of years of marriage were typical -- sorting out the workings of a marriage. Eric was working at a Christian college and seminary as the athletic director and was also teaching counselling labs, so obviously his hours varied from my standard office hours. There were days that he just couldn't get out of bed and that was my first experience with him when he was depressed. I didn't quite know what to do with him -- I had little or no understanding of his depression and how best I could love him. I often tried to talk to my mother about Eric when he was depressed, but she had no understanding of the illness and her response ("What do you mean, he can't get out of bed? You just get up and go to work!") wasn't really helpful to me. I loved my mother dearly, but at one point I made a decision that I couldn't talk to her about Eric's depression because it negatively affected my response to Eric. I have to say this about my mother ... She passed away just over four years ago and in the last years of her life, she made a real effort to understand the illness of depression. She was so committed to praying for Eric because she realized that was about the only thing she could do. One of the last things she told Eric was that she would pray for him until she had no more breath -- and that was about a week before she went home to be with Jesus.

So lesson No. 1, if there is a series of lessons here, is that it is actually helpful to talk to somebody, to share about the difficulties, and to pray together with someone. But it is important to choose someone who will really listen to you, someone who has an understanding of what depression is about, and someone who can give you wise counsel.

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