Hey Rev — How can I help my wife through her depression?

c. SpokaneFAVS.com 2013
Reprinted with permission

Hey Rev!

My wife has been battling depression for a long time. How can I support her in this struggle? I feel like I was a great support to her in the beginning, but now I can feel myself becoming worn out. How can I stay positive through this?

- Supportive

Dear Supportive:

If you have ever taken First Aid training, you will remember a mantra that your instructor repeated over and over: don’t become a victim yourself. When I first heard those words, they sounded callous to me — human beings are hardwired to help, and we want to get to someone who is hurting as fast as we can. But then I came to understand that this rule just makes a lot of sense. If you want to be able to sustain an act of compassion, you have to start by making sure that you are standing somewhere solid and safe. Jumping into a pool with a drowning person isn’t an act of compassion. Jumping into that pool is a pretty reliable way of ending up with two drowned people.

Depression is a disease which pulls people into its vortex. Unlike other communicable diseases, which the well-trained caregiver can avoid by wearing latex gloves and a paper mask, depression moves from one person to another in a way that we haven’t yet figured out how to contain. When I visit a depressed person at their home or in the hospital, I can feel the atmosphere shift into something thick and heavy as soon I walk through the door. If you are exposed to depression too much or for too long, you end up where you are, Supportive, which is to say worn down and worn out.

I have two suggestions for you. First, go to your friends and your family and tell them that you need their help. That may seem like a hard thing to do. But, I bet if you were in their position, you would want to be given the opportunity to help a couple whom you loved. S