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Thursday, December 3, 2009

How To Survive Depression In The Family

By: Steve Lowell

We lost everything!

We lost our home, our investments, our live savings, our friends, our relationships with our family members including our kids and our enjoyment of life. We almost lost our marriage and my wife almost lost her life all to her depression!

This article was written out of empathy for those who live with someone who suffers with depression or anxiety disorder; for those to whom I refer as "The Silent Victims"

For 6 years I was a silent victim and my life was completely unlivable as my wife, Sharon, suffered with extreme debilitating depression, anxiety disorder, a severe sleep disorder, destructive obsessive compulsive behaviors, rage and several other behavioral disorders.

I didn't know about any of her conditions until the day after we were married, then it was all to obvious that something was desperately wrong!

I could go on for hundreds of pages about what happened next, but the purpose of this article is to share with you just a couple of the lessons I learned through my 6 years of learning to live with sever depression and other mental and emotional illnesses in the family.

I should also mention that Sharon and I are still together and doing just great! In fact, our purpose now is to help others who suffer as we have.

It took me six years of learning lesson every minute of every day to make it through life with Sharon's depression. Through that time, I documented what I was going through.

While going through the daily stresses of Sharon's depression-driven behaviors, and in speaking with so many poeple who have also gone through it all, I have identified 4 unconscious stages of coping with a loved one's depression.

1. Denial: In this stage, I was either not willing or not able to accept that fact that my wife was mentally ill. My denial made life very difficult for both Sharon and I because I was not in a position to help her by continually pressuring her to "snap out of it"!

In order for us to move forward, it was critical that I accepted the reality that Sharon was ill...that took me to the next unconscious coping mechanism...

2. Secrecy: Once I accepted internally that Sharon was ill, I felt ashamed and uncomfortable with it. Again, this did not help either of us. I made sure that our private affairs were kept as private as I could and I was not able to willing to speak with anyone about it.

Holding all of this inside was like a poison to me and it soon began to affect my own health and my own emotional well being. At this point, Sharon's depression and related illnesses were starting to cost us dearly. Some of her behaviors involved compulsive spending which financially crippled us. This, along with other behaviors, pushed me into the next unconscious stage of coping...

3. Anger and Resentment: At this stage, I made my plight very public...and I began to consult my lawyer about a divorce. This was the most dangerous stage for us because this is the stage at which I was closets to leaving the marriage. It was also the stage which was hardest on Sharon, because she could clearly see my misery which drove her to blame herself and become suicidal on more than a few occasions.

If you think you are at this point in your own relationship with someone who suffers from depression, you truly do need to do whatever it takes to get to the next stage. The next stage is the one where you can finally start healing and moving forward in a positive direction...

4. Understanding and Forgiveness: This was the point where Sharon and I began to work together to find solutions. At this unconscious stage, I began to become more empathetic to Sharon's situation and she and I began down our path to healing together.

This is, in my judgment, where things can start to turn around. Until you reach this stage, I am convinced that there is no chance for the family to survive.

To survive depression in the family, I recommend that you start by identifying which stage you are currently at and do whatever you need to do to get to stage 4; Understanding and Forgiveness.

It may take some time; it took me several very unhappy years of living minute by minute to reach stage 4. Once there, you can then start taking the steps towards healing for both you and your depressed loved one.

Depression destroys lives...but it doesn't have to destroy yours!

Article Source:
About the Author:
Steve Lowell is the author of the audio program "Victory for the Silent Victim: A Survival Guide for those Whose Loved One Suffers from Depression or Anxiety" at

He and his wife, Sharon are committed to helping families who struggle with depression and anxiety.


  1. A courageous article, from the heart. Thank you!
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    That chapter comes from Stressed Family, Strong Family, and e-book available at
    William R. Taylor, M.D.

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