When your spouse has clinical depression, it's more than just a bad day. There will be days that you won't want to go on, and days you'll want to put up your hands and say "I'm done!" You'll 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 spouse's depression or unexplained dip in emotion is probably not your fault. That thing you did? Your spouse probably didn't 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. It's believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression."
Unfortunately, you're not enough
It's also unlikely that your spouse will just get over it. The reality is, your loved one needs a good support system. As the spouse, you're a key component of that system, even if you're relatively new. However, you need to include some other key people, including a psychiatrist (they'll manage medication), a psychologist (or counselor), and close family and friends.
But what if they've already tried a psychiatrist or a counselor and had a bad experience? If that's the case, it's 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.
We're not in the dark ages anymore
Did you have a bad experience with medication 20 years ago? What about one of your parents? While that's unfortunate, and tragic, in some cases, we're not in the dark ages anymore. A lot has changed in pharmaceutical technology, and it's 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. It's 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 won't be enough in most cases. That's where pharmaceuticals come in.
Religion and science are complementary
While I'm definitely generalizing, and perhaps unfairly so, it seems religious people are often the first to dismiss scientific achievements or rely on treatments that don't 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 it's 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 isn't going to get over his or her depression in a week or a month. In fact, there's a good chance she will never get over it. When your loved one gets on medication and starts feeling good, that doesn't mean it's 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 spouse's counselor. However, the relationship you'll 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 spouse's doctors, know her medication and be involved in the decision-making process.
You may feel like you don't want to burden other people, or you may feel embarrassed. There are many negative feelings you may have associated with your spouse's depression. Just remember, there is nothing wrong with getting sick.
Until you're more comfortable, seek out those who understand depression or your close friends and family. If you can't find anyone in one of those groups, shoot me an email, we already have something in common.