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When your spouse has depression
You may feel like you dont want to burden other people, or you may feel embarrassed. There are many negative feelings you may have associated with your spouses depression. Just remember, there is nothing wrong with getting sick. - photo by Andrew Edtl
My wife has depression, and thats OK. Its also OK to talk about it, at least in our house. Depression isnt a dirty word, and its companion terms arent, either.

Depression is hard.

When your spouse has clinical depression, its more than just a bad day. There will be days that you wont want to go on, and days youll want to put up your hands and say Im done! Youll blame yourself on some days, and the idea of divorce may even run around the edges of your mind or come out in full force.

Depression is caused by a variety of sources. You're not one of them.

While you may want to blame yourself, your spouses depression or unexplained dip in emotion is probably not your fault. That thing you did? Your spouse probably didnt even notice it. According to an article from Harvard Health Publications, Depression has many possible causes, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. Its believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.

Unfortunately, youre not enough.

Its also unlikely that your spouse will just get over it. The reality is, your loved one needs a good support system. As the spouse, youre a key component of that system, even if youre relatively new. However, you need to include some other key people, including a psychiatrist (theyll manage medication), a psychologist (or counselor), and close family and friends.

But what if theyve already tried a psychiatrist or a counselor and had a bad experience? If thats the case, its time to fire them, and hire someone new. It is essential that your spouse connects with her clinical support team. If she doesn't feel fully comfortable talking with one therapist, don't hesitate to ask for another referral.

Were not in the dark ages anymore.

Did you have a bad experience with medication 20 years ago? What about one of your parents? While thats unfortunate, and tragic, in some cases, were not in the dark ages anymore. A lot has changed in pharmaceutical technology, and its continually evolving. Pharmaceuticals are safer and far more advanced than they used to be and are continually becoming more affordable as some of the mature formulas become generic.

Finding the right mix of medications is hard and may take months or even years to perfect. Its important to note, though, that if the current medication mix is not working properly, or if it has undesirable side effects such as dizziness or nausea, discuss it with your doctor and try a new mix.

With a few exceptions, most people will not be able to control a sustained psychological illness without medication. While changes in diet, exercise, counseling, and other great activities will help, they wont be enough in most cases. Thats where pharmaceuticals come in.

Religion and science are complementary.

While Im definitely generalizing, and perhaps unfairly so, it seems religious people are often the first to dismiss scientific achievements or rely on treatments that dont involve pharmaceuticals. However, religion and science are complementary, not contradictory. God often answers our prayers through other people, and pharmaceuticals are no different. Think of the complexity of developing pharmaceuticals, and then ask if its possible that mankind could have advanced so far without inspiration from God.

Popular church leader and political figure Brigham Young said, Every discovery in science and art that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God. We should take advantage of all these great discoveries and give to our children the benefit of every branch of useful knowledge, to prepare them to step forward and efficiently do their part in the great work.

Inspirational speaker Dallin Oaks said, The use of medical science is not at odds with our prayers of faith and our reliance on priesthood blessings.

Pope Francis has also recently stated that God is not a magician, with a magic wand."

This is a sustained effort.

Your spouse isnt going to get over his or her depression in a week or a month. In fact, theres a good chance she will never get over it. When your loved one gets on medication and starts feeling good, that doesnt mean its time to stop the medication. Instead, it means you finally found the right balance. Missing a day of medication will often mean several days of not feeling well and stopping altogether can mean complete regression, or worse.

There are things you may move beyond, such as your spouses counselor. However, the relationship youll have with the psychiatrist will likely continue. The frequency may change, moving from weekly to quarterly, and vice versa, but this member of the spousal support system is essential throughout the life of the illness.

Never forget your place in the support system. You are an essential member. The need for each spouse differs, but what each needs universally is your encouragement and guidance throughout the process. Know your spouses doctors, know her medication and be involved in the decision-making process.

Remember, its OK to talk about it.

You may feel like you dont want to burden other people, or you may feel embarrassed. There are many negative feelings you may have associated with your spouses depression. Just remember, there is nothing wrong with getting sick.

Until youre more comfortable, seek out those who understand depression or your close friends and family. If you cant find anyone in one of those groups, shoot me an email, we already have something in common.
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