the effect of depression on relationships

March 30, 2016 § Leave a comment

It is as if I am finally waking up from a long, uncomfortable sleep. I have been so immersed in academic studies for so long that I wasn’t aware of other effects on my quality of life. I have to wonder if my prolonged attachment to the stress of academia wasn’t in some way associated with avoiding the stress of depression in my marriage.

I wonder how many marriages end because one of the partners suffers from chronic, untreated depression. I know I have often contemplated ending my marriage because of the mental state and behaviour of my spouse. But there has always been this other part of our relationship that was stronger than my discomfort. I love my husband. I don’t love his depression. Am I going to leave my husband because he is depressed? The answer, after 20 years in the relationship, is, no.

That said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to come to terms with his depression. And, because the brain of a depressed person is not great at processing relational difficulties arising from the depression, it isn’t something I can actually discuss with my husband on a day to day basis. Sometimes he has moments of clarity about his depression, where he can discuss it as something that actually exists outside of who he is. Most of the time his brain is affected by the depression and he has a hard time grasping concepts that threaten to expose the depression for what it is, mental illness.

I am no stranger to the effects of mental illness in my intimate family relationships. That is probably why it has taken me so long to ‘wake up’ to the effects of depression to my own well being. I’m curious now to apply my hard fought research skills to the effects of secondhand stress, especially the effects of a loved one’s depression, on subjective perceptions of well being and the quality of life.

This feels positive. It feels like a positive step I can take for my own health and well being that is not dependent on what my husband does or does not do about mitigating the effects of his depression on our relationship. It feels empowering, it gives me some autonomy from my husband’s condition without actually having to fully separate from my husband.

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