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A husband brining a warm bowl of soup to a disheveled, smiling woman in bed next to her dogs and medication bottles

How My Spouse Experiences My Depression

My depression takes up so much room in my life. It sucks out all the air of every room, and because of my day jobs (working in mental health), my daylight hours are spent discussing some aspect of mental illness. It can be overwhelming, especially for my family and friends.

I don't mean to solely focus on it, but fighting depression, anxiety, a personality disorder, and an eating disorder is a lot of work. Being in recovery is a full-time job, and some people don't understand that. That's fine — I'm glad they don't. But sometimes I forget this and overlook the fact that not everything is about me. Hard to imagine, right?

My husband supports me through my depression

My husband, who is my biggest supporter and advocate, often takes care of me, in addition to reading my blogs and columns and going to mental health events with me. He's fighting my depression, too, just in a different way.And I must admit, it’s not easy for him.

I imagine it's exhausting and just as frustrating as me having to combat my diagnoses. As much as I hate the word, he's often my caregiver on top of being a father, having a full-time job, and sitting on the board of the local community college.

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How depression affects our marriage

It's not fair that he's stuck with me when I'm at my lowest. That I went to a psychiatric hospital for 6 weeks (leaving him alone with our 2 young children), that 1 mistake or missed action could cause me to spiral into a depressive episode. That I don't always show up for him when I need to.

For better or for worse turns into mostly worse, and when I am healthy, he still makes sacrifices so I can continue my work (which doesn't pay). Don't get me wrong – he's not a saint, but if our roles were reversed, I'm not sure I could ever do as much as he does. And without complaint.

All the blogs and books I read are never in perspective of the caregiver, everything is focused on us. But they work long hours, are saddled with extra responsibilities, and in my husband's case, also don't get paid.

The mental load on caregivers

A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) (in collaboration with Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI]), shows that more than half (54 percent) of the study participants (1,601) took care for a relative, most often a son or daughter. About half of the caregivers reported that their care recipient lives with them, more so than a typical caregiver. The same study stated that an estimated 8.4 million Americans provide care to an adult with an emotional or mental health issue.1

It must be so heavy and draining to cater to a loved one with mental illness (or any illness). There are times when I can't take care of myself or my family. So my husband takes care of everything, and it's difficult for him to see me as an equal. I know this.

Sometimes I feel like a burden in our marriage

He has to step into so many roles that he gets confused which is the right one and the one I'm expecting. He wonders if my mental illness, and his caregiving, will be a central theme in our marriage. He's certainly justified in that thinking. Then there's the feeling of being totally useless against an invisible illness he can't cure or make better for me.

Even though I feel like a burden most of the time, I think it's way worse for him, and I know I need to make a concerted effort to appreciate him and respect his feelings.

I never know what is next with depression

Plus, we don't know how long I'll be sick or in a depressive episode or suicidal, and the uncertainty affects our marriage. I imagine it's scary to look into the future knowing how precarious my moods are, especially because we have children.

I know I can't help my depression, but that doesn't make me feel any less guilty. All I can do is be diligent in my recovery and hope for the best. Though I've been sick enough to know that that's not enough at times. That's what’s scary.

But I do know he'll be there

But I know my husband will stay by my side and be ready to jump into action, even when he doesn't want to. And that's okay. I know I'm fortunate to have him, and that with him by my side, my future isn't as daunting.

That's what I need to hold on to while he's holding on, too.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.