7 Ways to Help Your Spouse Feel Secure During Your Depressive Episode

By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Lombardo

depressive episode

Many people have asked my husband and me how we’ve stayed together for so long with my mental illness looming overhead.

It’s a fair question; I know many couples that have ended up divorcing because one or the other couldn’t handle the added pressure of mental illness. I think in our case, that added element of pressure only made our marriage stronger.

Hope During a Depressive Episode

I don’t doubt that some people with depression or anxiety say to themselves, “I can barely take care of myself during a bout of depression; how am I supposed to worry about someone else?” To that I say, “I understand, and I’ve been there,” because I was diagnosed nearly 25 years ago.

I know from experience that when you stick together during the bad times, the good times are so much sweeter. On the day we got married, my husband said, “Well, you’re stuck with me now.” But I didn’t always make it easy for him.

Of course, at the beginning we struggled. We struggled a great deal, but we knew that we loved each other enough to keep working on the relationship.

If you truly love your spouse, you can gather enough strength to show you care for them, even when you don’t even have the energy to get out of bed.

Communicating During a Depressive Episode

It’s essential that your partner be made aware of what you’re going through. You can’t just shut down and isolate. The next time you go looking for their support, they may not be there because you’ve made them feel alienated.

Once I learned to utilize the seven methods listed below, we began to communicate better, even in the darkest of times. For many, these techniques may be common sense, but for those of us with a mental illness, sometimes we need to get out of our own way and just focus on the basics..

I’m not suggesting that you jump into the list with both feet. Take your time and find what works best for you and your spouse.

  1. Talk to your spouse and tell them what you are feeling. As soon as you feel yourself falling into a depressive episode, let them know, even if you’re having trouble coming up with the why and the how,
  2. Assure your partner that they are not the cause of your mood. Sit down and tell them point blank that they have nothing to do with how you’re feeling. You have no idea how powerful something so simple can be.
  3. Tell them that it’s okay that they can’t fix the situation. This was a big one for my husband. He loves me and he didn’t want to see me in pain. So, he often felt as if he had to do something to make it better for me. Unfortunately, most of us need to work through things in our own time before we feel better.
  4. Offer them simple options to help you feel better. Maybe you’re having a craving for chocolate or you just really want a tuna fish sandwich. Ask your spouse to pick up one of these items for you. When they bring it home, genuinely let them know that they’ve helped, even if it’s just a little.
  5. Try to make sure you don’t take anything out on them. One of the biggest stumbling blocks early on was my temper, and because my husband was the only one around, he got to feel the wrath. This goes hand in hand with communication. You might simply say, “Look, I’m not doing well right now and it may seem like I’m taking it out on you. I’m sorry if I do, it’s not your fault.”
  6. Thank them for being there for you. Many times, the only real remedy for a situation is a “thank you.” It’s a rewarding feeling to know you’ve helped the one you love. Once your partner feels appreciated, they’re more likely to be supportive more often.
  7. If you’re having trouble giving your feelings a voice, write put them in a letter. This is valuable on many levels. It can help the situation in the present, but if your partner is anything like my husband, he’ll keep it and read it when times get hard again. If you’re truly transparent and honest with your emotions, it could be the best thing to happen to your relationship.

Give It A Try

I hope you’ll consider trying a couple of these the next time you feel like you’re sinking into a depressive episode.

You can have a strong relationship with a solid structure while enduring mental illness. It doesn’t have to be a struggle.

Believe me when I tell you that having a stable partnership takes one of the heaviest loads off your back in a dark time. Suffering through depression is exhausting enough, but knowing that your relationship is falling apart around you makes it ten times harder.

Do yourself a favor and just try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Rebecca Lombardo is the author of “It’s Not Your Journey” where she details two years of her twenty-five year battle with mental illness. As she recovered from an attempt to take her life, she wrote the book to purge her pain and raw emotions. Rebecca offers the reader support and guidance as she begs them not to follow her path.

Rebecca and Joe Lombardo host a podcast, Voices for Change 2.0, Live on Saturdays. Learn more about Rebecca at www.rebeccalombardo.com allthatwax2019.scentsy.us Tw: @BekaLombardo

GOT SEX, SECURITY or SOCIAL PROBLEMS?

Anxiety Attack Worry Less Now

When our survival instincts for procreation, security, and community exceed their proper function, we want what others have, lust for sex and power, and become exceedingly angry when our demands aren’t met. (Bill Wilson) *

Many of us have valiantly tried to satisfy our overblown needs through our own efforts. For example, my selfish search for emotional security drove me to sick relationships, overwork, and manipulation. In the end, I hurt both myself and others.  

So, how then do we grow out of the patterns that threaten our romantic life, safety, and productive relations? First, we must sincerely want to find a better way to live. Then, we look at our own part in our unhappiness, and take actions to become the person we want to be.

Most important, we find like-minded people to give us unselfish support as we come to trust a loving, protective power to fulfill our needs.

What’s the Problem with Exaggerated Needs?

