The Other Side of Depression

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.Β 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.

 

80 thoughts on “The Other Side of Depression

  1. Excellent post. My husband was pretty much the same, except he’d either get really quiet or speak with what I began to refer to as “that tone in your voice”. He feels so much better on meds.

    The Bloggess has been super helpful in opening up the world of anxiety to me. My daughters both have it and some of Jenny’s posts should be required reading for school administrators and teachers, so they’d know how hard it is to worry so much about everything.

  2. I needed this today… You have no idea how much…. I didn’t realize how near the end of my rope I was feeling. Thank you.

  3. I need to have my wife read this, but since I was in Wil’s position, and she in yours, a lot of stuff hits home, especially the anger/blow up parts. Thank you so much for posting this, being there for Wil, and you know just being generally awesome in your own right.

  4. I feel like I could have written this from Wil’s perspective. My depression manifests as irrational anger, and Lexapro has helped me immensely.

  5. Thank you for taking the time to write this. My dad was diagnosed with manic depression back in 1980. I was only 6. I have 3 older siblings. We grew up with his anger. Like you, my mom was the one who helped him. However, back then the stigma regarding mental illness was far greater. My dad refused at first, and it took my mom taking all 4 of her kids away to our grandma’s house for 6 months May to October. My mom stood by the man she loved, by taking extreme action, and standing her ground. During our time away, he went into therapy and was adjusting to the medications. He was (and still is) a very hard worker with a genius I.Q. He taught french, portuguese, latin and spanish at high school for 28 years, ran his classical orchestral live onsite audiorecording business, and was a classical music radio announcer. All the while he and mom raised us 5 children (our little sister was born in 1983.) We watched our parents manage this. Thankfully they never his it from us and my mom always spoke very frankly, and was as explicit as possible on the subject of mental illness. We kids could put a label on it and separate it from the intensely loving, generous, hysterically funny and silly and “wicked smart” dad we love today. We accept him for who he is, and recognize the illness when it begins to overcome the medication. My mom is my hero and my dad is too, because they made a choice to fight. And that choice was and is made every single day since 1980’s.

    God bless you and your family. Keep writing!!

    Most sincerely,

    @silvervoicenyc

  6. Anne, thanks so much for sharing. It’s so easy to fall into the trap that we should be able to fix mental health issues if we just cheer up or try harder or count our blessings. It’s good to have a reminder that it’s a medical condition just like any other, and that it can get better with treatment. I applaud the openness that you and Wil have shown in talking about this.

  7. I didn’t realize that Wil dealt with depression. But I tell you, you were pretty much describing what life must have been like living with me. I didn’t realize that my anger issues were because of depression until I finally got help. I was the same way, I never got mad at my family, just things. And I would get REALLY angry and throw stuff and even hurt myself because of getting so mad. After a month on Prozac, my husband became a total believer in the benefits of medication because the difference was so great. Medication has a bad rap, but I would be dead without it. People shouldn’t be afraid of it. Thanks for posting this. πŸ™‚ And thank Wil for letting you!! πŸ˜€

  8. Thank you for sharing. Your willingness to share will help people. I urged my husband to get help because of people like Jenny Lawson, Heather Armstrong, Allie Brosh, and Wil. Our life together is so much better and I’m thankful.

  9. My husband has very random angry outbursts almost exactly as you describe in this blog. Traffic, especially, seems to be a trigger. I never considered that it could be depression. Thanks for writing this. I am going to have a talk with him about this.

  10. Thanks so much for this, Anne! I have depression, our daughter has depression/ borderline personality disorder, and my late dad and sister had major depression/ bipolar disorder. Thank you so much sticking by Wil through this. This has opened my eyes to what I’m like without my Celexa. God bless you, and know that I’m praying for you, Wil,and your boys.

  11. I have dealt with depression my entire life stemming from some things in my past. I had been working through it with talk therapy and medication, but last year just got to the point that I didn’t want to keep dealing with any more. I was tired of fighting it and had pretty much made my mind up to accept whatever happened. I stopped my meds and quickly found myself going down hill. Thankfully I got a swift kick in the butt from a post that Kiri Callaghan did on her brother that kind of woke me up to what I was doing to myself. I spoke with my doctor and started back on my medication. I can’t even begin to describe the difference in how the world looks to me now.

