How I Do

Several of you have made the request over the years that I share my perspectives on living with someone who has chronic depression. I’ve been reluctant to share for many reasons. The biggest reason I haven’t is that part of living with someone who can spiral downward and inward means that I have to be careful about what I say and do. If the fire is raging, you don’t throw fuel on it or add gunpowder to it. Day to day, I’m probably being overly cautious. During stressful times of the year or during stressful events, those days where I need to be careful are more frequent. It seems like we’ve barely been able to catch our breath until very recently and now it is holiday season. Which, as you are aware, contains no stress at all.

Fixing It by Not Fixing It
As a heterosexual man attracted to a woman, I have a range of emotions and ways of dealing with whatever life throws my way. One of those things is to look at a problem and want to fix it. Men like to be fixers, for the most part, and this is great for things like a clogged drain or dead car battery. Also great if the satellite dish isn’t picking up the latest “Nature is Sad” show on the educational channel because it’s buried in snow. It is not so great if your partner needs for you to help her by listening.

I’m not certain this is entirely gender-related, as I’m certain it is just as likely that a woman can be a fixer as well. It just keeps coming up for me that I can’t fix it and I need to shut up and listen. Almost two years ago, Leah Crawford interviewed me for her site, Leahpeah and asked me how Heather’s illness had affected my life. I wrote then that people in relationships, particularly the man, often have a strong desire to fix things. What I neglected to say then is that one of the best ways to help somebody is to shut up and listen. This is extraordinarily difficult for me as a talker. I’ve really had to stop myself and let it go. I have to tell myself that I need to LISTEN and to tell myself to SHUT UP. It’s doubly important when somebody is anxious or depressed and needs to get it out. I have only met a few men who are great listeners, and those were professionals I was paying to listen.

So. Listen.

Stress Management & Meds
In our case, Heather handles stress very differently than most people I know. She is a master internalizer and the whiff of brooding energy she emits outward is usually an indication that there is a much larger inner storm raging. I’ll usually try to get a calm moment when just the two of us can talk and I’ll have to ask her about five or six times if something is wrong or if she needs to talk. Having lived with her for awhile now, I can say that I can see this coming a few days off. Especially given some of the big things we’ve done in the past two years. Starting a business, selling our house by ourselves, moving, her projects, professional and occupational stress, etc. have all proven to be major stressors. I view my role as to simultaneously get things done and listen when called upon. I don’t regret this role, and I don’t begrudge it. I view every conversation as a chance to learn something new. And a chance for me to tell myself to listen.

As part of intense stress periods, I always have to ask, sometimes repeatedly, about medication levels. The professionals who successfully treated Heather for post-partum depression came up with a drug cocktail that saved Heather’s life. It’s my job to help her stay on those meds and help her assess whether or not they are working like they did in 2004. This will be an ongoing thing for the rest of her life. There are good days around the prescription discussion and not so good days. As with all chronic medication consumption, it is only natural to assume that one feels better and can taper off the meds. There have been several instances where I’ve noticed a higher state of anxiety and a certain tone in conversation, a withdrawal or unusual comment from Heather and felt the need to bring up medication as a state of emergency. Luckily, Heather responds and if she has changed her dosage, after we discuss (sometimes more pointedly than others) she takes it back to the levels that were prescribed. When the meds kick in, it’s like I’m living with the Heather who can cope and get through life. If she’s changed her meds, it’s not pretty. The stress on me during these times builds and builds. I have to be careful in how I release that stress. I also have to make time for me. I have had to learn that most of what is bothering Heather has nothing to do with me or our relationship. It has to do with her internalizing stress and how she deals with life when it gets overwhelming. To be sure, there are those times when I’ve done something wrong or I’m not doing enough or I’m caught up in a project and it causes friction. Just like every other relationship.

Our life is such that we must become adept at crisis management. Home ownership, parenthood and business ownership means that things are going to happen, sometimes all at once. I have to be in a good place to have a clear head to deal with whatever life is going to throw at me. This is not easy. I do a lot of self talk (sometimes freaking Heather out) to either practice conversations I need to have or help me work through a situation. I also have to be strong and assertive most of the time or else I’ll be blown over by the power of the illness.

I have to have a good amount of sleep to face the next day. I get this by taking an antihistamine that helps me sleep and dries out my perpetually runny nose. Side effect: used to be prescribed as a mild anti-depressant. Getting enough sleep makes it so much easier to listen and/or take over if Heather can’t function.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m always open to trying medication if I think I need it. Heather has suggested I try a few things in the past, but I’ve so far not had a steady course of anti-depressants. Typically, getting enough sleep, changing my life (sometimes with talk therapy) and managing my stress have helped me through the hardest of times. If I’m being a jerk, no medication is going to fix that. I have to recognize I’m being a jerk and work on it. I think everybody on the planet goes through jerk phases and being aware is the beginning to living a life that is less difficult on those around us.

Openness Leads to Success
I have to be open. Being raised as I was and given my own propensities, this is extremely difficult for me. I have admired Heather’s openness and willingness to share, but there is always that part of me that worries if there will be a cost later. I can’t decide if I was meant to be a risk management assessor, tin foil proponent or character in either an E.M. Forster or M. Somerset Maugham novel.

Talk therapy has been something that has saved me, saved my relationship with Heather and made our lives together stronger. It is hard work and difficult to hear and learn things about oneself, but I believe that every single person on the planet would benefit from talk therapy. Maybe one doesn’t need it all the time, but I view it as something that I can turn to and use to help navigate through life. I don’t think that because I’m living with Heather, I’ll do more therapy because of her illness. I need it for myself and together, we’ll need it for our relationship. It’s not weak or lame to face ones issues. It’s not strong to live in denial. It’s not strong to live in fear of talking about the dynamics of how we process life events or why we react the way we do. I only wish I had sought therapy after my father died and that in my first marriage, I had sought therapy earlier. I’m not sure that my life would be different, but perhaps better. I’m very happy now, and I love where I am, both professionally and personally. Most importantly, for Leta, I love where we are. She needs happy and healthy parents.

As with any chronic illness, any form of treatment needs to be done carefully and with supervision from professionals. I can’t stress enough how lucky we have been to have had doctors willing to try certain combinations of medicines. We’ve taken it into our own hands in the past and sought different doctors when it was clear that Heather was responding to medicine or a particular doctor has a propensity for a certain diagnosis or treatment that wasn’t helping. The saddest part of treating depression is that most doctors want to ramp up the medicine (for good reason) and it’s very difficult to see a response sometimes. I wish there were a better way to deliver a clinical dosage of meds on an outpatient basis. Most of my experience in this area comes from watching Heather start a medicine for a few weeks and have it either make her worse or have no effect. In order to deliver the dosage and right cocktail, Heather had to be in a hospital/facility where she could be monitored. There was no ramping up. And that is exactly what Heather needed.

One of the biggest and most detrimental side effects to being a partner of someone with a mental illness is that there is the impulse to not share the hard stuff with them for fear they can’t handle it. Likely corollary to that is that the disease is a part of our relationship, meaning it needs its own space. The meds and therapy continue to help, but the disease is always there. I have to be aware of those times where nearly every exchange, every gesture and every non-verbal cue is related to the illness in some way. This adds a burden to any relationship and ours is no different. One of the hardest things to write, is that Heather’s illness means that sometimes she can’t be there for me in a way that I need her to be. I learned this early on, but I still have a hard time making room in our relationship for the largest side effect on me of her illness. It’s not maliciousness on her part. It’s not ignorance. It’s that the disease is all-consuming. I do stand up for myself and I have to be more verbal than I’ve ever been about stating clearly that I need her or I’m having a rough day. Fortunately, those times are fewer as things have smoothed out career-wise and I’ve learned how to tell her that I’m struggling or I need to talk.

In every relationship there is work to be done. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. There are people who are likely to be better suited for one another, but there is no magic. While this post might sound like it’s not worth it or that Heather and I are having problems, I should clarify that it’s not like that. If I didn’t care about Heather, or wasn’t willing to do the work that a relationship demands, I’d be worse off in my life. Living with Heather is worth it. I’m in love with her and willing. I feel that she shares this feeling about me and that makes all of this so much easier to live with and deal with. In my past, I’ve shied away from doing the hard work in a relationship and in looking back using talk-therapy and a few great therapists, I’ve been able to see that my own laziness and unwillingness to work has harmed myself and others. I’d be a fool if I didn’t take what I’ve learned from therapy and apply it to the best relationship I’ve ever known.

Get Help
To the people out there who denigrate mental health awareness and treatment, I say this: You aren’t helping. You are making it worse. Stop being an arrogant know-it-all. You aren’t right. You are wrong. If someone tells you they need help, your opinion means less than that of professionals. Stop being ignorant. Stop being obstinate. Stop insisting that your loved one, partner, child or co-worker “get over it”. They won’t get over it until you let it go and encourage them to seek help. There are many different approaches and ways to treat mental diseases and conditions. The first step is letting go. You could probably use some time talking it out yourself.

  • jess

    thank you.

  • Bryanne

    As much as I love Heather’s posts about her depression, because they help me so much with clarifying my own struggles, this post of yours is most wonderful. With your permission, I’d like to save it out and have some of my family read it. I get so tired of being told to “get over it” from folks who are supposed to love me.

  • Leah

    Wow. Thanks, Jon.

  • Liz

    Good job. Thanks.

  • Isabel

    Thank you for posting this. I used to be married to a man who was bipolar. For us, it didn’t work out. But, oh did we try. But, your post got to me. Brought up things I hadn’t thought about in a while. Thank you. Thank you.

  • heatherb

    Amazing post. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Candalyn

    My husband has been dealing with overwhelming depression and anxiety for several months now, and reading Heather’s blog has really helped me understand where he is coming from, what it’s like to live with this disease. Thank you so much for adding your perspective to the dialogue; it verbalized many of my own feelings, offered some new insights, and gives me hope that we can find a way to enjoy normal lives, too. I don’t think we hear enough from the people who choose to be with those who have chronic mental health problems.

  • N1Nj4G1rl

    Thanks Jon. I also have depression along with some other fun little issues and this post was so encouraging to read. In knowing that others can work through their relationship, and still be happy, (especially with a kid in the mix) gives me hope for me and my SO.

  • jon deal

    Nicely done, Jon.

  • torrie

    Oh Jon, this is fantastic. I’ll make sure the husband reads it. BRAVO!

  • hello insomnia

    This is exactly what I’ve needed to read. Thanks.

  • kate

    Wow, Jon. This was a very brave and powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    PS. The title of Heather’s post: I thought she was talking about YOU!

  • Lisa

    I especially liked the part about how much you have learned about yourself through all of this. Also the part about how you both need to be healthy parents for your daughter. A lot of us parents don’t wish to repeat the programming that we were raised with.

    A male friend of mine was just diagnosed with prostrate cancer and his physician said it may have been encouraged by his nightly use of antihistamines to induce sleep. FYI

    Keep up the good work…..

  • April

    I admire and respect you and Heather both more than words can say. To put so eloquently and articulately what mental illness is like, even with the advent of medications that can greatly alleviate the effects of our illness, is difficult at best.

    I’ve lived in close control (and sometimes not so close) of my own mental illness and Heather has inspired more than has probably been given back to her.

    You should write a book, John. Because just as I have to live with my Bipolar/GAD/OCD and control it well with meds, I also have to learn to cope with the mental illness of a spouse who has shunned medication.

    I commend you, Mr. Armstrong. And your lovely wife, as well.

  • Sami

    Thank you for such an insightful post. My husband needs to read this…just so he knows he is not alone. Thank you for speaking up and speaking out.

  • kerrig

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Maybe, for the first time ever, I finally have some insight into how my husband feels dealing with my chronic depression. He has never really been able to explain to me what it’s like, I think for fear of hurting me or making a bad day even worse. Thank you so much for finding the courage to share this. Like Heather, it’s hard for me to read this and remember the ten million little ways I and my disease have hurt my husband. But knowledge is power, anti-crazy drugs are salvation and talk therapy (for BOTH of us) is a must. Those who are too ignorant or arrogant to see this disease for what it is — A DISEASE — should be required to read these most recent posts from you and Heather. I believe the lives — and marriages — you may save are worth the risk of being so open. Here’s to more people letting go of the shame and flying their freak flags in 2008!

  • Jen

    This has to be my favorite point:
    “One of the biggest and most detrimental side effects to being a partner of someone with a mental illness is that there is the impulse to not share the hard stuff with them for fear they can’t handle it.”

    Thats the probably the hardest part for me. I told my partner that once, or perhaps a couple of times, that I feel like I can’t share the things I stress about because his reaction can make me sharing my problems entirely not worth it. One of these discussions led to him punching his recently passed father’s guitars.
    If you tell them you can’t talk to them, they get upset because they feel like they’re subpar. If you tell them your problems, you take a chance that they will internalize it and both of you will be worse for it. Sometimes it seems like you can’t win, no matter what.

    Listening definitely helps.
    Thanks for the post. There are many articles written on the insiders point of view, but scarcely any on the outside of mental illness.

  • George.

    “One of the biggest and most detrimental side effects to being a partner of someone with a mental illness is that there is the impulse to not share the hard stuff with them for fear they can’t handle it.”

    Amen. I was in a similar long-term relationship, and this was my downfall. Personally, and as a couple. I never felt more alone with my problems and my life because I didn’t feel like I could share them for the reasons you mentioned. I did it to “protect” her and our delicate balance. But I lost myself. And then she walked out in July because *I* was suddenly the one with all of the problems. It seemed incredibly cruel and unfair. My head is still spinning, and my heart still aches, and now I’m the one on handfuls of antidepressants and therapy four times a week. I just hope she’s in a better place right now. And someday, I will be, too.

  • Darci

    As person with mild depression which is controlled via anti-depressants I appreciate this post in that we do not always realize the power of our disease. It is not always about us and the level of our days…thanks for the perspective.

  • shelli


  • Jen

    This was a good post. My mom was depressed most of my life, and I think the one thing she probably needed most was someone to listen. I really admire you and Heather and how you fight for each other.

  • Angella

    This is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing – you will help many, many people.

  • Aud

    Very sensitive and insightful. You are really good at expressing yourself and the truth about mental illness.

  • Meegan

    Believe it or not, this gave me more insight to my husband in terms of my mental illness than I’ve ever had. I, like Heather, take medication every single day to regulate my moods. I struggle with depression, rage and mania (I’m bipolar) and therefore so does my husband. He is amazingly supportive and like you, has learned a lot about himself through my/our trials and tribulations. Thank you for this post. There were times while I was reading it that I thought you sounded a little harsh. But you know what? It was honest and real and beautifully written. Thank you SO much for sharing something so personal, in such a thoughtful way.

  • Nicole

    What antihistamine do you use?

  • Pete Dunn

    Thanks, Jon.

    I’m a proponent of talk therapy for every human on the planet as well. Were it not for an acute medical phobia, I’d see a doctor about medication too. (I know… I see the irony too)

  • katie

    Thank you both

  • Jen

    As a chronic depressive with several siblings of similar bent, I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I thank you so much for writing what you have, because it clearly encompasses what it’s like for us depending on where we all are in the cycle. My husband, Bill, is currently going through most of what you have described in his interactions with, and I love him so much for making such an effort to walk on egg shells on a daily basis for me. If it weren’t for the fact that we can speak so openly, our relationship would have failed a long time ago.

  • Kimberly C

    Thank you, that was beautiful.

  • katrina

    Great strength. Great caretaker.

  • Brewcaster

    Thanks for posting this Jon. This backed up a lot of what I have learned, being in the “same” situation as yourself.

    Knowing how hard it is, you are a good man for sticking it out through those tought times. And if they were nearly as tough as the times I have had with the person I love most, they are TOUGH TIMES.

    But real men, that really love the person, will get through it WITH the other.

  • Beth

    Thank you, I sent this to my boyfriend.

  • Amanda B.

    I just love you to pieces. You are so brave.

  • vika

    I’ll join in the chorus of thanks. The severity of my depression is nowhere near that of Heather’s, but I have felt pangs of recognition in some of your descriptions. It helps a lot to hear the partner’s side – especially an involved, steadfast, loving partner.

  • Meg

    Wow – this is really good.

  • Chris

    You’re a good guy.

    I wish my first husband had had this to read when I was going through my years of depression.

    I started with talk therapy and then went to pharmaceutical therapy as well, when it was all too overwhelming for me. He went to one session. He just wanted me “back to the way I used to be”. I called it a wish for a sitcom fix, meaning he wanted everything tied up neatly with a bow at the end of 30 minutes, including commercials.

    That was 15 years ago. I left him and a job I loved and sat around aimlessly for almost 3 years. He still thinks I’ll eventually come back to him. I’ve been married to someone else for 8 years, someone I met after the divorce was final, who would come over and find me sitting at my computer with tears pouring down my face, totally unaware of them, and would make me get out of the house, even if just for a drive.

