Aaron Fugate breaks down the impact of emotional depression on marriage and family life in the USA
A word nobody likes to mention. Saying the word itself is almost dirty and highly contagious. Everyone knows depression exists, and some may even think they understand it. But the truth is,you will NEVER understand depression unless you have.
My wife that has had depression for over three years now, and I still don’t understand it. But with all the time, research, and reading I have done, I can say that I know more than the general public. Wait, I know this because when I am talking about depression to someone, their responses on how to handle the situation tell me immediately that they do not know what I am dealing with. But most times, I am talking merely to talk. I already know people generally don’t understand depression.
By no means are the general public a bunch of idiots. Not at all. However, depression is topic that needs to be talked about realistically, and there needs to be more awareness about the dynamics of depression. People should know the basics of what depression is, how it affects people, and how to deal with it. I have fought for three years to hold my family together. I am not saying “fought” in a cliche way to be taken lightly. I have FOUGHT for three years. I have taken beatings only to get back up and keeping fight for the person who beat me. No, not physically beaten, but just as painful.
There are times when I wasn’t strong enough and I lost my calm. There are times when I felt so lost, the desperation led me astray where I was vulnerable to make bad decisions. I made mistakes that have had catastrophic results and caused hurt and pain for others around us. This is what happens when you deal with depression the wrong way. But the bottom line is we are still here fighting through it held together by love.
Our closest friends see this, but even they don’t understand. Every fall and winter there are low points of depression. Right on cue and without fail, our friends either feel threatened and grow defensive or just “disappear” for awhile. Not because they are bad friends, but because they don’t know how to deal with depression. They don’t know how to comfort someone “like that”. Someone with…. (looks both ways to make sure nobody hears)…..”depression”. If there is one piece of advice I an offer to anybody reading: don’t be afraid of depression, and don’t take it personally.
Lets say you are trying to help or converse with a drunk person, and they say something out of line or offensive. What do you do? You chalk it up to “It’s the alcohol talking”. It’s the same with depression. When they say things hurtful or out of line, it’s the depression talking not them. You cannot retaliate, that only makes things worse. Not to say keeping yourself from retaliating is easy. I still mess that up. But if you choose to fight back, fight back with love not anger.
I want those closest to us to better understand what my family is dealing with. I want to help them better understand how to help and support people with depression in the right way and not be afraid of it. I also want to raise awareness to the general public who don’t understand, or think depression isn’t even a problem to be dealt with. This disease is so ignored, there is virtually no help out there for people who can’t afford treatment. My goal is to raise awareness and to inspire people to do the same. With that said, I am about to give you a glimpse inside of our lives.
Inside the Family
“You’re stupid,” “You don’t care,” “You’re the reason I am like this,” “I don’t care anymore,” “You will all be happier without me,” “Nobody will care if I am gone,” “Nothing matters,” “I don’t want to live anymore.”
These are things I hear when she is at her lowest point. The things I hear the person I love the most say to me. To better help that sink in, I’ll give you a little back story. My wife and I have been married for almost 15 years, together for almost 17 years, and friends for about 22 years. We are only 33. So, if you did the math, we obviously met in middle school, seventh grade to be exact. You could obviously say that I know her like the back of my hand.
We dated on and off throughout middle school and high school, but always remained friends. Then in 1999, our senior year, the stars aligned and we took our relationship to a serious level. We graduated, moved out together immediately, got engaged a year later, married in 2001, and had our first child in 2002.
It was about then we realized we went so fast. We forgot a couple of things, like college or finding good jobs. We were broke. We moved a lot. But at the end of the day, we were both happy and loved our little family. So, I went to community college. Life was rough.
We had a kid and we were both working full time jobs while I went to school. Eventually the struggle paid off and I found a decent job. Not a dream job, but definitely a step in the right direction. At this time we decided to have a second child. Was it financially smart? No. But our first child was almost 5. We didn’t want too much age difference between the kids. In 2006 our second child was born. Things got a little rougher at this point. I wasn’t making enough money and daycare was getting expensive.
Then the economy tanked and I kept getting laid off. But still, we we’re happy. My wife was all-pro by now. She was always on top of everything and had a memory like an elephant. The house was always sparkling and we had homemade dinners almost every day. She worked hard to keep it all together.
