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How to Help a Spouse With Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety

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I cannot begin to describe the journey you are about to embark on with your loved one. Battling depression and anxiety can be a vicious fight. It can turn our thoughts inside out and cast the darkest of shrouds over us that could suck the happiness from the happiest of folks. I want to offer some tips and advice of helping a loved one with depression.

1. You cannot ever fully understand the depression and anxiety.

Unless you have been diagnosed with and battled major depression and anxiety firsthand, you cannot possibly imagine or relate to what we go through. I am not telling you this to frighten or discourage you. I am telling you this so you will not waste your time and effort trying to understand an illness that we, who are diagnosed, do not fully
understand ourselves.

2. Just be there for us when we need you.

When we are in the midst of a major depression episode, we are trying with all of our mental power to pull ourselves out of our deep dark pits. Often, when we say we need you, we just need you physically. I say physically as in just lie down beside us or give us a simple hug. Do not tell me everything is going to be OK. Just tell me you are here for me no matter what happens, and leave it at that. If you cannot be here physically, then text messages or a phone call goes a long way. Just a, “Hey bud, what is up?” or “You want to talk about anything?”

3. People with major depression and anxiety may be super sensitive.

When I say this, I just mean to take care with what words you use around us. Anything insinuating that we are “crazy,” “dumb,” or “useless” is the last thing we need and will shut us down in an instant. It can become nearly impossible to open up to you again in the future. We are not easy to trust because there are few people we can trust, including ourselves. We choose who we open up to, people we think will better understand our minds. If we do not choose to open up to you, do not take that as a sign of distrust. We are just fragile and already have a hard enough time opening up to anyone about anything, much less the depressive state we are in.

4. We are fighting like hell almost every single day.

Do not take number four lightly. We’re fighting like hell almost every day just to survive. Some days, getting out of bed is a huge accomplishment for us. Some of us have muscle aches from constant tension in our back, shoulder, and neck muscles from anxiety, or from the fatigue of depression… It zaps all of your energy away and makes it difficult to walk from our front porch to the damn car to get it cranked and drive to work. I am not telling you this to have a pity party. That is the last thing I want. I make myself go to work and function like a “normal” human being so I can avoid the pity parties. Just remember, when we only wash one load of clothes or one load of dishes, or only manage to vacuum one room in a day, we fought like hell for that energy and we got something accomplished. That is how we have to take some of our days. One step at a time.

5. Please, please, please, never give up on us.

I know this is a plea, but it is a desperate plea from the bottom of our hearts and from the depths of our souls. Please do not give up on us at our worst. We need you. Even if you think you are not helping, you are helping and doing far more than you could ever imagine because we cannot really put into words what you do for us. Even if you do not understand our illness, you sticking with us is sometimes enough to help us pull out of our deep dark pit. We hardly can fight this on its own at its worst alone. We need you to be someone we can just sit with silently or turn a movie on with and just sit in the silence while it plays if we are not in the mood to talk just yet. Eventually we will open up to you about what is happening in our depressive episode, or we will simply crawl our way out of our pit and be OK for a while.

Always remember, you do so much more for us than you could possibly imagine. We are so very thankful that you stick it out with us. We know we can be nearly impossible to deal with during our episodes. So… here is to the ones who stay through the good and the most absolute worst with us during our depressive bouts. Thank you. We could not
conquer this nearly as effectively without you in our lives, and we are eternally grateful. We love you. We love that you love us despite our illness. We love you so very very much. We will never be able to describe in words our love for you. Just know our love runs to the very depths of our soul for you and we would surely struggle massively without you.

We. Love. You.

Thinkstock photo by ArthurHidden

Originally published: January 8, 2017
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