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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dealing with a Spouse's Depression

Winter can be a difficult time for many people, espeically for those who suffer fram Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD.

“I can’t stand living,” my husband pronounced for the third time in a row. My heart dropped like a high diver plunging into a cup full of water. Fear and worry whelmed up within me when he got into one of these funks. Nothing I said or did encouraged him. No matter what, he remained down in the gutter. As the winter wore on, his dejection deepened. To make matters worse, he broke his ankle and hobbled with a cast. He’d sit on the couch and stare out the window for hours like a moping melancholic. I felt so helpless, and fought off despair.

My husband’s depression and anxiety started in the first few years of our marriage. In the beginning he had occasional bouts, but then it lasted longer and had more impact as we had a family. He would get moody and irritable with me and the children, then not want to join us in activities. Sometimes he would hide in the bedroom and listen to sad music for hours. I felt sorry for him, yet this drove me crazy. Yet the Lord helped me from plunging into hopelessness, and taught me to be compassionate.

My husband and I often talked about his childhood, and I knew the root causes of his problems. Negative thinking had followed him for so many years due to some traumatizing events in his life. So I understand why he thought and acted as he did, but I still got hurt when he would withdraw or was short-tempered. I’d cry out to God for patience, understanding and grace to endure.

My husband’s moods spurred me to pray for his emotional healing and a changed mind. I searched for verses to hold onto. I inserted his name into scriptures and turned them into prayers. “(Mark) do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2.

I prayed that the Lord would renew my husband’s mind, and adjust his way of thinking and dwell on God’s truth. He needed to fix his eyes on Jesus, which was difficult for both of us. But I had learned from my own bout with depression how to do this--consistent daily prayer and meditation on the Word. My husband agreed, but it wasn’t so simple.

My husband’s moodiness drove me further into prayer, and I petitioned God to help me stay sane and not get bitter. Even though I often understood his depression and irritability, it hurt me that he pulled away from me and the children. I spent a lot of time pouring out my heart to Jesus---praying earnestly and honestly about my frustrations and disappointments. In these appeals, God spoke back to me in His still quiet voice, and He showed me how I could have victory. I’d like to say I set about this course by my own ingenuity, but I didn’t. God mapped it out for me.

He revealed to me though scripture that my own relationship with Him needed to be in the right place. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). I prayed that daily. What a challenge! I tried to look to the Lord for all my wants, rather than to my husband. At the same time, I reminded my heavenly Father of my human needs. He always answered in unexpected ways---encouraging words from friends, a magazine article, a person’s teaching, lyrics from praise songs or a hug from my children. Though it took years to develop an understanding of His ways and fully trust Him, He led me to persevere in prayer and believe. In the long run, Jesus met all my needs…though not all my wants. For the present, He gave me ways to cope.

Since my husband’s depression was cyclical, we experienced good times, which built our marriage and gave me a breather. He’d have good days and say funny things like, “When I’m in a funk, shove me in the trunk and ride with the spare tire beside you.” Yet, his emotions were a roller coaster ride that affected me deeply. During those dark times, I learned to lean on the Lord and trust Him as my comforter and guide. I felt a special affinity to David and the Psalms, and I turned to them for encouragement. “The Lord is my strength and my shield, My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7). This verse supported me in many ways, and I prayed it often. It helped me to visualize God as a shield from my husband’s moods. I didn’t need to react to his every comment. It’s a lesson that took me years to learn, and I’m still learning it!