About three years later, she started wanting a third and final child. I was completely against it. Two kids was hard enough and my career had not taken off as fast as I hoped. Another child seemed like a horrible decision. The discussion went on for months.
In 2009, November to be exact, we had a life changing oops. She was pregnant. Now I know I said oops, but that didn’t change anything. We knew we would treat and love this baby no different from our first two. We still do. In 2010, our third and final child was born.
At first, our new baby was just like our first two. Everything was “awes” and “oohs”. It was the ”new baby syndrome.” But as things got back to normal, my wife became harder to deal with. Something had changed. She wasn’t so on top of things anymore. Her temper seemed to have escalated. Her memory was no longer on point. We chalked the change up to a third child and more stress and fatigue.
This went on for two years, gradually getting worse. We were arguing more and more. She was expecting more from me while I felt she was doing less. I had this mentality of, “I have my job, this is yours.” Everything started to become frustrating.
In the winter of 2012, she hit rock bottom. She gave up. She never cleaned an rarely showered. She hardly even came out of her room. She slept all the time. The kids were forced to fend themselves while I was at work. Life was bad. We were arguing nonstop. I accused her of being lazy, a bad wife, a bad mother, and so on. It wasn’t until halfway through that winter that the word depression came up.
I started doing research and I realized the severity of the situation. I also learned I was doing everything wrong and had only made the situation worse. I had to accept the woman I married was no longer the same. Depression had come in and taken ahold of her like some evil spirit.
Everyday is different. Mostly different levels of low with the occasional good day. We have to take each day as a new day. Starting over. Whatever she was like yesterday could be completely different today. Good days are when I come home from work and she is up and getting things done. Low days are when I come home from work and she is laying on the couch and looks like she has been there all day. I know if it weren’t for the kids, she would still be in bed.
With depression, even getting up to get yourself a drink of water or to go to the bathroom is like climbing Mt. Everest. I am grateful that she manages to get up and get the older to kids off to school. But when I come home from working an 8 hour day, only to find out that I have to keep going and do her job as well while she lays on the couch, life gets frustrating. Who wouldn’t be frustrated? That is all part of life. The frustration and depression can go on for days, or weeks even.
What am I supposed to do? Pack up and leave? No, I love her too much. Is this easy? Certainly no. Do I make mistakes? Yes. Do I get frustrated and angry and make things worse at times? Yes. But I am only one person. I am not perfect. I am only so strong. I am a healthy person without depression, imagine how she feels?
She has a disease that causes her brain to make her think she is worthless, weak, stressed, overwhelmed, and helpless. This disease causes her to say things and do things she normally wouldn’t do or say. It causes her to make bad decisions, that she will feel is the right decision and fight me on. It causes her memory to completely unfold. She will tell me the same thing multiple times in a 10 minute period. She will unleash hell over the simplest of questions. Jokes and humor around the house are shunned. She will scream at the kids over the most minute issue. She will lock herself in her room for hours or even days. Company is generally forbidden, as she does not want to be around anyone, and at times even her own family. And most of this goes on without recognition or an apology.
Until she has an up day, which in the winter are few and far between. When she has an up day, it’s go, go, go! Let’s do something, now. Let get out of the house, now. RUN!! Lets go!! Let’s go out to eat. Lets go shopping. Let’s go go go. And if we don’t have the money or the time, she gets angry and back down she goes. Which causes me to make poor money decisions at times because I don’t want to upset her. I want to keep her happy so I will allow us to spend money we don’t have.
These are examples of things that I deal with.
The impact of depression is behind closed doors. Our friends may hear about some of it, but it’s not too often that they see it. There are times when the depression or anger leaks out the doors and others can see or hear. How others respond to that situation greatly affects my entire family. I am always trying to keep her up or give her the space she needs.
No, not always, as I mentioned before, I screw up too. Ultimately, my goal is to keep her happy. What most don’t understand is our friends and family can unknowingly bring down the entire house. They need to understand that not everything my wife does will make sense. She may overreact to things that seem petty. She may come at you, but it’s not personal. When friends or family jump back at her, it causes this downward spiral that destroys the mood of the entire house.
