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My husband has depression but won't seek help, and it's affecting our marriage.

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My husband has depression but will not seek help, and it's really affecting our marriage.

When we first started dating he mentioned that he has social anxiety and suffers from depression. I might have seen glimpses of this when we were dating, but the depression did not really come into focus until after we were married.  I truly was not expecting how severely he suffers, and in turn how badly it would affect me and our marriage. He has cycles of really bad depressive spells but then he breaks out of them on his own.  When he is going through his depression, he is apathetic, always tired, and very sensitive to the things I say and do. He is so smart, caring, attentive, and a wonderful husband, but during his depressive phases I feel like I barely know who this person is.  

I have come to sense when he is starting to get back into his depressive phases and try to cheer him up by doing things he likes, not asking too much of him around the house, and trying to avoid saying or doing something that would make him angry or more depressed. My nature is a do-er and a helper, so I always try to suggest things to help him, but most things are met with extreme resistance.  Most times I frame things in a way that will benefit him. Sometimes I frame suggestions in ways that will benefit me, or the dog, or our family (whomever),  but he just won't budge. I spend a lot of my time trying to help, and soothe him and bring him back to the man that I know and love. I generally walk on eggshells during this time because I don't want to upset him. This is taking a severe toll on my well being. 

Sometimes he discusses his depression with me but it's rare that we can have that discussion at length because it usually turns into an argument.  I will admit that sometimes when we fight I lose my cool. I know this is not the correct way to deal with things, but there is only so much that one can handle! ( I am currently writing this after a losing my cool argument).

When he is depressed my needs generally take a backseat, (which I understand in some way) but it's been really difficult. I can't handle his depression alone, and really need reinforcements to try to help him since he will not listen to me.  He is very sensitive about his depression. He will not generally discuss this with friends or family for fear that people are judging or blaming him for being depressed. That is of course not the case. I simply want him to be happy and healthy!  Often during his depressive phases I begin to withdraw from my friends and family because of the aforementioned topic I am not allowed to discuss. I avoid them because I am not good at hiding my feelings or emotions and those close to me can sense something is wrong. I have great friends who I know only want the best for me and for both of us, but I feel like I am betraying my husband if I discuss these things with them. I agree to an extent that some of it is frankly not their business, but again, I can't do this alone.  In desperation and real worry I have secretly mentioned my husband's severe depression to his sister who has been helpful and supportive. When she talks to him she tries to listen for the depressive clues and gently suggest helpful things for him . These suggestions too are met with resistance, anger or feelings of judgement. 

My husband really needs to see a therapist, but refuses to go. He said he talks to his sister about it and she helps, or that he's "tried therapy and it doesn't work".  His sister suffers from anxiety and depression herself, so while she is a good resource and support to him ( and secretly me), she is not a licensed therapist and is dealing with her own issues. He tried therapy about 10 years ago and just refuses to consider that it is an option for him these many years later. He knows that he has these phases and can get himself out of them eventually. I understand, but this can not work for my well being and our marriage in the long term. It's not healthy for either of us! 

I have been seeing a therapist for the last few years because I am not coping well with his depression and I don't know what to do. I am a happy, social, energetic and empathetic person, but since we have been married I have not been myself. I have been focusing my time and energy on how to help him that I am forgetting who I am. Sometimes I feel like he is trying to drag me into his depression.  My therapy has helped me learn better ways of communicating during his depressive times so that things don't turn into a fight. She has also helped me better understand depression and other mental health issues.  My husband knows I'm going to therapy to work on controlling my emotions, but that is only half of it. He thinks that all this time and money for therapy is a waste since I have clearly not improved. I have only been going to therapy because of my difficult marriage due to my reactions/ coping mechanisms to his depression. I'm not saying I'm perfect or not emotional, or how I handle this disease I can not relate to is correct or healthy, but it's been very difficult.  I have never acted like this or felt like this before.

 How can I convince my husband to get the help he needs? What are other things that I can do to help myself during these times? 

I am grateful for any advice or thoughts. Thanks!