  12. A great post, Anne – it’s nice to hear what it’s like from the other side. I’ve only had one long term relationship, and we both suffered from depression – mine clinical, his to do with his past – so it was easy for us to be understanding with each other. I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to have a partner who had it, without coming from a place where you’ve experienced it yourself.
    It’s also always nice to see someone genuinely accepting meds as part of the sickness. The most influencial people in my life, my parents, believe that depression is something to be ‘cured’ with therapy, and staying on meds can be hard when people tell you you don’t really need them. But I don’t know where I’d be without my duloxetene-and-mirtazepene combo. Sometimes being aware that managing the sickness is an ongoing process can be the biggest help to the sufferer in your life, so kudos to you. For being wonderful and understanding, and for letting us all have a peek at moments like these.

  13. Thank you for being so candid. I am in a relationship with someone who refuses to deal with his depression or communicate about anything truly serious. His parents and I have gotten him to go to therapists before but he just sits there and says nothing. He’s been given medications but he will not take them. We have a toddler and I’m afraid that he is setting a negative example for her. I wish that he took as much responsibility about it as Wil.

  14. My hubs is where Wil was pre-medication. But trying to convince him to get help is difficult. My husband is a veteran with PTSD and a moderate TBI. He hates taking any meds because he sees it as a weakness. Any tips on convincing him to at least visit a therapist?

    1. You might present the medication option to your husband as, if you had diabetes, would it be a weakness to take daily medication? Sometimes that helps people put it in perspective.

      1. I have done that using my own thyroid condition as an example but he is stuck in the tough soldier mindset. The Army and VA still treat any form of mental illness as either drug seeking behaviour or just being whiney about time overseas.

        1. You might be surprised by the scope of VA’s services when your spouse is ready to seek out the specialty mental health programming (it has a different mission focus than Army services). VA actually staffs more psychologists than any other single employer in the world. The focus of treatment would be offering evidence based talk therapy and/or medications. If he isn’t ready, there are community based organizations such as Vet Centers (and many others) where his options in and out of the VA will be shared with him by other Veterans. Good luck!

    2. I believe my husband also struggles with depression and he will not get help. I am not a medication fan as a general rule, as I’m scared of it myself, so I understand, but as someone here said, would you not take insulin for diabetes? Sigh. I want to help him, but I don’t know how.

      1. I was very scared when I was first faced with starting a medication (prozac) to treat depression. What if it changes my personality? Am I going to be the same person while on the medication that I am off it? Have you seen the list of side effects? But the idea of going through another bout of depression, feeling like there was no reason to get out of bed every day gave me the kick I needed to start and while there have been good times and bad times, having a doctor who’s willing to listen and adjust Meds or doses makes all the difference. If the meds make you feel not yourself, tell the doctor and try a different one. I’m still the person I was before, I just don’t live in fear of those feelings that I won’t want to get out of bed in the morning (or at least I don’t fear it as much). So talk to a doctor, discuss it with them and get help for both of you. Medicine isn’t something to be feared, it’s there to help.

    3. I’m so sorry to hear that. What worked for Wil and both of my kids was pointing about a behavior as soon as it happened as not being healthy or how it made them feel and how worried I was for them. After doing those things repeatedly, it sunk in that something wasn’t right and getting help would make it better. He needs to think of PTSD as an injury to his brain that needs treatment, not as a weakness. I hope he gets help soon so he can start feeling better.

      1. I, myself, have yet to personally meet any veteran with PTSD, particularly compounded by preexisting depression, who can view the condition as something that needs to be treated-or if he/she actually acknowledges that the condition should be treated, accepting treatment or medication (talk therapy is viewed as the thing that gets you labeled badly and kicked out of any form of respectability/honor/etc/) as any sort of option. In boot camp (and further training), they are indoctrinated to believe that anything that exists is only a problem in their mind, that if they buckle down and soldier through, the rest is just the world outside/facts of life. Particularly if they serve/served in combat or related scenarios, the military tends to pump them full of heaven knows what, with little care for the consequences. The result is that even if that soldier believed in medications at any point, the fear, hatred, mistrust, and loathing of anything related is an absolute deal breaker. I am glad you wrote about this, Anne, as it gives me further perspective, but I don’t know if my soldier or any will ever be able to move past this combo without extreme levels of intervention beyond my current abilities. As Wil is famous for saying, “Depression lies.” These two enemies work in concert to create a dangerously insidious piece of brilliantly insane music that runs the undercurrent in many lives. We can’t ever force someone to get help, but we can hope in time, one condition or the other eases up enough to let some light through…. Thanks again for the perspective.

