Back in December, before the pandemic, I was hit with a pretty long stretch of depression that lasted well into February. There was some work stress that got to me, along with a book I published that didn’t perform the way I’d hoped. And then I started hearing about coronavirus. I didn’t give it too much attention at first, like most people.
But suddenly it hit the US, and my world changed. I was just trying to get my balance. I was trying to figure out what I should, and shouldn’t, believe online. I was trying to assess the danger, the reality of it. Then I had to figure out how to teach my children while working from home. All of it hit me like a wave.
I will admit, the busyness of it all kept my mind a little too active to be depressed. But one month in, once my life settled, I had a moment to feel — and it felt like the stage had been set for one of the hardest depressive moments of my life.
As long as I can remember, I’ve lived with pretty nasty anxiety and depression, so I suppose I should have the resources and medication to make this all a little more manageable. But like so many people with mental illness in the middle of a pandemic, I struggled to take the steps necessary to seek help.
I don’t know why I always find myself in this situation. I know I should seek help. I know I’m feeling down and struggling to get out of bed. I know I’m avoiding social interaction and fighting just to go through the motions of the day, but for some reason, I resist making an appointment to meet with my therapist. I make excuses. I put it off.
But here’s what I do know: when I need help, my wife Mel can spot it from a mile away. And last month, she sat me down and we had the therapy talk. This is where she calmly, in a non-accusing way, mentions that she’s noticed my struggles and thinks I should meet with my therapist.
We’ve been married for fifteen years, and she’s had to do this a handful of times. And each time I am resistant. Each time I push back, saying that I will be okay, that I will make it through. I mention that I have the skills I need to handle this. But ultimately, I always relent and make an appointment. And after a few sessions, I start to feel better, and I’m grateful for her perception — and compassion for — my well being
Like so many people with depression, when things get bad, I think about suicide more than I’d like. And the fact that Mel is willing to set me aside and push me toward seeking help says a lot about how much she cares about me. To be honest, each time she does it, she might just be saving my life.
Right now is a very difficult time for all of us. Unemployment is through the roof. Many of us are stuck inside, trying to avoid getting sick, trying to stay safe, while also trying to make sense of an ever-changing situation. And all of this is like a depression breeding ground. I see so many people posting online about feeling the emotional struggle of dealing with COVID-19.
If you are feeling this way too, I want you to take the time and effort to seek out resources. Many state funded resources are still available for people struggling with depression. And most therapists are meeting with their patents online. I’ve been meeting with mine online ever since Mel urged me to do so.
But what I want to stress the most is that if you are noticing that your spouse is struggling with depression but not seeking help, sit them down and urge them to seek resources. Let them know that you have noticed. Tell them that you care, that you’re worried. Do it in a non-judgmental way. Tell them that you love them and that you want them to be able to emotionally ride out this pandemic, and that you are there to support them as they do so.
One thing to understand about depression is that it makes the sufferer not want to do anything, and even the thought of seeking help can feel like too much, so the act of actually making an appointment might never actually happen. Help them find their resources. Do the Google search for them. Reach out to your insurance about therapy on their behalf. Take an hour and do the legwork. Be insistent but caring, and remove as many obstacles as you can — it can make all the difference.
I will be the first to admit, I’m always resistant when Mel does this for me. But once she does, I am always grateful. I know it is done out of love. Be that same person for your spouse, especially right now. They might just need it more than ever.