Marriage is a HUGE topic that we can discuss indefinitely. But today, I’m just focusing on how my depression almost ended my marriage, and what I do now to keep my marriage safe from it.
You’ve heard me say before that depression causes fogginess, heaviness, and irrational thinking and feelings. Anxiety builds up, and sometimes panic sets in, and you don’t even know why or understand the reasons behind how you’re feeling. There is also a weird emotional pain that just lingers inside and makes it difficult to go about day-to-day life.
Elias and I were only twenty-three when we got married. Not only were we not prepared for what real marriage would bring, but we didn’t have the necessary communication skills needed to make a marriage work. We were also extremely egocentric at the time. It wasn’t because we didn’t care about one another, we just didn’t know how to be married. Also, we didn’t know how to really pay attention to the other, how to observe and recognize that the other needed something specific, and we didn’t know how to tell one another what we needed.
At the time, I had no idea that I was suffering from depression. What I did know was that I felt lonely, heavy, irritated, tired, and unfulfilled. So naturally, I thought that it was because my marriage was a mistake. I thought that I had married the wrong person and that I should feel happy, and he wasn’t making me feel happy. I was sad, lost, and angry. And I never talked to Elias about it. Instead, I just became distant and carried on this way thinking that maybe it would just get better. There were periods of time where I was perfectly happy, felt better, and at a high point, so I chose to ignore it… until I hit a low point again. Each time became more difficult.
After having our daughter, things became significantly worse. I’ll talk more about my postpartum depression at a later time, but let’s just say that I was at my absolute lowest. Not only was I suffering from severe depression that had gone years without being treated, but I also had postpartum to the point of being diagnosed almost to psychosis. I had gained almost 50 pounds from having PCOS, (which hadn’t been diagnosed yet so I thought it was just me), and one day… I thought I was having a stroke. The entire left side of my face went numb, my eye wouldn’t stop watering, and I couldn’t speak. Turns out that I had developed Bell’s Palsy. There was nothing that could be done and I had to wait it out and hope that it would go away.
A friend of mine suggested that I get some help and see a therapist. I never told her about my thoughts, but she was able to recognize that I wasn’t okay and spoke up. I had never considered this because I believed what many other people think… “therapy is a joke! You just talk and the other person listens and doesn’t even give you answers to your problems!” But I was wrong because it was the absolute best thing I have ever done for my mental health.
When I began therapy, I was already convinced that I didn’t want to be married anymore. In fact, Elias and I had already sat down and had a conversation about how we were going to co-parent. It was done. But thankfully, my therapist suggested that I hold on a little longer. Give myself more time to work through my depression, and heal a bit before making a life-changing decision. She also suggested marriage counseling and a marriage class at our church. Both of which we did, but I will talk about that later. I will add, however, that we had gone through marriage therapy before, but my depression was still going untreated and unrecognized so it didn’t help. After I started therapy, marriage counseling became much more effective.
The point is that my depression was clouding my judgment. I was convinced that my depression was actually my unhappiness in my marriage. And Elias had no idea what was wrong with me so in his defense, why continue to live this way? He was hurting as well. Not understanding why I was so distant, irritable, and feeling unloved, unwanted, and also like he had failed.
Now, let me be clear…I’m not saying that if you’re unhappy in your marriage it’s due to depression… There are multiple reasons why a marriage struggles, and this was only one issue for us. But this was the main and biggest reason that our marriage was suffering at the time. I was sick. My husband didn’t know how to help. We weren’t communicating. Neither of us knew how or what to do… and we BOTH felt unloved and lost.
I saw my therapist for about two years, and did all of the things that she suggested I do to help me understand what I needed. I had periods where I was up, and then I would be down again. At this point, I decided to take the antidepressants because I felt that I needed to try. If it meant I would have less lows, or not as bad low periods, it would be worth it. I was taking better care of myself, praying, and Elias and I were taking the marriage class at church. All of these things combined slowly helped me to begin healing, to have more clarity, and through this, Elias and I decided to continue to try to make our marriage work. And it was work! It still is… but boy am I glad that we did.
So, how do I continue to make it work? I still have depression. I still have highs and lows. Notice I keep saying, How I keep my marriage safe from my depression…The answer is… It’s up to me!
Here me out… the following list requires ME to make a conscious choice and effort.
I have to make sure that I take my meds. They don’t cure depression, but they help significantly. And I understand that medication may not be for everyone, it works for me. And I know the difference it makes if I choose not to take them. However, if you are someone who isn’t about taking meds, or if you are, the next two things are extremely essential!
I have to communicate with him. HAVE TO! Even if I don’t know exactly what’s wrong, why, how, etc. I let him know… something is off, I feel sad, heavy, tired. Communication is key. Once he’s aware, he steps up! Saying it out loud immediately makes me feel like he’s with me. It creates a “team effort” and I don’t feel alone. He understands that I’m going to act more distant. And he is more attentive to me in the sense of being understanding. The great thing about this… sometimes, I don’t even have to tell him that I’m off. He already knows and sometimes sees it coming before I’m even aware. But it took time to get to this point.
I continue to attend therapy when needed. I don’t attend every week unless I am in a very low place. Then it’s usually weekly or every other week. One of the things that I have found is key to our marriage is that Elias will join in on a therapy session here and there. This helps him to understand what’s going on with me at the time and keeps us on the same page. These sessions are not marriage counseling sessions. We are not there to discuss things he is doing wrong. It is focused on me. How I’m feeling, what I’m going through, and to talk about ways that he can help me cope.
I have had this fear before and questioned if and when he is going to get sick of having to take care of me. But then I get a grip! Because here’s the thing… He is my husband, he chose to be with me forever, he wants to make this marriage work. He wants to take care of me… and I can bet that your husband feels the same way. But you have to communicate and you have to be on the same page. This is probably one of the hardest parts because it is on you! You have to take the first step to tell him… you have to communicate each time you’re not okay that you need his help… men are not mind readers, ladies!
Your husband loves you! He isn’t going to leave you or get tired of you, as long as you communicate with him. He has to know and understand what is happening in order to help you. To be in it with you! But it’s on you to allow him in.
Get help! You cannot expect to feel better, find healing, or cure yourself without help. It’s insanity to continue to go through the same cycle and think it will somehow get better on its own. Your marriage depends on it! And so does your life!
Be vulnerable! With your husband, with yourself. Be honest about how you’re feeling. If you’re having weird thoughts, tell someone. Your husband, your therapist, a friend. Or… tell me! Reach out! I’m more than happy to help if I can.
But please know that you are not alone. You are not crazy. You can save your marriage, and you can live a life full of joy, and have a marriage full of love. If my suggestions don’t work for you, or you’re not ready to try them, find help in some way! You’re worth it!
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