        1. This is my hubs exact problem. He won’t admit he has problem bad enough to require med or therapy. It’s ‘suck it up and walk it off’ or ignore it until it goes away.

          1. I honestly don’t think it is that he “won’t”…the way he has likely be trained, he “can’t.” Acknowledging it makes him weak, makes it real, and make things worse… I am speaking both from personal knowledge and from what I know of veterans in general. Suggesting meds or talk therapy is akin to suggesting he march into a battle zone unarmed and wearing something culturally offensive to the enemy with no intel on the situation. I’m sure I could stack a few more examples in there, but I’m sure you understand more than most. All of this is also compounded if your husband is an alpha male, a provider. I wish I had the wisdom to figure out exactly how best to help, but I don’t. If you figure it out, don’t hesitate to let me know…

            1. When it comes specifically to vets, it *is* a unique problem because of the “break ’em down and build ’em back up” psychological thing they go through during boot camp. PTSD really compounds everything too. I know that my friend has a husband who came home after his 3rd tour in the middle east with just massive issues. He finally got a service dog, and it has helped him tremendously to live life outside the basement again. If you know anyone with a vet suffering from PTSD, have them check into that maybe? One organization that trains and provides dogs is K9s for Warriors. There can be a long wait list but they do everything they can to accomodate crisis situations too.

  15. I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember, sometimes (as an adult) medicated, sometimes not. But only recently have I begun to understand that anger–in my case anything from mere irritability to actual rage–is a symptom. I’m in the process now of readjusting medications, as my reactions and tolerances have changed radically due to other major health problems. I’m making some progress. It’s still astounds me when I have a Good Day, and realize for most people, it would be a Normal Day. For me, it’s a gift.

  16. I agree with all…wonderful post. I had no idea really that anger is a symptom of depression…I don’t know why but I have never thought of it as such.

  17. Thank you so much for this post–my husband and I are big Wheaton fans, and your honesty and thoughtfulness are only two of the reasons why!

  18. I’m the person in my relationship with depression. My husband is very patient and supportive. When I first went on a med, like Will, it was the first time in a long time I remember feeling happy. But the med stifled my creativity, and when you work in a creative medium that isn’t good. I went off it. It did help me recognize the signs and symptoms of my depression. I only have been on another Med twice since for short durations to help me through the really rough patch like post partem depression and my mom’s passing. Day to day has gotten easier to manage. When I get in a”mood” I tell my husband and then a few hours later we talk about what is going on in my head. I use to think I was crazy as a kid, but when I got older and sought out help, I learned I wasn’t.

    These days I’m lucky. I can control a lot through diet as part not all of my issues were due to bad bacterial yeast in my digestive tract. Who knew it could have such a profound effect on the chemicals your brain produces. But it does and I make a conscious effort to avoid those foods that will elevated that yeast. I like being happy. πŸ˜‰

    Having the support I do, like Will has yours, is important. I wouldn’t be where I am today without such support. I hope so many others find similar support in their lives not matter who it is…just find it. It will change your life for the better.

    Thanks, Anne for sharing your perspective. I mist say, I do apologize to my husband time to time for not being “normal”. He laughs and says he wouldn’t have me any other way. That’s love.

  19. Thank you Anne. I needed your article SO much today and randomly, here it was! My husband has been diagnosed with depression for nearly 30 years – since long before I knew him. The past 11 years have been a bit up and down with his mood swings, anger – not usually directed at me – but at inanimate objects, computers not working etc. However, the past three months have been particularly hard as the doctor has change his meds twice and I’m feeling so stressed, depressed and unable to cope with him. Thanks for letting me see some light when I needed it most.

  20. Thank you!
    As someone with “depression” (hate the word) due to health problems, I tend to be the type to cry for no reason, have no energy etc. I had not thought of the anger at little things, self doubt, and insecurities! I just never thought of that as depression.

    Makes me think my husband and I should have a sit down. Maybe it’s not just me …

    Thank you to both you and Wil. Wil’s post awhile back allowed me to be more open with my doctor, and, while I may hate the word and not be officially depressed (again, side affect of health stuff), his sharing allowed me to be more open about my depression.

    And now, your post has shown me there is more than one face to depression, and (a duh moment here) that geez, more than one person per family can have it. (Never said I was quick!!)

