When she married Josh, Lisa knew that he had suffered from depression in his youth, but it was only after five years of married life, two young children and a third pregnancy that she spotted signs of a possible relapse. The things that normally made Josh happy were no longer a source of delight; he began to isolate himself and became lethargic. Lisa didn’t know what to do and did her best to support him, but really did not understand what was happening. Josh didn’t understand what was happening to him either. As he saw it, there were too many wonderful things in his life to be experiencing another bout of depression.
Believing the source of his malaise to be overwhelm with his work, he took a leave of absence for himself and at home, he exercised and made sure he was getting lots of rest. But in spite of his efforts, he didn’t improve. Lisa felt overwhelmed and totally swamped: she was pregnant, she had to take care of their two children, just 18 months and three years old, and her partner, whom she no longer recognized, couldn’t get out of bed. She wanted him to snap out of it and return to his former self, but knew that the situation wasn’t so simple. Powerless, Lisa frequently felt frustrated and alone. She felt as if she bore a huge weight on her shoulders, both emotionally and for the needs of her household. Both she and Josh realized that they had to do something to improve things for their family. Josh sought care from his psychiatrist and began taking medication for his depression and anxiety, which gradually enabled him to get back on his feet. Lisa educated herself on her husband’s mental illness, attended lectures and attended counselling herself to get education and support. Together, the couple worked as a team to battle mental illness and set their family up for success.
Five years have passed, and Lisa and Josh now have eight children. Josh’s depression and anxiety are still there, but their impact on the family has changed. Showing great resilience, the couple acknowledges that these issues are part of their day-to-day lives. Rather than fighting them or trying to eliminate them, they have decided to accept them and make lifestyle changes that allow them to thrive. These lifestyle changes include ensuring there is a lot of margin in their schedules for rest, and that they don’t make plans too far in advance to allow for flexibility and freedom as needed. Lisa has learned to recognize the warning signs of her husband’s illness so that she can provide the appropriate care in advance. She also knows that she has to ask for help sometimes, and accept the help she is offered. Mental health is a priority that takes great precedence in their family life, and by acknowledging it and planning strategically for it, it allows their family to thrive.