Caring for a Depressed Spouse or Family Member

Everyone was deeply hurting. She’d been admitted to the very stigmatized psychiatric ward 21. The doctors were insistent; she couldn’t be left alone. They’d hold her for at least three weeks. She’d not be released without the family putting in place 24/7 care for her.shutterstock_289596209_PRESS

She had a fragile mind from her youth. Suffering from sickle cell anemia, she had a major surgery before she was four years old. There were hardly days she wasn’t sick, and she often needed blood transfusion.

Life presented her challenges early. Often she got sick and we went in panic mode thinking this was gonna be her last day. While my parents hurried her to the hospital, there were church friends left to care for us and praying.

She grew up a complicated teenage girl, extremely moody.  A tough cookie my parents were not accustomed to. She challenged the family rules; she had questions about God. If He existed why does He allow her sufferings? Questions you ask when pain visits your house.

Her mind grew more fragile as her questions were not sufficiently answered. She compared herself to her more healthy siblings. She became increasingly dissatisfied with her slender appearance and insecure.

Not the brightest in school, she was too often absent to make the best grades, another demon that plaques her mind. It’s like a scale that’s growing increasingly unbalanced, tipping more and more towards depression by the weight of things life stacked against her.

Our constant encouragement didn’t seem to last past a day, sometimes hours. We just couldn’t make her happy; God knows we tried. We referred to her at times as being miserable.  None of us thought she was depressed.

Certainly back then, before the advent of the internet, I don’t remember hearing of a depressed teenager.  Our inexperience made us think she’d one day just magically snap out of it and learn to control her thoughts. It never happened.

 

Marriage

I was very concerned when she was to marry at first. I wondered how patient her husband would be. However for reasons other than the depression the marriage lasted less than two years and produced a sweet baby girl.

The baby was born with cleft lip and palate. Our family became worried about how she would handle a child with a disability. The family rallied around much. I had her over for two weeks after her hospital release, so I could help her with the baby and the challenge of feeding.

These horrific experiences were placed in her mental scale that was already unbalanced and further tipped it. Life happens, and life happens to everyone. Sometimes you are given a longer break between battles than at other times.

Years passed and she found love again, but how much was he prepared for the journey ahead? He thought he was. He knew her since they were teenagers. He was aware of her illness and challenges.

They had their challenges; the question is which marriage doesn’t? She gave birth to their son. Months later an argument escalated into verbal attacks and almost got physical, so the police intervened.

 

The diagnosis

This incidence landed her in a hospital where she was diagnosed with post partum depression. At a later evaluation she was said to be suffering from a chronic depression labeled bipolar and schizophrenia.

We learned that years of earlier depression was left untreated as she was really just thought to be miserable, touchy, defensive by family and close friends, who were unaware that beneath was mental illness brewing.  Psychiatric treatment was very costly, a reason a lot of people go untreated in addition to the stigma.

That incidence led to a few brief separations in the marriage and ultimately separation, which landed her on the psychiatric ward, a most devastating blow to her.  It challenged us mentally, spiritually as it left many unanswered questions. It challenged us financially as now the family had to organize to take on her entire care and that of her kids.

 

Caring for the mind

Today no matter where in the world you live you know something about proper hygiene. You know maybe everything you need to know about exercising to keep your body fit. You know how to care for your fingers, toes and your hair. Teenagers know how to care for their faces and skin, but how does one care for their mind?

There are questions and many conflicting answers. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:25, “with the mind I myself serve the law of God” (NKJ). Can you truly serve God with an unhealthy mind like you can with an unhealthy body?

 

Key facts

According to World Health Organization here are some key facts:

Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

More women are affected by depression than men.

At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

There are effective treatments for depression.

 

Tips for spouses

This means that there are many marriages worldwide that are experiencing a depressed spouse. There are challenges you will face while catering to their moods.

Never stop telling your spouse you love him/her even if they seem not to receive it. This will help counteract their self hate

Never stop assuring him/her that they are very good at what they do. That helps to reassure them when there is self doubt.

Take them out often; help them to play and laugh. They are also fighting fatigue and a lack of motivation.

Hugs are reassuring and make us all feel secure. Hug him/her often. Sometimes they become anxious, wondering if you can handle their challenge.

If they’re in counseling, it’s important to attend the sessions with them. You will learn more about depression and caring for a fragile mind.

In sickness and in health could be taken to mean a healthy body only, but seek strength to support and care for an unhealthy mind until it becomes whole again.

 

God’s word

Here are a few scriptures that you could share with your spouse. Memorize them and recite them daily.

2 Timothy 1:7

Psalms 34:17-18

Philippians 4:6

Proverbs 12:25

Isaiah 26:3

Pray often with your depressed spouse. A morning prayer does wonders for the rest of your day. Help them to organize their day by praying first thing in the mornings and casting off all their anxieties on God.

Lastly, take care of yourself while caring for a depressed spouse. Ask for help when you need it from close family members and friends. Most groups that cater to persons with depression also cater to their spouse and family.

Find a support group where you learn of the challenges of others dealing with a depressed spouse. You will learn how others love their spouse in their most unlovable times.

In the advent of the Internet, there’s a lot of help and knowledge for free at your fingertips. Educate yourself on these issues and always remember: anyone can become depressed. You never know what life will throw at you tomorrow. You never know if you’ll catch it or drop the ball.

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