supporting loved one with depression

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Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 1491
   Posted 5/31/2009 10:24 PM (GMT -6)   
hi all, haven't really posted here before but I am really needing some advice or a place to start. My husband has always suffered from depression. At times if feels like our house lives with a black cloud over it. Sometimes he is great and happy and loving and other times it just feels like he does nothing but mope and sulk and refuse to talk. I have always tried to be patient, and he knows that he needs help. He has finally decided to go get some counseling, is going to start some cognitive therapy and some medications with the hope that the combination of the three might give him a better outlook on life. My biggest problem is I am not overly convinced he wants to change. I feel sometimes like he is happy being miserable. I know its an awful thing to say but I feel like at times he will use any reason he can to feel sorry for himself. For example we cannot even have a discussion about what is bothering me because he never really listens to what I am saying but instantly goes to the stand point of that he is a bad person, stupid, worthless, etc. Basically our conversation turns into a pity party with him curled up in a ball refusing to talk any more. I am sure you can understand my frustrations. I honestly love my husband, we just had a baby together a year ago and we are expecting another in December. I want to support him, he says he needs my support to change but I also feel like sometimes by being supportive and understanding I am enabling him too much by not really putting the pressure on him to try to think positively and stop the negative talk about himself. I guess what i am asking is how do you support someone who is depressed? How can I keep a bit of pressure on him to put the work in but at the same time not enable him to continue to be self destructive? I guess I just need to know where to begin, how much of this to take on. I am worried that he will fail in the attempt to find some way to change things and use it as another reason to be depressed, if that makes sense?? Moderator for HIV/AIDS Forum
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Elite Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 20279
   Posted 6/1/2009 7:44 AM (GMT -6)   
hi acaisha, jamie here.
sometimes the best thing you can do is to do nothing, esp with the enabling. how to make this person be aware, of not just you, but the bub, and the one on the way is to not endulge his negative self talk-for you i would suggest how can i reach him, what will help him realise what he is missing out on? you, who loves him, his child and the one on the way, well acaisha there are many ways to skin a cat, excuse the skinned cat pun, but seriously, if you went away for a few days, with bub, will this help? not to enrage, but what will make him tink of the priorities that he is missing?
i do not know him, i do however understand depression. hoping i have helped a bit. jamie, male, 37. mdd, severe borderline personality disorder.

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 6/1/2009 8:21 AM (GMT -6)   

Hello acaisha

It is great to see you here my friend and may I commend you on looking for ways to help support your husband and to understand depression.

I am the depressed spouse at our home. I am going to try to answer some questions for you and please remember I am in no way judging anyone. 

The harmful effects of depression are not limited to the person diagnosed with that disorder. Clearly, depression in one marital partner can affect that person’s spouse. In fact, depression in a marriage often disrupts communication and social patterns and can even contribute to depressed mood in the “non-depressed” spouse.

The first and most important thing you can do is to find ways to remind yourself that your spouse or partner is ill—not hostile, not out to get you, not stubborn, not any of a dozen unfriendly things you might feel like calling him  when you are at your wit’s end. Diagnosed depression is much like diabetes or heart disease from the perspective that it is a chronic illness that requires special attention and considerable patience.

Patience of this magnitude is a tall order. It will help if you have a good friend, a supportive family member, a pastor, a therapist, or some other caring person in your life to listen to you and help to shore you up during the hard times. Recovery from depression often takes longer than the ill person or the people surrounding him or her think they can stand. You need someone to be in your corner!

Not going for treatment is generally not a reflection of irresponsibility. It’s part of the illness. A sense of hopelessness is common to all depressive illnesses and may be the very thing that keeps your spouse from getting needed help! You can gradually turn responsibility back over to him or her when he or she has accepted the diagnosis and is actively working on getting better.

I think it is a positive sign that he is going to get some counseling.  It is a huge step for him and I hope that he is on the road to recovery.  Your supporting him is awesome as I know my husband gets upset with me and when he does I feel like I am a failure because I cannot be happy.  I have learned in therapy many ways to work my way through a bad day and I have hope that your husband will too.

Please know we support you and I am glad you felt comfortable in  coming here and asking for help.

You must take care of you first in order to help your husband.

