When a toxic work environment triggered his depression she wondered if they’d survive. But practicing love saved them.
He kissed me goodbye and closed the door behind him. I wondered if that would be the last time I saw him and said a silent prayer that eight hours from now he would fill that door frame again.
Those first weeks and months of my husband’s new job in Oregon had been extremely difficult for us from day one. We, along with our brand new baby, had left all our family and friends in Hawaii, only for him to be thrown into a toxic work environment.
We had been managing his depression well. I knew he had attempted suicide twice before we met, and in our entire courtship, I had never seen any evidence that his depression still lingered. He seemed to have everything under control.
Those days seemed like a million years ago as every morning I watched my husband steel himself against an environment that threatened to undo all the progress he had made. Whatever mental strength he had was quickly eroding. He spent more time in his head, unaware of his surroundings, and I worried for his safety every day. My worry was not that he would attempt suicide again, but that he would get into an accident because he simply wasn’t paying attention.
Our boxes from Hawaii hadn’t even arrived when we started thinking about moving back home. When the mailman finally brought them to our door, I seriously considered sending them back. I should have, because just three months after arriving, we were on the plane back home.
It all boiled down to a simple belief of mine: No amount of money was worth my husband’s safety and happiness.
Life did not get easier after we made that decision to come home, and in a lot of ways my husband’s mental health has been a third partner in our marriage. He’d be the first to tell you that I’ve been forced to be the strong one, and I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve never experienced feelings of bitterness and loss over the life I might’ve had if he was whole, but believe me when I say that being his partner has challenged me to grow in miraculous ways:
I practice acceptance of who he is right now, rather than what I wish he was.
I practice being non-judge mental .
I practice holding space when his emotions overwhelm him.
I practice embracing rather than pushing away.
I practice allowing him to be vulnerable without considering it a weakness.
I practice picking him up when he falls apart.
I practice forgiveness.
I practice unconditional love.
It isn’t easy, and I’m certainly far from perfect, but all these efforts has made me therecipient of the most amazing and sincere, heartfelt love and devotion. My greatest success in life has been to become the person with whom he feels completely safe.
In truth, these are things we should be practicing in all our relationships – not just in marriage, and not just when married to someone suffering from depression. In our case, depression has made our study and practice of these things more urgent, more vital, and I would even go so far as to credit depression with the success we’ve experienced in our marriage because it has truly put us to the test.
After nearly ten years of marriage and the births of three children, each day continues to bring its challenges and joys, wins and losses, but every day we choose love, and it has made all the difference. It’s been a thrill to see him open up about his past and his struggles as a weekly columnist here on The Good Men Project, and I know that the articles he writes are part of his healing, and mine.
Full disclosure: While these practices are good and important in any healthy relationship, and while they have helped us in our marriage and struggle with depression, there are absolutely times when medication is a necessary addition to therapy and emotional support, and caregivers and patients alike should not feel like failures when enlisting the help of professionals. That is NOT a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and can be an important step toward restoring wellness. We are currently managing without medication but highly encourage anyone who is dealing with depression to see professional health, including medication when necessary.