Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’m writing to you because I don’t know what else I can do. I’ve been married for three years now and love my husband dearly, but lately I’m finding it difficult to be around him. He goes through periods of depression and withdraws into himself and is negative about everything. He just assumes that things will go wrong. I was laid off, so I’m around him all day now (since he works at home). He has a therapist but he doesn’t share much with her, so I don’t think it’s helping much. He refuses to get medication because he had a bad reaction to antidepressants in the past. Nothing I say seems to make a difference. It hurts me to not be able to be close with the man I love. All of the good times we could have together are not possible because of his depression. I’m starting to feel depressed myself. What can I do to help my husband to feel better?
Dr. Norquist responds:
How sad, painful and frustrating this situation must be for you. Your loved one is so close and yet so far away and unavailable. Your question is regarding what you can do about your husband’s depression. As you know, you cannot take away your husband’s depression. You cannot do for him what he must do for himself. Unhappiness can be a chronic habit. Effort is required to take actions that lead to happiness. It is easier to stay negative and depressed. Your husband has to make up his mind to uplift himself and to continuously take the actions necessary to do so. This is always his choice, as he is the one who is creating his own life.
What you can do is use this situation as a means for your own growth. With the right attitude, difficult circumstances can serve as fine sandpaper that refines and adds luster to our souls. Difficult times, more than anything else in life, hold the potential for immense growth. Happiness requires the cultivation of a positive inner state through right thinking, right action, and the steadfast determination to cultivate the positive in yourself and your interactions with the world. You must decide to be happy and dedicate yourself to the pursuit of this state of mind. Use this painful situation to learn to uplift yourself. As a result, your state will be uplifting to those around you, including your husband.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2011 Chaitanya Counseling Services