My wife is depressed. She started some medication last week and her doctor wants her to see a therapist, too. Nothing has changed yet, but I am hopeful that she will get better.
At this time, I am more worried about myself. I have a stressful job, and then I come home to a messy house and fighting kids to discover that my wife has been sleeping most of the day.
The laundry, dishes, clutter and kids are out of control. I make dinner and spend the rest of the evening trying to catch up all the things that didn’t get done through the day. We just fight if I try to talk to her about it.
I am exhausted, angry and resentful and I don’t like feeling this way. I am not depressed, but is there any help for me?
Thank you for asking this question. You are not the only person to feel this way when a partner or family member suffers from depression.
Depression affects families, but resources tend to focus on the depressed person and leave the family out. It is great that your wife has started treatment because as her depression is addressed she will likely be able to participate more in the family and your workload will be lessened and things will improve for you.
There are a few things that you can do right now that might help you while you are waiting for your wife’s energy and mood to improve.
Ask for help. In posing your question you have already begun to do this. Don’t stop; keep on going. Ask for and accept help from many sources, friends, family, neighbours and professionals.
Things that are helpful include: listening and understanding, preparing meals, taking the kids for a while, driving kids to activities, etc. This is a time to let people help.
Hire people to help. It isn’t possible for one person to do the work of two for an extended period of time without succumbing to stress. Consider hiring someone to help with the house cleaning, yard work or food preparation.
Suffering alone is not a good choice. Instead, talk to friends who may have dealt with depression. They might be able to offer some hopeful insights and practical tools for coping. Work with a therapist yourself. If you have extended benefits through work, therapy costs may be covered.
One of the most important things you can do is look after yourself — take a night off to do something you enjoy, get some exercise, take 15 minutes to yourself between work and home. Anything that lets you take a small break from the problems at home will be good for you and leave you feeling better able to cope.
Organize the environment so there is less work to do — simpler meals with planning for leftovers, establish a toy free zone in the house so there is one place that stays uncluttered, keep all eating in the kitchen (dishes spread around the house usually comprise much clutter).
Talk about depression with the kids. Kids often feel the same way you do about a parent’s depression only they tend to blame themselves for it. It is important for kids to know some facts about depression and that they didn’t cause it.
Your wife’s therapist may have some suggestions for you as therapy progresses. Couple’s therapy may be useful as the depression comes under control.
If you would like to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult a Counsellor is provided by the registered clinical counsellors at Pacific Therapy & Consulting: Nancy Bock, Diane Davies, Leslie Wells and Andrew Lochhead. It appears every second Friday.