From all the dialog you have shared your coping amazingly well in a very difficult situation. Your openness and ability to share is courageous, and one of the best things you can do for you and your family.
I am married for many years and we have 4 children. I suffered with reoccurring depression for over a decade before I took getting well seriously. My spouse stuck by my side through it all.
I am the breadwinner in our household so it was fear for my family that drove me to seek help about every 24 months ago. Since I was only interested in avoiding homelessness for the family I only treated symptoms. The first 8 years.
My spouse tried suggesting, cajoling, and prodding me into seeking help. At first i resented it but fear made me listen. What I learned fairly quickly was that my thinking was cognitively distorted. That my feelings, and thoughts did not represent reality. I was lucky that I was able to recognize and sometimes separate my true-self from those feelings. I allowed myself to trust my spouces council.
The first 8 years I treated depression as a project. Projects have a beginning, middle and end. Well defined goals and criteria for success. I had a standard regime
Contact my employee EAP (Employee assistance program) Max 12 sessions
Buy the latest Self Help books
If things were really bad, contact my family practicer, and see what new things had happened regarding Med’s.
Check the Web
Work really hard to HIDE what I was going through so I would not loose friends, family and job
With-in 4months I was usually able to stop spiraling into the abyss, and manage to get back up to the rim. I would ignore the well of despair behind me. So I would:
Find a home/work project to hyper-focus on, and dive at it 120%
Stop taking Med’s (without medical supervision)
Stop reading the books
Stop seeing EAP counselor
Try and heal relationship with my family, by pretending the bad stuff never happened
NONE of thisd was the right thing to do -- as learned later
Over the years my family suffered… especially the kids:
Home was not a safe place since they never know how one parent would react in a given situation… Happy, sad or yelling. My children really had to depend on my spouse for the consistent nurturing they needed
The fifth time I was hit with depression I started my standard regime. I found a book called Against Depression. Basically the author was summarizing 15 years of reach into depression using CAAT, PET, MRI and SPECT II scans. As a technical person I loved all the data. The book explained a lot about what was happening physically in the brain, and what the doctors “think” they have learned from all this work.
To summarize. Long term “recurrent” chronic clinical depression appears to cause changes to the brain that may be permanent.
This frankly terrified me to the point. Where I was willing to try something else. Up to this point my depression was the deep family secret. Only my wife and I new. Based on experiences I had heard and read about I had refused to discuss this with family, friends or work due to the stigma that still often exists in the lay community and my deep shame at not being able to pull myself up by my own boot straps. - More distorted thinking. - Since depression is often a chemical in-balance in the brain, and no one would tell a diabetic… To stop being lazy and start making insulin
I found a local support group. A safe place where folks suffering from depression and anxiety can share there concerns and hear from other what they are doing to work through there depression. I did not speak for 2 months. But over time I felt safe enough to share, learn and most of all recognize I was not alone. I have gone almost every week for 2 years and 3 weeks.
I learned that the fact that my spouse could never really understand what I was dealing with was normal. 3 months later I started seeing a therapist weekly. I have been in therapy for 21 months. I started Med’s Wellbutrin and Ephexor. I learned to be absolutely methodical as to when I took the med’s each day.
I became determined to stick with it as studies seem to indicate that after 8 years of depression it might take me 5-7 years to un-train my brain of all the unhelpful coping skills I had learned just to survive from day to day. That 70% of patients who fully recover do so with a combination of one on therapy, exercise, support groups and Meds.
Here it is two years later my path has been a winding one as I worked through issues with my counselor and family. Most of all I learned to be kind to myself. To see the value in very small victories. To recognize un-helpful thought patterns and learn to stop them.
The books I have found helpful include
The relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook
Yoga and Pilates for Everyone
Full Catastrophe Living
Children of the Self Absorbed
Healing the Child Within
Shame and Grace
Victory over Darkness
When God Interrupts “finding new life through unwanted change”
Change your Brian Change your life
Battlefield of the mind
Don’t let your emotions run your life (DBT Therapy)
Organizing from the inside out
I would encourage you to read a lot of material, and have your own counselor to talk to. In the end your wife is the only one who can finally get scared enough to act. Getting better is really hard work.