Throughout my years of living with my wife Sharon’s debilitating depression, I learned a great many things.
One of the most difficult lessons was to be able to tell when my attempts to help her were actually making things much worse. Most often when there is depression in the home, the one who has the depression imposes their will and their illness on the entire family, and the rest of the family walks on egg-shells all the time so as not to set the depressed person off. Such was the case in our home.
For the first several years of our marriage, I ended up being highly subservient, not to Sharon but to her depression, I would spend my life doing everything I could possibly think of to make life as easy as possible so that she wouldn’t be depressed anymore.
I would make sure the kids were quiet all the time, that everything in the house was exactly the way Sharon wanted it. I would spend enormous amounts of money to buy Sharon anything she said she wanted that might help her be happy.
I would cancel obligations that she made on her behalf and make excuses for her.
Basically my life purpose was to make Sharon happy, so that our family could be happy and in so doing I lost myself.
After several years of this constant and persistent pressure to keep Sharon happy so her depression wouldn’t win, I began to release that not only was I not helping her, she was getting obviously worse.
It wasn’t until we had lost our home, all of our savings, our investments, our friends, our happiness, our hope and now my health that I clued into something important, I was killing her with kindness.
All of my efforts and focus to try to make her happy only made things worse
This phenomena is known as ‘’enablement”. By providing Sharon with an environment where she didn’t have to be responsible for ANYTHING in her life, all I was doing was proving her illness with a perfect environment in which to grow.
Once my eyes were opened a little, I began to do things a little differently, I began to allow Sharon to take responsibility for her own actions, and face the consequences of her decisions while shielding myself as much as possible from those consequences.
I began to refuse to make excuses for her, she had to make herself, I began to allow myself to do some of the things I loved to do in life and if she objected, I allowed her to object but did not allow her to manipulate me, if she didn’t like some small thing I left it for her to change instead of taking ownership of it myself. Of course, all of this in the most loving and supporting posture possible.
After a very short time, and some resistance from Sharon, I began to notice that she was starting to take responsibility for her own life on a much larger scale. This made life so much easier for everyone in the family
Of course I didn’t always get it right but I got it right enough of the time that it made a huge difference in our lives.
If you feel that your depressed loved one has control over your life or if you fell that they depend on you far more that they should consider your actions. Try to identify those actions that might contribute to the enabling of the depression.
Essentially a depressed person is not a disabled person and for the most part they can accept responsibilities just like everyone else can. In fact they need to in order to allow themselves to take control of their life back.
Stop killing your depressed loved one with kindness, and watch your life at home change for the better!
Writer – Steve Lowell is the Author of the audio Program ‘’Victory for the Silent Victim: A Survival Guide for those Whose Loved Ones Suffers from Depression or Anxiety at www.victoryforthesilentvictim.com