The Costs and Blessings of Depression: Freedom Part II

People diagnosed with depression are roughly three times more likely than the general population to commit violent crimes such as robbery, sexual offenses and assault.

The story continues of one such man who went to jail for committing crimes while seriously depressed and paranoid. His marriage of 29 years was in crisis. He had been asked to leave his home, beginning a separation that was to last four years. He continues his story in his own words.

Angry and moody, I was hard to live with. Although I was very sick at the time and had no place to go, I did not blame her for asking me to get out of the house. Perhaps she was right that I should leave. As if things could not deteriorate more, they did so very rapidly. She took out an emergency protective order against me (the court dropped it), turned me in to social services for non-support within the first week of separation (social services never opened a case), and started telling all who would listen that I abused her. My reputation is ruined in that part of the state.

That last accusation really stung. Therefore, I examined my behavior, sought counseling, and researched thoroughly every legal, mental health, and organizational definition of abuse I could access. If I had abused her I wanted to know it, but not one of the dozens of definitions I read or counselors I saw described my behavior as abusive. (In an effort to be completely open, there was once during a very heated argument that I intimidated her. Immediately, I felt horrible, repented, asked for forgiveness, and never did it again. Newer definitions include yelling of which I was guilty. It did not happen often, but, I came to realize, one time is too many.) Over and over again I asked her to stop spreading the charges of abuse. I walked her through definition after definition, but nothing availed. At one point she told me that unless I admitted I had been abusive toward her she would never reconcile. I responded I would not admit to a lie in order to get her back. After telling me that she did not care what the various definitions of abuse said, I gave up trying to reason with her.

In her defense this may have been her “reality.” I behaved poorly at times, but I never verbally, sexually, or physically abused her. Again, in an effort to be forthcoming, I did raise my voice at her, even to the point of yelling, but, except for the volume, I never emotionally abused her either. I neither dominated nor controlled her. She was always free to come and go as she wished, contact whom she wished, and spend as she wished. My view was that Jesus was the head of our home and we were in a partnership, not a patriarchy.

For the next four years I tried earnestly to win her back. When she told me not to call, I called daily anyway. When she told me she did not love me anymore, I kept telling her that I loved her. When she had bills, I paid them. When I never got a response from the weekly letters I wrote, I still wrote. Money was scarce, but I lived very frugally in order to send her money weekly. At one point the school where she directed the choir did not have the money to purchase a Christmas program. I told her to pick out what she wanted and I would pay for it. (On the night of the program, she told me that I never supported her.) I paid for her gas and eats in order that we could go to marriage counseling. (At the end she declared them, “worthless.”) There was no legal separation and we continued to file our taxes jointly. After one particularly large return she refused to give me my third saying, “I need it.” The next year I filed jointly with her again. When I tried to address our marriage from a biblical perspective, she said those verses did not apply to her. Not once during our four year separation did she try to reach out to me. All the effort to reconcile flowed one way – from me to her.

Divorce was not in my vocabulary. Determined to win her back I accepted the “Fireproof” challenge and began working my way through the accompanying book. About half-way through the second time I began to see her respond. I sent her a copy of the book and we began to discuss a chapter every week. After four years of separation, she agreed to reunite.

In retrospect it was not a good time for us to attempt to come back together. Along with my day job I was pastoring a small country congregation. (Lovely people!) However, my day job was becoming more and more demanding and I was getting farther and farther behind. The work load was double what I was supposed to carry. Symptoms of severe depression began to reappear. My supervisor insisted I see a therapist and a psychiatrist. I went to as many therapy sessions as my insurance approved and kept seeing the psychiatrist on a regular basis. I stopped the therapy sessions after the insurance quit paying for them. At $100 dollar an hour, I thought I could not afford them. It cost me far more to stop than it ever would have had I stuck with counseling.

Nightly, my wife and I read and discussed the “Fireproof” book in preparation for her moving in with me. I had worked hard on trying to change and address the issues about which she was most concerned. During our nightly talks, I asked her to not put all the responsibility for change on me and to address some of my worries, too. I especially asked her to do something about her borderline hoarding and get rid of two-thirds of her things before moving in.

During one weekend visit she looked at me and said if things did not work out between us, “I will destroy you!” It was not an edifying start. A recipe for disaster was brewing and it did not take long before it boiled over. She moved in in May and brought all of her things with her, doing away with nothing. Chaos returned to our home. Into my simple, frugal, ordered life a hurricane blew. I had a storage room, work room, and closed-in back porch; she filled them all nearly to the ceiling. The rooms became useless to me. She did have a garage sale, but it barely made a dent.

Her spending habits had not improved either.  Unknown to me she had run up credit card debt to the tune of $14,000 dollars and that after I had paid off her debts the year before. I was making good money and had several thousand dollars in the bank. In twelve months she went through my entire annual salary and half our savings.

The worst part to deal with was having her not believe I had changed. She expected the worst out of me. If I disagreed with her, she accused me of yelling at her, although I had not raised my voice above a conversational tone. (I did raise my voice twice during that year.) On one day trip she became angry with me when she did not get to spend as much time with her sister as she wanted. Although we were on a tight schedule, I could have been a little flexible, but she did not ask and I was not aware. She assumed I would say, “No!” For nearly the duration of the three hour trip home she screamed, yelled, and pounded on the dash saying, “I wish I could leave you!” For once, I kept my cool, lowered my voice to just above a whisper, and did not talk much. At one point I said, “In the past I may have acted like you are acting now, but never worse.” She agreed. I was no angel, but the changes I made were real, or so I thought.

By August I knew two things, I was clinically depressed and my 33 year marriage was over. I did not quit trying to save it, but it was an especially difficult climb. In January our daughter became angry with me and cussed me out in my own home. I looked at my wife and asked her, “Are you going to let her talk to me that way?” and she answered, “Yes!” Later on that day she came into our bedroom where I was in bed sick with the flu. She announced, “I’m leaving you,” in a matter-of-fact way, “You’re too sick!”

(Watch for more of the story next week.)