  21. I, too, suffer depression. Unfortunately, I have a strong resistance to taking meds (reasons) for it (for myself, not making any judgements regarding anyone else).

    I never knew that anger was a symptom of depression. That sheds a whole new light on some things. Reading your post, I now see that my father was probably suffering from depression as well, and his response was anger. Sometimes I couldn’t understand his outburst at something I considered minor, but now I see it for what it was. I never thought of depression as hereditary, like the alcoholism we also inherited.

    Thank you, Anne, for the time and courage to share these experiences through your eyes. And thanks to Wil for his courage in sharing his experiences as well. It really helps put things into perspective when you can see all sides of it.

  22. Thank you. I’ve been on the fence for a past few weeks about going for help. My mom suffers from a mental condition and is prone to violent outbursts, physically and verbally.. My family has always treated it like a dirty little secret. Like you’re a weaker person and that god is punishing you if you ‘give in’ to a mental condition. My mom has been on and off treatment for years. I’ve always, and still am, afraid to let my family know that I have a problem, and that I’ve had it from childhood. I don’t want them to see me as less or a person.. And in some ways I’ve been seeing myself as less of a person.. It’s ironic because my best friend is a child psychologist, he’s been wonderfully supportive and has been offering to set me up with one of his colleagues. I know it sounds dumb but hearing that two people I respect so much and think of as really brilliant saying it’s ok and isn’t the sufferers fault really makes me feel better. I know it doesn’t fix everything but it gives me hope.. Hope that I can get better, stop being afraid to pursue my career, and get out of this environment and around people who understand that sometimes people have problems and it doesn’t mean they are gods least favourite or a bad person. I can’t say I’m making an appointment today but I am going to talk to my friend and see how he can assist me in doing so. I’m tired of feeling this way, being so hard on myself, and being afraid of doing everything. Like Wil said everyone deserves to feel good about their accomplishments and abilities.

  23. Great post, Anne. I’ve had ME for 25 years, and take anti-depressants for the related depression, which keep me on a fairly even keel though I do have my moments! What was really interesting to read, as others have said, is your description of how Wil’s depression manifests itself, as it reminds me so much of my husband, and I never really thought of his angry outbursts in terms of depression. Definitely something to think about! Thank you. xx

  24. Thank you for bringing your thoughtful and kind perspective to this important issue. Anger is so often unrecognized as a symptom of depression. I too have had depression for as long as I can remember and found relief thru SSRIs and NSSRIs and years of therapy to correct all the negative thought patterns I had adopted. A supportive spouse makes all the difference, so congrats to you both for being healthy together.

  25. Thank you for writing this. I’d like to say upfront that I really respect both you for telling this story and Wil for allowing you to tell it. I didn’t know Wil suffered from depression although it doesn’t surprise me, I think he’s in a really competitive business that could really take its toll on a person. I’m glad he has a loving family to support him.

    I am currently staying with a family member – a younger brother – who already has some mental health issues – mainly anxiety – and since he just lost his job at the age of 56 I am concerned about the possibility of his developing depression as well. I know a bit about some of the signs but obviously not enough – I didn’t know irrational anger was one of them – so I will need to do more research. But he is able to continue his medical insurance so further treatment will be possible if he needs it. I am also concerned about how his problems could affect me, especially since I have enough reasons to be depressed myself but don’t have access to medical care – I can’t afford insurance. I am just trying very hard to take the best care of my own health, physical/mental/spiritual, for me and for him.

  26. My wife suffered with depression for a long time before she got help. Even after she started taking meds (lexapro among them), it was tough because they could not find a combo of meds that would work. She had to take 6 months off work to help deal with everything. At times she was seeing a therapist 2 times a week! Just recently she has gotten to a point that the therapist decided she was ready to cut visits to once a month. I have to constantly remind her she does not need to do everything, as she feels that since I got hurt 6 years ago and am unable to work and am unable to do most household chores, that she must work up to 60 hours a week and do everything around the house. I have had to convince her that a messy living room or some dirty dishes on the counter does not mean she is not doing her job. It means providing food is more important. Or older 2 kids (we have 4) have had to step up big time, both in doing more chores, when homework allows, and in helping me see signs of an impending episode. She has Xanax to mitigate acute episodes of her depression.
    There are so many people out there that do not understand depression even those that suffer from it. I have shown my wife videos of Wil talking about what it does to him. It helped her realize that depression can strike anyone.
    I want to thank you both for your candidness in discussing Wil’s depression.

