NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Taking Care of Yourself When Your Spouse is Depressed

In a prior article,  Is Your Spouse Depressed?, I focused on being with a spouse who is depressed. In this article, my focus will be on you and how to take care of yourself if your spouse is suffering with depression (see my articles: How Do We Balance Our Own Needs With Being Responsive to Our Loved Ones?Are You Concerned About Your Spouse's Depression? and Caregiving For a Depressed Parent as a Child and a Depressed Spouse as an Adult).

Taking Care of Yourself When Your Spouse is Depressed 

Although you might be primarily focused on your spouse, you also need to take care of yourself or you could compromise your own psychological and physical health, and you won't be helpful to your spouse.

Taking Care of Yourself When You're Married to a Depressed Spouse
  • Be Aware That You'll Need to Take Extra Care of Yourself:  Being around a depressed loved one can be exhausting mentally and physically, which is why it's so important to take extra care of yourself.  Eating nutritious food, exercising, getting enough sleep, and seeing your doctor for regular appointments are among the self care activities that will help you (see my article: Is Self Care Selfish? and Tips For Staying Calm During Stressful Times).
  • Develop Your Own Emotional Support System:  Although it may be obvious that your spouse needs help, when you're under the stress of being around a depressed spouse, you need emotional support too.  Close friends and supportive family members are important to maintain your own sense of well-being (see my article: Understanding Your Emotional Needs).
  • Accept Your Own Feelings:  While you're probably compassionate towards your spouse, inwardly, you might also feel a little resentful.  While it wouldn't be helpful to your spouse to harp on your resentment, it's important for you to know that this is a normal reaction, especially since you're probably under a lot more stress while your spouse is having a depressive episode.
  • Recognize That You Can't "Fix" or Control Your Spouse:  You can encourage your spouse to get help, but you can't fix your spouse or make him or her get help.  It's one of the most frustrating things to contend with when their loved one is depressed:  You can't control it.  So, do what you can to encourage your spouse, which is different from nagging, but recognize that your spouse has to seek out help on his or her own (see my article: Getting to Know the Only Person You Can Change: Yourself).
  • Recognize That It's Not Your Fault:  Along with recognizing that you can't "fix" or control your spouse, recognize that it's not your fault that your spouse is depressed.  Depression occurs for many reasons, but no one can make someone depressed.  Be supportive, but don't try to take on your spouse's problem directly.
  • Set Boundaries With Your Spouse:  While your spouse is going through a depressive episode, s/he might find it hard to keep up with certain responsibilities.  That's understandable, but you can't take on everything.  This will take judgment and tact on your part.  Within reason and if possible, be honest about what you can and can't do, so you don't become depleted by taking on everything, especially if your spouse seems to be able to do more than s/he has been doing (Is Your Fear of Being a "Bad Person" Keeping You From Asserting Yourself?).

Getting Help in Therapy
Don't underestimate the toll that your spouse's depression can take on you--even if you're following all the recommendations that I've made above.

It would be easy for you to say that your spouse is the one who is depressed and so your spouse should get help in therapy, not you.

While it's true that your spouse could benefit from therapy, it doesn't negate the fact that you might also need more help than family and friends can provide, especially if they tend to be critical or unhelpful.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to get through this difficult time so that you maintain your psychological and physical well-being.

Rather than suffering on your own, you owe it to yourself to seek help from a licensed mental health professional to get through this challenging time.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

I have helped many individuals and couples to get through challenging times, including episodes of depression.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW -NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.