Living with a Depressed Person
It's time again to talk about an unpleasant subject. Unpleasant for me, and probably unpleasant for those of you who are depressed and have a spouse or lover or companion or partner who is not depressed.
I was married for 46 years. My wife died only a few months ago.
For many of those years, I had dysthymia, and thought that my problems were the most important in the world. I couldn't understand that I was causing some grief in the family with my self-centered needs.
I was often irritated about all sorts of things, and often didn't want to do things that my wife wanted to do. I also didn't get her enthusiasm for life. She would arise in the morning and say, "How lucky we are."
How lucky to be alive. How lucky to be living in a wonderful community. How lucky to have two great children. How lucky to have a good home, enough income, good friends, a great dog, two cats, enough to eat --- you name it.
I didn't like it when my wife said we were lucky. I didn't think she saw the world in a realistic way. I didn't see it that way. Sure, things were fine now (sort of) but where were the assurances that it would be that way tomorrow? How did I know one of the kids might not get sick. Or the dog might die. Or I might lose my job. Or one of us might get cancer. Or...or...or.
Maybe you've heard this litany of Maybes. Or perhaps you've uttered them yourselves.
As you can imagine, my wife didn't think I saw the world realistically.
She thought I was exaggerating the possible disasters, and that I was enjoying at this very moment a very good life.
I can tell you now that I know she was mostly right. I was the one who had a skewed vision.
Over the years, I finally began to understand that we were lucky; that my view of life was the view of a depressed person.
More importantly, I began to see what a pain in the butt it was for my wife to have to live with such a person as myself. I saw that she had to put up with nay-saying more than she should have. I saw that she was forbearing, empathic, puzzled, sometimes angry at my constant carping.
This might have broken us apart.
It might have - but it didn't.
And the reason it didn't was partly because I wasn't deeply depressed (only chronically a little depressed). Partly because my wife was a psychotherapist and saw patients who had problems like mine. Partly because she was an extremely loving and considerate and compassionate woman. Partly because my children didn't like it when I shouted at any of them, but especially my wife, and chastised me for it. Partly because I learned - over time - to curb my self-centered wishes. Partly because I began to see the world differently. Partly because I took anti-depressants.
All of the above can work for many of us.