September 25, 2019
By Dawna Roberts
Ronnie’s wife has been living with hard-to-treat depression, which Ronnie describes as “relentless,” for their entire 28-year marriage. Her depression has taken a toll on Ronnie, his wife, and their relationship. Loving someone who lives with depression is challenging. You don’t want them to suffer and you want to help, but when they push you away, you are not quite sure what to do.
His wife’s depression is rooted in childhood trauma and abuse. She does seek counseling, but when the work of therapy gets too close to the truth, she stops going to sessions. He explains that her pain is so raw that she cannot face it or move through it. However, currently, she is getting help from a co-worker who is also a counselor. Ronnie has hope that this will be his wife’s breakthrough to success.
When Ronnie’s wife is experiencing intense symptoms, she describes them as “painful like getting up to go to a best friend’s funeral every day.” Ronnie reflects that there have been some periods of wellness, but they are generally short-lived. When his wife can get out of her own head and focus on others, she tends to feel better. Somehow, she has managed to work full-time. Often, however, she stays in bed for 3-4 days at a time when the depression hits hard. Ronnie admires his wife’s strength and describes her as a fighter.
What is most difficult for them is when friends and family who do not understand depression tell her to “pray harder about it” or “be more positive and get over it.” These statements are hurtful and devastating to Ronnie’s wife. She has had suicidal thoughts, horrible nightmares, and even a brief stint in the hospital. Only Ronnie and his wife truly know how hard all of that is.
The financial cost of her treatment is often overwhelming. Ronnie explains that, over the years, sometimes they have had to stop treatment because it was too costly. Where they live, mental health professionals often aren’t covered just by insurance copayments, and the patient can be responsible for 70% of the cost. So even though they do have insurance through her employer, the cost of staying well is almost out of reach.
Staying on an even keel and progressing in a positive way means multiple appointments in a week, plus medications. Regular therapy appointments can cost upward of $75 per appointment. String together a few of those in one week, and it can get expensive quickly. Ronnie and his wife make it work by booking fewer appointments, but they wish mental healthcare was more affordable so they could keep treatment consistent and responsive to her symptoms.
Taking Care of Himself
As her caregiver, Ronnie stays healthy by keeping himself busy and connecting with others at church. His faith has guided him through the years and remains strong. He sometimes confides in close friends. He also enjoys sports and participating in community events.
The lack of intimacy in their marriage can make Ronnie feel lonely. He has developed hobbies to keep himself from going stir-crazy.
Above all, Ronnie loves his wife. He wants other families dealing with depression to know that there are others out there going through the same things. He encourages caregivers to attend support groups and look for educational information online to help with coping.