  27. Thank you so much for writing this. My depression often manifests the same way, as anger. Unfortunately I am one of those rare people who cannot take medication – one dose of an SSRI was nearly the end of me. Despite that, and despite a personal resistance to taking medication, I would encourage others to do so, with a physicians guidance. I’ve had to work through my depression without medication, and while possible it is far more difficult than if I could take medication.

  28. Thankyou, Anne and Wil for sharing this. Your post just took another brick out of the wall, making it that little bit easier for others to accept the situation and seek help and support. You rock.

  29. Wow, I really didn’t know this whole story, so thank you for sharing. I now see what my parents went through when trying to get me help. I have been seeing someone for about 10 years now and thankfully am doing so much better. I thought it was funny because Wil and I are on the same meds:) And I totally agree that they make me feel 1000 times better. I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I started feeling this good. Thanks for sharing, as always Anne! And anyone who is reading the comments and wondering if you should get help, the answer is yes! Trust me you will never regret it!

  30. Thank you for being so opened and honest with Wil’s depression. I have been feeling a bit off for over a year now. I became a father in 2013 and ever since then I notice incredible fits of rage that burst out of me over little things like traffic too. I have been self medicating with cannbis but I feel it’s making me lethargic and overcome with an impending sence of doom whenever I run out. I am going make an appointment with a psychiatrist this week. I will no longer let the committee in my head be me worst critics and deceptive enemy. Thank you

  31. Thanks Anne. That’s what my depression is. Anger. And physical anger as well. I have never hit any living being when my cork popped, but any inanimate object was the recipient of my lashing out.
    I started to take ‘time outs’, on a large area of cement in my backyard where i couldn’t hit anything. I would sit there come rain or blistering heat, deep breathing until i calmed down.
    Nowadays i enjoy life as i am on the correct medication.
    But i do tend to have ultra crazy moments now. But they are so much fun

  32. My dad suffered from PTSD and depression all his life, undiagnosed, as he is also one of those who think mental illness is weakness. But boy, you don’t have to diagnose something to know it’s there. We lived with his bouts of anger and mood swings as best as we could, but it left many scars. It is scary for a little kid, having a raging parent, especially if the other parent cannot stand up to it (and my mother couldn’t, she was scared to death by any open show of anger).
    It took me a long time to go and get help for my own depression and anxiety. It is a paradox that we tend to think of ourselves as weak for getting help while when someone else tells the same story we think they’re brave. I’m still working on applying that logic to myself. Because yes, I’m vulnerable and depressed. And that’s ok. That’s who I am right now. But I am getting treated and I will not continue the cycle.
    Anne, from the the perspective of a secondary victim, I am so happy and proud of you for everything you did for your sons. You are a beacon of hope.

  33. As someone who dealt with seasonal affective disorder, articles like this are very encouraging. Though not entirely the same thing as depression (I only get depressed during the winter), it’s still debilitating and I think people need to truly learn more about mental issues, those with them, and those around them for us to make things better.

    Thanks for this, Anne.

  34. Well said Anne – as I have said before people with depression are not “crazy” just very, very sad and need the fearless support of their family to get help. And yes to everyone out there who is depressed and afraid to get help because of the stigma attached to the word “depression”: properly diagnosed and medicated your life will be better than you can imagine. That black cloud that hangs over your head every day will be lifted. Please do not be afraid to speak out and seek help. I did.

  35. My husband has also had these same experiences, with depression, anxiety, and anger reactions, due to his traumatic childhood/brain chemistry and concussions. He has been on every modern “anti-depressant” medication through his primary docs over the last 20 yrs. Last year things were so out of control, we finally started seeing an actual psychiatrist to try different categories of meds. We go to the psych together, and he sees a therapist on his own. His full diagnosis is still not clear, after a whole year, and he has tried 9-10 meds so far without success. Some of them made him very much *worse* which you aren’t adequately warned about, I feel. They tell you “black box warning, blah blah, thoughts of suicide, blah blah”, but it isn’t emphasized enough that everyone can react differently to each med, it can take a lot of testing to find one that works for you, and it’s critical to have someone you trust watching over you. It is often very difficult for someone to tell what they’re doing, as they’re living it. Meds blur into each other when you’re trying one after another, and keeping track of what reaction you had to which one becomes confusing. (Sure, you could keep a journal of it all, but how many severely depressed people out there feel capable of doing that, when they can’t even get out of bed?) It really helps to have an outside party you trust add their observations of actual behaviors to your reports of how you feel. Most importantly, if you seek help and are frustrated by doctors telling you “well I’ve never heard of anyone reacting like that”, or “that can’t be the medication, that must just be your mood right now” or something else that you know doesn’t sound right to you, **don’t give up**! Get a new doctor if you need to. Everyone is a chemistry experiment of one. We’re still trying to find the right med or combo for my husband after 15+ months of trying, and I won’t ever give up on him.

