Depression is a liar. It’s that monster in your head who knows all your fears and weaknesses and can’t wait for an opportunity to attack. It’s clever and cunning and very convincing. It uses events that really happened and words that were really said, but it twists them into something painful. It convinces you that you are unworthy of love.
I’ve never tried to physically end my life. For personal or religious reasons, I guess, I just don’t see it as a solution. My depression attacks my marriage, my intelligence, and my motivation.
I have an amazing support system, but when I have a major depressive episode, I push them away with everything I’ve got. I become convinced that they would truly be better off without me. But I’m not “suicidal.” Or am I?
Recently my husband and I had an argument. It was small and insignificant and quickly resolved. The kids were sleeping with their grandparents, and my husband had to go to work early the next morning.
When I woke up completely alone, I couldn’t stop the flow of negative feelings and thoughts pouring over me. It was so intense; I was sick to my stomach. I was drowning in tears before I even made it out of bed. I was convinced that my husband was only with me because he felt stuck and didn’t have a plan.
I actually came up with a plan.
I emailed him at work and told him I had it all worked out. I could live at my sister’s, and she’d help me with the kids when they weren’t with him. He could sell the house, go back to school, get his dream job, marry his dream girl, etc. I tried to explain that it was because I loved him and didn’t want to continue hurting him anymore. I tried to tell him it wasn’t what I actually wanted, just what I thought would be best for him. I told him he had to choose. I waited. I cried some more. Finally, I went to pick up the kids.
I was determined not to be upset in front of them, and I had promised them they could have friends over. I was definitely NOT going to cry in front of their friends. I tried everything I could think of to make myself feel better. Nothing worked.
A few hours later, the strangest thing happened. As quickly as the intense feelings had come, they left. I suddenly felt light and inexplicably calm. I raced to the computer, hoping to delete the evil email before my husband saw it. All I got was a message that he had recently changed his password.
Now I had a new problem. I was terrified. (Not of my husband, he’s a saint by the way, and I am beyond lucky to have found him). I was terrified because I no longer trusted my own brain. Those thoughts I had in the morning were so real. I KNEW at the time that my marriage was over.
And now I was equally sure that there had never been a problem. I have never felt so terrible about anything in my life. I had hurt the person who means the most to me in the whole world and I had tried to tear apart our family. And what I had been feeling wasn’t even real.
I felt so low and unlovable. I was determined not to hurt my husband anymore. The man who so patiently cared for me when my medication made me sick, who has listened to me sob for hours on several occasions, who would give anything to make me happy.
And now I couldn’t make sense of it. Why did it feel true? What if it happens again? How do I know what’s real and what isn’t anymore?
He called me as soon as he left work. I managed to quietly ask if he had read the email, secretly hoping he hadn’t and I might still have a chance to delete it. But he had.
I immediately apologized and tried to explain. He was really quiet, but tried to understand.
I told him that I had a theory. This was my version of a suicide attempt. My way of taking every last bit of joy out of my life. My way of telling him goodbye because I believed the world, or at least my part of the world, would be better if I was gone.
Suicidal thoughts aren’t always straightforward. Sometimes it’s just pulling up to a stoplight and briefly thinking about what would happen if you didn’t stop and that huge truck plowed into you.
Sometimes it’s laying in bed with a debilitating migraine and wondering how bad it would really be if you took too many painkillers. It would probably stop the pain one way or another.
Sometimes it’s self-sabotage or running away. Shutting out all the good things, with a twisted feeling that it will also get rid of the bad things. Trying to shut off your emotions, to stop feeling all the things.
It’s a desperate need to stop the pain.
And one of the worst parts is that I know that as hard as this is on me, it’s even harder for my husband. As a mother and a wife, it is so difficult seeing a family member in pain and knowing there is nothing I can do to take it away.
My husband is always asking what he can do to help me. If your spouse is battling depression, hold on tight. Reassure them. Tell them as often as you can that you love them and why. And just be there. Hold them when they’re hurting and tell them it’s going to be okay.
It may seem silly or repetitive, but they need to hear it. They need to know when all their faith is gone, that yours is there for both of you.
And please, as a couple, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor, your family, or a therapist. There are resources available and places to find hope and encouragement. You don’t have to try to be invincible, and you don’t have to do it alone.
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