(Guest journal entry by Woody, one of my partners that lives with me.)
The hardest thing about loving someone who is suffering from depression is the memories what they are like when they are healthy.
When we see those of us closest to us hurting, we want to try everything we can think of to stop that hurt. Hours researching the various medications prescribed to get some idea of what effects, good or bad, might be seen. Keeping notes about medication changes and how long the changes will take to show a result. Waking up early with the kids so they can get a couple more hours of sleep. Reading about depression treatments that might help. Paying medical bills out of pocket when insurance decides not to pay for something. Making time during the week to help out with basic household chores like laundry (no small task with 3 adults and 2-4 kids in the house), vacuuming, dishes, watering plants, cleaning bathrooms, grocery runs, yard work, and keeping everyone fed. My own weekly therapy sessions reflecting on the daily ups and downs and persistent feelings of helplessness at feeling like I am not doing enough to create the space that Cassie needs to heal. Trying to find space after all of that to exercise, or at least be outside for a few hours a week.
That’s the thing about depression… it consumes everything relentlessly. It takes away happiness, laughter, motivation, energy, desire, physical health, stability, and the list goes on. It is heart wrenching to see someone I love struggle with this. And it will eagerly consume from those close by too. A couple of months back, a close friend of mine said:
“In many ways, depression is worse than cancer.”
That thought keeps bouncing around in my head. The thing about depression is that there are no physical tests for it — no way to determine what someone’s serotonin level is or even what a “normal” chemical balance in the brain is. There isn’t an x-ray or even an MRI to point at and say “this is the problem, we can fix this.” There is no certainty of any treatment plan. Everything is a guessing game as to what medication cocktail will work, or how long it will work, or what to do if it fails. Treatment resistant depression is all of that and also knowing that what usually works for most people won’t work as well, or at all.
Through all of this I keep coming back to the beautiful memories I have with Cassie — listening to music on our first date, kayaking in the rain, snuggling and watching TV together, having dinner with her family for the first time, watching our daughters play together, laying on the Lake Superior beach, art journaling together, and all the other precious moments that made me fall utterly in love with her. And sometimes I end up in bed sobbing with the grief that happy moments are so hard to come by right now, at how exhausting it is to stay hopeful, and that I can’t will Cassie’s pain away. But after a while I remember that there will be more of those moments as things get better.
And things will get better, because Cassie has an ocean of love inside her and love all around her. My hope is still alive.