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     I want to welcome you to the Forums.  I know there are other members here dealing with depressed spouses so I hope they will post something for you.

     Since I have no experience with marriage, I am really the last person on earth to offer guidance. 

     Have you discussed what you discussed here with your therapist?  What did he or she say?  Do you think it might help to discretely consult with a psychiatrist about the situation?    I know it helps me sometimes to get another medical professional involved, even if only discretely and confidentially. 

    Sorry I am without ideas.  I hope these Forums will be of some use to you.  They have helped me a lot over the years.  I can't even imagine how terribly difficult the situation you describe must be for you!   - epictetus

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Posted (edited)

Welcome AEH.  I hope we can provide at least a little guidance.  Unfortunately, I'm in the same position as @Epictetus, so I'll limit the focus of my comments.

From my perspective, I'll echo what he said...and I'm gonna stick to your issues, not your husband's.  To use your own words, if you're walking on eggshells, constantly deferring your needs to his, there's a problem. 

I'm glad you've sought therapy for YOURSELF.  But, tbh, it sounds like either your therapist is unable to address those problems meaningfully - even if she's a nice person - or you may be uncomfortable sharing with her.  In particular, if you're not comfortable, I'd take a look at WHY you're uncomfortable.  Not all therapists are necessarily a good fit.  Among your new friends here, there are plenty of us who have been down that road.  For example, can you even be candid with this therapist about why you might be uncomfortable?  Does that therapist respond in an empathetic, meaningful way?  Or, are your concerns minimized, even dismissed?

If it's an option, you may wish to consult with another therapist concurrently.  See if you're more comfortable.  I'll reiterate, whatever the reason you're not getting the help you need, it needs to be addressed, imo.

Since it's not uncommon, I'm gonna ask a sensitive question that you're nevertheless under any obligation to answer.  A lot of us with mental illness have turned to self-medication at one time or another to deal with our symptoms.  Alcohol, for example, is particularly enticing in some cases.  Downside is that alcohol itself is a depressant.  Only you can answer this, but if you believe it's an issue for him, then it is an issue for YOU.  In that case, I'd strongly recommend seeking out some Al-Anon meetings.  There's a complete list on their site.  As someone who started attending years ago due to familial issues with multiple alcoholics, I can tell you first-hand the meetings will give you invaluable life tools.

The gist of what I'm saying is that your OWN care comes first.  And, as someone with chronic medical issues himself - I've jettisoned my share of careless, inappropriate on unresponsive professionals the last 26 years - I encourage you to be your OWN advocate.

And please keep sharing as much and as often as you wish.








Edited by MarkintheDark

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Thanks to both of you for your thoughtful responses, and helping me not feel so alone in this struggle. 

My therapist has helped me significantly in understanding and dealing with my husbands depression and I sought out therapy due to these reasons.  The real issue still here is that my husband needs to seek medical help for his depression but will not. There is nothing I can do or say that will make him change his mind. He is self aware enough to know that depression and  anxiety are a problem for him, but has yet to realize how severely this is affecting me and our marriage. He truly can not see the correlation between his mental illness and our constant fighting and difficult relationship.  He is so deep into the depression that there is nothing else he can focus but himself and staying in control of his demons, which in turn is pushing me further and further away. I can not understand how he can continue to allow depression to take over our lives if he's identified this as a problem. Doesn't he want to feel better? Doesn't he want to live a healthier life?  I know in my heart that if he takes medication he will really see some improvement, but he has no interest in seeking help. I am also leery of medication for him because of an addictive nature and family history. To your question Markinthedark,  yes he has been self medicating with alcohol, which he also admits is a problem.   He has agreed that working out,  listening to self help podcasts and curbing his drinking is helpful to him, however he does not sustain this healthy behavior for very long in order to reap the benefits.  He has to seek medical help for himself or I fear that I can not stay in this relationship any longer. I am willing to fight hard and make sacrifices to help him get better but If he does not want to help himself, how I can continue trying to help him?   

How do you convince someone that they need to seek medical help for depression?

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