We begin our journey by listing each survival instinct, along with the personal cost of trying to force the world to fulfill it. See if any of these needs and consequences apply to your life (add to the list, if you wish).

  1. Unmet Emotional Needs cause low self-esteem, perfectionism, addiction, self-harm, anxiety
  2. Threatened Material Security causes inflated ambition, dishonesty, overwork, worry, stress
  3. Dysfunctional Social Relations result in codependency, prestige-seeking, competitiveness, gossip, failed relationships, conflict
  4. Dishonest Sex Relations lead to promiscuity, disease, selfishness 

Driven by fears of losing what we so desperately need, we may have been selfish, dishonest, and resentful. To free ourselves from these patterns, we write about the following questions and share our answers with a trusted person (therapist, clergy, sponsor, or spiritual advisor).

In what ways did I hurt others or myself,? Where was I . . .

  • Selfishly seeking my own security, social needs, or sexual gratification; and ignoring others’ feelings?
  • Dishonest with myself and others about my motives to satisfy my security, social relations, sex needs?
  • Fearful of not getting my needs met, and trying to control people and things so I could feel .more secure?
  • Resentful about my frustrated demands for security, social relations or sex?

This work helps us see the futility of expecting the world and others to fulfill our needs. No matter how hard we’ve tried, it just hasn’t worked, as it’s caused harm to ourselves and others. After sharing our shortcomings with a trusted confidant, we go to work to overcome our negative patterns.

If we’re addicts, alcoholics, workaholics, overeaters, gamblers, or regularly numb ourselves from life’s disappointments, we need help. In my case, I found a skilled therapist and the 12-step programs of AA, Al-Anon, and ACOA.

Self-Compassion

As I met with others who had faced similar challenges, I realized I wasn’t the only one confused about how to keep myself safe and secure; that everyone’s instincts caused them and others trouble.

I came to see my old hurtful actions as misguided attempts to fulfill my own needs. For example, in my alcoholic home, I decided, “If I’m perfect, everyone will like and admire me, and I won’t feel so alone and afraid.” I went on to get good grades, advanced degrees, and professional awards. Eventually, those efforts led to anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, chronic pain, and three divorces. Clearly, my attempt to ensure my own happiness was failing.

Loving Support and Security

As I joined with healthy others, I found I was not uniquely bad; I had been merely a desperate mess. Many of my recovering friends had done worse things than I had, and they had become good, reliable, caring people. Perhaps, with help, I could be a better person too.

Through the loving care of others, I began to own my strengths. For example, through my people-pleasing, I developed social skills that had to be balanced with self-care and boundary-setting. Ditto with my perfectionism; I certainly knew how to work hard–an asset–but only when I combined it with adequate rest and self-forgiveness.

Being immersed in groups of happy people who are healing their lives led me to my own source of security–a power greater than my fears. I was relieved that no one pushed me to believe in their definition of a “higher power.” Eventually, with guidance from my sponsor, therapist, and other spiritual teachers, I began to trust in an ever-present love that fulfilled all my needs.

These days, I often take a quiet moment to connect with this benevolent, caring power. In times of trouble, however, when I’m afraid my needs couldn’t possibly be met, I rely on my healthy friends to stream that positive power into my life and mind.

Knowing that love is always available gives me great security, and I’m ever grateful for that.

*NOTE: The ideas presented here are based on the Step 4 Inventory of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gigi Langer security

Gigi Langera person in recovery, holds a Ph.D. in Psychological Studies in Education and an MA in Psychology from Stanford University. Through her writing, coaching, and speaking, Gigi has helped thousands of people improve their lives at home and at work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and Murphy, her cat.

Worry Less Now Cover

Get Gigi’s new book, “50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking.” Available in audio, e-book, and paperback (5 Stars on Amazon). Click HERE

  • “This book is a winner.” Karen Casey, Bestselling Hazelden author
  • “Valuable, heartfelt manual.” — Publishers Weekly (BookLife)

My 2020 Inventory: Don’t Hold Back!

“Searching within myself, I will patiently, trustingly share myself with others.”Karen Casey (Best-selling Hazelden author)

Back in the 80s, my favorite spiritual author, Karen Casey, wrote “Each Day a New Beginning” for women in recovery, and it has sustained me through these many years. The quote above is particularly relevant as I start this year. I now see clearly (20 20 vision, right?) a major way I’ve been resisting God’s will. Here’s a quick inventory of my tendency to hold back.

