Depression can happen to anyone of us.
Your crush broke your heart. You thought you were going to make the team only to find out that you were the only one cut. The loss one of your parents in a car accident. You lived through abuse. The person you married wasn’t the person you thought they were.
These and so many issues we face that can lead us down the dark road of depression.
I don’t want to minimize the pain of that in any way. Yet, I want to come at this from a different angle.
I want to share with you what it is like to take care of someone who suffers from depression. I also would like to give you a few tips on what to do when someone is depressed.
One of the hardest parts of depression is learning to love someone through it.
For years, I have heard my wife talk about the challenges of living with depression. How if feels like the life inside of her is being drained before her very eyes.
She once described her depressions to me. Imagine you are walking down a tunnel. This tunnel is pitch black. As you are walking you realize that you are walking downhill. It feels that the more you walk forward the deeper the darkness gets. As you walk, you realize that you are carrying an impossible weight on your shoulders. Before you know it you feel lost without any hope of finding your way out.
Struggling with depression brings 3 feelings to the surface:
More than any other feeling this one ranks first. Each time she falls into her depression cycle she tells me that she feels hopeless. That the darkness and depths feel so deep that it doesn’t feel as if there is any return.
This ranks as the second feeling that emerges. She wants to help around the house, but her depression prevents her. The fight to stay conscious is so strong that it takes all her energy to eat something. Thus she feels useless. Unable to do anything.
This is the most heartbreaking of the feelings. On many occasions, she has mentioned to me that she feels like a failure. Feeling as if she has failed as a wife, mother, and friend.
There have been some people who have criticized her inability to maintain relationships. They do not know the deep failure she feels that she cannot maintain a relationship with people.
She fights and fights to be a good wife and mother. Only to succumb to the darkness that envelops her.
Watching my wife struggle with depression is hard.
Going through depression must be impossible at the time. I cannot image what she must be going through. I can only watch as she struggles through it.
You might be like me. Someone who doesn’t struggle with depression but is a caretaker for someone who is.
Most people focus on the person going through the issue. Rarely is any attention given to the person who takes care of the person.
You see, my wife and I have been together for 17 years. It has been a challenging time. Yet, it has been a fulfilling time. I love my wife more now than when I first met her.
Being a Christian and follower of Jesus has allowed me to Love my wife unconditionally.
Yet, that doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle.
When my wife starts the cycle of depression all over again it puts me in an emotional place.
When I watch her struggle my heart breaks.
Let me share with you the top 3 feelings when she struggles.
As a caregiver, there is nothing I can do to change her mood. Her condition is medical. Meaning, her depression is a result of her mental illness and a childhood full of trauma.
The feeling of not being able to do anything makes me feel powerless. There is NOTHING I can do to help. I am left vulnerable. So I turn to prayer. Praying that the next mood ends quickly.
One of the strongest feelings I have is anger. Every time she falls into a depression I am angry on the inside. I cannot be angry at genetics. She inherited the mental illness from her family.
Some people get mad at God. I am not. God didn’t do this to her. We live in a fallen world full of sin. Mental illness is a result of that.
Yet, I am angry. At what you ask? I am angry at some of her family members. Every time she falls into a depression I am angry about what certain family members did to her. It infuriates me.
I am have a strong faith. I pray for her and her family often.
My anger doesn’t detract from my faith. I am angry because of what they have done AND because I am powerless to fix it.
Reality time. My heart hurts for her. The hardest thing I have had to endure is watching her live with this challenge. If I cried I would have cried my tear ducts empty.
We try to live the best we can, but many times the condition leads the way.
I know many of you feel that similar pain.
Let me give you 3 ways I help my wife during times of depression. My hope is that they will help you make the depression suck less than it already does.
3 Ways to Care for someone with depression
1. Be a Servant
The best gift you can give is the gift of your service. On days that my wife experiences depression I am there by her side. I may be working on my laptop, watching T.V., or cleaning the house, but I am not far from her.
As she lays on the couch, completely aware but unable to move, I am working on her behalf. Making her meals, checking her blankets, praying for her, or drawing a bath I am serving her.
Before you think I am some super guy let me share this. There are times when I struggle with having to carry this much weight.
Yet, the best way I know how to love her is to take care of her.
Even though she cannot communicate it she appreciates it.
2. Be Patient
I have to remember that she is not operating at 100%. What takes me 5 mins to do may take her an hour.
My first inclination is to become frustrated. I have to remember that she is fighting a battle that I cannot see.
Instead of living in frustration I must live in love. As scripture tells me, Love is patient and is kind. With that in mind, I have to learn to give grace and be kind to my wife.
I tend to want to get things done quickly so that I don’t have to deal with them later. Instead of waiting for people I do it. Then I remember my wife wants to be part of the activity.
Even though she cannot move fast or be very active does not mean she wants to sit out from the activity.
To be patient is to invite the person into the activity and learning to move at their pace.
Remember, you have to be loving. Someone who fights depression is someone that cannot move at your pace.
Patience will help you show love by slowing down for them to keep up.
3. Be Present
Someone once asked me what to say to someone who lost someone. I thought that was a wonderful question.
My answer to them was this,
“They will not remember what you say, but they will remember that you were there.”
That statement applies to this situation as well. There may not be much conversation. You might not have any interaction at all. Yet, when the person comes out of their cycle they will thank you.
Why will they thank you? Because they KNOW that you were there.
You can be on your phone, watch T.V., clean, or whatever you want while you are with them. Matter of fact, you shouldn’t feel guilty for those things. When my wife is cycling we will watch T.V. together.
Being present means you are there with them through it. A simple touch, a warm smile, or a prayer can be huge for them. They will not return it, but they will know you were there for them.
My wife knows that I am not far from her. I need her to know that I am there supporting her as best I know how.
I would love for you to do a few things for me 🙂
#1. Please share your thoughts. I am eager to hear how you have helped someone through this? I am also very curious to hear what your thoughts are if you struggle with depression. Please honor me by commenting below! I look forward to engaging you through them!