    1. It is so great to hear of your dedication, commitment, love, and loyalty of and to your husband. I’m sure that make this craziness at least somewhat tolerable… Did you know that the average person takes 10 years to be properly diagnosed when they have a mental illness? I can only imagine how much longer it takes to get the medicine’s dosages correct. And even then, he will continue to change his whole life, and so constant tweaking and/or changes will be required, monitoring at the least. All of these things serve to make us feel weaker and worse than we are… But I agree…no one should ever quite trying. Everyone deserves to feel like the best of themselves, whatever that is!

      1. Thanks. πŸ™‚ As a caretaker, I struggle to be open about how hard his depression can be on me. You don’t want to make them feel guilty for what they can’t control. I also feel fiercely protective of him, and making sure he gets an accurate diagnosis. We have a good doctor that we both trust now, so it’s just a matter of plodding on and not losing hope when that next med doesn’t work. We will get there, together.

  36. Great post Anne. It is scary how many people suffer from depression. In my opinion it is more scary how many people (me included) don’t get treatment. The ideas that “sometimes I am just sad” or that maybe the world would be “a better place without me in it” are not ok. Having great support around you is super important but many times medication is necessary too. The fears echoed above about medication changing your personality are a big reason that a lot of folks don’t ever get diagnosed. But the rational thought is that the depression and actions associated with it are masking your true personality. Once the meds get those symptoms out of the way your true personality will shine through.

  37. Both my spouse and I would like to thank you for writing this. I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression about 7 years ago. I have been exhibiting a lot of the same symptoms that Wil had. Unfortunately, I have had no success with meds. So, I continue to seek alternative treatments. It has been very difficult for my wonderful partner to watch me suffer with this condition. Your article really helped her understand and realize that she’s not alone. So, again, a HUGE thank you from both of us! Take care.
    P.S. We love all your tweets with your beautiful animals.

  38. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’ve asked my husband a few times to write about his, and I think it’s still too hard for him. I was hospitalized about four years ago. Depression and suicide run in my family, so I’m very concerned about what the future holds for my kids. They’re still really young now, but I especially worry about when they’re teenagers.

  39. So much of what you’ve written here and so much of what Wil writes about his depression tracks in a disturbingly perfect way with a 15 year period in my life, from my teens up to almost 30. The more I read about mental health problems and depression, the more I realize that I spent so much of my life suffering through it with no help.

    From the inside it only seemed to me that I was angry and upset with the way my life (Wasn’t) going at the time, and no-one around me was astute enough to realize that something was really wrong. I suppose part of that is that I didn’t really communicate my feelings to anyone. I simply didn’t know that I needed to seek help, didn’t know that I had a problem and wouldn’t have expected that there was anything anyone could have done, even if I did know that something was deeply wrong.

    My life has become much better in the last 5 years, and those feelings and problems have gone away by themselves for me. But when I look back on that period in my life, it’s essentially a void of lost potential and mechanical existence. If more people had been speaking up about mental health issues over the past 20 years, I might have had the awareness to understand that I needed to seek help.

    I think that you and Wil do a great service to the world by writing about these issues. Mental health problems are very real and everyone needs to understand what depression looks like. It manifests differently for different people, so the more people who share their experiences, the better the chance that someone suffering it will read about it and wonder, “Hey that sounds like me… do I have depression?”

    To those people I would say, if you’re asking yourself that question then it doesn’t hurt to talk to a mental health professional and ask them the same question. The answer might just change your life for the better.

  40. I am so familiar with that type of anger, from experiencing it for myself and from other members of my family. It’s good to read about how you reacted to it and how your husband then reacted to you, in turn. What an amazing, healthy relationship! Thank you for sharing.

  41. I realize that you have 60 other thank you comments but I really wanted to add mine to the list for the fact that you brought to my attention that level of anger could be a sign of depression.

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