Part 2: Can a Marriage Survive Ongoing Depression? (He's Not the Man I Married...)

Part 2: Can a Marriage Survive Ongoing Depression? (He's Not the Man I Married...)

What happens when all the things you've been taught as a marriage and family therapist don't work on your own marriage?  

What happens when your cries for help and health and change are left seemingly unheard by a God whom you believe is good?

What happens when there's nothing left of a marriage except the fact that you made a covenant and you've got two precious kiddos who deserve to have their parents fight with everything they've got to stay together?

What happens when you believe that "perseverance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint...." but all you feel is disappointment and hopelessness?

Six years (and really, it was much more than that, probably 11 or 12 years if we're being realistic) of ups and downs, hoping and praying, shaking my fist at God and wishing I could just run away, wreaked havoc on my heart.  I wasn't so sure we were going to make it.  

So, can a marriage survive ongoing depression?  My answer to that question is yes, but it sure as hell isn't easy.  And some marriages don't survive it.  There are a lot of variables, and gray areas, and loop holes.  But at the end of the day, what it came down to was honesty, among other things.  Honesty with myself and with my husband, and a reality check of my own contributions to the demise of our relationship.

For years, because of his depression, I had been afraid to tell him how bad things really were.  Since I was met with only anger and judgment when I did tell him the the truth about our situation, I stopped telling him.  In fact, I stopped speaking to him about anything of consequence.  I wrote him off.  "He couldn't handle it," I told myself, and kept my desperation hidden.  

His unwillingness (in the early days) to get help had to be met with a firmness on my part that I was not used to wielding.  I could use my words like a sword - a beautiful, elegant, deadly sword to cut and pierce and mangle.  But words didn't bring about change.  Only action did.  And action was terrifying and risky to me.  

I had to learn to take a stand for what I knew was the right thing to do, and allow him to stand with me by his own choice, or let the chips fall where they may.  Luckily, he chose to take a stand with me.  Not all spouses will.

In future weeks and months, I will continue to unfold some of the details of our recovery from the verge of losing it all.  If you'd like to keep up with the happenings around here, please subscribe to my email list.  I'll send you free resources from time to time, and I'm also toying with the idea of releasing a chapter from a book I'm working on right now, all about men with depression and the women who love them.  If that intrigues you, I'd love to have you stick around.  

My hope is that somewhere in the lines of our story, you'll begin to find yours again, and the courage to continue, in whatever manner that takes.

How to Move Forward When it Hurts too Much to Hope

How to Move Forward When it Hurts too Much to Hope

I had gotten my hopes up so many times, sure that things would improve.  They just had to.  I couldn't continue living like we were.  

Except, they really didn't improve.  Like, at all.

Oh, there was a slight upshot for a few days, but eventually everything just crumbled...again.

If you live with a spouse who deals with depression, you know what I'm talking about.  The vast amounts of hoping one can do, the feeling that this time...this time...something would be different.  After years of hoping and having those hopes dashed time after time after time, it becomes too exhausting to hope.

I never thought I would utter those words... too exhausting to hope? What kind of faith is that?!  

Well, it's the human kind, that's what it is.  

But in the midst of living through the ebb and flow of hope and disappointment, Jesus whispered love to my heart.  I didn't even know if Jesus had stuck around for this insanity that was my life.  Even though theologically I knew He would never leave me nor forsake me, it sure felt like He had abandoned ship.

But this love was whispered through sharing my struggles with my wise and trustworthy mentor.  (Another case for being in community!)

This is what I learned

1.  Suffering ----> Perseverance ----> Character ----> Hope

Paul's meaty words in Romans 5 reverberate in my heart, because one of the things I long most for in this life is proven character.  So when I was presented with this verse, I took note.

"....we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.' {Romans 5:3-5 NIV}

Now, are "glory" and "sufferings" two words that we ever hear in the same sentence in the world we inhabit?  Right. The messages we hear are, escape the pain, do for yourself whatever you can to eke out some sort of meaningful existence, don't let anyone get in your way, forget about your failures, put your struggles behind you....  I could go on.  

