What I’ve learned supporting my husband through clinical depression

The author is known to Women’s Agenda but wishes to remain anonymous for this post 


I've lost all sense of time. Initially I expected to measure progress across days. As it became clear that that was overly ambitious, I opted for weeks. How long is it now though since my husband was diagnosed with clinical depression? How is it that it is coming up to two months and yet it's only now that we've sought out a psychologist for him and a counsellor for me?

I am sure that in the scheme of things I have learnt almost nothing so far, but what I do know is this:

  • A calm environment facilitates healing.
  • Disruption and chaos does not.
  • My home is more the latter than the former.
  • Having a lot of people around to support us only helps if there is an emotional connection. Otherwise, it’s just more chaos.
  • I only help my husband if I'm emotionally connected and available. It's not enough just to 'be there' if I'm busy with work and household chores.
  • It's OK to 'be there' in silence.
  • Assurances of hope tend to fall on deaf ears. Better to acknowledge it’s OK to be having the feelings he is experiencing.
  • Returning to nature with walks and time sitting absorbing the sun is helpful but even then my husband can be so caught up in what's going on in his head that he needs help in being 'mindful'.
  • There's a fine balance between pushing a person suffering from depression into doing things you hope will make them feel better and in fact making them more anxious. I don't know where to draw that line and the line can move by the day or by the hour.
  • You'll get inconsistent messages from professionals - some say 'he has to do it himself'; others say 'be there' for him. No one explains what that means.
  • The ‘manner’ of a professional is as important as their skills and knowledge. The first psychologist my husband saw was jittery and rushed and made him more anxious.
  • Get second opinions if you're at all unsure about whether your professional is suitable. My husband's psychiatrist delayed and delayed recommending a psychologist, saying he wasn’t ready for that, relying only on drugs in the meantime. I believe this has delayed my husband's recovery.
  • Look for a psychologist with a broad range of skills. CBT is not enough. Psychotherapy, going back to the family environment growing up, can help to piece together the jigsaw, as well as techniques in mindfulness.
  • Dominoes (or any board game) for that matter are a great distraction and are good for the soul.
  • Anxiety is best dealt with by slowing down, which requires you to learn to relax while doing something quiet, eg reading or painting.
  • Don’t push, just prompt.
  • Take a day or an hour at a time.
  • Sip a drink through a straw to ease panic attacks.
  • Be a springboard, not a crutch.
  • Thoughts are real. They affect our behaviour and our mood. As a carer you need to acknowledge negative thoughts but don’t let them overtake you. Switch to some positive thoughts instead.
  • Psychiatrists really do say 'Time's up'!
Last modified on Friday, 13 November 2015 16:33
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