Millions of people suffer from the debilitating effects of anxiety and depression every day, and these struggles can be especially hard on a marriage. Depression and anxiety are genuine mental health issues, but the symptoms can easily go unnoticed and are therefore misunderstood. It’s difficult for a husband who isn’t depressed and anxious to fully understand what his anxious and depressed wife is going through or why she is having such a difficult time with the pressures of daily life. This lack of understanding and patience only makes his wife’s depression and anxiety worse.
So, what can a husband do to help support his anxious and/or depressed wife?
First of all, he must do his best to TRY and understand what his wife is going through. As a non-depressed, non-anxiety-prone person, you probably deal with worry very differently from your wife.
Before I start sharing solutions for those who are currently struggling with these issues, let me give you a quick recap of how anxiety and depression have impacted my marriage:
Imagine that you are jumping off a diving board into a swimming pool. As you plunge into the water, you start to sink down but quickly move your arms to make your way up to the surface to breathe.
This is how we are supposed to deal with worry. The worry may enter our minds, but we quickly find a way to find our way out of it…whether it be through talking about it, thinking about it, reading scripture, praying, etc.. When we handle worry appropriately, it is not a STAYING place. We just pass through it.
You are stuck. Paralyzed by fear. You want to make it up to the surface, but the weight is just too heavy.
This is precisely how it feels when your wife experiences an anxiety attack or ongoing anxiety and depression over time. It’s more than a worrisome thought. She wants to shake it off, but it’s a much more complicated process for her as one who struggles with anxiety and depression. Husbands, your wife desperately wants you to know:
1. Her anxiety can be emotionally paralyzing and physically limiting at times.
I believe that this is the hardest one for those without anxiety and depression to understand. When your wife experiences anxious moments, her thoughts become stuck on the worry or stress that she is enduring. It’s like a bird making a nest in her head and then laying eggs. Then, the eggs hatch and subsequently, there are more birds. Anxiety has a way of multiplying, and sometimes, it manifests itself into a full-blown anxiety attack. During an attack, your wife’s heart starts racing, she may sweat, she can have stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and even heart palpitations. It paralyzes her for that moment and eventually passes, but it is as real as any sickness. And, therefore, she must get the help that she needs.
2. She is not crazy.
As I described earlier, an anxious mind certainly works differently than a non-anxious mind, but that doesn’t mean that your wife is “crazy.” Many times, an anxious person is hard to spot because they often put on a “happy face” and are highly-functioning. Your wife probably tries to hide her episodes of anxiety and depression because she doesn’t want to burden you or the family. But, she is not crazy. In fact, she is most likely all-to-aware of her anxiety and depression…and that causes her to spiral into more anxiety and depression. As an anxious and/or depressed person, your wife can have a hard time emotionally and mentally coping with life for a season or many seasons.
3. She can often recognize her own anxiety and/or depression for what it is.
Most of the time, she KNOWS that she is not thinking clearly when she is struggling. She most likely realizes that she is anxious and/or depressed. She sincerely desires to get better, but she doesn’t know where to start. She feels like a sailboat just waiting for the wind to catch her sail. She can recognize that she NEEDS the wind and wants to get out of her anxious downhill spiral. But, the wind never seems to blow her way.
4. She needs your support, patience, understanding, and encouragement to help keep her hopes up and to keep her moving towards healing.
I have experienced firsthand that there is tremendous hope in recovery from anxiety and depression, and my supportive, encouraging, and prayerful husband played a huge part in this. Husbands, you can be a massive help to your wife as well! More than anything, your wife needs to know that you won’t give up on her. She needs to know that you believe that she will get better. Please don’t add to her anxiety by trying to rush her recovery process or doubting that she will ever be able to recover in the first place.
Please choose your words carefully. Encourage her to get help. Take her to the doctor/psychologist/counselor. Just don’t give up on her or decide that she will never be able to have a life without constant anxiety or depression. That is just not true. Remember these scriptures:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
God clearly doesn’t want any of us to live with an anxious or depressed mind. It is my prayer that you and your wife will work together to find freedom from anxiety and peace in your home. He WILL get you both through this!