The gold is this: God can accomplish far more in our weakness, frailty, and suffering, than at any other point in our journey.  Yes, we get to experience mountain top moments and peaceful plateaus, but it's the valleys where the gold is forged.  If we don't have a good theology of suffering, our faith will die out of disappointment and anger.

2.  Hebrews 11:4-16, emphasis on 13-16 (ESV)  "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland....But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city."

Woah!  God is not ashamed to be called their God!?  Those who died waiting for His promises!?  Now that's a statement.  The truth that this world is not our home rings even more clearly in light of these verses.  When it seems like all is lost, when nothing will ever work out, we must remember that this is not all there is.  There is more!  So much more, in fact, that what we experienced on earth will pale in comparison to the glories of Heaven and being with Jesus face-to-face.  

I know sometimes that can seem like a faint wishing, a far-off truth, a desperate cry for consolation.  But it's still the truth.  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." {Rom. 8:18 NIV} This is something I have clung to in the darkest hours of my journey.  When our focus is only on what's in front of us, we will be endlessly frustrated and disillusioned.  But we serve a God who keeps His promises, who holds fast to the covenant He himself made.  

My final thought, for now, comes from CS Lewis.  

3. Chapter 8, The Screwtape Letters (the whole paragraph is worth reading, but this sentence is the point).  "Our cause [the demons' cause] is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's [God's] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

This sentence is worth its weight in gold as far as I'm concerned.  I've never felt more encouraged in my life - to be in a place where I have no desire to obey the Lord, and yet, I am compelled to because I love Him.  So I put one foot in front of the other, wondering where He is, and walk out obedience the best I can.   

The truth of the matter is that sometimes, emotionally speaking, we are hanging naked and bleeding on a cross.  And in those times, the only comfort to be found is that since Jesus experienced this horrendous pain literally, and felt the abandoned by the Father ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!?"), and we have His life in us as believers, we can cry, scream, and rant to Him, because He knows.  He knows the full extent of our pain.  He can take our fist in his face.  He longs for us to suffer well, with him.

How do we suffer well?  That will be the topic of my next post.  Hope to see you there!

5 Prayers for When You Don't Know What to Pray

I struggle with prayer sometimes.  I don't think I'm alone in this.  I have an inner critic that constantly tells me I'm not praying authentically enough, or I'm praying selfishly and that's "bad"...I have so many rules for myself.  Rules that Jesus tells us He has come to free us from.

I often feel that I have to say the "right" words or God won't hear me.  Or pray with the right motivation in my heart so I'll be found "worthy."  

But these rules that I place on myself are exhausting, and quite honestly, ridiculous.  So when I remember that I don't have to have eloquent words and perfect motivations, I find myself praying with few words and simple desires.  Here's a sample:

1.  "Jesus, I want you.  I don't know what else to say."  
About as simple as you can get, this expresses my true heart.  I want Jesus, and I don't have to say marvelous things to have Him.  Coming to Him honestly and hungrily is about all I know how to do.

2. "Holy Spirit, if anything good or holy is going to happen in me, it's ALL up to You, cause I got nothin'."
This is what I prayed during a particularly exhausting season of life, where the Lord brought me to a place of true surrender.  It was probably the most powerful thing that's ever happened to me, outside of salvation.

3. "Oh, God, here I go again."
This is a short prayer of repentance; it's what I pray when I find myself in the same old sin patterns that never fully leave me, or when I'm wearing the mask and doing the dance that I do to make life work for me.

4.  "Jesus, hold my soul together."
I find myself uttering this prayer when I feel like I'm falling apart, or when I am trying to hold my own soul together with food or shopping.  It's a simple, honest prayer for help.

5.  "Thank you, Jesus.  You're so good. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."  
When my heart is full and bursting with gratitude, I find these words pealing, almost unbidden, out of the depths of my soul, over, and over, and over.  He's so good.  So, so, so good.  My heart revels His goodness.

There's nothing eloquent or fancy about any of these prayers.  When I strip myself of the expectations and rules I place on my prayers that only serve to turn my relationship with God into a performance, I am sent running back to these simple, heartfelt utterances to my God. 

Please use them as your own, if you wish. 

I'd love to hear the prayers are meaningful to you!  Send me a message or comment on Facebook.