In my line of work, it’s usually the client with the depression. Often it’s postpartum depression or anxiety from the birthing mother, experiencing typical or atypical hormonal imbalance, coupled often with birth trauma, and a shock to their “new life” in motherhood.
Yet often, they are not alone in their depression. Their spouses can experience similar depressive states. And, when that happens, healing doesn’t get much of a space to work it’s magic, or even get much breathing room. How can you deal with a depressed spouse and help them? Here are some thoughts that I hope will get you through today.
Your Spouse’s Depression is Not Yours
If you’re like many women, and many mothers, you want to fix things. You want to help your spouse, put a band-aid on the boo-boo and make it better somehow. But guess what, Mama. You can not fix this. In fact, the only person you can “fix” or change, is yourself. You’ve got to put partial blinders on (they can have slits to see….) because that healing needs to be done by them.
You can help point them in the right direction with counselor ideas, a serious talk, and by encouraging them to be active or not be afraid, but their depression is not yours.
It’s okay to put it on the shelf sometimes. And it’s okay to pause helping when you’ve offered more than enough of your time and energy for one day. Replenish yourself, then maybe tackle it again.
Live By Example and Keep Practicing Your Own Healing
As difficult as it is when your spouse is depressed, you gotta just keep going! Spend time in therapy, nature, rest, and activity. Try to keep your home and space organized (since if your spouse is depressed, it’s likely a mess in your mind/life right now… so having order in some way can help.)
Also, hire help if needed. Seriously. If your spouse is unable to commit to helping you watch your kiddo(s), or is inconsistently helping, or you just need time for you, find someone who can come over and straighten up and watch your child(ren) a little bit each week. Find laundry service. Have a massage therapist come over. If money is a concern right now, find free ways to “escape” in nature or take a bath or long shower… many “small things” can be luxurious too.
Give Yourself Grace (to Help Your Depressed Spouse)
They say time heals, but what about when it doesn’t? What if “nothing works” ever? And you’ve tried and exhausted every single route? What if your spouse won’t listen and won’t get help? Whatever you do, don’t fret. Give it space, mourn for your spouse, and move on. Don’t feel guilty if you have a good day.
And, please, don’t hurt yourself helping your spouse. Remember that saying to “never give from the depths of your well, only from your overflow.” If you spend all your energy and resources trying to help someone else and they refuse to accept that help, give what you can, and use love for everything else.
My last piece of advice… don’t let it get the best of you. An argument can make things even worse. Simply listen, suggest help, live by example, and be the very best YOU you can be. And, hang in there.
About Soul Song Counseling | Becca Hart, LPC Postpartum Counselor in Denver, CO
Hi friend. If you read this article, my heart goes out to you. Dealing with a depressed spouse is one of the hardest things.
Especially when you are experiencing depression yourself. It makes it hard to focus, it affects your job performance, your mood, and impacts your parenting.
I’m here for you if you are experiencing this. Let’s make a safe space for you to be you… even if just for an hour each week. Please consider reaching out to me for an appointment.