Several years ago, my husband, Holmes, began skipping meals and losing weight, eventually 25 pounds within three months. His laid-back, somewhat pensive temperament turned irritable and moody. Although he typically was quiet about his feelings, Holmes became increasingly withdrawn and didn't seem to enjoy things anymore.
I knew Holmes was encountering tough times as a homebuilder in a flagging economy and a tanking stock market. But I kept hoping he'd perk up if he got another construction job. In the meantime, being ever the encourager, I tried everything I could think of to cheer him up. I pointed out all the positive things he did, such as being a great dad or helping other people. I encouraged Holmes to look ahead to a family trip we'd planned, but that didn't help, either. As the months rolled into years, neither my encouraging words nor my hard work to take up the slack in our income seemed to make a difference.
In 1995, roughly seven years after I first noticed my husband's struggles, our pastor realized from a conversation with Holmes that he was suicidal. He immediately made Holmes an appointment with a doctor who diagnosed him as having clinical depression. The physician told us Holmes probably had been depressed for years. Situational depression caused by the crushing pressures of Holmes's declining building business in the late 1980s, compounded by a genetic predisposition to clinical depression on both sides of his family, had pushed him to the edge. Perhaps if I'd known the clues, Holmes could have gotten help before his depression had become full-blown.
I've discovered I'm not the only woman who's experienced life with a depressed husband. With an unstable economy and corporate meltdowns, depression in males is on the rise. That means countless wives face the challenge of trying to help a spouse who's in emotional turmoil. But depression doesn't have to bring down your entire family. There is help, there is hope, and there are ways you can support your spouse—and yourself.
Caring for Your Husband
If the dark cloud of depression overtakes your spouse, how can you help him?
Recognize the signs. It's important to distinguish between situational depression triggered by something such as a job layoff or demotion, and clinical depression. Situational depression involves some of the same symptoms of clinical depression (see below), but they're of shorter duration and lower intensity. For example, if your husband's depression is caused by discouragement over a job loss, within six months he should regroup, recover his enjoyment of life, and move on. However, according to Michael Navarro, a licensed psychotherapist, clinical depression's symptoms are more pronounced and last far longer. The absence of pleasure in the activities your husband once enjoyed is greater; his malaise, anger, or weight loss more substantial.