Something magical began the day I met my husband. It was so extraordinary that it embraced every cell and fibre of my being. He was confident, strong and treated me with a respect and love which l had not experienced before. I knew from that day that he would be my heart and my home.
Our love story spans nearly two decades, with all its peaks and troughs. It is a relationship that has been nurtured through a deep connection, and its resilience has been tested by mental illness. Through a series of life changes and losses, my husband experienced periods of darkness that opened wounds so deep it tested the fortitude of our marriage.
Like an invisible blanket, the depression swallowed us whole as we made it a daily practice to hide our struggle, leaving family and friends without an understanding of the decline in my husband’s mental health or our marriage.
The downward spiral brought with it feelings of guilt and neglect that came from deep in my heart, as l took on the carer role. There were times I felt responsible for his depression, which left me in a state of lethargy and hopelessness.
I feared our marriage would end, but l could not find a way to bring our relationship back on track. Communication between us was scant, as much of what l said was misinterpreted, and l found myself being scrutinised unnecessarily. We just did not share the same view of the world.
I grieved for what we once had and the beautiful memories that seemed so far away.
Over time we both realised that despite the depression, we loved each other deeply. Even though everyone else could see it, we had temporarily lost sight of the fact that there was something special between us. We were blinded and consumed by the depression. We found that as we spoke about our deepest wounds, we would trust and respect each other in the process, for communication was our strength before depression entered the picture.
From my own perspective, I yearned to find that independent, self-aware and open-hearted woman who fell in love, and not the weary yo-yo emotional wreck that l had become. After years of caring for my husband on the roller coaster called depression, my inner child was suffering. My pleas to understand why, while internally hugging my fragile inner child after an argument, was more than I could bear.
It was at my darkest period that I began the journey to alter my perspective on trying to control depression, fix my husband’s life and stop playing the victim. I focused my energy toward acknowledging my journey and remembering the brilliance of our marriage before the depression.
From this loving space, I trusted, surrendered and let go of the struggle. I began to shine a light on depression with compassion and love, instead of hopelessness and frustration.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, our relationship saw life for the first time in many years.
We acknowledged that as a couple we needed to learn and grow from life’s challenges, rather than consciously pushing our relationship to the edge to find a resolution, as there was no resolution.
As a carer I learnt that the darkness clouding our marriage had to be embraced with unconditional love. I needed to understand it rather than fighting the depression quicksand.
We learnt that pausing before speaking in the moment of anger allowed an engagement of words that was more compassionate and loving.
But more importantly, through the gentle process of exposing our vulnerabilities with each other, revealing the unattractive parts and the fear, we began the healing process and brought the light back where hurt and neglect had existed.
Fear was no longer manning the gate, as a newfound love surfaced that was richer and more magnificent than the wounds that had been cracked open.
It was here that our souls embraced for the first time in many years. We were feeling and tasting freedom and not the stranglehold of depression.
Journaling to Expose My Inner Light
In the beautiful events that unfolded during the dramatic shift in our marriage, an incredible coping tool was revealed. I turned to journaling and writing to expose my inner light and to understand the depth of my courage and resilience.
I was drawn to people who wrote on a daily basis, as I had no background in expressive writing. I sought advice to understand how to write from my heart space. I wanted to share with the world that hope and recovery is a possibility through a compassionate heart, and that stigma has no place, for it fuels the darkness that so many fight each day.
I started my journey by writing for ten minutes each day, disconnecting from the world. I looked within and coupled to a spaciousness that encapsulated my soul.
It felt like a vibrational reset that allowed me to gain clarity about the events of the past. It revealed the lessons and the sacred inner connection of my spirit, to see what was driving my life and the purpose of my being.
This beautiful stillness brought on a flow of lucidity that directed my hand to write from the heart. Through this daily practice, I felt a deep sense of worth and connection to a divine flow. From this place I was able to travel with my mind’s eye, drawing forth the wisdom and clarity to write from experience, love, and compassion.
I began to share my words on various mental health Facebook sites and support groups, and in doing so I received acknowledgement and gratitude for sharing my vulnerabilities and relating an experience that was familiar to so many others.
I have been blessed in many ways during my life, however finding peace each day and writing is the ultimate gift to myself. As I make the connection with my soul, the pen and paper take on a synergy that I hope will touch someone’s heart. I write to reach out, to reveal the struggle of carers and the people they support.
Living with a spouse who suffers from depression has been a life changing journey that has kept me in a state of compassion, as l can now hold the space for others. It brings to mind a Buddhist perspective on depression that says –
‘Darkness is a place of emptiness, but also of fullness. It is filled with unlimited potential. It is out of this void that a new birth comes’.
My birth as a writer and author has been made possible because of my husband’s illness. l am eternally grateful for the man he is and the bright light he has become in allowing me to share our story with the world.
Carmela Pollock is a voracious reader, spirit junkie, and mental health advocate.
Her current project sees her advocating the role of a mental health carer, providing support to caregivers through her voluntary work with Beyondblue and contributing to the Deakin University Delphi project as an Expert Panel member establishing guidelines for carers of people with major depressive disorder.
She has released her first book titled ‘Grieving for the Living’, that captures her story of supporting her husband of 18 years with depression. Click here to get your copy.