She has depression. She needs your compassion, not your revenge. She is an emotional time bomb. At times, she does things I don’t agree with, but it makes her feel better. So I drop it.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. She likes to post “vague” statuses on Facebook. Her words tend to be negative in nature. Now, to you and me her actions may seem desperate; a cry for help. You may think she’s just being a drama queen, seeking attention. I thought this for a long time. I eventually figured out this is her way of coping. Her way of getting out how she’s feeling without letting you in. Bottom line, posting these statuses makes her feel better. She’s not seeking responses or looking for a pity party.
Recently, after a friend responded to ask her what’s wrong. My wife’s depression replied with a “none of your business” sort of answer. Shortly after, the same friend posted a status regarding vague statuses and people who post them are just drama queens looking for attention. So naturally, my wife got upset and angry and was contemplating doing something back, which I am glad she didn’t do.
It turned out to be a good thing, because the friend claimed the status was not about my wife. True or not, in that one instance, that person unknowingly caused grief throughout my entire house. Again, not that they are a bad friend, they just don’t understand. My wife needs to know people care and are there for her. Love will not fix her, but the outcome is a lot better than anger or resentment. If you bring that kind of negativity into my home, then I respectfully ask you to leave. I’ve worked too hard to hold this together.
Health Care Industry
Now I’m sure you are asking yourself by now, have you tried medication or therapy? Well, at first, she refused help. I was feeling helpless and unqualified. I knew I could not do this on my own. In her mind, agreeing to therapy meant admitting something was wrong with her. In her mind, her depression was just a phase. She never had a traumatic moment in her life, so how could she have depression? It wasn’t until the second winter that she finally agreed to see a therapist.
I immediately began researching therapists. So had I thought of therapy? Yes. Was I able to do provide therapay for my wife? No. There is not enough awareness, not enough help, not enough support, not enough insurance. This country does not seem to recognize mental illness as a serious threat. How can not be a threat when over 60% of all suicides are a result of an untreated mental illness. How can we ignore that?
There have been days I fear coming home to suicide. Days I knew how bad she had been feeling. Yet, we cannot afford mental health care. Upon research, I found that therapists start at around $60 and higher. Some well over $100. I looked into my insurance. Insurance only covered one session and only if she had an official diagnosis. One session. That’s it.
I kept digging. I found a therapist who agreed to see her for $30 after I explained our financial situation. We went. She was amazing and my wife loved her. She felt comfortable opening up to her. She diagnosed my wife with depression and anxiety. The meeting was wonderful. However, she was only a therapist. Therapists cannot prescribe medication, only give counselling. So, she recommended a psychiatrist so my wife could be evaluated for the proper medication.
Once my wife was on medication, she would need to come back to see the therapist once a week for an unknown amount of time. We left feeling good about the visit. Everything seemed hopeful. Until we started to call psychiatrists. It would be a minimum of $160 to see a psychiatrist. We knew we could not afford that. So we turned to others for help and were able to get the appointment.
My wife went to the meeting on her own. When she got back, she didn’t seem happy about it. She didn’t connect with the psychiatrist at all. The doctor diagnosed her and prescribed medication. We went to fill the prescription and it cost almost $140. Through more help, we managed to get it filled. That was just for a one month prescription. What about the month after? And the month after that. What about the $30 a week for the therapist? This was adding up.
I began to look for assistance. Government programs. Nothing. There was not a single thing out there. Insurance doesn’t cover depression. The government doesn’t help. Why? In all my research, I realized how big of a deal mental health issues are in this country. Suicides, crimes, murders – Most traced back to some sort of mental illness. But who am I to take on the government’s issues when I am just trying to keep my own family together? So there we were. Back to square one. Facing depression head on by ourselves and hoping we come out alive.
Now it’s October. It’s the beginning of the third dip. The third low. Round 3. Locked in a cage with no one to tap us out. No one to give us a break or a breather. All in or all out. I love my wife more than life itself. So I fight. I read. I research. I learn. But by no means do I give up.
Yes, I’ve thought about giving up. Yes, I’ve come close. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t make myself leave. So I stayed and here we are. Three years into dealing with depression all by ourselves. We’re still here. I’m still learning. I never stop reading about it and neither is she. She is learning and figuring out ways to cope and deal with new situations. Everyday is a new beginning, a new adventure. Good or bad, it changes everyday.
Love. Learn. Live. Repeat.
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