(This is a guest post from my wife, Elise)
My husband breaks my heart at least once a week. It normally happens in the course of everyday conversation. He’ll offer a glimpse into what his life is like with severe depression and instantly my heart shatters into a thousand pieces. Most recently it was this zinger, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be happy every day, or even just a few days a week.” How can you hear these words from someone you love and not break apart?
But that’s what it’s like loving someone with depression. There’s the constant heartbreak and struggle of seeing him hopeless and empty and knowing that I can’t do a damned thing about it. Yes, I can tell him that I love him. Yes, I can sit with him through the pain and let him know I’m here. Yes, I can reassure him that he’s not a burden on me or the rest of our family. And he tells me that these things are enough. But it doesn’t feel like enough. I can’t stop it. I can’t make it go away. I can’t come up with a brilliant plan that will slay this dragon and free my husband. Because freedom isn’t an option.
My husband often describes his depression as a bear he lives with that won’t go away. A bear he constantly wrestles. A bear that is neither good nor bad, but certainly dangerous. And I am forced to watch this struggle from the opposite shore. Watch as my husband lives in close proximity to this precarious beast. Always aware of its capacity to kill him. Always aware of my inability to swim across the river and stop the bear should it become too threatening. Always watching. Always waiting. Always hoping a peace can be reached.
In recent years, more and more people are sharing glimpses of their life with depression. This is so important and vital and a needed step in helping dis-spell the myths and misconceptions that surround this cursed disease. I jump for joy every time these brave voices speak up. And I hope they only continue to grow louder and more confident in sharing their stories. But one voice that rarely speaks is my voice and the voice of others who love someone with depression. And while our pain and suffering can’t be compared to those we love, it is still very real. I constantly watch someone I love suffer. I constantly feel inadequate in doing anything to stop it. This is a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Every day I live with an unwanted house guest named Depression. It wreaks havoc on my home and family, but it cannot be evicted. It will never be separated from my husband. So every day I have a choice to make: to welcome this guest with open arms or to walk away. It is not an easy choice, but one that I never hesitate to make. Every day I choose to wonder what this precarious beast will want with my husband. Every day I choose to witness this heartbreaking struggle again. Every day I choose to suffer, because I won’t let my husband suffer alone.
In choosing to be in relationship with my husband, I choose to live with Depression. And I will continue to make this choice every day, all days, forever.