    Life isn’t perfect but it’s good. Perfection is overrated and a wee bit boring.

  • Liz

    thank you.

  • Lisa

    Thank you so much for sharing, Jon.

  • Keri

    Wow. I hope someday that there’s someone who loves ME like that. You and Heather both are amazing!

  • Kelly

    I was glad to read this. I’m the medicated one in my relationship. I’ve got a fixer (a litigator, of all things! Talk about trying to get an attorney to listen!) and I’m a woman and he’s the man in our little heterosexual relationship. In addition to depression, I’ve had cancer for ten years and have been on and off treatment. It wasn’t even until a few years ago that I added chronic depression to my chronic cancer. And who can blame me?

    We also just bought our first apartment together in New York City (big big deal for me, as my parents didn’t own a house until I was in college, and I’m in my twenties, childless, unmarried), and are dealing with career issues and all the normal things that come along. The way my depression manifests itself is to shut down all the work on those normal things, perhaps to get through all those huge things. There’s work I can do, there’s work he can do much better than I can on a day when getting out of bed feels like the most enormous task I could ever accomplish. And I’ve been through three rounds of chemo in the last three years! It doesn’t always make sense what feels like something I can’t do, but I find out pretty quick what those things are and the consequences for trying to do them (usually a panic attack). This doesn’t go for chemo, I’m a champ at that. It goes for MOPPING MY KITCHEN FLOOR. Or FEEDING MY CATS.

    Sorry to take up so much room here, I guess I am just thankful to read all of this. Feeling a little bit more normal never hurt anyone. Thank you very much for your discussion and openness.

  • Mike

    Thank you for sharing this. I too live with a woman who has chronic depression. Your description of how this type of relationship works (or not) is spot on.

  • jess

    Thank you for writing this. Every insightful perspective on living with mental illness or with someone who has a mental illness is one step closer to ending the stigma and helping others get the assistance they may need to live life more fully.

  • SydneyDawn

    I just wanted to say thank you.

  • Lorrian


    And thank you.

  • Amanda

    This was a wonderful, and insightful piece. I have suffered with depression/ocd since I was a teenager, and was always told to “get over it”. There finally came a time in my life where I just knew that there was no “getting over it” and that I needed professional help not only for my sake, but for my husband, and my children. I truly believe that the medications, and the therapists have saved my life. I only hope that one day I can be helpful to someone in the same way, because I know all too well what that all consuming feeling is like.

  • Mandee

    Thanks, Jon.

  • kelly

    Thanks for this. It’s wonderful.

    I am a female fixer. Big time. A lot of what you write about — the urge to fix it, the fear that someone can’t handle something, the need to remember that this is a chronic illness, the very real need to recognize when someone needs help — reminds me of a previous relationship and the mistakes I made there. I’ve learned a lot, and I think your post will help me, and others, keep on learning.

  • Wacky Mommy

    Jon, thanks. Wishing you 3 all the best for 2008.

  • Sharon

    Thanks. My husband and I read this together, and he was moved to the point of tears. He knows what it’s like, because he has lived with and loved me for 22 years. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for Matthew, our daughter Elizabeth, and Prozac. Merry Christmas!

  • whitney

    thank you for this… you have put into words all the things i’ve not been capable of getting out there

  • pretendingsanity

    You are a good man.

  • Suzanne

    Wow–You are a such a gift to your wife! A lot of people would bail when up against something like this in a relationship, but it’s obvious that you’ve gone to extremes to understand both Heather’s illness, and your response to it is powerful and courageous. I once lived with someone who was severely depressed but the relationship did not survive because I was the only one trying to keep things together–that person let the illness consume him and was the sole basis for his identity. During that time, I read a book called When Someone You Love Is Depressed, which was very helpful, and also received some counseling. It sounds like you have great insight into the illness and your relationship, but others may benefit from the aforementioned book. Anyway, great post, you are all so lucky to have each other…it’s awesome to see how you’ve turned the trials you’ve gone through into strength! Bravo.

  • TG

    The world would be a better place if there were more people like you in it. I commend your honesty, and willingness to give a voice to all those who watch loved ones battle mental illness.

  • Michele

    Heather is lucky to have you – as you are to have her.

  • Snickrsnack Katie

    Wow, that was excellent. I have struggled with anxiety, OCD, and recently, a nervous breakdown after having my meds carelessly changed by a VERY careless physician, and to hear the point of view of a spouse is so refreshing and opens up a whole other vantage point. You are so right that most people know NOTHING when it comes to this topic and too many people are dismissive of mental illness – afraid of it – they don’t want to utter the words “mentally ill” or “psychiatrist”. If you are mentally ill, it means you are defective, somehow. This notion is stunning to me, and I want people to realize this – Mental illness is an illness like any other. It can be treated and the darkness that you may be living in can be lifted if you just take the steps necessary to help yourself and/or your loved one. There is nothing to be ashamed of. What got me through my ordeal was being as open and candid as possible, and not trying to hide from it or act like everything was okay.

    Thank you for posting this – getting the word out about depression, anxiety, or any mental illness is so important – because so many people suffer from this or have a loved one who does. It is a daily learning process and it is hard work. But having someone like you as a spouse makes all the difference. I am lucky that my husband is just as understanding – even if he doesn’t totally understand, he TRIES to. Thank you for sharing, Jon.

  • halem

    today was a bad day – no particular reason but I was torn between crawling under my desk to cry or punching someone out for breathing too loud. Maybe my meds aren’t working as well as they once did or maybe something is bothering me and it’s just easier to blame it on the illness. Maybe I just don’t know. I directed it at him and he talked me through it as he always does…understanding and positive. The guilt I feel for dumping it on him, for depending on him to make it better, for having the problem in the first place. He doesn’t deserve it and neither do you Jon – but thanks for taking us on anyway…

  • Omar Fernandez

    Reading this post made me really happy. As someone who has gained a huge admiration and respect for Heather, I understand that it must be challenging at times for you to deal with the business, being a father and a husband, and also having to go through the darker times with Heather.

    I admire your sincerity and I’m very sure that this post will make a lot of good to many people in a situation similar to your and Heather’s.

    Thanks for this insightful post.


  • HeyJules

    As someone who battled clinical depression for two decades I couldn’t agree more. Getting over it never works but good doctors and great therapists do and there’s no reason NOT to live a life of joy instead of one where one perseveres to make it through another day.

    I’ve managed to live in joy for almost three years now and they have been, without a doubt, the best three years of my 47-year life. And all I had to do was admit defeat and walk through the fire, coming out whole on the other side.

    Thanks for reminding folks that mental health is just as important as the physical kind. Without it, life is simply not worth living for most.

  • Jenn

    I’ve tried about half a dozen times to compose a comment here, but it keeps coming out all wrong. Let me just say that my mother in bipolar, and refuses to be medicated. It’s an impossible situation.

    Heather is lucky to have you. You’re lucky to have each other.

    thank you for this.

  • Rachel

    If Heather weren’t married to you, I’d marry you. Except I already have a really great boyfriend. I sent him this.

  • DM

    I have to let you both know how much I appreciate the fact that you’re open about depression and the dealing with it. It helps combat the “depression isn’t really an illness” mentality that’s out there. Thank you.

  • Jeff

    OK, here’s likely an unexpected side-effect from your post…
    What do you think I should do if reading your post is like reading something that I’d write, but we haven’t tried to find out if something is wrong? I just thought it’s something I’d have to live with…

  • Julia

    I’m in college and my roommate (one of my best friends) suffers from depression that her very few therapists haven’t yet seen fit to treat with medication, so I see her raw emotions swing between giggle fits to hopeless, suicidal sadness in the space of an hour. It scares me; I’m a restrained person in general and my emotions usually aren’t very strong, so I don’t know how to deal with hers. This helps. Thank you.

  • dhgatsby

    the world needs more bloggers like you, and posts like this. happy holidays.

  • kim

    My interactions with my “crazy” friends and significant others really brought a new perspective to mental illness. One where I knew there were going to be days where nothing I did or said was going to change their mood, change their perception of the world. That didn’t mean I didn’t try, or do my best to at the very least get them to smile, but I knew I wasn’t personally responsable for their happiness.

    Boy was that a tough lesson, and not because I was trying to FIX the problem (see jon, you were right, there are women fixers), but because in my first long term relationship, my significant other placed a lot of blame and responsability upon me to/for keep(ing) him from falling appart. His issues and needs not being met with the medication or the help of his doctor/therapist/family, were according to him, my responsability, and I dissagreed with that.
    My sanity was most important to me, and it meant leaving that relationship to keep it. Leaving a couple three relationships as it happened, because they refused, ignored, or denied the need for professional help. More to the point, my emotions and needs were secondary to theirs, and I could not accept that I was not worth all of the attention I paid them. My issues were deemed petty or insignificant in relation to their issues, unless it happened to be something in relation to them that I was caring for insufficiently.
    I lost my shit after the last significant long term relationship, and no amount of therapy, drugs, or professional advice was going to fix that one. I just had to ride the crazy out, and fortunately I had a good support system in place when I was ready to face myself again. I don’t recommend my particalar coping technique for… well, Anyone. It worked for me, once, and Im pretty sure it would never work for me again, nor should it.

    I made a rule for serious future relationship candidates: Compatibly Crazy. I realize in this day and age it is absolutely rediculous to believe that there is anyone out there who claims to be truly sane (if there is, I’m sorry if I offended you but you’re lying). The best I can hope therefore is that I can find someone who’s crazy fits my crazy. And if they’re able to admit to their particular brand and flavor of crazy, the better prepared I am to handle it. Better i said, not prfectly capable of doing so

    There is no manual that can accurately tell you what will happen on any given day when, for whatever reason, things go bad. If there were, well, then jon your post might never have needed to be written. Thank you for saying it so well.

  • la_florecita


  • Danielle

    sincere post – thanks for sharing it.

    Please consider an Al-Anon meeting. the program saved my life as it gives us tools to find serenity in any storm. most won’t try it if their loved one isn’t an alcohlic. but it is a misunderstanding as we are loved ones of people with chronic illness. yes it began for the families and friends of alcohlics but in Alanon we keep the focus on ourselves and not on the alcohlic. because we need the support and the tools that helps us deal with chronic illness. it is hard to love some one who suffers from chronic depression. my alcohlic husband has been clean & sober and in AA for over 7 years now. He drank to self medicate his depression. Today he takes anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds instead of drinking. but without the 12 step program of Al-Anon his chronic depression was my illness too. I guess to best explain I should say that when you sit in the meetings it doesn’t matter if the person beside you is there because their qualifier is a drug addict or a sex addict or using any kind of substance addictively. Because in Al-Anon we focus on what is needed to love our sick family member – no matter what their illness. We are there for our recovery process.

  • Lisa Guidarini

    If I didn’t seek out talk therapy and Lexapro this year I may not have been celebrating this NY Eve. It’s been a hell of a ride, but finally I see a glimmer of light at the end of that tunnel.

    Having good people like you and Heather talking openly about the horrors of depression, and how misunderstood it still is, has and will help so many. You’re both such exceptional human beings. I wish you both continued strength.

  • Bipolarlawyercook

    You, Heather, and Leah are my heroes.

  • Alex

    if only more people thought like you…
    I’m lucky – not depressed, neither is my wife, but both of us have been going to talk therapy since our mid 20s (helps when our families are abusive and/or quite, quite mad). Without it, I don’t know what my life would be like. Not pretty or dead is my best guess.

    Thanks Jon – that was very open and honest. And just a bit tough to write and post I’d imagine (although you yanks do have the ability to open up in a way that frankly scares the bejeezus out of most australians). :)

    Happy holidays.

  • Jules

    I think this is the best post you’ve ever written. Thank you for opening up like this.

  • ollka

    Thank you Jon, for sharing this.

    My husband and I are going through a similar struggle, and this post has made so many things clearer for me as regards his experience. I will show this to him as well.

  • Jennifer

    I’ve been reading Heather’s website for years now and can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been able to sympathize with the way she feels or the things that life throws at her. This post was amazing and true in every sense. The number one problem in my marriage is the fact that my husband does not understand my depression, and it makes it worse that he’s a Marine.. they are taught that you can ‘get over’ anything, and he holds that against me. Maybe I can print this out and one day I might have the balls to show it to my husband. Thank you.

  • Thea

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been reading both of your websites for years now and I have always enjoyed them both. But what you’ve written today makes me feel better about my own marriage. And that’s a gift I wasn’t expecting. I often get depressed and my husband has said many times that he doesn’t want to share his burdens with me because he thinks I’ll freak out. Just knowing that I’m not the only one in a relationship like that is comforting. I do try to listen to him as well but it is really hard not to internalize his disappointments in life, especially when I’ve done something to add to it. So much of my frustration comes from wanting to be perfect, but we aren’t perfect are we? We just try to do the best we can and that’s all anyone can do. I’m happy that you two have found each other and are willing to do the best for each other. What a great gift you are to each other.

  • Tracy

    Thanks for writing this, John. My husband and one of my step-children both deal with depression and ADD/ADHD issues. The medication thing is a constant struggle in our household, as any deviation from a standard schedule leads to missed meds, and depression spirals. And when you’ve got two people in the house doing it – good god. Throw PMS in and you have a good ol’ time.

    I admit I’m not as good at handling it sometimes – at not saying things when I know one of them is only acting a certain way due to the depression…it’s hard to be “the bigger person”.

    I’m sure maybe it doesn’t feel like it every day – but the two of you are really a great example of how to love.

  • Valerie

    Hi Jon,
    Thank you so much–I feel really moved by your piece. My husband has been depressed for two years, and I think it’s probably the first time I’ve actually read another person’s experience of what it is like to live with that. Being a big fan of talk therapy myself, I assumed he would want that but he doesn’t, and so I’m now learning how to support myself, so that being his main support doesn’t overwhelm me. His condition is not as severe as Heather’s, but the experience is still intense. I’m a big fan of Heather and found this piece through a link from her blog. I’m now a big fan of you too (and Leta, of course)!! You’re very courageous!

  • Emily

    Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself. Happy holidays to you and yours.

  • elizabeth

    You are a wise and compassionate man. Thank you for that beautiful post.

  • Leesavee

    What a tremendous blessing to be able to read about your relationship and the impact of depression from both your perspective and Heather’s. The two of you have done a wonderful service to so many people by being open about this topic. Between your post and Heather’s last week, I feel like I’ve been given an amazing Christmas gift. As someone who suffers from depression and has a father who is bipolar, I identify with both of you.

    May the new year bring you, Heather, Leta and Chuck happiness and peace.

    Thank you!

  • Sya

    Although I don’t suffer from chronic depression, I have had several episodes of severe depression during the past year, all affecting my family, close friends and partner. I was incredibly moved to read your post and admire your honesty – I’ve forwarded the link to a few people who have supported me through the tough times and would like to thank you for putting into words what many are afraid to articulate.

  • Jolie

    You are a wonderful person and husband, Jon. Heather is lucky to have you, and you are lucky to have her. I enjoy reading both your blogs and the warm, fuzzy feelings I get knowing there are people married out there who have functional relationships and who are able to stick it out with each other through the awful and the wonderful, all while being generally hilarious and very approachable.

  • -CEK

    You are my new hero, and I just started reading Heather’s blog yesterday.

    My wife suffers from depression and social anxiety and reading your words hit home for me. We have a six-year old daughter (only one child), and my primary goal in life is to make sure my two girls are okay and happy. Then next comes me, my job, and all of that life entails.

    Sure, there are times when I want to punch a hole in the wall, or tell my wife to just stop it, but I know it won’t solve anything. The biggest thing my wife needs is my support.

    As you said in your blog, she needs someone to listen to you, and that is true of me too. I vowed when I married my wife three years ago that I would be there for every twist and turn, and that is still true today.

    Again, thank you for your courage in writing this. Heather is blessed to have you as her lifelong partner.

  • lostinutah

    They’ve said it all, but thanks. This really helps me see the other side of it – and appreciate my spouse that much more.

    Happy Holidays to everyone.

  • Meagan

    I just wanted to say thank you for putting into words what so many of us experience. My husband has been taking medication for depression for over 15 years, now, and while it has definitely changed his life for the better, it doesn’t make all of the symptoms disappear.
    I love him immensely and love my life with him, but there is definitely a different set of rules to living with a depressed person. It’s comforting somehow to see that it’s not something I’m alone in experiencing.

  • C’tina

    On one hand you are lucky to have each other, on the other, luck has little to do with the hard work it takes to maintain a family, and deal with all the issues. I have to google talk therapy, it reminds me of Relationship Enhancement Therapy….empathic responding is big part of that method. I have to say…female hormones can make us all feel totally out of control, so irrational….human chemical balance has so many varibles…a continuum…

  • Pat

    You are a special person and Heather is a lucky woman to be married to you. Happy holidays.