  • Recently, I realized I’ve never memorized the Step 7 prayer exactly as written. Soon after that, a stranger in a 12-step program gave me a card with the prayer on it. So, I started saying it.
  • I also noticed a creeping opposition to doing things I was called to do. Whispered lies crept into my mind: “Oh, that would be too much work.” “I just don’t feel like doing that.” “Haven’t I done enough?”
  • By resisting those nudges, I knew I was letting my self-will override God’s direction. So, I put a sticky note in my car: “Thy Will Be Done; Not Mine.” I see it many times a day.
  • Perhaps it’s been sinking in, because I now offer you my 4th & 5th step inventory: My fearful self has always told me to “Hold Back!” Hold back smiles to strangers. Hold back chats with neighbors. Hold back calling others on the phone. Hold back compliments, etc.
  • When I get the opportunity to do kind acts, I usually talk myself out of it. I tell myself I’m an introvert, or that I’m not good at “small talk,” or that I don’t have time.
  • But mostly it’s about (1) the false belief, “If I give love away, it might never return; there’s not enough to go around” and (2) fear of getting enmeshed, controlled, hurt, or inconvenienced. (Yup, I grew up in an alcoholic home.)
  • My 6th step character defects are self-will (pride) and fear (insecurity). In short, I’ve resisted God’s will to love and serve others; and  I haven’t trusted my Higher Power to keep me safe and secure.
  • I now say the 7th step prayer: “My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go from here, to do your bidding.”  

Long ago I learned that God can supply every need, and that my worth and safety are established by my Higher Power. But, being human, I forget. In recovery, we learn that our happiness is dependent upon our spiritual condition. As Karen Casey wrote, “Sincerely touching the soul of someone else can tap the well of happiness within each of us.” That’s my plan for 2020!

Gigi Langer Worry Less Now

Gigi Langer, PhD.  Many years ago, I used alcohol, romance, and professional accomplishments to soothe my frayed nerves. Over time, I discovered effective tools from therapy, recovery pro­grams, scientific research, and a variety of philosophical and spiritual teachings. I share those techniques in my blog and book so you can find peace of mind and wisdom, no matter what is bothering you.

Worry Less Now Cover

My award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now, describes how I and others have defeated the faulty thinking leading to dysfunctional relationships, perfectionism, addiction, and worry about loved ones. Gain practical strategies, personal stories, and guided activities. Amazon: 5 stars (51 reviews) (Buy Paperback, e-book, OR audiobook HERE)

REVIEWS:  Karen Casey, best-selling author of Each Day a New Beginning (Hazelden) “Even though I have been in recovery for more than 4 decades, and didn’t think another self-help book would make it to my treasured list, I was wrong. This book is a winner.” Anonymous Reader: “Your Book certainly transformed my life!  All I can say is, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER” 

LISTENING: AN ART GUIDED BY THE HEART

talk at barbecue

In your relationships, are you really listening?

Do you try to understand the other person’s point before offering your own ideas?

Giving your complete attention to another person’s words offers him a treasure—a sincere gesture of care. Unfortunately, most of us respond to our loved ones either by telling stories about our own past or offering solutions.

Both types of responses prevent seeking to understand first, perhaps the most important of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Listening from the Heart

When in a conversation with someone, open your heart, empty your mind, and listen. If you notice yourself thinking about your own past, refocus your attention on what he is saying. If you’re tempted to suggest solutions, remind yourself that actively listening is your goal.

To show your intent to understand, briefly summarize what you think you heard. After that person’s reply, summarize again.

Listening in this way not only shows that you care—it also invites the person to clarify his own thoughts and feelings, often leading to helpful insights. Perhaps the initial “problem” is something else entirely.

For example, if a friend tells you she’s worried about losing her job because her boss constantly criticizes her, tune in, breathe, and resist the urge to tell your own tale about a bad boss. Then paraphrase her words: “It sounds like you get a lot of negative responses from him.” Your friend replies, “Well, it’s not really criticism. It’s just that he has such high expectations.” Then you summarize (without giving advice), “Hmmm, high expectations. Tell me more about those high expectations.”

Responding in these ways elicits her feelings and encourages more detail, allowing both of you to explore the problem before seeking positive ways to address it.

Try It Out!

 1.  Select a friend or coworker who’s easy to talk to, and plan a 15-minute conversation without interruption.

 2.  You may want to begin by explaining that you’re working on your listening skills and reassure the person you have only good intentions—to understand what they say.

 3.  Ask the person to begin talking about something happening in their life. Listen intently while resisting your urge to break in with your own experiences or solutions.

 4.  When the person stops, pause to see if they’ve finished talking and take a moment to prepare your response. Select the most important parts of what was said and summarize one of them in your own words—for example, “So, you said (fill in blank). Tell me more about that” or “You mentioned the word (fill in blank). What does that mean to you?” TIP: If you’re talking less, and they’re talking more, then you’re doing great!

 5.  If it seems acceptable to the other person, at the end of the conversation, ask how it felt to be listened to this way.

Make It A Habit

In your everyday interactions, make a conscious effort to listen carefully to others and paraphrase what you heard. Withhold your own thoughts and reactions until you fully comprehend the other person’s position or experience. You will be amazed by the good will you create (and what you learn about the other person!)

Gigi Langer

Gigi Langer holds a PhD in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University. She is an acclaimed teacher, author, and speaker who has helped thousands improve their lives at home and work. Gigi hasn’t had a drug or drink for over 30 years, although she does occasionally overindulge in Ghirardelli chocolate and historical novels. She lives happily in Michigan with her husband, Peter and her cat, Murphy.