catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 11 :: 2011.06.10 — 2011.06.23


The perfect husband I am not

My wife’s depression pours light on my own sins. I’m stoic, unsympathetic and critical of her in every way. I’m quick to declare fix-its for her occasional panic episodes. Ever since she was diagnosed with anxiety-induced depression 14 years into our marriage, I’ve waged my own war against the demon of selfishness and, in moments of failure, self-worthlessness.

I can see why God gave her to me. My dad has stuck beside my mom for over fifty years. She has battled agoraphobia and anxiety for as long as I’ve been around. In fact, it was my birth and her subsequent inability to have a fourth son that began her chemical shake up that led our immediate family into bewilderment. Why does Mom insist on first floor hotel rooms? Why can’t she fly? What are all those pills?

So I guess I have a built-in stability factor that has kept me from running out the door. I keep trying to support her and find ways to keep our covenant vows intact, even though there are seasons, like the one we’re in right now, when I want to give up. I want to send her away for a three-month mental rehab where she can get all the anti-depressant toxins, high-blood pressure meds and sleeping aids out of her system.

If I were not in a particular vocation called teaching/preaching/self-employed (and believe me, I’ve tried other fields), I’d buy her all the counseling, massage therapy and holistic doctoring I could. I’d pay for Weight-Watchers because I know it works for her. Alas, we scrape by. 

Her depression is cross-linked to exhaustion. Healthy activity drains her. Normal tasks ahead of her overwhelm her. She gets tired from fighting depressive thoughts, being a “stuffer,” as she calls it. And the tiredness leads to a gloomy outlook on herself which leads to anticipatory anxiety about being, or not being, a good wife, mother, home-schooler, friend, etc.

In the worst times, her condition seems to point back at me: I’m not helpful enough, sympathetic enough, caring enough. Agreed.

I’m not Jesus to her. I can’t be. I’m no match. I’m just a small-hearted dude who’s trying to support his family through a year of unemployment and my own high level of stress.

It hurts because I know that her oil spills of emotion are borne out of a terrible place of darkness in her mind that keeps her in a feedback loop of half-truths about herself.

She picks up on the cooler vibe coming from me whenever she spends our money carelessly or tells me once again that she has no libido or takes on more activity than her nerves can handle. These things piss me off, and it shows in my demeanor, as obviously as a bold logo on a T-shirt. 

If the devil is the “father of lies,” then depression is his favored son. Depression monkeys with our God-given dispositions with great effectiveness. It sucks life out of even the strongest marriages.

I have indeed gained some sympathy. After a significant and unexpected job loss that took me into a four-year craze of working several jobs and searching for pastoral calls to no avail, I finally cracked. I experienced the “dark night of the soul” for only two months, but I never want to go back there again.

My wife tells me that on a small scale, she fights that darkness daily. Funny that during my time of brief insanity, she rose to the occasion, as a best friend will, and encouraged me to hang on. That experience kind of put me in my place. And my place is to never leave her or forsake her. I can’t let the shame of my own sins deny me the privilege of learning to love as Jesus loves me. 

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