  • nan

    This is great. You and Heather are widely read and influential on the ‘nets and so I hope you both continue to share your thoughts on getting help for mental illness and living intelligently and positively with the disease.
    My mother-in-law suffered, untreated, most of her life, and just 5 years ago started a treatment program after making some attempts on her own life. Her family felt helpless for years but once she got into the system it became easier. Since she’s been getting professionally treated, it’s been so much better not only for her but for the whole family and all of her friends, etc. Everyone gets healthier and gets help along with the person who finally goes for help. Basically, when you help yourself, you help everybody.
    It may not seem like much to a depressed person but it is SO ADMIRABLE to ask for help when you need it!

  • mimi

    Honestly, if I were to read what you said and strip it of all mention of mental illness, depression, or any of the myriad issues that all of us have – and deal with – in the relationships with those we love the most deeply, it seems to me that your attitudes toward how you and Heather deal with your lives, whether her issues or yours, and whether to do with mental illness or not, reverberate with a knowledge, understanding, and patience that would work in ALL relationships.

    Your love for your soulmate shines through. Thank you.

  • Margaret

    This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read in blogging, and really hit a chord with me. Your emotional journey seems to have helped you grow in every way–as a father, a husband and a person. Thank you for sharing. It enriches us all. P.S. I’m thinking of getting some help myself. Our younger daughter is a senior in high school, and making some choices that her dad and I don’t support. She wants to be a Mormon!

  • Mary Jo

    Thank you for your honesty Jon, I want my husband to read it as well. I’m sure he can relate to what you wrote. Thank you for sharing that.

  • Beverly

    Having a parent with this illness is very scary and you feel so alone. Thankfully Heather and Leta have you along for the ride. It is not easy to deal with life when a loved one is sick, but you seem to have good coping skills, and I admire you.
    I thought it interesting that even though Heather is fully aware of how the meds help, she still lowers the dosage without sharing it with you first. This is the nature of the beast of mental illness.

  • Bill

    Excellent writing about a difficult and painful personal subject. It took many long years to learn that simply listening was the most powerful support I could ever offer my wife, and that any sentence I formed beginning with “What you should do” or “You just need to” was the worst thing I could offer from the best place in my heart. Paying someone help us find new, healthy ways to talk to each other was the best decision we ever made as a couple, because I was lucky enough to marry my best friend.

    And I cannot second the final paragraph more emphatically: I find that the folks who knock professional treatment are usually the ones who need it the most.

  • Finn

    Heather is lucky to have a partner who’s smart enough, compassionate enough and loves her enough to “get it.” Not all of us who suffer from chronic depression are. We’re not always easy, but in the end I think we’re well worth the effort.

    Thanks for this.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for writing this Jon. I can only hope that my future husband, whoever he is, will be as sensitive and mature as you are.

  • jessica

    Thank you. I am what you say we are. I always thought we were “difficult”. I’m sorry for all you have to do and at the same time we need you. I know we are good. And loveable. It took a long time to realize that. It’s nice to hear it from the other side.

    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.

  • Leslie

    Thank you for the insighful piece. I am going to share it with my son-in-law … he is a wonderful person and coping with my amazing, talented, bright daughter’s chronic depression.

  • Krista

    I enjoyed your frank discussion of your experience with depression as a disease. It really is hard on those of us who have to live with depressives. And a strong sense of self is so crucial otherwise you can easily get sucked into the spiral. It is a hardship that you can’t be the one who gets to do some leaning but it sounds like you have a good support system and coping techniques. Thanks for inspiring me to keep up the good fight for light.

  • Paula

    ::Standing up and clapping::

    As a person with under control depression and anxiety, I want to say that you hit the nail on the head. (At least in my opinion) We do need someone to be there and just listen sometimes. Not many people understand that. I’m just lucky to have found a man that does. And it sounds like Heather is very lucky too.

  • Deva


    thank you. my boyfriend is having to learn what it is like to live with someone who is depressed and who will probably cycle on and off meds for the rest of her life. We plan on getting married, and I knew, as I confided in one of my friends recently, that I needed help when I decided that I couldn’t be with him anymore, that I couldn’t be sad and be with him anymore.

    and then realized hwo much i loved him, and called the doctor, because he is who I want to be with, I know this much for sure. His return from a business trip this week sealed that idea in my mind, that I want to be with him and only him forever.

  • LIzzie

    You are very brave, a very good person, and a wonderful partner. Thank you so much for writing about this issue with such honesty. Heather’s post has been inside my head for days now. Depression and anxiety have been a destructive force in my family and in my own life – I wonder how much of it could have been avoided if we could have had the understanding that you two have come to. Thank you for opening your selves up and opening up this dialogue. You are helping many, many people.

    My Best to you and your family.

  • Amy in Somerville

    Thank you.

    I am going to forward this to my husband…..

  • Al

    Thank you, Jon.

  • M@


    I hear you, all the way through. I think that the hardest part of being the person on the other side of the disease is taking care of yourself, and hopefully continue to grow and change. One of the hardest things I had to deal with in the beginning was not taking it personally. Not just for feeling responsible for her ‘moodiness’ or her wanting to sleep all day, but not feeling like a failure when I can’t ‘fix’ it.

    My wife is my best friend. We’re both pains in each others butts, but she’s my partner and my life. I spent such a long time giving giving giving because I thought I could make it go away. Only by being strong and caring for myself have I been able to be healthy and happy. She’s worked through a lot of the stuff Heather and you have mentioned, so we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Bravo for sharing man, I appreciate a lot of what you write. Makes me feel like there’s another guy/father/husband/geek out there who understands a little of where I am and where I want to be.

  • TW

    Jon, this makes me weep internally. For every person that suffers depression, I wish they all had a Jon in their lives. I wish you, Heather and Leta all that is beautiful in this world. Continue to be the heartbeat for each other, especially on those days when one’s heart feel like it can’t go on.

    Take care, Mr. J.

  • Courtney

    Thank you so much. My DH suffers from depression and sometimes it carries over to me…makes me feel crappy that he feels so crappy he isn’t contributing to our relationship the way he does when he’s feeling well. This part really sums things up for me…great way to describe how I have been feeling:

    “One of the hardest things to write, is that Heather’s illness means that sometimes she can’t be there for me in a way that I need her to be.”

  • amy

    that was lovely and ever so real
    yr the real deal

  • Terry


    Thank you for expressing your feelings about Heather’s mental illness and how it affects you and your relationship. This couldn’t have been easy for either one of you, and for both of you to open up to the world and share your story is very courageous and inspiring.

    I think you both are very lucky to have found each other. I hope for the best for all of you.


  • EM

    My mother’s mental illness has colored my entire life and given me more painful memories than I care to think about. I have spent 17 years being angry at my parents for being sick and feeling sure that I caused it. My parents spent a lot of time in therapy, which meant that for years there was NO WAY I was going to therapy, because I didn’t want to end up like them. It has been 17 years and I finally went, and I finally admitted how angry and guilty I feel.
    I visited my mother in a psych ward on more than one occasion. I had to explain to countless friends exactly what was “wrong” with my parents. I have attempted to “fix” WAY too many depressed, suicidal men because I could not fix my parents. I am telling you all this because I want you to tell Leta the one thing that no one ever told me, which is that nothing that happens to her mother or to you is her fault.
    I can tell by the loving way you and Heather write about Leta that you are good parents. My parents were good parents too, but they never told me that it wasn’t my fault. They probably had no idea it needed to be said. So I am asking you to please, please tell Leta that. Thanks.

  • orangegrl

    I wish I could find all the right words to express what I feel after reading your post. But all I can come up with is Thank You. It is honest and profound and simply spot on.

  • anna

    thank you jon

  • [michele]

    Wow. I think I’m going to cry.

    Thanks for the little glimpse at some of the things my husband must be struggling with.

  • Theresa

    This post is absolutely amazing. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes thinking about all the things the two (well, three) of you have been through and what you’ve all done to cope. You are obviously a very compassionate, loving and caring man and so very much in love with your wife. She is so lucky to have you, and you her. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • Twyla

    The last paragraph, that person you were talking about is me. I am that arrogant know-it-all that tells people that are important in my life to “get over it”.
    I can honestly tell you, that those words, they are my thoughts and opinions. I don’t know what to say, other than, I now know that I have some work to do. I have some listening to do, I have some compassion to start handing out. I respect your honesty and I respect your candor. Thank you for throwing it to me in a fast pitch, hitting me in the stomach and making me feel some of your reality.

  • Ally

    Thank you.

  • Mike

    Thank you, Jon. I’m sure it was hard to write, but I appreciate your insights.

    I went to a therapist several years ago to talk about how angry I would get at work over boneheaded decisions. I figured I would go to a few sessions and that would be it, but I am still going once or twice a month. It has really helped me look at the world through a different perspective.

    The best to both of you. I wonder how living such public lives impacts this for both of you?

  • s

    Thank you so much for this piece. I spent four years in a relationship with someone who suffers from a mental illness and, for the most part of it, just didn’t figure out how to work with that part of her. I’m an upbeat, optimistic, and ridiculously cheerful person by nature; it’s hard for me to know what to do in the face of depression because I can’t– not even a little bit –empathize with it (because I’ve never come close to experiencing it). Subsequently, I never really knew how to act. Your post helps me think about that relationship on a deeper level; how did my reactions to her depression affect our relationship?

  • John in Houston

    Well done. VERY well done.
    I have been reading your wife’s blog for years, but didn’t know this aspect of it all.

  • Judy

    I have been reading dooce since day one, I always suspected Heather was a lucky woman, now I’m sure.
    Best of luck to the both of you. Thank you for sharing.

  • Laura in Boston, age 32

    Jon, this is a great post and I’m really glad to have read it. Having been divorced once myself the only regret I have is also not getting help sooner. I honestly think that your comments are relevant in many ways, not just for those in a relationship with someone struggling with depression. One of the hardest things to realize is that as much as you may love someone or as much as you do get from a relationship, there is often a way in which someone cannot be there for you, whether it be due to a mental health issue or something else. It’s sometimes hard to let that go and appreciate all the fantastic other things one gets from a relationship.

  • Heather

    It seems as though everyone has covered all of the bases. I’m a long(ish) term reader of both sites and have similar experience – me the Heather to your Jon. Thank you for this piece. I appreciate it, my husband appreciates it and clearly, thousands of people who read the honesty that you and Heather put out there every day appreciate it. Kudos. Sharing this is likely the best gift you could give. Happy Holidays to you all. And again, thank you.

  • maria

    wonderful post jon. i think you two will write a book together. i hope you do.

  • Rae

    Thanks so much for writing this. I have a social anxiety disorder and before I found the medication that made me into a normal human being (I had no idea that it was possible to be happy, or relax, or just have fun) life was hard on my husband. He’s amazing, like it sounds like you are, and I think the fix-it thing is one of the biggest things for men to get over in any scenario.

    I’m glad for Heather, that she has someone like you. I’m glad for me, that I have a husband like I do.

  • Laura

    Thanks, Jon. Incredibly brave, candid, sensitive and honest. You and Heather do so much good for so many.

    I only hope I find the person who will care for me the way you and Heather care for each other.

    Therapy saved my life, too.

    Happy and Peaceful Holidays to your family.

  • Another reader


    “One of the hardest things to write, is that Heather’s illness means that sometimes she can’t be there for me in a way that I need her to be. I learned this early on, but I still have a hard time making room in our relationship for the largest side effect on me of her illness. It’s not maliciousness on her part. It’s not ignorance. It’s that the disease is all-consuming. I do stand up for myself and I have to be more verbal than I’ve ever been about stating clearly that I need her or I’m having a rough day.”

    Great post as was Heather’s. Yours and Heather’s story has been a help to me as I have gone through a similar situation with my wife’s depression. What you describe here is so true as to what it is like to accommodate the illness. In our case the medications have seemingly controlled the illness to allow decent functioning most days. It takes more than just the medications to make it work, as you show so eloquently in your post, but without them I do not see how it could work at all, in our case.

  • karen

    Thank you, both you and Heather. You’re brave to come out and talk about what I suspect a lot of people are dealing with. After years of dealing with severe depression, my husband finally went on medication this year. Although it’s still not easy it is so much better for him and me and our relationship. There are so many things that you said that I was going “yea, that’s exactly right. Thank you both.

  • jess

    this meant a lot to me as i was reading. thank you for sharing something so personal and for your candor.

    i’m glad you and heather have each other.

  • Heather

    I’ve always admired Heather’s ability to be brutally honest on her blog, and I can now say the same for you. Thanks for being so real about the struggle you face as a couple every day. As someone who’s been in therapy for years and who has also been in a relationship with a man who suffered from severe depression, I’ve experienced both sides and I empathize with you and Heather. You’re both inspirations.

  • Victoria

    Thank you. You’re wonderful.

  • doug

    The Internet should be thankful you two found each other. Many good things have uttered forth from the blurbodoocery, and this is one of the best. Nice work.

  • Kara

    thank you so much! I was diagnosed with depression a few years ago and am still trying to figure out what medications do and do not work! You commented on finding a doctor who will listen to what you have and had not tried and I finally have found a doctor to listen! I have a new found apprecitation for my mom and dad (i still live at home) and for all they do for me!

  • Bunnie

    I love that both you and Heather have written about this subject. I struggled for years with my own anxiety and panic disorder and my husband with his depression and ADHD. We have only been able to admit it to ourselves and each other and start to come to terms with it in the past few months. I have blogged about my issues several times on my blog ( ). Somehow it helps to write about it and get it out there and it has helped the people that love me deal with me better.
    Talk therapy and correct meds are essential!
    You are both helping countless people!

  • Sandy

    Thank you for such an open and honest look at what you go through. That gives me a different perspective for sure. I’ve always wondered what my husband goes through, watching me deal with my anxiety and depression. But he’s not able to express himself in the way that he wants. This helps me to see the other side of it.

  • Patsy

    So I read this and I wonder just how horrible life can be for Leta at times. I also read this and think WHY, WHY would you have another child? Rusty Yates comes to mind. He knew Andrea had manic depression, knew that she couldn’t handle things at times and yet he made more children with her. What happened to her and her children? Is Heather Andrea Yates, this I don’t know. I don’t know what it takes to break that straw and honestly I hope you don’t have to find out.

    It’s one thing Jon to be with Heather alone, two adults. It’s another to willingly have another child and bring them into a mentally unstable environment knowing how Heather handles raising children.

    I’m sure they’re are happy moments in your house and the Leta loves mommy. It’s all she knows. It has not failed to go unnoticed that Heather never says a bad thing about you on her blog, but has a lot to say about how trying, exhausting, disappointing and how Leta is the reason booze was invented. Leta from Heather’s words is not an affectionate child. I’m positive this had to do with being rejected when she was younger and having to witness Heather’s illness win in the attention dept.

    You call yourself a father, would a father willingly subject his child to a mother who is not fully operational mentally–knowingly? So Heather has the baby craves because of Maggie…get a hamster.

    Oh you’ll get pissed about this comment and brush me off, but will you actually take to heart that my words are valid? I have little faith that you will.

  • MaryMR

    Your post is enormously moving. I feel that my life was saved by talk-therapy and I finally found a man who had his life saved the same way. Do we all–all of us reading Jon’s posts and Heather’s excellent blog–realize that we are transforming our society for the better? It’s under the skin, but it’s real. Your post here Jon makes it clear how just how real. Thank you so much.

  • Laura P

    Wow, thank you so much for such a candid post.

    The best part was that I just got through a long conversation with my husband about how we each cope with things and how he needs to share with me when he is upset. Reading this just hammered it home, and I think I’ll ask him to read this as well.

    It’s great that you frame it in the context that yours is not an unusual marriage, that these concepts apply to any marriage, and that everyone would be better off doing them. I think you’re so right. I also think you and Heather are so lucky to have such a wonderful relationship, and that Leta is so lucky to have such open and accepting parents that are willing to put the work into their relationships. Sincere congratulations to you on how far you’ve all come.

  • J. Bo

    I’m typing this through tears, Jon, so please excuse any typos…

    I’m a “Heather,” and I have to say that ANYONE who not only lives with, but is able to so eloquently express what living with such a one means, is my hero.

    Thank you SO MUCH.

    P.S. My (all-but estranged) dad called me recently, telling me about his wife’s granddaughter who was hospitalized for severe depression (I’m the family expert on crazy, apparently); I e-mailed him the link to Heather’s most recent post, and he actually took a hint for a change and printed it out… and took it to her.

    According to my dad, she read it, wept, and clutched it to her chest… and now makes sure no one removes it from her bedside table.

    Do not underestimate the wonderful influence you and your lovely girl have. You should be proud.

  • Sarah

    John you sound like an amazing man and partner. I hope years from now you will feel it was worth it and not look back on these years as a time you could have been with a woman who was there for you and could have been your life partner (as opposed to 2nd child and forgive me if it isn’t like that, it sounds like you play the roll of parent). I consider myself VERY devoted to my husband of 10 years but if he suddenly had issues of this nature I would likely scream at him to suck it up…shortly after I ran for the hills. I think you’re awesome and both Heather and Leta are very lucky!!

