When Depression Descends Upon Your Marriage

By: Deacon Derrick and Mistianna Barnes

Deacon Derrick: Depression is a common but difficult problem in many marriages. It is a seriously difficult topic to write about, but it is something that silently threatens marriages across the country and in every faith tradition. We don’t talk about depression in our marriages because we don’t want others to judge us or to judge our spouses. However, depression is a real factor in the lives of many couples and is something that Mistianna and I feel very strongly about and that really needs to start being discussed.

Mistianna: Derrick and I were a 20-something couple, married for just a few years, and we were eagerly looking forward to the birth of our new daughter. Labor and delivery was long, but went fine, and Kailee Carolynn was born healthy. But, problems begin in our marriage when Kailee had a terrible case of colic, and as a new mom, I felt overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by being a new mother and by maintaining both a demanding career and a busy household, so I became extremely depressed.

Deacon Derrick: Even though it was normal for Mistianna to be affected by postpartum depression after giving birth, the fact that depression plagued her also had an impact on me, as her husband, on our relationship, and ultimately on our young family. Since Mistianna was so overwhelmed, I felt compelled to take care of everything, to take over all the household and financial responsibilities in hopes of clearing Mistianna’s plate so she could solely focus on our daughter. When Kailee was first born and Mistianna was on maternity leave, I would constantly worry at work; I worried about Mistianna and how she was handling Kailee’s never-ending crying due to colic. Then, when Mistianna went back to work, I worried about her being able to handle the stress of her job and the constant sleeplessness she endured since Kailee nursed several times during the night.

Mistianna: One great thing about the love Derrick and I have for each other is that we were, and are, excellent at communicating with one another. Even though it was hard for me, Derrick and I had some very honest conversations about how my depression affected each of us, as partners, as soul mates, and as lovers; we were able to ultimately determine the real root of my depression and work diligently to keep our lines of communication open. I even went to get professional help since I couldn’t handle processing the depression on my own.

Deacon Derrick: Even though, as a couple, we were able to work through Mistianna’s postpartum depression, that did not prohibit depression from rearing it’s head again in our life and in our relationship. In 2003, Mistianna suffered a life-changing car wreck. During and after Mistianna’s 17 month rehabilitation, she again became seriously depressed. Not only did she have life-changing injuries from the wreck, she was constantly in severe pain, lost her dream job, and had to deal with a change in our life-style due to the lack of a second income.

Mistianna: I felt like I had lost everything that defined me as a person. Suddenly, I couldn’t walk on my own, I couldn’t drive and, I wasn’t contributing financially to our family. I couldn’t even make my six-year-old daughter macaroni and cheese for dinner or wash my husband’s dirty clothes. My everyday normal had changed dramatically and I felt useless and like a real failure. So, I checked out and gave up on life. Since I was depressed, I slept all the time, found myself overeating, having difficulty concentrating and conversing with others. Suddenly, I wasn’t able to do the one thing that made my marriage so strong, I wasn’t ability to communicate honestly with my spouse. So our marriage began to suffer, and Derrick became more of my caretaker than my husband and lover.

Deacon Derrick: Since, Mistianna was struggling physically and mentally, as the other partner in the relationship, I felt compelled again to pick up the slack, especially where housework and our daughter were concerned. In the beginning, I was understanding and very sympathetic, but as weeks turned into months and months turned into years, I began to feel exhausted, and even frustrated. I was frustrated because Mistianna, who was normally a really positive, upbeat and sunny person, was now exhausted all the time, and didn’t enjoy engaging in any of the activities we used to do together. The truth was that I missed my wife, I missed my best friend and I missed my lover. Since, I had never personally experienced depression, I really had a hard time dealing with and understanding Mistianna’s depression. I couldn’t understand why my normally happy and sunny wife couldn’t just pull herself out of it and be my happy and positive Mistianna again.

Mistianna: While being depressed gave Derrick the illusion I didn’t care, it simply wasn’t true. I cared more than I could share or communicate during that time. I honestly felt worthless, my self esteem was nonexistent and physically, I hurt all the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be “his Mistianna” again, it was just that I couldn’t. I was literally drowning; I was drowning in a very deep and dark place, and it was all I could do to simply exist and keep my head above water.

Deacon Derrick: Eventually, when Mistianna was physically able, we got her into counseling and on some anti-depressants that helped her combat her depression. During this time in our marriage, our marriage suffered, our friendship suffered and our relationship under the sheets suffered as well. But, just because our marriage was suffering didn’t mean either one of us was willing to give up on our life together. It simply meant that, every day, I made the decision to love and care for Mistianna because our marriage and our love was a commitment I had made before God and before our families and friends.

Mistianna: During this time, as Derrick made the daily decision to love me as his wife, I was able to finally love myself again and fight for my marriage and for our life together. Through professional help and Derrick’s sincere and life-giving love, we were able to talk about my depression and deal with it as a couple. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with being sad, and sometimes even get depressed, but it does mean that we can both talk about what is going on with me mentally and maintain great communication as a couple. I also have a great counselor that not only helps our marriage survive my depression, but ultimately thrive through it as a couple.

Deacon Derrick: Mistianna and I are sharing our story, because we feel there is a stigma associated with marriage, depression and dealing with depression as a couple. But, there shouldn’t be! Depression is like any other disease, it can be debilitating and, in some cases, deadly. The physical symptoms that accompany depression such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, chronic pain, and insomnia demand real help and real treatment. If you’re reading this, and you or your spouse suffer from depression, we want you to know that you are not alone and that there are treatments available to help you or your spouse handle the scariness and seriousness of depression. We want everyone to have happy, healthy and holy marriages.

So, if depression has descended on your marriage, please get yourself or your spouse some good professional help and remember to keep the lines of communication in your marriage wide open. Good luck, and God Bless!

Deacon Derrick Barnes and his wife Mistianna were married in 1995 and were college sweethearts. They have one daughter, Kailee, who is in college at UK, and two fur babies Elvis and Presley Anne. They have been involved in a variety of Marriage Prep Programs in the Archdioese of Louisville for more than 18 years, as a sponsor couple, speakers at Foundations of Marriage and presenters for the Engaged Encounter.

In, 2012, Derrick was ordained a deacon and is assigned to Saint Margaret Mary Parish in Louisville, KY where he and Mistianna are parishioners and founders of SMM’s Marriage Ministry. Deacon Derrick and Mistianna are passionate about the Sacrament of Marriage and feel called to help others have happy and holy marriages. They are currently on the Leadership Team for the Louisville Engaged Encounter and speak and conduct workshops on a variety of marriage prep and marriage topics across the Archdioese of Louisville.

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