The Bottom of the Mountain

Harry's Story

Depression is a terrible disease for the patient and an emotional, energy draining monster to those around her. My wife has just recovered from her fifth bout with depression. Each time it has been like going through hell.

I want to share this story from a husband's point of view because I don't think a wife's depression is something any man is prepared to face. I know I wasn't.

The First Time

My wife experienced her first depression in 1987. She was 45, our daughter 11, and our son 9. At first I thought that she was just getting lazy. She wouldn't do housework, cook dinner, or go anywhere. She told me often that she just wanted to die.

"Marriage means two people stay committed, through good and bad. This certainly qualified."

I didn't understand the disease back then, and so I was frustrated and angry with her. I once talked to a good friend and said, "If I had known she was going to be like this, I would have stayed single." The friend replied, "But then you wouldn't have your daughter and your son." That comment turned me away from my self-pity and frustrations. I had removed my wedding ring for several months, but after that conversation I put it back on. Marriage means that two people, once committed to each other, stay committed through the good and the bad. This certainly qualified.

Treatment

So I decided to help my wife fight her depression. We started going to all sorts of doctors in our area, including three psychiatrists, but she couldn't develop a rapport with any of them. Then she began complaining about her stomach, so we went to see a gastroenterologist. After examining her with an endoscope, he said, "There is nothing wrong with your wife's stomach. She has depression." He made an urgent call to a psychiatrist friend of his and set up an appointment for her. Surprisingly, she developed a rapport with this psychiatrist. With the help of this doctor, anti-depressants, and prayers she slowly recovered, after suffering for one and a half years.

We enjoyed life well until my wife fell into depression for the second time in 1991. This time the suffering lasted two years. A third bout, in 1996, lasted six months. Then another six months in 2000. Then, in early 2002, she fell back into a depression again.

Causes

Each time she has fallen down this well, it's been triggered by some small concerns nagging her, and she starts to worry about them. It's like watching a snowball coming down a mountain -- it just gets bigger and bigger. And I can't stop it. Finally, it comes to rest at the bottom of the mountain and over time, the sun melts it. Then she gets well.

"When she runs out of yarn, she tears it down and starts all over again."

When my wife is well, she is witty and being with her is a great pleasure. But when she is down, she is a totally different person. Every day she'll say that she wants to die. Then I remind her, "It's not you that wants to die. You want the disease to die. You are a good person. You want to get well."

During some of these bouts my wife sometimes sits at the corner of our couch most of the day and knits a rectangular piece. When she runs out of yarn, she tears it down and starts all over again. I once asked her, "Why don't you knit something useful?" She replied, "I don't want to."

New, More Radical Treatment

A combination of Remeron, Desyrel, and Surmontil plus Ativan did not have the long-term affects we had hoped for, so later in 2002 we admitted her to the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Los Angeles, Calif., for ten weeks of treatment.

During the first six weeks she made no progress because she would not accept the electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or shock therapy recommended by all the psychiatrists she had seen. Eventually, the hospital and I went to court to get the approval for her to receive the ECT. The court granted fifteen sessions, but she was well enough after twelve. With the ECT and the incredible compassion of the doctor in charge of her case, she's home now and is well again.

Summing Up

Depression is taxing not only to the one that suffers it, but also to all those around the depressed: relatives and friends. Coping requires lots of love and patience. Unlike physical illness, a depressed person cannot "think correctly". Those around the depressed must not take it lightly.

Oh God, depression is so bad!

The member story above may have been edited for clarity.

From WebMD: Some 7 million women in the United States have clinical depression, according to the National Mental Health Association, and some researchers estimate that only one out of every three women with depression is properly diagnosed.