  • melmo

    Thank you. I too am a fix it person, and know that I need to listen and shut up but find that so incredibly hard. Reading your post has affirmed my instinct and will help me to use each situation to as you say, practice listening.

    Thank you again!

  • Mark

    I think most men are “fix it” people. We get encouraged to do that from an early age when our fathers let us pick up a hammer or something and from them on we equate fixing with mending.

    Listening is a key skill and not listening is probably the one thing that lost me my first marriage.

    We have one mouth and two ears for a very good reason. Use your ears twice as much as you do your mouth.

  • Lesley

    Can I ask what outlets you have for those times you need to let it all out and not be so careful or reserved? Does exercise help? My impression from Heather’s blog and yours is that you both have a lot of fun together, that you both have a great sense of humour. I’m guessing this helps a lot too.

  • Lesley

    P.S. This is directed at “Patsy”. I’m not sure why you read either Heather or John, but every mother and father feels exasperation at times with their children and if you are unable to accept that fact and you can’t see the quirky humour in Heather and the intense unconditional love she has for her daughter you should just stop reading. Obviously you haven’t got two brain cells to rub together (another necessary component for those considering having children). Wow, the gall!

  • Tertia

    Outstanding post.

  • Digenis Akritas

    Thanks, Jon. This entry has meant a lot to many of us, especially men, who are in similar relationships.

  • The Bold Soul

    Amazing post, Jon, and I really want to encourage you to submit it to some magazines because I think there are many people who could benefit from your experience and perspective. Well said.

    You and Heather are very lucky to have each other, that is very clear. And Leta is lucky to have you both.

  • Molly

    Thank you for sharing these very important words. My husband still struggles to respond appropriately to my depression and depression treatment, and your insight will be extremely helpful for us. I also have a better understanding a spouse’s point of view, as well, which will hopefully help me remember to support him too. Thanks again!

  • Cheree

    Thank you so much for this. This is good and thought-provoking and important.

  • Molly Meow

    (I’m “Molly Meow” to differentiate myself from the previous Molly, who I’m not)

    OK, so I walked away from the computer and took a shower and thought, and I still feel the need to respond to Patsy, whether or not she ever reads it:

    Well, of COURSE the reason Leta isn’t more affectionate is entirely due to Heather’s depression. Because it just doesn’t happen that kids develop their own personalities or happen to be wired a little funny. It MUST somehow be the mother’s fault. Just like autism and And it certainly never happens that parents with mental illnesses can successfully raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. Why, just think, if Leta grows up seeing her mother managing a mental illness, she might begin to believe that mental illnesses should lose their societal stigma, and we just can’t have that!

    (removes tongue from cheek, hastens to assure everyone else that the preceding paragraph was sarcasm)

    Patsy, I’m wondering how much experience you have in child development (whether parenting, teaching, or education) and how much of that has been with atypical children (not that I’m calling Leta atypical, but Heather’s written about how concerned they’ve been about her development in the past and how they’ve had her tested). I’m also wondering how you manage to not see with how much love Heather writes about Leta.

    I’m also wondering if you’re seriously saying that people with chronic mental illness have no right to raise children and, if so, if you’d extend that to people with chronic physical illness.

    The NIMH website says this: “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness.”

    That’s a lot of people who shouldn’t have children, if I read your comment correctly.

    I have ADHD and depression. My spouse has PTSD. Please feel free to contact me at spearmintkitten at yahoo dot com and tell me why we shouldn’t have children. Please.

    (P.S. The Andrea Yates comment was way below the belt…there’s a huge difference between depression and psychosis, which I suggest you educate yourself on before spouting any more opinions on mental illness to a forum full of people who live with such illnesses every day.)

  • ozma

    I think I’m going to get my husband to read this. I wonder what it is like for him sometimes. I think it is different than it is for you but perhaps there are things here he could relate to. Maybe that is a good thing to know: That this problem is different for everyone. Everyone must find their own path through it and their own strategies for coping. You and Heather handle it beautifully because you do it with love. I also have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Leta is leading a wonderful life with two incredibly self aware, thoughtful parents who adore her and each other. Would that every kid could be so lucky.

    Every day I look at my husband and I know how loved I am. I hate to say it but the fact I’m such a mess leaves little doubt as to the strength of the bond between us. It sounds like you and Heather have forged that unbreakable tie as well.

  • Sonya

    Jon, thank you! I’ve never known what it’s like on the other side and your post has helped a lot. I suffer from PTSD and it’s not pretty at times. I just hope some day I can find a man willing to love me enough to understand my illness and to work thru the hard times.

  • minxlj

    An amazing piece Jon, written from the heart and with great clarity – I hope it will help others, I really do. I’m printing it out for my mother, who teaches children with depression and other mental health problems, and my sister who suffers from depression and has struggled this year.

    You are a good man, and it’s always a pleasure to read about your life and family – keep up the good work in 2008, and have a lovely, happy Christmas.

    Thank you xx

  • a friend

    You and Heather are my heroes! You two are so open, honest and helpful to all of those folks who might be going through something similar and have nowhere to turn.

    One of my very best friends’ husband was diagnosed with bipolar this year. It’s been a tough year for both of them. It has taken a huge toll on her. She never knows what she is going to get with him day to day and it really wears on her. AND, they have a wonderful little boy in the middle of all of this. I worry about them. I’ve sent your post to her. Hopefully hearing how you deal with Heather’s illness will help her to deal with her husband’s.

    Thank you (and Heather)for your honesty and bravery

  • christel

    very well done, sir.

  • Beelzebob

    If more people were honest and communicated about difficult things in life everyone would be better off. Thank you for being honest and providing such insight on a topic that is rarely discussed much less written about.

  • Julie

    This is so helpful and very brave. Thank you.

  • jenC

    Thank you. I’ve been here a while — “here” meaning “a devoted reader” as well as “locked in a depressive cycle that has devastating effects on my spouse.” Maybe the meds aren’t working as well as I’d thought.

    For your candor, your wit, and your courage, you and Heather are in my heart. All my best to your family during this joyous and difficult season…and Happy Election Year!

  • Ashley

    Thank you.

  • Laura

    Great post, Jon.

  • lucky13

    your strength is admirable. thank you for such an open and honest conversation. it’s invaluable to see both sides.

  • heyhey

    Thanks Jon. I am teared up, and I don’t know why. My depression is a constant variable in my marriage, but I realized that once I stopped hating it and its effects on us, and accepted it for what what it is, that I can put it in its own place. Yes its there, but it is not a controlling factor anymore. There are days when I have to look at my husband and say, I can’t handle it today. He’s very good at understanding that and I am grateful for him.

  • Nancy


  • cris

    Jon, thank you.

    It is so important for women to know what men think, and for people with depression to know what it’s like for others, and that you opened up like this… Heather keeps saying what a wonderful man you are, and if her words over the years weren’t enough, this would be more than enough…

    I’ll be saving this post, and showing it to whoever comes along in my own life.

  • Susan

    Thank you. This was an amazing read.

  • becky

    Thank you, Jon. When I read Heather’s post I was once again grateful for her vulnerable voice about depression. Today I am so thankful that you chimed in. As a therapist who gets her own talk therapy as well, I am so glad that you talked about the insanity of “fixing.” And I appreciate your willingness to share the ways you seek to take care of yourself and “do your own work.” It’s so easy to tag the depressed person in the marriage as the “problem.” I think this only serves to rob their partners from learning how to seek their own professional help for themselves.

    I cannot express how much our world continues to look down on therapy, psychiatric help and medication. I think it has something to do with fear. When you guys share so openly, you do an amazing job of combating the shame that is present in the lives of others (and I’m guessing for yourselves as well).

    Finally, it is a very brave thing to invite others to examine your experience. It matters not how anyone else now views your marriage…but I loved how you shared even the hardest parts. I think so many more marriages would survive if they had people like you guys who would tell them the hard truths and encourage them about the joy on the other side of the pain. That’s the way my husband and I are making it through!

  • deborah

    wow. well said.

  • Lis

    Thank you for sharing your side of the story. I’ve learned a lot from reading both your blog and Heather’s blog, and I’m always touched by how willing you are to share your lives. Depression is a serious issue and I think it’s important to both people with depression and people without depression to hear how others deal with it. It’s not something you can just “get over” or that you just need to “cheer up.” So thank you for letting us in to your world and how you cope and live.

  • Gillian

    I very much liked this post (linked to it from dooce.) A beloved college roommate and best friend suffers from a handful of mental illnesses, and as someone with no family or personal history of this stuff (and as an 18 year old at the time), it took a while for me to “get it.” I had to intervene at one point when her meds were clearly making her sicker, which is when it really hit home for my young self (that’s been more than 10 years ago now).

  • kik

    I recently asked Heather about this….thank-you so much for getting it out there. I possibly am married to a man more fabulous than you, but sometimes the arguments and silence make me wonder how others do it. Amazingly we always get though it, but it takes work and a lot of learning from the past (and we both suck at that).

  • Kindra

    Great Post!!! I have never been able to put into words what it feels like to love a person with depression. My mother suffers from bi-polar/ manic depression. You are absolutly right the biggest thing you can do for a person suffering from this illness is to just listen.
    My father died 5 years ago and between the 2 of us we had always been able to assess my mom’s moods and her drug levels even before she herself was aware. Now that he is gone it falls on me to help her through the bad times.
    She has since remarried; to try to get her husband to understand that he can’t fix her and alittle bit of sleep on her part is not going to make all well in her world has been challenging to say the least. He has actually gotten very angry at me when I have said you can’t give her advice or tell her to just snap out of it, that is not what she needs and/or wants. She just needs you to listen to her. I can not tell you the amount of 3 am phone calls I have received from her telling me the world would be better without her in it.
    I have gone through every emotion with my mother but the one I can’t shake and hurts the most to accept is she won’t get better if I just love her enough. It is hard to not take it personal but the one thing I know is if it hurts me to see her this way, her own pain must be 10 fold and I know she would give anything to just be “normal”.
    I admire you Jon for sticking by Heather! I used to think my dad was the most amazing person for honoring his commitment to my mother, sticking by her and trying to educate himself to better deal with my mothers illness. With that said I put you in the same class I reserved only for my dad.

  • Kate

    Wow, that was so well said.
    I wish I had the words for writing like you do.
    You have truly defined what love is all about.

    And you are right, women can be fixers too.
    I am in therapy and that is one of my issues I am working on.. whenever someone I care about has a problem, I want to fix it..

    I also loved what you said about balance – getting enough sleep, time to yourself, etc – because that is where I am – learning to do those things. And the self talk! I could relate to that too.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing!
    I related so well to all of it!
    And it is good to read in words from someone else, what I am feeling and living.

  • Kate

    p.s. The listening part that you wrote about…
    I forgot to mention.. I am also learning that.
    My mouth just wants to run before I stop and think “maybe I should listen” and I am learning to control my mouth and just listen.

  • coyote

    You’ve nailed it.

    I lived for decades with a family member who, like Heather, struggled with bipolar disorder, and your description of the currents of tension that run through the person, and through their close family, is so true. As is your discussion of the ‘fix it’ impulse.

    ‘My’ Heather, also fiercely intelligent, sometimes tried to think her way out of it herself, but the whole family had to learn, in our different ways, that intelligence is something apart from the illness, and that we had to be part of her ongoing self-monitoring. There were rewards as well as turmoil — again like Heather, she could be really funny about her condition.

    I’m a longtime reader of read your blog and Heather’s, and love your candor. You both light up things I still deal with. Best wishes to all of you. It’s a lifelong journey, and no easy ride. I’m grateful for all of it.

  • Carrie

    Thank you!

    My husband is a fixer, and he’s working on that, too. My Mom never came clean about depression in our family until I told her that I was on meds and what for. Not so surprisingly it runs in the family.

  • goblin bee

    Hello Jon!
    Harsh? (A reader upthread thought your post was harsh at times. Au contraire! It only seemed loving and real.) I have been with a man I adore (and who adores me) for 13 years, who also suffers from depression. He is unmedicated (has tried many anti-depressants and hormone therapies, which only made him worse. There was one night on the meds when I/we thought he was going to jump off the nearest tall building. He’s been scared to try anything else ever since).
    My SO and I are quite good communicators, but lately we just seem worn out. I’m worried about the long haul, and seem to be getting depressed myself. My guy (let’s call him “S”), will often think that splitting up is the solution to our problems. I have fought so long and hard for us, but I am getting tired! Do you deal with this? If so (Heather threatening to leave you), how do you handle it? (I’m not a long-time reader–maybe you have written about this elsewhere.)
    Love and peace,
    P.S. I used to live in Salt Lake!
    P.P.S. I used to be Mormon!

  • Sara

    Wow, this was very powerful. The parts that someone called “harsh” were the most meaningful to me (and hard to think about). I think my husband probably feels shades of that as well. That was really important for me to read. Thank you so much!!

  • Jaime


    This piece is magnificent.

    Thank you for setting such a fine example.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for sharing this in such a clear and honest way.

  • Rayne

    That was such a loving post. It is clear how much you care about Heather and Leta. I’m glad there are people like you in the world.

  • Sarah

    Wow Jon .. I have to say that you sound alot like me! My husband doesn’t suffer from depression .. however, he does suffer from social anxiety disorder (some of the time) and goes thru bouts of depression. We fought alot at the beginning of our relationship, 12 yrs ago. He also had two young children which just added to alot of stressful things we both had to deal with. I am also a fix it person. Some things we cannot fix altogether, but we sure can try! You must be an amazing person. Heather appears to me to be an amazing person. So .. I am glad you found each other. I consider my husband my sole mate, I would do anythign for him and he for me. We have a great life, it is SO much better than when we would argue. I listen to him alot. I think it helps. I hope you have close friends you can outlet too when it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so to Heather. .. that will help you in stressfull times. I’m really happy your both wrote about this .. very honest of you and I think it will help alot of people to get insight into a relationship that from the outside looking it, looks perfect.
    And .. Merry Christmas to you, Heather, Leta and of course Chuck! (oh .. and keep the chocolate cookies away from Chuck, my Rex just spend one night at emergency for eating 1/4 of my batch .. he is ok, thank God, but $500 later….)

  • Christi

    Jon, thank you for sharing this. I wish my first husband could have seen things this way (or read this post!) during my severe PPD. His insistence that I “get over it” and “stop trying to get attention” made a horrible time much, much harder — dangerous words to someone who’s suicidal. I had to save myself and somehow did, but it’s still a daily struggle. Thank you for being there for Heather!

  • Daphne

    Thank you so much for writing this. I live with someone who suffers from chronic depression and anxiety (as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and while it can be difficult sometimes, it IS worth it because I love her very much and feel that this is the best relationship for me. I too find that it’s important to step up and be open, even though I find myself falling into the space of, “well, she doesn’t need to hear/deal with/know this, it will only make things worse/harder on her.” She picks up on that and it fuels the fire — if I’m open, there might be a small explosion but then it gets cleared up quickly, rather than smouldering in her head, making things 10 times worse than it would have been.

    I also get sick of people feeling sorry for ME, as if it’s some burden she has put upon me. She did not choose to have this illness! It’s a chronic disease. We are working together to manage it. She is the one who deserves praise and awe, for being strong enough to continue to live with it and move on with her life. I constantly admire her strength and determination.

    Thank you for this brave post, from the other side of living with depression.

  • Heather

    Thank you.

  • Tana

    Bravo for being so candid. Best wishes to you all.

  • Gabe

    I hope to have a relationship like that one day…one that’s open and that “makes it work.” One that isn’t just prone to giving up….

    That was really inspiring. Thank you.

  • LP

    Wow, you are my hero! They really don’t make ’em like you anymore.

  • Sarah

    Thank you so much. My sister-in-law is bipolar and has been a quick cycler most of her life. I’ve always wondered how my husband can handle her disease, and I’m worried that he might “write her off” someday because she is so difficult. Their relationship is so out of the realm of my experience that I feel helpless to help them keep it together, but I love them both very much. I hope you and Heather continue writing about your experiences with depression, because they provide so many insights for those of us who are also touched by similar diseases.

  • Lydia

    Not to ignore the main topic of the post, but I also have a perpetually runny nose. Do you know why you have one, because I certainly haven’t figured out mine. I wonder what anti-histamine you use? A mild anti-depressant might be helpful…I might send this to my boyfriend too, but I’m not sure.

  • Paulie

    Jon, you are a freaking saint.

  • Ashley

    Thank you so much for this, Jon. I have never read your blog before, but followed the link on Heather’s entry yesterday because it sounded interesting. While reading this, I got a slap in the face, realizing that i identified with so many of your descriptions of her depression in action. My mother has always been of the belief that these things can be handled by taking a cold hard look at one’s self, and I have always been so reluctant to see anything as an actual problem. I am now incredibly serious about seeking help from a professional, and from there, seeing what i can do to help mediate these issues within myself so that it will not take a toll on my marriage, my family, and myself any longer.

