Depression destroys marriages; even good ones. At the onset of depression the "non-sufferer" wants to help and nurse the sufferer back to normal. However there is a very strong chance that, after a while, they simply emotionally and/or physically collapse.
Fortunately Dr. Aaron Beck identified certain faulty thought patterns that are very common among suffers of depression. Read on and learn 3 of these thought patterns (called "Cognitive Distortions"). When you notice these distortions in your spouse you can begin to help them challenge these thoughts, creep out of their depression, and to begin to live normally once again.
- Feelings Are Translated Into Fact: This debilitating thought pattern is very common when the depression was triggered off by a problematic relationship or a loss of job. Their proof that they ARE not worthless or that they are failures is that they FEEL it is like this. Their reasoning goes something like this, "How can you tell me that I'm not a failure. If I wouldn't be a failure why do I feel like one?"
The way to challenge this thought is to ask them to think of a time when they felt that they did bad at something (a test, a job interview, or that someone didn't like them) and were wrong. Don't expect, though, that when they admit that their feeling were wrong they will stop being depressed. It will take time for them to begin to change thinking like this.
- Should and must statements. This means that they have a picture of the perfect situation or the perfect personality and assume that this is the only way things can be; if not then they are failures.. For instance, they think "A man my age SHOULD have a steady job." or "A normal house must be cleaned up and have meals cooked by 5:00." Since it is not so in their situation they reason that they are failures and become depressed.
The challenge for this type of thinking is ask for them if they know of anyone or can they dream of a situation that a good capable person doesn't have a steady job. Or "Think of a situation where a house isn't cleaned up by 5:00 and it is still a functional family.
- Labeling- You define yourself according to what you do (or don't do). If you yelled at your wife then you look at yourself as an "uncontrollable madman". This isn't true you are really multi-dimension-able. True , you "lost it" once, but you are ALSO a caring person, a provider for your family, and an intelligent person (a democrat (or republican), a Red Sox fan, a lover of music,etc.).
When your spouse sees themselves ONLY as .... then they see no way to become better and they become more and more depressed. To save them (and your marriage), you have to point out to them other facets of them which are truly positive.
Depression damages marriage but it doesn't mean that there is no way to get out of depression. Learn to identify the thought patterns of depressed people and help your spouse (and yourself) to overcome depression and to begin to be happy and productive once again.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA