When partners put their relationship first and view it as the goose that will lay the golden egg, so to speak, they tend to guard it as if their lives depended on it. — Stan Tatkin Psy.D.
Hugh and Claire were married for six years now and life has been good for them until Claire was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 1 that puts their relationship to a test.
“It was really hard for me. I lost my sense of perception and focus in life. I neglected my obligations and duties as a wife and mother to our two kids. I can’t believe that this would happen to my family.”
Hugh recounted that Claire was already showing signs of depression after the diagnosis. “It’s already hard to accept that she is having breast cancer. But it is harder to see her getting caught up by her depression every day.”
The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as a serious medical illness that allows the person to demonstrate negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that can affect his/her way of living. It is normal to feel sad from time to time, especially if one encounters a loss or a challenging event in life. But the determining factor that makes depression a serious medical illness is when one’s focus in life is lost, thus leading to a downward spiral of hopelessness, frustration, and desperation.
There are many causes of depression, but in the case of Claire, getting a bad news about your health can certainly lead to depressive states. Things that you need to watch out for that will help you determine if your partner is suffering from depression are:
- Inability to perform usual duties or activities
- Neglect of self like inability to take in food, having sleeping problems, and personal hygiene
- Lack of energy most of the days
- Problems at work or lack of motivation to socialize with other people
- Alcohol problems
- Always sad and gloomy, or crying with no apparent reason
Self-reflection is gone from your life. Soon you find yourself living in a reactive state, forever responding to your kid’s never-ending wants while ignoring your partner’s needs too. — Sean Grover L.C.S.W.
How to help your spouse (and yourself)
The first thing to do is to promote awareness to your partner that he/she is having depression and is already negatively affecting the family and self. This will help bring back realization to your partner that his/her depression is not a sole problem but can also affect others. Try to talk it out and assure him/her that you will be with them along the way.
Make time to listen and offer silence as a response. By allowing them to vent out their innermost thoughts and feelings without trying to approve or disapprove is considered therapeutic and will ease out their emotional burden.
Help your partner fulfill their duties and obligations. During their “up” times, encourage your partner to interact and bond with your children, go have coffee with old friends, or do productive things together around the house like changing the linens or doing laundry. These simple tasks will help your partner divert attention from being depressed.
Don’t shut off your lives from friends and family. Fear of getting stigmatized is the major reason that prevents oneself from getting help. By doing so, you are all alone in facing the problem and this can lead to an emotional breakdown in the future. Having a collective support from friends and family will greatly help you and your partner face the problem together.
Be prepared to face and help your partner during their most gloomy days. When severe depression strikes, the person is sometimes at the height of losing it. Make sure that you are emotionally and physically prepared to handle this situation.
If the subject of these ruminations is curiosity about the value of therapy, it may be your tired brain asking for help. Pay attention to this. — Karen Kleiman MSW, LCSW
It is always comforting to know that there is someone taking care of you while facing different problems. When you got married, you took a vow to take care of each other no matter what the cause is. It pretty sums up everything…just hold on.