    Thank you so much!

  • Bobo

    This post is amazing. I’ve noticed that alot of the comments are about husbands and wives like you and Heather; in my case it’s my best friend who suffers from manic depression, but I still felt that there was so much you said in this post that was identical to our relationship.
    It’s been such a relief to read your thoughts on this, and to see that it is the same for many people. I’ve never been able to explain to myself or anyone else exactly how I felt about my friend’s disease and how our friendship worked, but this has voiced it perfectly.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom Jon.

  • amieable

    Thank you so much Jon for this piece. I have OCD and reading this has given so much insight to both my boyfriend and me.

    Happy Festivus to all four of you (incl Chuck).

  • Maiken

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Tiggerlane

    “I have had to learn that most of what is bothering Heather has nothing to do with me or our relationship.”

    Of all the beautiful things you have written, I needed this one the very most. I have had a great struggle in these past few months, and I’ve been “told” this by my husband…but to hear you articulate it, makes it more imperative that I realize this. Thank you so much.

    And I am a woman “fixer,” and it’s terribly hard to just shut up and listen. Thank you for the reassuring words…and I will repeat this over and over, that it’s NOT me, and NOT our relationship. I have wondered if maybe I was depressed, I’ve felt so disoriented by my situation.

    Jon, you have no idea – thank you.
    I’m going to print this post, and save it. I will need it for a while.

  • Ruth

    Excellent entry! I read Heather’s ‘dooce’ blog every day and can relate to her as someone who has a brain disorder as well the whole ‘used to be Mormon’ thing. I really like this entry’s point of view though, and may have to fwd it to my husband-if I can muster the guts to wake that sleeping giant…

    My one HUGE question that I’d really appreciate a response to is this: How the living HELL do you ask Heather about her meds without her rushing you with a kitchen knife? If anyone dares mention the “M Word” to me during a bad time (where, most likely I am NOT on my meds) my response usually includes 4-letter words that only an ex-Mormon could know and I turn a perty shade of purple and the earth shakes just a teeny bit. So, how do you, as the “normal” ask about her meds and how does she not rip your head off for asking?

  • Jana

    As a woman who struggles with bipolar disorder and anxiety, I totally understand where Heather has been and some of her fears. Sometimes while reading her posts about her depression, I find myself in tears because I feel the exact same way and it’s a relief to find someone who knows what it is like. It was a wonderful change of pace to read the point of view of the man who loves a woman with mental diseases. Very informative, helpful, and dare I say, healing.

    I am in a relationship with an amazing man and as wonderful as he is, sometimes he just doesn’t quite understand. He is the typical male fixer and since that route has not worked yet, he is trying to learn as much as he can about being in a relationship with a “crazy” woman and I love him even more for that.

    Reading this was so moving for me and I passed the link onto my boyfriend so he could get some perspective. I appreciate this so much – there is no way I could ever express my gratitude enough. Thank you so much. I wish you, Heather, and Leta all the best and a wonderful holiday. Take care.

  • a girl

    Wow. Thanks Jon. If only I could get my husband to read this. I currently cannot live without Lexapro and Xanax. I’ve tried and I’ve tried switching meds. It doesn’t work. I can *function* with these meds. Without them I’m not easy to live with. I want him to see the benefits of these drugs for me. And I wish he could understand that I can’t “just get over it”. This post gives me strength and hope.

  • Chelle

    You are an amazing person. You are willing to work through the problems instead of running away from them and knowing that gives me hope.
    Thank you for sharing this, it means a lot to me.

  • Spain

    Thanks for this. My girlfriend struggles day to day with depression and anxiety. Your blog came at an interesting time as we just had a ‘talk’ last night and your insight felt strangely familiar. I learned a whole lot about myself and what I need to do to be a good partner last night during the talk with my girlfriend. Thanks again for the encouragement. Take care.

  • csmc

    Wow. Thanks you for your honesty and insights. I think you are definitely on to some things and have a lot of great things to say. :)

  • greensunflowerRN

    I live with the dark cloud of chronic depression over me, I also suffer from chronic suicidality. I had my husband read this entry. He said you sum it up pretty well. He speaks English as his third language and often has a hard time communicating how he feels about this third entity in our lives, it is like you bridged that gap.

  • Kristen from MA

    You rock, Jon.

    Best wishes for the holidays and the new year.

  • Heidi

    Thank you so much for this post. My boyfriend is struggling with depression and reading your post has made me feel more confident in my decision to seek therapy myself.

  • Yolanda

    The next time I have a conversation with a newly engaged woman is showing off the carats in her diamond ring, I will ask her to read two things before she makes that commitment: this post, and Heather’s post about her first postnatal poop.

    Because the man you marry should be the man who believes you are that worth it.

    I’m not talking pedestal placement or idol worship. I’m talking about that honest depth of partnership that only comes when someone loves you so much, they work to be a better person. The one you mary is the one who will shovel your shit sometimes (both literally and figuratively), not because they’re martyrs, but because you’re on the same team. That is what partnership is.

    (And please print a copy of that comment from Patsy and burn it. Anyone who even subtly suggests that someone who lives with a mental illness shouldn’t be allowed to raise children, is so, so, so out of touch with their own mental health, that we simply must cleanse ourselves from the poison the spit in their quest for for their own stability. )

  • Kevin Hamm

    Just wow. I, yet again, applaud you and Heather on your willingness to share and document. You all rock!

  • Sarah

    I missed the post by “pasty” last night. I don’t want to defend her but offer another perspective. I too have wondered how Leta can be left alone with Heather and how either parent could willingly bring another child into the home. My husband suffers from PTSD (several deployments to Iraq) but I never leave my 4 young children alone with him because you just never know. I also read and wonder why Leta is not in intensive therapy for her serious delays. Then one day you might catch about half a sentence that refers to Leta being tested and so on and so forth. Which tells me no one can read anything online and assume you know the whole story so whether the intent is to be hateful, helpful, or just plain nosy the whole story is never told and without knowing the whole story you really can not make any assumptions. Besides, I have 4 of my own to screw up and try to leave others to screw up their kids as they see fit! LOL!

  • Ruth

    Wow, I didn’t even see Patsy’s post until Yolanda mentioned it and I had to go find it.
    Patsy, it is people like you that cause the stigma of mental illness to spread like wildfire. Your opinion is based on lack of education or experience in this department.
    My question for the Patsy’s of this world is this: Do you have diabetes? Are you at risk for any cancer or heart disease? Are you overweight, out of shape, a smoker or drinker? Are you human? Do you have issues like everyone else in this world? Would you ever, ever consider not having kids because of any of these issues? The reason I ask is because any mother or father can, at any time in their life, for any reason or even no reason at all, be a bad parent. Mental illness does not the bad parent make, oh no. Intolerance and ignorance make a bad parent.
    I am deeply offended that you compare Heather to Andrea Yates. The biggest glaring difference between the two women is that when Heather reaches out for help and support, she gets it. Andrea didn’t-her pleas for help were ignored. She was told to “get over it.” She was faced with the harshest side of the mental illness stigma. She was surrounded by people like you.

    I also just want to say that every mother on this planet deals with frustration and anger over their children. Anyone who says otherwise, who says that their kids are perfect, loving angels 24/7 is a flat out liar. Kudos a million times over for Heather and Jon’s gutsy openness and honesty!

    Now I gotta go…Mama needs vodka! 😉

  • k-m-s

    How lucky you both are to have each other.

    And Leta is the luckiest.

  • Cristina

    Thank you and thanks to Heather, too!
    I think that it’s very important for people with depression to know what it’s like for others, and your words meant a lot to me.

    I totally agree with you about listening – Listening is one of the most difficult things to do, but that’s what really helps..

    I’ve been suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and depression for several years. My husband has been wonderful and very supportive. I sent him your post because sometimes I feel that having to cope with my illness is taking his toll on him and I’m sure he’ll find comfort in reading about your experience.

    Again, thanks for sharing to both you and Heather.
    I wish you, Heather and Leta (and Chuck!) a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

  • Kay

    Wow. You guys have the real thing, and I am so happy for you and Heather. I am so glad you wrote this. The best of everything to you and Heather now and always.

  • Donny Pauling


    The best things in life are those we have to work hard to get. Sometimes we take such things for granted and don’t realize their value until later, when it’s too late.

    I wonder if, in many ways, your relationship is made stronger and more full by the illness? I’d be willing to bet that is the case. I’m sure you agree.

    More posts like this! More! More! More!


  • Broad

    @ Sarah: Well, if you’re going to go there, why do YOU stay with a man with PTSD, never mind leave your kids alone with him?

    I understand you’re not trying to be a jerk, but I think it’s disingenuous for you to talk about “safety” for your kids when you could be putting yourself in harm’s way as well. I mean, if this man could be in any way dangerous like you fear, what kind of example are you setting for them?

  • clarefolly

    A wonderful, thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing the spousal perspective.

  • Michelle Reeves

    Wonderful blog about how to shut up and listen :) I’m sending this to my partner, as I deal with on-again off-again depression.

  • Teresa


    You are quite amazing! It’s not often you find a man brave enough and open enough to allow for himself an authentic, loving relationship. I loved your post and the way you talked about yourself and your role as a husband and father. The planet could handle about a billion more men just like you!

  • Sarah

    @Broad, like I said unless the entire story is shared you do not know it. 😉

  • Linda

    Wow. You are awesome. When my ex husband asked for a divorce, he wouldn’t tell me why, and I later learned through a mutual friend that it was because I was depressed. I too suffer from chronic depression. And it’s wonderful to see that there are indeed wonderful people out there who are willing and able to deal with it in their partner.

  • Patricia

    First off, a great post. Honest, and nailed it, I think. I’m a 40-year-old woman who wrestles with chronic anxiety and depression when stress reaches a certain level. I have taken anti-depressants, different ones, for almost 10 years, and have gotten myself down to a small level that allows me to avoid crappy side effects like weight gain and loss of libido and still stay sane.

    Now, I will back up Patsy with this piece about myself: After I felt suicidal for the second time in my life (early 30s) and “gave in” to taking medication, I looked at the genetic predisposition of depression and bi-polar disorder in my family, and assessed the rage and self-imposed isolation I feel when depressed, and I made a choice to get my tubes tied. I based my decision on these reasons:
    1. Clearly, I needed to take anti-depressants on some level for the rest of my life. What would be the health risk to a fetus?
    2. What if I stopped the meds to breastfeed (which would have been very important to me) and fell into a post-partum depression in which I resented my baby, or worse, HURT her in a fit of aggression (which was a big component of my depression).
    3. What if I passed this disease on to my child and one day, as a teen, she tried to commit suicide like I tried? How could I knowingly take a chance on passing this on to my child in her DNA? The pain and guilt of such a situation would, I think, have killed me.

    So, there are people who consider the points that Patsy raises and understands what it is that she is trying to get at.

    Clearly, Heather and Jon adore Leta. Reading the love in Heather’s monthly newsletters makes me especially sad that I will not experience such a love with my husband. But I did what I felt was right for me and was thinking of the child too.

    P.S. If I ever adopt a child and he or she is depressed, I know I’ll be mentally stable enough with the help of anti-depressants, and with my husband’s support, to handle it. And if that depression led to heartbreaking times, yes, I would suffer. But I wouldn’t suffer guilt thinking that *I* was the one who gave my child the disease. Hope this makes sense and gives another perspective.

  • Patricia

    Sorry, also meant to add that my choice bears no judgment on Heather and Jon’s decision to have a family. Those familiar with depression know that it’s important to know what your key stressors and emotional deal-breakers are, in order to best cope. For me, the anxiety of “what if” regarding getting pregnant and having a child while on antidepressants was too great. If I were an anxious mother, I’d be an angry, depressed mother. And everyone in the family would suffer, period.

  • Martha

    Great post. I’ve felt very alone over the past five years in living with my spouse who suffers from anxiety and depression. I enjoyed how you humanized the experience of loving someone, while still having to cope with the essence of who they are.

  • Sally

    Excellent post Jon, thanks for sharing something so personal.

  • Wynne

    How about when you are chronically depressed person (the mom) living with the another chronically depressed person (the (age 22) adult daughter)? As someone who has accepted that I should take meds – and it’s no different than medicating diabetes or high blood pressure – I still find myself slipping off the meds (forgetting or shrugging them off…I don’t need ’em now, do I?) and then discovering that damn! I really need them _now_ because the other depressed person hasn’t learned to accept it and she is 20 times worse and rubs me the wrong way. Instead of sypathizing with her, I find myself wanting to scream at her…”Do yourself in already and stop with the empty threats!!! I am too depressed to deal with you! Don’t I have enough to deal with — without you dragging me down, too?” How awful is that? I am her mom! She really needs me – I’m the only one who truly understands her what she needs to calm down (constant repeating to her that it’s ok, that she is taking things too personally, that it’s not worth the energy she loses over the particular agony of the moment, that it will pass, repeat, repeat, repeat and rub the back) but I don’t always get through to her. So it’s important for me to stay on track or she really goes off track. Eh…this is hard to explain without run on sentences. But it feels better putting it down here. So moral of the story…take the damn meds and stop taking everything so personally! 😉

  • Wynne

    p.s. Usually just letting her talk and talk helps,too…so you are right! Just listen and nod sympathetically (real sympathy). Eh…this is too hard to explain…but I’m thinking every here gets it!

  • Frankie

    Wow. This was a beatifully written and wonderful post. We should all be so honest, with ourselves and with each other.

    Patsy: Really? Did you really just imply that Heather is or could be in some way like Andrea Yates? That she could kill her children? Really? Because she sought help for her depression, that can be out of control wothout treatment? Really? I must assume that you know her in person and know something that no one out here on the internet knows, to publicly make such a comment. A few things about mental illness:

    1. It doesn’t make you killer
    2. It doesn’t warp your children
    3. It doesn’t and shouldn’t exclude you from the gene pool

    I am a lesbian and I shudder to think of the amount of people who figure I shouldn’t have reproduced. I am also in recvery from my own mental illness, as I was severely depressed after birth. I also have AD/HD and a few other things about me that I am not brave enough to post publicly. My son is affectionate, smart, developmentally on target and well adjusted, even in this mentally ill lesbian household.

    You should really think before you start leveling judgement against people who are making it in what sounds like a home that is full of laughter, chaos, creativity, frustration, tears and LOVE. REALLY.

  • Heidi (not the previous one, but a different one ;))

    “One of the biggest and most detrimental side effects to being a partner of someone with a mental illness is that there is the impulse to not share the hard stuff with them for fear they can’t handle it.”

    I have depression, and that’s a problem that I also have. I worry that other people can’t handle the hard times I feel.

    I also tend to say a lot when I’m upset, I talk about things that bother me, that I hadn’t realized until that moment that they bothered me so much. I’m obviously not very in touch with my emotions; in fact, my emotions terrify me, and I like to run from them as often as possible, because I experience a lot of sad emotions and I *hate* crying (in public or otherwise). I know it’s wrong, but I feel that crying is a manipulation tactic and a sign of weakness (things told to me by my parents). Sadly, I’m someone that cries at the drop of a hat, and I honestly cannot control it. I wish I could, or I would never cry.

    It’s really hard to convince someone that you understand their need to be alone when you’re crying. To be honest, I *do* understand the need to be alone (because I, myself, experience that need almost daily). It still makes me feel sad, excluded and a bit lonely, though, when other people need their “me” time. Just because I understand that they need their alone time (and am willing to allow it to them), doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt my feelings a little bit. Logistically, I realize it has *nothing* to do with *me* personally, it’s just something we all need, but it still hurts a bit all the same.

    I suck at talking with my therapist, though. I’d like to switch therapists, but our family isn’t the “go from doctor to doctor ’till you find one that works” type, and I’m afraid of hurting my therapist’s feelings.

    I was raised with a mother who has borderline personality disorder on top of depression. Because of this, I’ve learned to put other people’s feelings before mine. The ironic part? I suck at social skills and tend to insult people without realizing it, and thus unintentionally hurt other people’s feelings. Things that I feel are compliments (being geeky/nerdy) are apparently insults to the “real” world (what’s so bad about being smart/looking smart?!).

    When it comes to having doctors that just don’t work, I’m terrified of hurting their feelings and thus stay with them (that, and I don’t like looking for new doctors, either).

    For example, I need a new dentist. My current dentist has big hands, and I have a small mouth. Enough said.

    I need a new “regular” doctor. My current on is a pediatrician, and I despise the way she wants to handle my antidepressants. I will no longer be on cheap insurance that covers a lot next year. So my doctor’s way of dealing with this is to say that we can decrease my meds. Despite the fact that we’ve had to *increase* them within the past year. This is the same doctor who wanted to decrease my meds in the spring a couple of years ago, when I’d just *increased* them in January (she also claimed my depression was in remission. Last I knew, remission meant *not* having to increase?).

    I need a new therapist, because I’m not comfortable talking to my current therapist about my problems. I categorize her as friend, and because of that, I feel I have to protect her feelings.

