Today I share my husband with you. He has willingly offered to write an article explaining what’s it like to be married to a spouse who has been diagnosed with Depression. He offers a perspective that not many ever get to hear. Thank you for taking the time to listen to him. God has definitely blessed me over the last 19 years. 🙂
This year marks the 19th anniversary of my marriage to Samantha. In so many ways it seems like just yesterday that we got married. It seems like yesterday that I was pursuing her and doing my best to convince her that I loved her and that we should spend the rest of our lives together. It was an amazing process to chase her until she caught me. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I never regret proposing, which was in the most unromantic way (another story), and making the sacred covenant together before God.
With that said, I will be honest that our marriage has also included some very long years, with a lot of stress and pain at times. Living with a person who battles the type of depression that Samantha deals with can drive any relationship to the brink of destruction. Statistically, very few marriages survive when living like this. This is why I wanted to share today about how Samantha’s depression affected me and the changes that I needed to make in order to be a supportive husband.
I love peace and harmony. I have a very phlegmatic personality that enjoys the quiet moments and runs away from the loud, activity-filled moments. My least favorite thing to deal with is conflict, and my natural tendency is to be like a turtle and hide in my shell. I love the picture-perfect idea of coming home from a long day at work, smelling the homemade roast cooking in the stove, and Samantha greeting me at the door with a kiss and an encouraging word. My kids would all be standing in the kitchen in a perfect line saying, “Hello Father! We are so glad you are home!” Then they would quietly go off to do their homework before dinner starts. Samantha would bring me a cup of coffee while I relax in my recliner, catching up on the daily news before dinner. At the dinner table we would have soft-spoken conversations with the kids, enjoying all the food and sharing about how they have excelled in school that day. I’m sure you can guess that our home does not resemble that in the slightest.
Our home is loud. Two teen/pre-teen girls and a seven-year-old boy are constantly running, screaming, and arguing. Both Samantha and I work outside the home during the day. Pressures from activities with kids, our jobs, and our ministry all build up everyday. In just the normal home, we all know that my dream world isn’t a reality. To add to the stresses of everyday life, throw Samantha’s depression into the mix. My dreams of peace and harmony soon fly away. There has been no greater obstacle in my life than learning to deal with Samantha’s depression. I recognize that if not for my faith in Christ, and my deep love for Samantha and my kids, we would have become another statistic.
I have to admit that I never really understood depression. Sure, we all get sad or angry at times, but never did I understand that this could be a real ongoing condition. I had a view of people with depression that they were just too lazy to deal with their problems and needed to just grow up. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I told Samantha that she just needed to get over it and act like an adult. Just so you know, that strategy never did work. I did not understand the reality of depression and believed it was simple to overcome. I believed she should just get past the drama and buck up. I didn’t believe in the medications, I didn’t see the need for counseling, and I didn’t think it was my problem. I didn’t think that I should have to sacrifice my desires to help her get through her issues. I also bought into some stupid religious myths that “Christians shouldn’t deal with depression”. There is this view that depression is all about a lack of faith and you are not really following God if you have depression in your life. Obviously this view doesn’t come from the Bible. The Bible is filled with God’s people dealing with depression and how God led them to victory.
As time went on, I started to see that Samantha needed real help. I was still not 100% convinced that it was like a disease or an addiction, but I was getting closer. My thoughts dramatically changed a couple years ago when everything seemed to hit rock bottom. Samantha’s depression was at its worst, our third child was born which brought added stress, there were issues at the church I pastor, financial troubles hit us, I experienced anxiety issues resulting from a mission trip, and then my father unexpectedly passed away. For the first time in my life, I had feelings of my own that I didn’t quite understand. I found myself waking up at night with anxiety attacks, my health declined, and I gained over 25 pounds. I experienced depression. I have never experienced anything like it. I was sad, anxious, and angry. Those are emotions that were very foreign to me. Finally, I got help. I saw my doctor and began taking the same meds that I was once opposed to Samantha taking. I wondered if I lacked faith. I was mad that I was in these circumstances. At times I cried, and I snapped at the kids and at my wife. All I wanted to do was run away and sleep. It was then I realized that depression is for real, and it isn’t something you can just “get over”.
I remember admitting my problems to Samantha and for the first time really listening to what she goes through. I quickly realized that all the emotions I was feeling were a mere fraction of what she had been experiencing all those years. I couldn’t imagine what it was like for her to experience this for so many years, but now I had a much better understanding. My compassion for my wife grew during that time, and I wanted to do anything I could to help her.
Today I still desire peace and harmony, but I have learned that these are not things that are to be handed to me on a silver platter. Rather, they are something that Samantha and I need to work together to accomplish. We now look at this as a team-approach to depression instead of it being her problem. Since that moment, our marriage has grown stronger, victories over depression have been seen, and we now look forward to the future that God has planned for us. It still is not perfect and I catch myself often going backward, but the steps forward now outnumber the backward ones.
In the next post, I will share some things I have learned over the years that have helped me be a more supportive husband who is a partner with my wife to help her through depression.
Chad McDonald is the lead pastor of Sault Wesleyan Church in Sault Ste. Marie, MI, where he has served for almost 16 years. He graduated from Lake Superior State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and attended Indiana Wesleyan University to pursue his ministry license. Chad and Samantha live in the Sault with their 3 children, their loyal black lab, Ruger, their black and white cat aptly named Oreo, and their newest addition, an orange tabby named Daisy.
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