I think depression is one of those things that people don't want to talk about too much. Fear of the truth, not knowing what to say or how to react to it. I have lived with depression for two years now. I have decided to write about it because I feel there isn't as much support for those who live with one who suffers from this terrible disease. This is my story...
When did it begin...
I don't know if it even "began" or if it was one of those things that kind of snuck up on us slowly. I can't even remember when it all began but I do recall the drive on the day that I mentioned to Doug "maybe you're depressed." He didn't shut me down, rather replied with a "maybe I am." Doug had been on the board of elders at our church for a few years and he had just been elected to the Chairman role. As his wife, I had noticed a few changes in his moods and personality but I just chalked them up to work-related stress in addition to being on a board and the recent news of Sarah's cerebral palsy.
I had sort of noticed things weren't quite the way they used to be. A few days of being unhappy followed by a couple weeks of "normal". I don't even remember how it came to be something that I brought up but shortly after that drive we took, Doug saw the doctor who confirmed our suspicions. Shortly after the diagnosis, we began to find out that depression runs in his family. He started on some antidepressants in February 2011 which appeared to be working after a few weeks which was to be expected. This is when things start to get a little foggy for me but we began to notice a decline in Doug's moods again. To us, depression looked like being unable to participate in family time, the inability to be around large groups, preferring to spend time alone and a sense of being disconnected from the world around him. I felt alone and sought refuge in my kids and friends.
The past two years have literally been a rollercoaster of emotions for all of us. I feel like I have had to learn to love a different person than the one I married. Of course, physically that's not the case but the person inside Doug's body had changed. Quiet, withdrawn emotionally unstable. For instance, I wouldn't know what to expect on a Saturday morning. I would have to decide when (if) to wake him up. I usually waffled between a few thoughts: one being angry. This was usually the first thing I felt when the clock rolled past 9:00 and I just figured it was time for people to be up. I mean I likely had been up since 6:30 already. Honestly, I was frustrated: why should he get to sleep when I was up with the kids? Another part of me felt it was a risk to wake him up. Would he be in a "funk" or not? There was a chance that his getting up wouldn't be good for any of us or maybe he'd be fine. Kind of like gambling.
Another unknown was always after work. What would he be like when he got home? I tried hard to be a buffer between him and the kids when he walked in the door. I knew that the rush of kids at the door all of them wanting to excitedly tell him about their day wouldn't be good. Speaking of the kids, when Doug and I realized that this depression wasn't going away anytime soon, and he was on a doctor prescribed, two week medical leave from work, we told them what was going on. We knew they needed to know why he was acting different and that it wasn't anything they did or that we could change.
Living on the other side of depression is really tough. I. Don't. Get. It. If I am in a bad mood, I'll go make a coffee, have a cookie and 'get over it', which I know people who fight depression CAN'T do. There is always the lingering fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. I wouldn't know Doug's triggers and I don't think he did either. It could have been something as simple as having pancakes for supper or not ensuring the front entrance cleared up for him. Again... everything seemed to be a gamble.
Doug shared this quote with me:
"Hemingway has his classic moment in "The Sun Also Rises" when someone asks Mike Campbell how he went bankrupt. All he can say is, "Gradually, then suddenly." That's how depression hits. You wake up one morning, afraid that you're gonna live.”
― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
There wasn't a single factor that caused or contributed to Doug's depression... it just kind of happened. Right now, two years later, although he continues to have ups and downs, the extreme lows seem to have reduced in frequency. I also have learned how to read his cues much better and as a family we're figuring this out.
* Doug is aware that I've written this and encouraged me when his doctor said that 2/3 of his patient load come in due to depression *