How to Cope with Depression in Someone you Love

How I learnt to help from saying and doing the wrong things

I think we all have many weaknesses, I do. By far the one I struggle with the most is how I cope with depression. It isn’t that I’m depressed, no, it’s my wife.

My wife has suffered from depression most of her adult life. As a result, she has been on medication for most of that time too. The medication certainly helps, but she has to live with me.

You see, I was and still am hopeless at comforting my wife when things get really on top of her. I have a special talent for saying all the wrong things and at the wrong times too. The lack of talent I display when it comes to coping with my wife’s depression comes from my lack of empathy. It turns out I could probably write a book on what not to say or do.

How not to cope with Depression

The pain I have caused, the anger and the tears. My wife has had to put up with a lot living with me. At times it seems like it’s not enough that she suffers from depression. I have to try and heal her as well. That’s the fool I am. I know it’s an illness. I’m not proud of myself, nope, not at all.

I don’t listen

This is something I hear from my wife. I’m not listening. Although I can understand the point she is making, she is wrong. What I’m doing is listening, but what I’m hearing is something else. Instead, I’m taking that worry and saying don’t worry. In other words, I ignore what’s she said. “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.” I have lost count of the number of times I’ve said that to my wife.

I don’t accept

“You’re wrong!” I tell her. Yet another thing I do well. I am always telling my wife she’s wrong, her fears are unfounded. Not once do I accept what is being said, instead, I choose to argue and disagree with her.

I don’t understand

I get this one a lot. My wife shares her worries and fears with me and when I don’t listen or accept them, then I don’t understand either.

I always make things worse

The outcome of me not knowing how to cope with depression in someone else is that I always make things worse. My poor wife. Oh, how she has suffered. There she is feeling depressed and I manage to make things worse.

This is my shame, my failure to say and do the right thing. I curse my intuitive response because every time I’m faced with this situation, I get it wrong. I react to what I hear, I don’t listen and beyond that, I’ll even argue that the points my wife is making are wrong.

The right way to help someone with depression

An extended hand to help someone to cope with depression
Photo by Alexei Scutari on Unsplash

How should I be helping my wife to cope with her depression? If I could go back to school and learn anything it would be this. Of course, coping with depression isn’t a subject at school. Instead, I and my wife have had to learn the hard way. Here are those valuable lessons.

Just Listen

It turns out that the first thing I can do and probably the most important thing I can do is to just listen. Not to react or even respond and especially not to judge. That is what I must do, listen. I must not interrupt or offer an opinion. Just listen.

Accept and don’t judge

As a loving husband, the hardest thing I have to overcome is to accept my wife's illness. By accepting it, I can give my wife space so she can work through whatever is going in her mind. I’m too quick to judge, to either dismiss with ease the concern or to argue. The golden rule is to not judge in the first place!

How do we cope now?

My wife is still ill. I have come to understand that depression isn’t a condition, it is an illness, it’s one my wife is unlikely to recover from.

I still get things wrong. I’m really quick to say don’t worry, everything will be okay. It’s one of those inbuilt behaviours, one I have to defeat. I am so quick to say it that it feels like a habit, a bad one at that.

Instead, I need to be patient and let my wife speak. Sometimes I get it right, and others I don’t. It’s in my head to want to make things right, to take away the pain my wife is suffering with. It is that mindset which makes things worse, not better for my poor wife.

I’m curious about the process of making personal — and business decisions. Follow me as I explore this through my writing.

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