Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Depression and Marriage-#1

Statistically, 90 per cent of all marriages involving a spouse with Bipolar Disorder end in divorce. That truly is a shocking statistic. Having just celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary, my wife and I have beaten the odds. Up to this week. Up to this day. Up to this hour.

We don't take our marriage for granted. It has been in jeopardy many times due to my depressive illness. At times, I've wanted to quit. At times, she's wanted to quit. Fortunately, we've never both wanted to give up at the same time. We realize that if we had not had God in our lives, our marriage wouldn't have survived. He is the glue that has held us together, even when we were not sure that we wanted to be together.

Any depressive disorder takes a tremendous toll on the relationship between husband and wife. Marriage can be difficult under any circumstances, but chronic depression or manic behavior can be a killer.

Speaking from a personal perspective, when I am depressed, my emotions are all skewed. What I see and what I feel are not always reflective of reality. I become especially sensitive to what people say to me. When no harm or criticism is meant, I still hear it in the voice of my wife. It's not really there, but my depression creates it. My depressive imagination tells me that she wants a divorce. I imagine that she would rather be married to someone else. That may be true at times (I'm afraid to ask), but my irrational thinking process concludes that she feels that way all of the time.

I wouldn't blame her. I really wouldn't, but I would be deeply hurt if she left me. You see, those of us with depressive disorders often feel that we don't deserve to be loved. We think that we are unworthy of love, because of the impact of our disease on other people. We may think and feel irrationally sometimes, but not all of the time. When we are thinking clearly, we still have to accept the reality that mental illness puts an almost unbearable strain on relationships.

Guilt is the monster that consumes our self-respect. We think, "He/She would be better off without me." Those thoughts are dangerous. I believe, after much reflection and study, that feelings of guilt may often be the driving force behind suicide. I know that I come closer to the edge when I'm feeling guilty than at any other time. Those thoughts have to be fought. The reality is that our spouses probably don't feel that way at all. I know that Teresa doesn't, but I don't always believe her. I may think, "She won't admit it, but she really thinks that she would be better off without me." That's my illness lying to my brain and my heart.

I once announced to a preacher's group that I would have to leave ministry due to my depression. Following our meeting, one of the preachers asked me privately, "Do you ever feel like running away?" You see, he too had a depressive disorder. Running away from marriage and intimate relationships is a fantasy often held by those with mental illness. We believe that dropping out of marriage and people's lives is what is best for everyone concerned. Then our spouses can get on with life. A life without us to complicate everything. Again, those are feelings of guilt riding on the back of our irrational thinking.

I know, intellectually, that my wife loves me. She's proven it over and over again. She has been faithful and tolerant and understanding. She has been loyal and supportive and steadfast. All of the above are characteristics of the Biblical form of love.

The "Agape" love spoken of in the Bible is a "doing" love, not a "feeling" love. We don't always feel loving, in an emotional sense, but we can always seek the best interests of others. That is how God defines and demonstrates love.

Paul wrote, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4)." A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, will show us that
Agape love is not a fleeting feeling, but it is something that we do and something we are. When we love others, even our spouses, in this manner, we are most like God. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)."

Teresa and I have beaten the odds. We have demonstrated our love and commitment to each other year after year. Our marriage has been refined in the fire and beaten on life's anvil. With God as our glue, we will have many more years of life with one another. In spite of my depressive disorder. Maybe even because of it.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]


Neva said...

Thank you, Stormy,
Glad you are up and blogging again. Your post was very enlightening. It is very difficult to remember that while feelings are real---they are not facts. Takes a very wise person and sometimes some very effective medication to be able to tell the difference.

Peace and prayers my brother

Anonymous said...

My husband, who lives with depression and hypomania, and I separated almost two years ago. Learning as much as I can about depression and reading comments such as yours helps me to better understand his perspective and strive to continue to support and encourage him despite the change in our marital status.

Anonymous said...

I very recently was told by my husband that he wanted a divorce. Things had been a bit rocky but i never expected it. I love him very much and it kills me to think that he wants to throw away our marriage after less than 2 years together. We both suffer from depression however i have been on medication for many years. He only recently started but at Christmas time he stopped taking it because of side effects. I honestly believe this is when the idea of divorce started dancing in his head.
Due to the depression and the skewed perception or feelings and reality i believe he thinks he's stopped loving me and wants out but it is the disease talking. I"ve seen what depression can do and how it can make you feel - when in actuality you would never feel that way if you were well.
I want my marriage to work but i feel like i cant fight this if he is not on his meds. He insists that going off them wasn't the reason he felt this way it was just a coincidence but i know in my gut it isn't true. Does anyone have any advice or similar stories?