    Once I get a regular doctor, I’ll probably need a psychiatrist to manage my antidepressants, because I don’t think “normal” doctors are allowed to do that.

    Anyways, my train of thought has abruptly crashed (which it sometimes does when I’m upset :/ Usually when my mood takes a swing upwards), and thus I end this extremely pointless/mapless comment here.

    heidinelle @ if anyone wants to relate/contact me

  • KBH-RN


    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in living with someone with depression. I think it is hard for most people to remember that depression is a chronic illness, and that the caretakers are also at significant risk for role strain. I am so glad that you have found talk therapy helpful; I agree that we could all use it sometimes. Most of the time, really.

    It can be so hard to accept that you need a medication every day just to be what we think of as “normal.” For some reason, it grates more when it’s an antidepressant than if it were insulin, for me at least. I think that you and Heather are both doing a great job at helping fight the stigma that can make us so pigheaded about it. And I, too, am guilty of going off my meds and having to have my husband check up on me. Yes, it pisses me off. Yes, I love him all the more for it when I take the meds and remember that I don’t have to feel that way.

    Finally… I think Patsy’s comment about Andrea Yates is completely reprehensible. Shame on you, Patsy. Please do some research on postpartum psychosis, then some on postpartum depression, and then some on depression and anxiety. They’re quite different. And beyond that, the difference that I see that means Jon and Heather will never be in that situation? Jon gives a damn, and he and Heather have sought appropriate treatment (read: inpatient, which Mr. Yates did NOT in spite of what he knew). Leta is a beautiful little girl, who will learn a great deal about empathy and how to be a loving spouse to someone, someday, by seeing her parents’ example.

    And thank you, Jon, for letting us see that example as well (and Heather too).

  • southerngirl

    As Jane Pauley notes in the very last line of the very last page of her memoir where she discusses her bipolar disorder, “There are no charmed lives, only lives.”

    You and Heather are doing a great job of living your lives together.

  • southerngirl

    Oh, and Patsy is off her meds again. Please ignore her.

  • Meghan

    Thank you Jon.

  • Mike

    I’ve never read yours or your wife’s blog before, but my fiance pointed out these recent posts as being of interest. I must say that as the future husband of a woman diagnosed with bipolar and a few other things, that I can relate with your situation 100%.

    In the first year or so it was a really challenging and unfamiliar experience to learn how to make such a relationship work. Much of the time was spent in trial-and-error, slowly gaining realizations and little epiphanies to help myself break out of my preconcieved notions regarding what I thought bipolar even was, or how it really manifests. I had to learn how to STFU and be willing to just wait and listen when she felt ready to open up to me about what was really going on, revealing the source(s) of the breakdown.

    It’s reaffirming to learn that my experience isn’t unique, and that others have had to learn the same lessons I have. It’s a School of Hard Knocks, but when true love is involved, it’s entirely worth it to get through it and stick with that special someone, for better and for worse. Thanks for your insight.

  • Jen

    Thank you, Jon. Your post was beautiful. Both my husband and I are grateful.

    Patsy, your comparison of Heather to Andrea Yates was like comparing apples to a lampshade. Geez. I’ve decided that you’re so weak that I’m just not going to even go any further. Basically, you suck.

    Jon, Heather, thanks again for sharing your stories. You rock.

  • amy

    thank you to you and to Heather for sharing your stories. i hope you know how much of a difference your honesty makes.

  • Gretchen

    Everybody’s talking about the subject of walking on eggshells around the mentally ill (not wanting to share your problems b/c they might freak out). I live with two mentally ill people. My husband and his older daughter each have their own “things” to deal with, but hers is much worse, perhaps b/c she is going thru late adolescence and has had conflicting problems between meds and hormones (poor kid actually lactates on the only medicine that keeps her stable). In either case, I find that when I hold back, I not only hold back, but don’t even give a hint that anything is wrong. When I finally have to come clean, I go through the whole, it’s no big deal act, even if I’m freaked out on the inside. It’s a tough balance, and it’s nice to see I’m not the only one living it. The worst part about the teenager is that her parents tend to spoil her and she is downright BRATTY at times b/c they are so scared that she’ll freak out. I know she’s not as delicate as they think she is (or as she likes to pretend to be when she gets in one of her manipulative moods), but she is nonetheless pretty helpless at times. It’s very difficult to sort it all out when you’re dealing with someone who really does have mental illness, but also uses it to her own advantage, and often in a selfish way. It’s infuriating, and it really makes you feel like running away from home yourself. Thanks for writing this down. It really helps me re-focus on what’s important.

  • Ursula

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve read Dooce for sometime and have often wondered about your coping techniques and strategies.

  • Jaap

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Charles R. Kaiser

    Thanks for this Jon.

  • Bev

    What a great gift you are to each other. My husband is fond of saying that it is his role to pull the wagon….but sometimes the horses have to be fed and watered too. Bless you both.

  • Alisha

    I loved this.
    It’s hard for me to try and find exactly what to say about it – it touched me in a place that I’m not used to verbalizing.
    I am not sure if it’s the fact that you love your wife in such a way that it almost screams off of the screen or that you openly admit what you do and don’t ‘get’ and are so right about what it takes.

    It gets old, having someone wanting you to ‘fix it’ or ‘get over it’ because something isn’t ‘that big of a deal.’
    There’s always a part screaming inside that I would if I could – but I just haven’t found that magic ‘easy button’ that allows me to react to things normally yet.
    Where do they hide those?

    And because Heather opens up her life in such a wonderful way on her blog, and opens herself up to having people judge her thoughts and feelings, it gives us internet strangers the notion that we ‘know’ the three of you – and while it’s hard not to say this in a way that sounds somewhat psychotic, I’m glad that this woman that we’ve come to ‘know’ has someone beside her that works hard to get it.

    This was truly insightful and touching.

  • jeri

    Thank you for writing this…it is a powerful piece that needs to be out there. My husband is much like heather and the coping mechanisms are trial and error. Like you, I believe everyone can benefit from talk therapy and I have never been afraid to seek it to maintain my own balance. Medication issues are so frustrating…hospitalizations are frightening…I may just use this piece as a touch stone to remind me what needs to be done.

  • Becky

    You are a beautiful person! So many other things would be an appropriate response. Looking into oneself for answers has made you the perfect man. You, Heather, and Chuck are on my list of people i’d love to have dinner with.

  • Kendra

    I have always felt that our society is all about keeping up a successful image and not letting anyone see your warts. But within the family all the stress of keeping up appearances turns ugly. As a long-time depressive, married to an OCD sufferer, I have often felt desperately alone in my pain and anxiety. Hooray for meds and talk therapy! They have helped me and my husband so much. Not everyone wants to see our warts, but I sure am not ashamed or afraid to share with others who want or need information or support. Thank you Jon! You have articulated so well issues and strategies that DO work!

  • Ben

    Hi Jon,

    I’m amazed at all the people who visit this site and who say that they’re ignoring or are unable to treat their own depression, but I suppose I shouldn’t be. My dad finally — at age 70 — began a course of antidepressants. It’s changed his life.

    Don’t wait, folks. Please don’t wait.

  • C J Crocker

    This post could not have come at a more appropriate time. The holidays obviously add many ingredients into the cocktail of depression. My wife and I learn to cope on a daily basis with one another’s mental states. It takes a lot of strength, desire and love to work through these obstacles. It is reassuring that other people in the world go through such similar situations in their lives. Just by sharing, you helped give this reader peace of mind today.

    Thank you.

  • Christopher

    Hi Jon,

    I want to thank you for the above post. Hearing your side as a person who lives with an individual suffering from a mental illness, gives me an idea of how my girlfriend should deal with my mental illness. You don’t judge heather but rather listen and support and I wish all of our loved ones would be able to understand that.

    Thank you and Merry Christmas

  • mirela

    You do seem to be a great listener. Do you talk as well you listen? Thanks being open about some very important things in your life.

  • Anne

    I recently went to my local county mental health services looking for an official diagnosis and referral for what I thought was depression — it turns out I have ADD (possibly the ADHD version, as I do have manic qualities). My official diagnostic appointment is December 26 with a specialist.

    Perhaps the hardest thing for my husband to understanding the breakdown between the intellectual knowledge and expectations and the practical applications.

    His other problem is reconciling the idea that I have been behaving this way on purpose to the concept that it is caused by an imbalance.

    I have days when I feel like I have a rational part of my brain, armed with clipboards and checklists, trapped and unable to do anything because the parts of my brain that actually do things are dancing and skipping around picking daisies.

    Every day of my life I am a moose and someone keeps handing me muffins . . .

  • SarahM

    Thank you for being so open and personal on a difficult subject. Beautifully expressed — with such tenderness and love. You and Heather inspire me.

  • nancy

    thank you

  • Michelle

    Thank you Jon. Your post is perfect and so right on. My husband lives with me – diagnesed with depression for 9 years now – married to him for 6 and together for 8. While my depression is seemes to be less severe that Heather’s. It is still an impact on “us”. And my husband, like you wantes to “make it OK”. “What can I do to make you happy?” “What can I do to make it go away.” If only it were that simple right?

    The one thing I would like to add to your post is that aside from havingmy husband listen – which he too has gotten good at, sometimes I just need to retreat into my office and write for a bit or hell stare at the wall. Inside it makes me feel so guilty because I know it is eating him up and making him sad. As I tell my husband all the time, and as I am sure you already know. We love you guys and it is because of great husbands who do their best to get us depressed wives LOL – that the bad days are a little less bad – it’s not about you or anything you can do to change the depressed days (unless it is a jerk day!). Thank you for sharing this part of your lives. It is so truly touching. And good for you for being aware and maintaining what you need to.

  • Michelle

    Sorry must revamp this sentence or it makes it sound like you are getting as in seeking depressed wives instead of getting as in understanding..

    OLD COMMENT ABOVE….”As I tell my husband all the time, and as I am sure you already know. We love you guys and it is because of great husbands who do their best to get us depressed wives LOL – that the bad days are a little less bad…”

    SHOULD READ…”….”As I tell my husband all the time, and as I am sure you already know. We love you guys and it is because of great husbands who do their best to undertand and help us – that the bad days are a little less bad”

  • Jami

    Thank you. This is a post I’ve bookmarked, to reference in future times on my husband’s bad days. Thank you.

  • JohnD

    Like so many ahead of me in this understandably long line of commenters, I am deeply impressed and moved at your openness and candor. You’re both very fortunate to have each other.

    In my marriage, I’m the one whose a lifer at major depression, but I went through many, many years of denial or only limited awareness of what the illness was doing to me, especially the spells of rage, blaming and fantasies of leaving for a better life with someone else. Luckily, I stayed and, miraculously, my wife weathered many of my storms, so thirty years on we’re still together. I’ve been writing recently about the cost to her of my condition, and that makes reading your piece especially important to me. There is always more work we need to do, and your advice is right on.

    Continued good luck with the work you’re doing to stay together!

  • cathleen

    i only had to read the second comment ,
    i hear this all the time, and i thought i was wrong.
    thanks john and bryanne, “get over it”
    i hear that all the time.
    and they are supposed to love me.

  • Brian

    Thanks for that. It’s awesome to read how another guy is living with his wife’s disease. I think the hardest part for me is being “strong and assertive” without being overly so. Not that what we have to do or say might be too assertive for a disease-free person, but that any comment has the chance to affect her present mood harshly. Anyway, thanks again for writing the above.

  • CJ

    Hello Jon,

    I’ve been reading Heather’s blog regularly for a long time now. As a person with bipolar disorder, I can relate to the things she shares.

    I followed her link here tonight, and am glad I did. I wanted to gain some insight into what life with me must be like for my very patient husband and, thanks to you, I think I did. This was beautifully written, compassionate and loving, but honest. I appreciate that, and wanted to say thank-you.

    Best wishes always!

  • dezzarray

    You and Heather continue to inspire me. As the one on the meds, I forget what my husband must go through at times. I have been lucky to have a doctor who has gotten my medication right on the second try. I am aware enough of the pain I was in to not mess with my dosage, but there are days when I feel lazy and think that I am fine.

    May you, Heather, Leta, and the honorable Chuck have the warmest, happiest, best christmas ever.

  • Kathryn

    Bravo. I hope your family has a lovely Christmas and a fantastic year to follow. I applaud you and Heather for being to open and willing to share in both your struggles and triumphs. It has helped probably more people than anyone could count.

  • Rita D.

    I was deeply moved by your piece and I want to tell you that you and your wife show us that it can be done, even if it’s not perfect, even if there are times when things get really tough, you do not give up. You both are aware of your shortcomings but also of each others’ greatness and how your relationship is worth the trouble.
    I think depressed people think they’ll never find someone who’ll say “you’re worth it” or “our relationship is worth it”, but you are living proof that there’s hope and you’ve probably giving hope to more people that you can imagine with this piece. And I’m glad that Heather found you, and you found her. You and Heather are not simply lucky to have each other, you step up and you strive to be the best person you can. And I applaud you both for what you’ve built with your love and work.
    Thank you for sharing this, and I wish you a merry, merry Christmas with your gorgeous family.

  • dblgoldens


    You have done the impossible which is to begin to restore my faith in men. Although I do not suffer from chronic depression, I have had bouts with anxiety and panic attacks, which without talk therapy and medication would have led to depression and worse… it may return in the future, it may not, but it is brutal and painful and scary.

    After going through a terrible divorce with a man who repeatedly told me to “get over it” I realized that I had compromised my authentic self to the point that let me stay in this terrible situation. It became a chicken-egg scenario, was I already so down on myself I let him in my life, or was he such a master manipulator I turned into a doubting mess. He mistreated me so badly, including a coercion so unthinkable, I began to believe that all men had this capability.

    Thank you for showing me that there are sensitive, honest, faithful, introspective men out there, however married you may be, I am heartened to know that there is a glimmer of hope that I might one day share my life and my complexities with someone who won’t run away and then blame me.

    You guys rock. Merry merry and may 2008 continue to bring you, the lovely Heather and the adorable Leta continued success, health and joy. Smooches to Chuck.


  • Angela

    This is a truly beautiful post. You and Heather are making the the Internet everything it was supposed to be :)

    Re: sleep and the antihistamines…I am a complete basketcase without enough sleep…and I take this too to help with sleep sometimes. I was originally prescribed Atarax to help with with another issue (IC) but it does have the nice side benefit of inducing sleep. As far as I know it actually has anti-anxiety properties, not anti-depression properties (they are opposite sides of the same coin) and if I take it too many nights in a row I find myself getting mildly depressed. (Alcohol magnifies this greatly). I don’t know if other antihistamines are the same.

    The main drawback is that it takes a long time to wear off. It’s not a good choice for those nights when you wake up at 3am and can’t get back to sleep. For those occasions I take Sonata, which is a great little sleeping pill that wears off in about 2 or 3 hours. It’s expensive but worth it to me. Also, it doesn’t have any of the scary side effects like the other sleeping pills I tried.

  • risingrainbow

    What a great post!! All relationships are work. It doesn’t matter what a couple’s issues might be. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. To live together we need to learn how to deal with those things in ways that work for both.

    I have battled depression of the blackest kind but mine was not in and of itself a mentall illness. Mine was the result of multiple personality disorder (now knows as dissociative identity disorder). I have long since done my work and put myself back together so to speak but our relationship still suffers.

    Living with a man who refuses to get help or communicate takes its toll. I think our biggest problem is the one you mentioned here.

    “One of the biggest and most detrimental side effects to being a partner of someone with a mental illness is that there is the impulse to not share the hard stuff with them for fear they can’t handle it.”

    Believing that he is doing what is best for me, he finds the need to protect me from everything. I can’t get him to understand that all he is really doing is pushing me away, building a wall between the two of us that gets bigger and taller every day. Eventually that wall is going to have completely distroyed this relationship and he’s going to be left wondered how it happened.

  • Mommy Cracked

    I just recently discovered Heather’s site and am already a huge fan, but discovering yours just completes that discovery. I am so grateful she has you in her life. I know it is never easy as I have been through similar things like she has, but your support of her is so refreshing and I have enjoyed being able to read this other side of the situation. May God bless you and Heather and continue to keep you both strong for whatever life throws at you.

  • Tracy

    At first when I read Pastys comment I was thinking WTF and went looking for information to combat a response.
    What I found surprised me.

    There were other sites as well that detailed things. Read about the eerily similar mental illness both she and Heather have. How they both were going to commit suicide and were self institutionalized. Now Andrea did have more children, but hello it’s starts with one. What’s wrong with stopping with just one? I mean Leta’s already having some issues,I’m sure stem from Heather and the home life why bring another sad and hurt child into the mix? Then I found this and it made me cry for Leta and what she’s gone through.

    Okay then, might want to reconsider her statement after all.

  • Leesavee

    Hey, “Patsy”…do you realize that being really judgmental can warp your kids, too?

