Hello Dr. Meeker,
I am a husband and father of 3 beautiful children; 2 girls, and our son (ages 7, 4 and 7 months).
My wife suffers from post-partum depression and has after every pregnancy. I have stepped up to care for our 3 children and care for my wife in this difficult time, but need my partner. I feel like I am caught between a rock and a hard place. I am trying to be supportive and loving, but find myself frustrated and tired.
Am I overlooking something? How can I be a better husband and father?
– Concerned Husband
Dear Concerned Husband,
You are feeling frustrated and tired because living with a loved one who is depressed is very hard. Often, the spouse of the depressed person doesn’t get the much-needed support and it sounds like you aren’t getting any. Here’s what I recommend you do.
First, make sure that your wife is getting good treatment. Depression is highly treatable. Go with your wife to an appointment with her internist and tell him or her what you are seeing. Then, ask your internist for recommendations for a good psychiatrist. Your wife may be minimizing her symptoms to her doctor (many depressed patients do this) and she needs real help.
Second, studies pretty clearly show that the highest rates of success in the treatment of depression come when antidepressant medication is used in combination with therapy. The therapy can be either psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Third, in the meantime, you need to reach out to some male (not female) friends and talk things through with them. You need support here too. You might even need a session or two with a counselor to see how you can help yourself and your kids.
You can do this. I know that it is hard but remember, it’s hard on everyone – including your kids. You need to keep your marriage intact because the only things worse for your kids living with a depressed Mom is having their dad bail. Then, they are left with their mom on their own and this can be unbearable.
Your wife can get better. So keep pushing to find someone who will give her real help. Once she gets healthy, you will have a partner back.