“I’m not sure why I am here” Jason said as he leaned forward in his chair. Then laughing slightly, he added, except my better half insisted. His wife, Laura, was sitting on the couch next to him. After waiting a moment she broke the silence “It’s because Jason just isn’t himself any longer. I don’t know what’s happened. The guy I married ten years ago seems to have disappeared.”
In the following hour I learned that prior to the past year Jason had been a vibrant, engaged, and thoughtful husband. Their two young children were frequently the focus of his attention when he was not at work. As a family they were always doing something together. Camping, travel, game nights, visits with friends: they were an active and happy family.
Family life had changed dramatically over the last twelve months. Now Jason’s interactions with his children were brief and lacking in any emotional connection. Bedtime stories had dropped away long ago, and playtime with the kids in the back yard had been replaced by Jason sitting alone in front of his computer.
Most evenings Jason would remain secluded in his study until others were asleep. He often ran late for work – in the past he had always been the first to arrive at the office. Once at work he became easily distracted and fatigued.
At first, Laura had reacted with concern when these changes in Jason’s behavior had begun. But as the months dragged on, and she more and more took on the role of a single parent, she became resentful as well. Feeling like she had reached the limits of her patience Laura gave an ultimatum.
Either Jason would begin to ‘show up’ as a husband and parent, or she would ask that he leave the house. “You want a divorce?” he had responded. “No” she replied, “But I do want some space… at least if you’re not going to be here for us. We’ve got to do something. I can’t go on like this, I just can’t.”
That “something” that they decided to do was get marriage counseling. They thought if they could just learn to communicate better then they might be able to rebuild the sense of intimacy and support that they had once enjoyed. Neither Jason nor Laura knew why they had drifted apart, but they felt certain that if they could learn to communicate better they had a chance to turn things around.
The problem with this plan is that they had always communicated just fine. Poor communication was not at the heart of this problem. The real issue was that Jason was depressed. Not just mildly depressed either. He was struggling with a major depression.
He simply did not recognize the symptoms of depression. The things he thought of when that term came up included crying throughout the day and having thoughts of suicide. Although these two features are symptoms of depression, there are many others. In fact, someone can be very depressed and only have a small handful of symptoms. But if those symptoms are extreme, the depression can be devastating.
If you wonder whether you might be experiencing depression I suggest you take the following online test (click here). Although it is not a substitute for the sort of thoroughgoing evaluation you would receive by visiting a therapist, the results may provide helpful insights for you to think over more carefully. That point is worth emphasizing. No single test can determine a psychological diagnosis. So if you take the test and end up with a high score, well, that's something to take time thinking about. But don't jump to conclusions that it means you are absolutely, positively, without a doubt suffering with a Major Depression.
Next week we will look at two simple things you can do to fight back against depression. You won’t want to miss it (really, you won’t). See you then.