    My dad has bipolar disorder, and it was a struggle for our family, but in no way do I regret being born. In fact, I am quite happy to be around, and I trust that Leta will feel that way, too, even if she has the misfortune of inheriting depression, as I did. I also got my dad’s finely-tuned sense of humor, his intelligence, and his fabulous hair. Depression is an illness, and it’s treatable, if you choose to seek help. Also, even if you don’t have depression, your kid could end up with it. Creating a child is a genetic crapshoot. You never know what you’ll end up with. All you can do is hope and pray for the best, and deal with the worst if that’s what happens.

    Depression doesn’t equal psychosis. Get a grip, “Patsy.” You’re an example of why more people don’t get treated for mental illness — no one wants to be judged. I hope that you never have to deal with these problems yourself, but if you do, believe me, you will regret having said these things.

    John, Heather and Leta — thank you for allowing us into your lives. Your honesty about your struggles is inspiring. And Heather, I went to your rival high school: Germantown! I wasn’t valedictorian, so I’m not as special as you. But I did have equally big hair back in the day. Heeheehee…

    Happy holidays, and much love. Leesavee in Maine

  • Jason

    Very well done. Thank you.

  • Heidi

    I’ve learned a great deal. Thank you both!

  • Christine

    Amazing post. Thank you, Jon. I’m sending it to my husband.

    Oh, and Patsy? It’s people like you who set mental health back 200 years, back to the days when people thought those with mental illness were demonically possessed. From those of us on the salvation prescription: Suck it.

  • A

    Much appreciated.

  • Angela

    Right on, Leesavee. Truer words were never said.

  • starbody

    Thanks for posting this. I immediately had my husband read it and he really identified with it. It helps for him to know he’s not the only husband out there dealing, sometimes struggling and making the best of things.

  • Gry

    I applaud you!

    I’m in a relationship where we both have ups and downs, some that should be medicated, some that doesn’t need it (and we have to alternate between being the strong one/the “weak” one). Some days I feel like maybe I SHOULD get myself on meds, other days I feel fine. I don’t think it’s harder this way, but for me it is very hard being on the line between fine/not fine, being functional, but only barely. Sometimes I wish I was a clear case of “needing medication”, except.. well.. I don’t. If that makes sense. Dude, life is so hard!

    Thanks for the intimate post.

  • Meredith

    Shame on you, Patsy. I think it’s time to reevaluate whether or not you’re qualified to be doling out life advice on the internet. If, after pondering the issue, you remain unsure, I suggest rereading your comment. That should clear things up.


  • UndoneLady

    Thank you Jon.

  • geeky

    I was secretly hoping you would write this, and you did. Thank you.

  • Robin

    Thank you for putting on cyberpaper what I’ve been trying to explain to my family for years. I’m sick of people saying “just get over it.” You “get it”! I wish more people “got it”! THANK YOU!

  • bp_hockey_chick

    1) Jon, you remind me so much of my own husband. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003 (or was it 2004? lol). I was also hospitalised and he has been learning with me since then on how to live a life that’s healthy. He listens. Or he usually tries to. And like you, he has his good days and bad days. Thank you for your honesty and your candor. It reminds me of how lucky I am in my own life, with a wonderful husband and a great son.

    Which leads me to:

    2) Patsy. Poor Patsy. I had my son many many years before I was diagnosed. I decided, again long before diagnosis, that I only wanted 1 child. People have called me selfish, keeping him an only child, but my true reason then, as now, is that I know my limitations. I know that I have love and patience for 1. 16 years ago I knew that I don’t really have the patience for more. People have told me that sure, you find the love and patience. But we are much happier this way. Ask my son, he will tell you, he’s quite happy the way he is. Now, would I have had a child, knowing my diagnosis ahead of time? Probably. Because life is not a sharp line in the sand where on this side sit the righteous and perfect, where clearly Patsy resides, while on the other sit the damned and imperfect. Life is a kaleidescope that changes daily, and you are given choices daily to navigate your way to the colours that are best in your life. For you. Like many, I also feel that comparing Heather to Andrea Yates is a reprehensible comparison. The functional difference between post partum depression and post partum psychosis is significant. Do you give equally qualified advice on car mechanics as well? If you truly feel your words to bear weight and honesty, Patsy, why did you not put your email available, Or link back to your own webpage, as many have done here (myself included)? Stand behind what you have to say and have the courage of your convictions. I don’t pretend perfection. But at least I am honest about who I am and what I try to say.

    Again, Jon, you are a good man, a good father and a good husband. I wish your entire family a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.


    A great comment/treatise which expresses my feelings in my relationship with my wife,only you expressed them much better!

  • Nopenname

    “but has a lot to say about how trying, exhausting, disappointing and how Leta is the reason booze was invented. Leta from Heather’s words is not an affectionate child. I’m positive this had to do with being rejected when she was younger and having to witness Heather’s illness win in the attention dept.”

    Patsy, Do you even HAVE children? Do you know how many times I shout at my four year old to “JUST GIVE ME ONE GOD DAMNED MOMENT TO PEE WILL YOU OMG!” and lock the door on her.I don’t suffer from a mental illness. I DIDN’T have post partum depression and yet Anyone knows who has children that frustration happens. That the trying times with kids almost ALWAYS out number the wonderful blissful perfect times. And when you have kids when that wonderful blissful perfect time happens you think “I love you and I’m so glad I have you even if you are a couch jumping on, linen closet climbing, juice spilling, penny eater.”

    My second child is not “affectionate.” I wanted SO MUCH to co-sleep with her like her older sister and all she’d do is scream. I’d swaddle her and put her in her bed and bam, asleep. She’s always been wary of strangers, wiggly and standoffish when held, independent, willful, demanding, headstrong, and fearless. You have to hold her down to kiss her and outright DEMAND to be hugged and she still says “NO DON’T DO THAT” at two years old. That is her PERSONALITY. I imagine being a mother to her during her teenage years is going to make me wish I had sold her to a circus at this age. I can’t help but nod along and laugh out loud reading Heather’s writing about Leta.

    From my own experience everything I can tell about Heather and Jon have a perfectly normal little girl and a perfectly wonderful supportive family. And Jon’s writing here just goes to prove that.

  • Sarah

    Wow…it isn’t Heather who shouldn’t reproduce (not that I necesarily agreed with that to begin with, though I can see the point). But the poster above me…wow….mom of the year. I have 4 and them following me every blessed place is just part of it. It hurts me heart that such cold mothers are out there. AND my husband is a soldier and rarely at home so I have no break at all. Let that sink in…no grandparents either. No. Break. At. All. And some how I manage to be happy and not bite their heads off when they want to follow me. I feel very very sorry for Leta…and the kids who wants to follow mama.

  • Justine


    I have bipolar disorder and my fiance has no idea what it is, nor does he care. Your piece made me realise that it takes 2 to make a relationship. I’m going to show it to him in the hopes of building a better relationship.

    I hope all of you have a wonderful christmas :)

  • MomLee

    I have never understood the stigma of taking medication and/or being in therapy. Perahps coming into adulthood in New York was the greatest blessing of my life, because at pretty much every job I ever had, one if not many colleagues would announce that they’d be a little late back from lunch because they had to go to the shrink. Moving to New York and reading William Styron’s Vanity Fair essay (the one he turned into the book Darkness Visible) saved my life. I’m sure. Good luck to both of you and thank you for your posts. I hope this has the New York effect on someone else. Cheers.

  • Christi

    Beautifully written, and gives me some insight on what my husband must feel! Thank you!

  • Julie in Virginia

    Thank you for your courage and generosity it sharing from your heart. I am touched at the depth of your commitment to being fully engaged and participating in your relationship with Heather.

    Your work on your self, trickles down through your daughter and up through the ancestors, mending ancient wounds along the way.

    Blessings to you and your family.

  • Daniel

    “Having lived with her for awhile now, I can say that I can see this coming a few days off.”

    “As with all chronic medication consumption, it is only natural to assume that one feels better and can taper off the meds. There have been several instances where I’ve noticed a higher state of anxiety and a certain tone in conversation, a withdrawal or unusual comment from Heather and felt the need to bring up medication as a state of emergency. Luckily, Heather responds and if she has changed her dosage, after we discuss (sometimes more pointedly than others) she takes it back to the levels that were prescribed. When the meds kick in, it’s like I’m living with the Heather who can cope and get through life. If she’s changed her meds, it’s not pretty.”

    And this,
    “One of the biggest and most detrimental side effects to being a partner of someone with a mental illness is that there is the impulse to not share the hard stuff with them for fear they can’t handle it. Likely corollary to that is that the disease is a part of our relationship, meaning it needs its own space. The meds and therapy continue to help, but the disease is always there. I have to be aware of those times where nearly every exchange, every gesture and every non-verbal cue is related to the illness in some way.”

    And of course all the comments, it’s good to know there are others going through the same shit.

    My wife is tapering off the meds right now. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we’ve conducted this experiment she feels the need to try again, maybe this time will be different. Who knows maybe it will.

    The other day she was looking for the tea strainer, couldn’t find it anywhere. I could see that she was getting agitated about the missing tea strainer. She mentioned a couple times that the tea strainer had been in a cup on the counter and now the cup isn’t there anymore and maybe it got thrown out.

    I didn’t think it got thrown out. “I’m sure it didn’t get thrown out.” I said.

    She looked me in the eye and said, “It got thrown out, didn’t it?”

    And I knew she was either off her meds or “tapering down again.”

    I sent her Heather’s column, and I sent her this one. And we’ve talked.

    Thanks for writiting this, and putting out there.

  • Carol Anne

    I have lived with depression my whole life. I don’t think my husband really realized what he was getting into when he married me. This post helped me see much of what he may be going through. I sent it to him and hope it will help us discuss how my disease affects him and us. Thanks for writing it.

  • Chrissy

    Jon, it’s almost eerie that I posted something very similar on my own website except that I’m the one with the mental illness. My husband can relate to your situation so much. Thank you for sharing that. You, Heather, Leta, and Chuck are an amazing and lovely family. Your honesty is what makes you all so amazing and lovely.

  • homeinkabul

    This is beautiful. I linked to this – hope that’s alright.

  • Frances

    Jon, I’ll never ever be able to thank you enough for this post. I’ve been a long time fan of Dooce as well as Blurbomat. But your post made me realize that I can’t “fix” my husbands depression anymore. The need to “fix things” isn’t only a male trait. And over the holidays when he had an epsiode. I kept silently referencing your post. For the first time I listened. I really listened. It was so hard and it’s going to take time to do it well. I also got the courage to talk to him about seeking help. He would get so defensive. He’s also a cancer survivor and has this deep DEEP mistrust of doctors. Thank You… For giving me hope. For letting me know that I am not alone. That I can survive too.

  • Dan

    Thanks very very much for this post. It has given me a starting point for some important discussions at home.

  • BluesCityRef

    Terrific posts from you and Heather both. I’ve enjoyed the read and education you both have provided on this subject.

    Keep up the good work!

  • girlplease

    I totally agree. I had a good friend tell me quit whining and be grateful for what I have. My depression was never, ever about being ungrateful. It’s about being afraid of losing everything I have, including my sanity.

    This is why swearing and being ultra blunt helps me. Nothing like telling a friend “STFU you heartless bitch” to help me get over it. She thought I was kidding and being sarcastic. She was wrong.

  • Hill

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective! I have depression & anxiety and I live with someone who has depression. Talking to someone about their medication is a tricky thing. I can’t tell you how much it helps to hear from you and Heather on these topics. I have learned so much and your post has given me a lot to think about in terms of my partner. It’s also wonderful that this is just one aspect of your lives.

    Don’t underestimate the ripple-effect of your candor. I sought treatment and it changed my life, so my mother sought treatment and changed her life, and my partner sought treatment and changed his life. I would have had a much harder time taking that step if not for Heather and those who’ve commented on her posts. And this isn’t just some happy pill for three gloomy gusses who can’t just suck it up. We both have family trees liberally dotted with alcoholics and suicides and that could have been us. Now we get to be who we always wanted to be.

  • just a simple gal

    Loved reading this post – as well as Heather’s from the other day. As a licensed social worker I LOVE the candor that you both have in speaking of this illness. Love this – “I also have to be strong and assertive most of the time or else I’ll be blown over by the power of the illness.” Recognizing the power of the illness – wow. I think that you two should write a book about living with this. You do a great job – day-by-day – and I’m betting it’s be a best seller ~ J

  • craig

    Thank you for a wonderful and informative post. I think that much of what you talk about translates to ANY relationship, not just one that includes mental illness. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Janice

    Thank you for writing this. I’m bipolar, and my guy just. doesn’t. understand. He thinks it’s just weakness and/or laziness, or hormones, and that I should just buck up.

    I’m going to try to get him to read this; I’m sure he’d be able to identify with some of the things Heather’s illness has put you through. Furthermore, you’re a man, so maybe he’ll actually BELIEVE you.

  • the farmers wife

    Thanks so much for what you have written. I’ve been to the deepest well of depression and everything you’ve said rings of truth. It’s so difficult for family members, friends and loved ones. Looking back I’m astonished that people stuck by me. It’s important to speak up and speak out on the subject of mental health and I do so whenever I can.

    Here’s my answer to someone who challenged me to pull myself up by my bootstraps:

    “Look, I don’t have bootstraps! Most days I don’t have BOOTS, and some days I don’t have FEET!!!”

  • Michele Jerome

    You two are to be commended. You represent an entirely new but HUGE community of people who have already struggled and/or are facing a struggle which many still “poo poo” on, but are still willing to share.I’m an oldster as far as savvy goes (I’m 42), but I read Heather’s blog all the time and knowing that you two support each other in this way makes me so content. I know it’s not easy. No wonder she’s so funny!!! I’ve always thought that my humor was my saving grace and ability to cope. NO ONE gets that about me, except my BESST FREEEND (say like Towmater) and she doesn’t agree with my defense mechanism. I’m going to copy this to her too.

  • Tammy

    I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to share with us this very intimate and personal information about yourself and Heather. I’ve never read anything quite like it. You are both beautiful souls. I have shared both Heathers most recent article, and your article, with a very dear friend of mine whose husband suffers from untreated depression (he’s been prescribed medication, but really is in denial about his depression, and therefore only takes it when the pressure from his family is overwhelming… obviously, this is not therapeutic). I don’t think she will find the answers she needs to support her own husband in reading your article (because he needs to accept some responsibility in treatment), but your strategies for coping are amazing. Certainly, a read my friend can benefit from. I suffer from PMDD, which thankfully only affects me 3-4 days a month. It’s easier for me to relate to mental illness because of those 3-4 days when I honestly, feel crazy. It’s been really hard for my husband over the years to really understand this place I go to. That said, I might just as well share this article with him as well!

    With every good wish,


  • Christine

    Thank you, Jon.

  • Lynn

    I admit, I have put off reading this post because I didn’t want to deal with whatever thoughts and/or emotions it was going to conjure up. I had a moment of bravery today and I’m glad I did.
    I’m doing a lot of self-talk right now, trying to hold my crap together to write this. This post, this admission, this revealing of something deep and personal is… damn, what is the word? Stellar? Hell, I can’t find a word to do it justice.
    I too deal with clinical depression as well as panic disorder, which can and has at times, made my life and my world very small.
    I enjoyed several years in “maintaining” mode, then my health went south and it has been a real struggle ever since… in other words… I “get” this.
    Heather has been a true inspiration to me, as she has to so many others. And you, Mr. Armstrong will be blessed beyond measure for all that you do and try to understand. The tenderness of your heart, your love of your wife and daughter can be read between each and every line. Unless someone has lived it, or is empathic, it is going to be difficult for them to understand all the emotion behind your words and in your life. I see it. I feel it and I admire the both of you for your tenacity, your deep love for each other, and your respect for not only each other but your “audience”.
    Thank you so much, Jon for sharing something so close to your heart. It is not only courageous, but a very loving thing.
    Who said there are no more heroes?
    Life’s abundance for the both of you!

  • yep,it’sme

    Thanks; this is a great way for me to discuss this with my hubby. Good conversation starter and non threatening since it’s coming from YOU, not me. thx :-)

  • SUVmom

    Wow. Just wow. I printed it to share with family members who just never get it. When I am having a bad day…I’m planning on handing them your post.

    Thank you!

  • Monica

    I just noticed that Dooce hasn’t been updated since the 20th…hopefully Heather and Jon are taking a enjoyable, planned, family break and not one forced by some of the overly judgmental comments.

    Happiest of holidays and everyday to you and yours – wherever and however you may be!

  • Sadie

    As the wife of a depressive male, I have to say that this post could have been written by me. Thank you so much for sharing what it’s like for us on a day to day basis, and at the holidays. Thank you so much.

  • Dy-Anne

    I don’t normally read your blog but was very interested in this post when heather linked to it from Dooce.
    I too suffer from depression, but thankfully not like heather does, but much of what you wrote here touched me. Some of the things you described I recognize that my husband does too. Thank you for publishing your very private thoughts about how you deal with a spouse with a mental illness. maybe this will help someone out there.

