COPING WITH DEPRESSION IN MARRIAGE
With Pastor Carol Wanjau
Described as the most prevalent mental illness among adolescents and young adults in Kenya, depression has far-reaching effects stretching even into marriages.
Counselling Psychologist Carol Rarieya gives guidance on how people can recognise the symptoms of depression in themselves or their spouses, while also sharing the ways in which couples can overcome the obstacles depression may have brought into their relationship.
Depression is a mood disorder that affects how people experience themselves inwards and how they are experienced by other people. There are several hallmarks of depression. However, professionals generally look out for these three:
- Extreme Sadness A person becomes preoccupied with feeling low and sad. In such instances one may even cry and not know why.
- Feelings of Unworthiness. These are tendencies to evaluate oneself in very negative ways. He/she feels they are not good enough, capable and may question their value to the world and/or to the lives of those around them.
- Loss of Interest The person loses interest in the things they used to enjoy doing. For instance, those who loved working out no longer have any interest to do so. They may also begin to fall behind in regular activities such as cleaning, cooking or even showering.
When feeling low and unworthy remember that you matter and are special. God loves you. Believe that He has your back. When struggling with criticism and negativity, count your blessings and appreciate what you already have. This will help improve your outlook.
Proceeding to the marriage space, there are unique indicators of depression in both men and women. For men these may be:
- Isolation The husband begins to isolate himself and is away from the home more. He doesn’t participate as much and the wife may begin to feel he doesn’t want to support her or worse still wonders if he is cheating.
- Workaholism Some may spend more time in the office and in some cases the gym or bar with their friends, further increasing their time away from home.
- Increased Alcohol Intake Social drinkers start drinking more. As alcohol is a depressant, it worsens the condition and a person sinks deeper into depression.
- Declined Sense of Responsibility He begins to fall behind on his responsibilities such as paying the bills, school fees etc.
- Lowered Libido Doesn’t want to be intimate anymore which increases the tension in the marriage.
- Negligence of Household Chores: The wife doesn’t have the energy to follow up on the upkeep of the home. It is often mistaken for laziness, or irresponsibility.
- Alcoholism: Women also turn to alcohol, although many do it secretly and at home. They will often have hiding places and secret stashes.
- Quitting their Jobs: As they have feelings of unworthiness, they may begin to feel unqualified and incapable of performing at work. This leads them to resign.
- Irritability: The woman becomes very difficult to be around, leading to isolation as no one wants to be around her. In the home this plays into a very toxic cycle with the children. When children sense something is wrong they become clingier. This may irritate their mother further and cause her to shout and push them away. Doing this is harmful as it destabilises their foundation of security.
- Lower Libido: This affects the intimacy in the marriage and leads to a breakdown in communication and conflict resolution.
Some of the ways in which couples tackling depression can cope through these challenges include:
- Turning towards each other: Don’t turn away from your partner and hide in your work, gym, ‘chama’, friends or extramarital affairs. Instead, turn to your partner for support. A solution can be found if both of you are willing to have difficult conversations without criticism, attacks or defensiveness.
- Pick an objective party: In the event the intervention of a third party is needed, pick a person you trust. Be wise and select only those who would fight for your marriage, can be objective and have good counsel. This may be a friend or a pastor.
- Visit a counsellor: The involvement of a professional will allow you get better long-term management for the condition as well as support and guidance on how to cope if your spouse has a depressive disorder.
Suffering from depression or having a spouse who is struggling with depression is not a death sentence for your union. Know that God is fighting for you and your marriage. Therefore support each other and seek help together. You will make it through.
- When tackling depression remember your spouse is your ally not your enemy.
- If left undiagnosed depression can lead to separation or divorce and affect your ability to fulfill your roles as a parent.
- Understand that God loves you and is fighting for you and your marriage.
- Seek help together. Depression does not have to be the end of your marriage.
- There is hope for your marriage. With proper diagnosis and treatment, recovery rates from depression are high.
- Believe that God has your back, no matter what you’re going through
- Depression says you are unworthy. God says you matter.
- Depression must be diagnosed by a trained mental health expert
- For a diagnosis the symptoms have to be consistently present for at least two-weeks.
Carol Wanjau is a pastor at Mavuno Church and is also a Marriage and Family Therapist and Author. To listen to the full message on Coping with Depression in Marriage log onto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmtlElXAarI