Ever since I started my blog a few months ago, I’ve had several people ask if I would write about my experience of being married to someone with depression. I don’t know why, but I was afraid to write about it. I guess it felt like a big responsibility. But it keeps coming up, so I talked to Wil about it and he thought it was a great idea.
From my experience of being married to someone with depression, having two kids with depression, and having a few friends with it, I see that it affects everyone in different ways. I think my fear of writing about it was that it wouldn’t be relatable to some people who would then think I shouldn’t be writing about it. But as I looked back on my previous posts, some funny, some just a walk down memory lane, I realized my experiences are my own and it’s ok to just share. That’s why I created a blog in the first place.
Before I start, I do have to say that if you are having any problems with depression or other mental health issues, please seek help. Talk to your doctor or find organizations near you such as NAMI to help you. If you feel like you aren’t capable of doing that, talk to a friend or family member who can assist you in finding help. Your brain is as vital to your body as everything else. You deserve to feel good, to feel balanced, and to enjoy life.
I met Wil when he was 23 years old. I had dated some pretty unpleasant guys before him so it took me several months to get used to him just being what I felt was “normal.” He was normal as far as not using drugs or being an alcoholic, or trying to start arguments with me or call me names. He was just a good guy with a good family and a great group of friends. He loved and appreciated the person I was and the kids I had brought into this new relationship. It felt so foreign to me, being with a guy who was like this. We were six months into dating when I finally let my guard down and accepted that he wasn’t pretending to be anything other than what I saw before me and that I could trust him completely.
Wil took being a step-parent very seriously. He read lots of books on the subject and we spent lots of time with the kids in family therapy (I wrote about that here) so we felt really solid in our relationship and how we would raise the kids. Along the way, we learned a lot about how the brain chemicals can be affected in a child’s developing brain when there are issues such as extreme stress and/or emotional abuse situations we couldn’t protect them from, as well as how some mental health issues can be genetic.*
As Wil and I got older, we had plenty of stress to deal with. Raising kids is stressful enough, but raising them and dealing with their biological father was awful. Add to the fact that we were really struggling financially and Wil was having an extremely hard time trying to figure out what to do with his stalled career, as well as dealing with some things in his own childhood that were making him really unhappy. Over about a three year span, as much as I tried to be as supportive as possible of Wil while he dealt with a lot of anger, self-doubt, sadness and hopelessness, I could tell my support was becoming less and less of a way to help him feel better.
One of the biggest things that kept happening with Wil was having an irrational anger reaction to things that shouldn’t be so upsetting. He never, ever yelled at me, our kids, our pets or any other family or friends. But if something like the computer wasn’t working right or if he was driving and hit a pothole, he would get REALLY angry at it. Any amount of traffic on the freeway would infuriate him. It seemed so out of character for him and it worried me. I also didn’t like it when he would yell at something when the kids or our animals were nearby because it scared them. Every time it would happen, I would ask him to please not yell and try to calm him down. I didn’t want the kids to think this was an acceptable way to deal with things and grow up yelling at stuff that made them mad, so it was important to me that they understood this was not normal.
Wil’s anger toward random things that upset him was only part of his issues. He started canceling plans with friends because he didn’t want to deal with traffic or felt anxious about being around a group of people or of meeting in a crowded restaurant. He began to have a fear of any travel and was full of self-doubt and insecurities about his ability of being an actor, a writer, or of doing any public speaking. It was at LAX airport a few years ago, when a particularly rude security line attendant for Delta told him we were going to miss our flight so we should just plan on rescheduling that sent him over the edge. He was furious and wanted to go home, which would make him miss participating in sold out shows in Minneapolis and Chicago that he was doing with our friends, Paul and Storm. I knew something needed to be done as soon as possible to help him.
I walked Wil over to a row of chairs in the airport, sat him down and told him I would handle the flight situation but the minute we got home from this trip, he needed to talk to a doctor immediately. I told him I didn’t like living like this, always worrying about what was going to upset him, and he didn’t need to live this way. He agreed and actually called a therapist for a psychiatrist referral while we waited for our flight.
When we got home, Wil went to the psychiatrist where he was asked to explain what was going on with him. He talked about how he felt sad, insecure and for some odd reason, angry at the most random things. The psychiatrist told him that a lot of people don’t realize it, but that type of anger is actually a sign of depression. They talked extensively about how brain chemicals work and how medications help to balance out those chemicals. Brains are very complicated and some medications work well for some people and not so much for others. Sometimes medications work well for a while but then the dose needs to be adjusted and that working closely with a professional while it’s figured out is really important. The psychiatrist also told Wil it was important to talk to me about how he was feeling so I would know if the medication is helping or in some cases, could make him feel worse, and that I could call the doctor if I had any concerns about Wil.
Fortunately, the medication (Lexapro) Wil was put on worked really well for him. It provided the serotonin boost his brain needed to be more balanced. That medication and dosage worked for him for several years but last year, that changed for him. The doctor increased his dose, which worked for a while, but a few months ago, the doctor added another medication (Effexor) and the combination makes him feel completely balanced.
Wil tells me all the time that he didn’t realize how bad he felt before medication because he feels so good now. He has worked so hard to create a career and life that is so wonderful and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t feel good about it, but there were so many times that he felt that way. He didn’t know that for some people, no matter how hard you try to just feel happy, you can’t because you have depression and the chemicals in your brain just aren’t there. It’s not your fault, it’s just the way your brain is.
Wil has been very vocal about getting help for his depression because it has completely changed his life. As his wife, it makes me so happy to see him enjoying time with our family and friends, his career, and being able to travel. I didn’t realize how much it had affected me all those years until writing this post now. It’s hard to see someone you love struggle but it’s so nice to know it can be treated. No one should suffer from mental illness and it makes me so happy that we live in a world that offers so many ways to get help.
*I’m not going to write anymore about my kids’ mental health issues because I want to respect their privacy. I have Wil’s permission to write about my experience with his depression but at the time of this post, I haven’t asked the kids for permission to discuss theirs.