I wish you peace,



Kitt, Co-Moderator:
Depression,  & 
*~* *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
Not a mental health professional of any kind
Clickable Link: Anxiety-Panic Resources

New Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 6/3/2009 9:36 PM (GMT -6)   

Thanks for your reply to acaisha.  I'm new to this forum. 
I'm married 24 years and my husband's depression has reached a new high (or low).  He is once again discouraged about his career and life in general.  He retreats every day into our den to watch television and try to make some money by trading stocks, which he's very good at, or watch inane television shows or old movies he's seen a million times.  He falls asleep early nearly every night on the couch and we haven't been intimate in over a year.
Meanwhile, he's in a somewhat "public" position in our community so it's very difficult to plaster on the fake smile and be enthusiastic about all the help he gives others when our own marriage is in the dumps.
He's been on Cymbalta but then began taking half a dose on his doctor's advice because it was making him so fatigued.  It seemed to help him for awhile and then plateaued.  His doctor is a friend, and not someone I believe who can really assist him.  We're having some financial issues so he's reluctant to spend money on counseling, which I believe he needs individually and we need as a couple.  (He did some counseling years ago with some success.)
Meanwhile, I'm recently laid off so I'm struggling with that and the responsibilities of our pre-teen child.  I feel totally alone, neglected, angry, frustrated, etc. but your comments have helped me see things in a new perspective.  I will keep pushing for him to change doctors and get on some new medication, which I feel will "clear the clouds away" so all the other stuff about his job and some other things in his life don't appear so dark.   i myself am on a generic anti-depressant and have found it to be wonderful - it really helped me when I had a tough health battle three years ago.  That's why I'm so frustrated because I KNOW the medicine would really help.
Any additional advice from anyone is appreciated.  I have so much resentment because I feel I have always been the strong one.  Nothing that I go through (and I've had a major health battle for over a decade) is ever the top thing we have to deal with - it's always how HE feels, what's going on with HIM, etc.  It's maddening!  On the day I lost my job recently, he was actually in a worse mood than me because of some difficulties he had that day.  So he was nowhere for me and I was left to help my daughter with her homework and "suck it up" myself.
I want to help him but I am so angry that I have to always be the one picking him up.  It's a lot of responsibility and I'm wondering:  why doesn't he WANT to feel better and take the steps he needs to take to get there?  Meanwhile, I'm lonely and dream of being with someone else who shares my interests and really cares about me and is not tired ALL THE TIME.  I want romance and love back in my life so badly.  I have no friends or family I can really share this with - they would be totally shocked.  But putting on the fake face is really killing me inside.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 1190
   Posted 6/4/2009 7:12 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Guac,

Welcome to the forum. I hope that sharing with others here who can relate to your situation will help you to cope with this sadness. I've seen a lot of people post over the past few months about dealing with a depressed spouse, so I'm sure you are not alone. Please hang in there, and keep posting with us. There are a lot of folks here who really care! (((hugs)))


"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."  ~Marcel Proust



New Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 6/4/2009 8:12 AM (GMT -6)   
Thank you Raniah. Baby steps...I'm planning to go very slowly and try to help him work out the various things. Step one will be trying to talk about a new doctor and new meds. The career and marriage issues can't really be addressed until the illness is.

New Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 6/4/2009 8:18 AM (GMT -6)   
For Acaisha:

Hi, it's Guac. I was thinking a lot about your situation, particularly your little one and the one on the way. Try to remember that the person you love is still inside that man who is suffering. I understand completely what you're saying when you wonder about his willingness to get better. But going to counseling and taking meds are a big step so try to be as encouraging as you can. And be encouraging to yourself too - I've found that to be helpful to lift myself up since my own husband is not able to do this so often. It can be tough with children but give yourself plenty of space and patience - don't try to be perfect with everything you do for them. Just lots of love and forget about the things that, in the end, don't really matter (like dishes in the sink, dusty furniture, folding clothes, etc.) Treasure the baby's smile and beautiful soft skin and keep those good feelings with you to rely on when things get tough. And since there's one on the way, get your rest and drink a lot of water. There's a lot for you to deal with but you need to take care of yourself. Nap when you need to. I'm thinking of you...
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