What To Do When Your Loved One Lives in the Dark

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{Today my husband, Ken Bauer, lends his perspective as one who has not only observed, but endured depression and its ramifications for the 17 years we’ve known each other. If you love someone suffering from the disorder, read on to gain insight, empathy and hope.}

The most visible and obvious casualty of depression is the person suffering from it. After all, she (or “he”, but for the purposes of this article and to keep it simple, I’ll use “she”) is the one who has to face the monster head-on. She is the one who battles daily against such a fierce nemesis. Our primary focus when talking about depression should be on the sufferer, and rightfully so.

However, the insidious tentacles of depression reach far and wide, impacting nearly every relationship the depressed has. Be it her marriage, relationships with her children or parents, siblings, co-workers, friends, and sometimes even casual acquaintances, not one is out of reach, and the closer a given relationship is to the depressed, the greater the impact is likely to be.

Being in a close relationship with a person that suffers from depression is hard. In fact, it can be excruciating, exhausting, confusing, painful, and infuriating all in the same day. If that relationship is a marriage where the two partners are committed to sticking it out through thick and thin, it is trying and it will test your resolve well beyond what you thought were its limits.

If someone you care about suffers from depression, I want to encourage you to remember a few things. I speak only from experience. Nothing I am going to write about or ask you to do is something that I haven’t had to do myself. These things are not a panacea that will make the pain dissipate. But they will help you cope; they will help you understand; they will help you support the depressed in a loving way, while protecting yourself from being hurt.

Paramount to remember is a simple truth: depression is not a choice. In no way does the depressed wish to be in the spot she is in. It is not because of anything you did or said to her. Her mood is not borne out of anger toward you. In fact, she is probably angry with herself because she is causing you pain. Remembering this simple truth will let you approach her with love, rather than animosity and resentment in your heart.

While much of what a person feels or says in the midst of depression is clouded by a fog of despair, oftentimes there is some truth to it. This may include ways the depressed feels about herself, as well as about those with whom she has a relationship. It’s far too easy to write off underlying truths or feelings because they are being expressed in a depressed state. Instead of ignoring them, try to put aside the negative aspects of how these things are being communicated and focus on the why. Many times what may be a minor relational issue can seem significant when viewed through the lens of depression, but the fact remains that it is an issue that perhaps you need to address, and it shouldn’t be blindly ignored.

Know that it’s OK to protect yourself. You do not need to be a doormat, put your own needs and feelings aside, or suffer verbal abuse. You can always choose to remove yourself from an uncomfortable conversation or conflict and give the depressed person some space, and you can proactively communicate clear boundaries regarding what is and is not acceptable behavior. Not only will doing this create a less volatile, healthier environment, but it also protects the depressed from saying things that she may regret once the depression has lifted. There is no good that can come from unabated verbal abuse said from a place of depression and darkness, so take steps to prevent it from happening. It will benefit both parties in a big way.

The sooner you accept the fact that absolutely nothing you can do can heal the depressed, the better equipped you will be to help. You cannot talk the depressed out of her funk, or lift her out of it by doing chores, cooking dinner, or arranging fun activities. Now, let me be clear and say that none of these things are bad, and I encourage you to do them, and more. But do them without the expectation that they will heal her. Instead, do them out of love and a servant’s heart, knowing that while they won’t heal the depressed, they will certainly help by allowing her to pursue the internal healing that she needs. Give her the time and space to process her feelings, and encourage her to ask God for help.

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Remember that God uses even pain for His glory, and so much of that is likely unseen by you. As is the case with all pain, it ultimately points to God in one way or another. Whether it is a reminder of the surpassing worth of Christ, or a reminder of our utter reliance on Him for all things, there is always gain in Christ to be had. If nothing else in this article resonates with you, my prayer is that this truth does. When you are in the midst of pain, and you are left to wonder why God has chosen you to bear the burden of depression in one or more of your relationships, ask Him to illuminate the glory that is found even in the darkest of spaces. And then when He does, thank Him for using the storms of life to draw you into a deeper relationship.

Most importantly, don’t lose hope. At times you will be tempted to throw in the towel, taking what you think is the easy, or only way out. Don’t do it. Stay in the fight, hunker down and cling to God, listen to His truths, and pray for the depressed. Step up and do your best to encourage her. Remember that your fight is not against your spouse, sibling, child, parent, or friend. It’s against an unseen foe; a foe that can be beaten, but only by God. Relationships are worth fighting for. Find support from someone who understands what you are going through, and remember that you are not alone. Remember that there is hope, and rest on that. I am praying for you, friend.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5


PROFILE_KENKen Bauer is a husband, father, son and brother.  A man of many, many interests, he especially loves, in no particular order, water skiing, cooking, golf, sailing, mountain biking, reading, writing, crafting the perfect shot of espresso, bartering, volleyball, hiking, photography, fixing things, landscaping, traveling, construction projects, Westies, downhill skiing, computer nerd stuff, hunting, movies, and another couple dozen or so other things. But first and foremost, he is dedicated to serving his Creator and abiding in His love, and seeing people impacting the world by faithfully using the gifts God has given them.


Depression Series{Navigating Depression: What Every Woman Needs to Know} is a month-long blog series devoted to the disorder. Read stories of women who have traversed its stormy seas. Receive encouragement and be equipped for your own battle against the darkness. Garner understanding, bleeding empathy for afflicted loved ones.

 

4 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Loved One Lives in the Dark

  1. So, so good! Thank you all for your bravery, honesty and love of our Lord. I have grown so much through this series and have been blessed to see miracles occur in my own family as a result of what I have learned to pray for in loved ones suffering through depression. Oh how good our God is!

    1. Thank you for reading, Shanna! He is our Rock, steadfast and unchanging, though our moods and circumstances may…”all other ground is sinking sand”.

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