  • MLW

    This morning was one of those mornings when my chronically depressed fiance said awful, hurtful things to me that have had me crying since 8:00 this morning. As he left me in tears, I noticed his anti-depressant, just sitting there on the counter, waiting to be taken. Most days I understand that this is an involuntary part of him the way that diabetes is an involuntary part of his sister. Today was not one of those days. Your post brings me comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one out there who loves a depressed person and for some, inexplicable reason sticks around through the pain. You give me the courage to keep going.

  • Phoenix1

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks so much for posting that. As the depressed one in my marriage, it offers some perspective that I really needed. It also made me sad, as I talked to my wife and she agreed with many of the things you said. Feeling alone, unable to discuss the big things, or her problems for fear of upsetting me. I’m really glad you posted though, and that your post was so eloquent and all-encompassing. Thank you.

  • another heather

    Holy shit. I love you for writing this post. My husband is clinically depressed and very, very aware of his own reactions to environments, experiences, medications. This makes it easier in the sense that I have had someone to interpret for me what it’s like, however, I feel like other people (family, friends, etc.) are dismissive of his problems, like he just needs to get over it. All I really need is for him to be himself and be as happy as he can manage. We talk very openly about issues, but still…these are really sensitive when it’s your brain that’s in question. And then there are times when I need to can’t keep my own shit together, and that does make it hard, because sometimes you just need to be a little unhinged yourself. Your family should get an award of the year for educating the public about chronic depression. Also, I love your reverent irreverence. Rock on.

  • Anna

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am currently struggling to get myself mentally healthy, and reading Heather’s blog has meant so much to know that I’m not the only one who goes through rough periods. Recently, my depression has been taking a toll on my relationship, and I really appreciate reading about your experience. It gives me hope that maybe, with a little more work, everything might work out. Thank you.

  • Linda

    “I think that much of what you talk about translates to ANY relationship, not just one that includes mental illness.” My thoughts exactly, Craig.

    There’s so much wisdom in this post, Jon. You and Heather, through your blogs, epitomize to me the meaning of true love and commitment. You guys are the real deal. You can’t fake this kind of love. Thanks so much for sharing this, and for sharing your lives. I admire you both, and admire what you have together.

  • jess

    I suffer from depression and panic disorder, it took my husband awhile to understand my problems and how to cope with them. He basically just “shuts up and listens!” I’m glad you posted this though, it helped me to understand how the person on the other side feels.

  • Cindi B


    Thank you for giving “us” a voice. My husband has struggled for decades with manic-depression, and has required invonutary inpatient treatment twice since we were married in 1995. He has much more difficulty with the depression aspect of the illness than mania. Most of the time, when on medication, he is a well functioning, productive, loving man. Occasionally he has periods of being a jerk. Is it just run of the mill jerk, or is he about to get truly crazy? Sometimes only time will tell. And I, too, often feel a little forgotten, as his illness garners most of our attention and energy when he is not well.

    Along the road of our marriage we have had two children. Very much on purpose, Patsy. In fact, the first child was conceived via IVF, so it was a very well planned and thought out choice to have children in the presence of this illness. I had doubts early on when we were trying to conceive the “old fashioned way.” I confided to a friend that I wasn’t sure that we should have children due to hubby’s illness (and potential for passing it along to the poor innocent kiddo). This beautiful human being then turned to me and said, “would you say the same thing if he had diabetes, or heart disease? Those are chronic illnesses, often with a genetic component, that have exacerbations and remissions and potential for noncomplince with treatment. Should all of those people not have children, too?” I am pretty sure that I started to cry on the spot.

    Compassion is a gift that costs us nothing. Thank you for sharing your gift. The best to you and yours.

  • Monica

    Thank you. Truly…thank you.

  • skye

    hello jon,

    neither my husband and i have a mental health problem, well, at least not a diagnosed one, but we do have other equally pressing marriage-health issues. i like the idea of tolerance and active involvement in each other’s well-being without giving up on your own sense of self.

    wonderful post.

    merry christmas.

    skye and husband

  • Amber

    From the bottom of my heart, Thank you.

  • Jill

    Just very simple – thank you very much for sharing. Thank you, thank you, thank you…

  • Baraka

    As someone who deals with an at times severe medical condition and often wonders how her partner deals with it all, I thank you for your openness and willingness to share.

    Best wishes,

  • Melanie

    Lovely post, Jon. Thank you for sharing. We deal with similar issues here at our house – sometimes, it just feels good to know I’m not alone out there.

    Patsy, my daughter hates her curly hair and green eyes she inherited from her father. Maybe I shouldn’t have had her. Piss off.

    Hugs to the entire Armstrong clan!

  • Belinda

    I’m late coming to this, but I would really like to recommend a source that many in a support group I belong to (for significant others of people with bipolar disorder) find extremely helpful: Dr. Xavier Amador’s book, “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help.” It is truly an amazing resource. Amador also has a video on Google Video that is really good, and free, that touches on these issues. Just Google his name.

  • Tina

    I have an aunt with bipolar disorder who has an amazing husband, just like Heather has in you. Thanks for the insight.

  • Nic

    My partner and I are both coping with our own chronic depression, as well as each others. It makes life a balancing act, and some would say it should make it easier to empathise with each other – and it does, to a dgree, but each person’s experience of depression is different.

    That said, you have expressed eloquently how I feel ofter, supporting my partner. And how often I feel that our depression is bigger than both of us – or would be, if we let it.

  • Patricia

    To 317, Melanie:
    “Patsy, my daughter hates her curly hair and green eyes she inherited from her father. Maybe I shouldn’t have had her. Piss off.”

    Shame on you for equating eye color with this disorder.

    As Jon and Heather seem to be such compassionate human beings, I can’t believe they would condone some of the thoughtless rudeness from other readers here.

    As I posted earlier, depression runs in my family and I have been suicidal a couple of times. I am insulted that some people here equate diabetes with depression.
    Unless you’ve ever been so low that you’ve tried to kill yourself, or so stressed and irritable in the throes of depression that you actually fear you could hurt another person (yes, even fatally!), how can you take such umbrage at Patsy’s comments?

    My father was a depressed, angry man throughout my childhood and young adulthood and it HURT me emotionally. Do I love my father? Of course. But his physical, verbal and emotional abuse has left all of his children emotionally scarred and dealing with the ramifications of those mood swings. Failed marriages, isolation, drug and alcohol abuse, inability to form intimate relationships… My sister, brothers and I are all bright and GOOD people. But our family is much more dysfunctional than most, and what we have gone through, (and what one of my brothers continues to go through) is disturbing and likely to have a tragic outcome no matter how much I try to help.

    Please, folks. Jon didn’t try to romanticize depression. Heather doesn’t romanticize it. I wish some other people here wouldn’t try to do that. It is a horrible disorder, one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And I’d take diabetes over it any day of the week. THERE IS NO COMPARISON.

  • sarah h

    Thank you for sharing your strategies with us. My boyfriend struggles with depression and anxiety, and it means alot to hear someone else’s ways of being supportive and staying afloat. Like you, I am someone who has been a “fixer” in relationships, wanting to make everything better. And realizing that I can’t change the depression has been a painful lesson to learn. The most difficult part for me is not knowing how the day will unfold, what to expect from one moment to the next, and what I should equip myself with emotionally when I get up in the morning. I think the best we can do is be kind to ourselves, especially when our partners are not able to be. Thank you for reminding me of that.

  • wn

    Like a broken record….thank you….simply and honestly.

    I’ve befriended (and even lived with) a few people who have suffered serious mental illness and often have found myself lacking in knowledge and understanding….I’ve tried…but often (I fear) not hard enough to simply “let go”, listen, and offer encouragement to get help.

    This post has been very beneficial to me (and obviously to others given the comments above) and I once again thank you (and Heather) for being honest and open with the world at large about such a difficult situation.

  • Amanda

    I would love to put “To the people out there who denigrate mental health awareness and treatment, I say this: You aren’t helping. You are making it worse.” on a billboard, because that’s the only way my husband would ever read it. After being told so many times to “get over it,” I’ve now programmed myself to not tell him when things are wrong, and then even after I had to be hospitalized (wrong cocktail mishap) he only “woke up” for about a month before he went back to saying “get over it.” Many people define a hero as someone who risks their lives in order to save someone elses…I believe you’re the hero for risking your sanity to save someone elses.

  • Ruth

    I think the point the “diabetes” people are trying to make is that you don’t put your life on hold, avoid getting pregnant, or have control over whether or not you are diagnosed with a brain disorder just the same as if you had diabetes. A person with depression just can’t allow their disease to take over their life, to dictate how they live, if they have kids, a family, a career. You cannot let yourself become your depression or you lose the battle.
    A person who suffers from a brain disorder deserves to have children just as much as anyone else on this earth. And it is nobody’s place to decide who gets kids and who doesn’t. We don’t get to make those choices. And if anyone is concerned with who gets the privelidge of having kids, maybe they should concern themselves with drug addicts having kids, teenagers having kids, women over 40 having kids-all these situations can be worse than someone with depression having kids.

    I have 3 kids and I’m bipolar. Sometimes life is harder for them than someone with a “normal” mother (as if that exists!) I grew up with an undiagnosed, unmedicated bipolar mother and an emotionally abusive father. Yeah, I’ve done therapy ad nauseum and I inherited bipolar from my mother but, those things made me who I am today. They made me realize that I am the holder of my future and I choose not to let the things of my childhood make me into someone undesirable or undeserving of the fullest life I can make for myself. I am the best mother and wife that I can be and my kids and husband are in it for the long haul…for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Period.

    Let me ask you this, Patricia (post 321), your father, being such an unstable person who made your life so hard, is your life so horrible that you wish you’d never been born? Would you rather he had not had you than you learn to live with whatever childhood he was able to offer you and whatever you may have inherited from him? Would you rather have never existed?

    Depression sucks. Moodswings suck. Instability sucks and the possibility that I’ve passed it onto one of my kids sucks. But I have never in my life wished I wasn’t born. I’ve wished I was dead but I’ve NEVER wished I wasn’t born. Give me 10 years or so and I’ll ask my kids if they wish I hadn’t had them, since my disease is just SO aweful that I shouldn’t have had kids. I’m betting you a pretty penny that they will say, as well, that they never wished they were never born.

    To end this book, (Sorry, Jon, i just don’t know when to shut up. lol) I just want to say that if it were not for my kids, I would be dead. Simple as that. My children are what keeps me alive when I am in the deepest depths of depression, standing in the bathroom at 2 a.m. trying to decide whether to live or die, it’s my kids that make me cry it out, climb back into bed, and go on with my life the next day. I guess it’s a good thing I had them, huh? Or maybe you all think I would be better off dead than being a mother? And, just in case some smartass wants to use that against me, NO, that is not the reason I had kids in the first place. It’s just a fringe benefit, I guess. :)

    P.S. Thanks, Jon. I showed this to my husband and last night when I was crying my eyes out over something seemingly trivial, he *gasp* SHUT UP AND LISTENED!!!

  • Melanie

    Patricia (321) my apologies – I didn’t intend to equate mental illness with hair color, only the fact that we have no control over whether or not we receive either in the genetic lottery, nor what we pass on to our children.

    I, too, have plenty of first-had experience with mental illness. I only intended to offer support to Jon and Heather, as I think they are pretty great people.

    My most humble apologies if my offbase humour came off as something else.

  • Scott Murdoch

    Let me add my thanks to the pile of comments here. Fantastic that you wrote this, it really is. Brave, insightful, and helpful to so many of us out here! I’ve already sent a link to my wife so that she can see, in our case, that I understand what she’s going through living with me, the guy who’s depressed.

    Thanks again Jon, sharing something personal like this is appreciated more than you know.


  • Marissa

    Hi. I found you through your wife’s blog who I just started reading on the recommendation of a friend.

    As somebody suffering from bi-polar disorder and a new mom reading this hit home. And I think it would with my husband too.

    Unlike Heather I am not brave enough to talk very openly about my struggles because I fear being judged. I tend to be good at putting on a good face to everybody except my husband. As a result he gets the brunt of my burden even more.

    But this may have pushed me one step closer.

    Thank you both very much!

  • http://yahoo Laura

    Thanks for your kind and thoughtful words. I can see my boyfriend in a different light after reading this.

  • Shannon

    Thank you Jon. My husband walks in similar shoes dealing with me and my anxiety and depression. This will help him. Thank you for this.

  • elle

    My husband is a lot like Heather and will be on medication for depression for the rest of his life.

    Thank you so much for writing about this. It really helps to know that there are other people dealing with the issue effectively. Heather is truly fortunate to have you in her life.


  • Laura

    I felt so many things reading this. Emotions jumped from sadness and despair over what this illness does to those who love us the whole way to hope that people like you and my fiance do exist….those who are willing to take this on. Those who don’t see us as a burden. I’m not always willing to admit that this disease (bipolar with schizophrenic tendencies, anxiety and panic disorders) is a part of who I am, but somehow he has always accepted it as part of the package. I read your post and wonder the same thing I wonder so often in my day to day life… can I put him through this? I appreciate your honesty in writing this. It has helped me to see his side.

  • Lauri

    I’ve been reading Dooce (and you, occasionally) for several years now, and have always thought that the relationship between you and Heather, and, my husband and I, is very similar. Now I’m convinced.

    My husband, Steven, is so much a ‘fixer’, and I am constantly reminding him that he can’t fix this…I just want him to hear me out to the end; and when he does, that helps just about more than anything. But then, throw in our 3 kids-one of which is Bipolar, also (our 10 year old son)and you’ve got one heck of a whacked out, crazy family! You can’t make this stuff up! However, we have managed to stay married and in love for 15 years now and, yes, it is hard work, but it’s worth it!

    Thanks for this entry…I hope it gets through to those who need it.

  • Ang in TX

    “Get over it” thats truly a strange thing to say to a loved one…doesn’t have much compassion or empathy, does it?

    I have loved ones who are diagnosed bi-polar,depressed or manic…Each of them are sensitive souls who became worn down with time and society…maybe, just maybe, they are so special that the world today is so hurtful to live in, it brings them to this state…

    Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or scientist, just an individual who believes mental illness is a man-made tag for not conforming to standards.

  • Heather Awsumb

    Wanted to add my thanks for the eloquent post. I’ve been deeply touched by it and by what Heather shares on her site. Thanks.

  • Kendra

    It is nice to know that there are guys out there willing to love someone who has depression. I started reading Dooce because I could relate to her so well with the ups and downs and hearing your side of the story really gives me faith that there are heterosexual males that understand we just want someone to listen. And you are correct in the fact that males are not the only ones who want to fix a situation. My mother tries to give me advice on how to feel “happier”. She had to learn to just listen (sometimes she still gives me advice because she is my mother and that will never stop).

    I always wondered how you handled the situation and I applaud you. Both of you are very lucky to have each other.

    Thank you for giving us who are still single hope.

  • LostHusband

    At what point does the piling on of meds become counter productive? When I look back at the years before my wife started bi-polar meds, she seemed more happy and stable than she has been on meds. She doesn’t see it that way. I do. The physical side effects only seem to exacerbate her depression, resulting in an endless cycle of ups and downs. I admit that when she is on the “up” cycle, she does seem to be her best self. But the tolling effect of the inevitable “down” cycles causes me to wonder if the meds are really worth continuing in any form. Her general instability, which I attrribute to the meds, has reached the point that I am more concerned about her physical well being than her mental state. I am truly at a loss.

  • Mell

    I knew you would understand what a day in my life was like. Unfortunately, my former spouse wasn’t as committed to being well as I was to him being well. I wish you luck. I couldn’t make it, I truly hope that you guys do.

  • liv

    i’ve read this post a number of times and keep coming back to it because i suffer from a low grade random setting in sort of depression and love more than one person who is consumed by it. reading you is like having a voice in the dark. i really appreciate your words, and the love that you have for your family amazes me. you’re a good man.

  • Emily

    Thank you for this, it gave me the courage to get my husband into treatment for his illness.

  • Swifty

    Outstanding. My husband will appreciate reading this. Thank you for sharing, and being so open. I struggle with depression, and have for years, but didn’t realize that’s what it was. It became my normal. I’m still in the process of finding out what works for me.

    Thank you again, for your candid words.

  • junglegirl

    Raw food diets have helped nearly everyone (very much including myself) who suffered from debilitating depression to reclaim their well-being; eliminating depression for as long as they remained on raw food. It is really a very helpful healing modality to consider.

  • Liz

    No one will ever write me but here is my take. Women even depressed women will still communicate more then men about their programs unless they are also a narcissist and or alcoholic.
    To live with a man who would lay in a bed for four to six days continually only getting up to go to the bathroom and eat is not normal. They need to see it is not normal. Add to this a spouse doing this and keeps to their own room, won’t work or do anything not even on a good day. Try having it be the one who holds all the money coming in and they refuse to pay the bills, refuse to move out, refuse to get help and everything is everyone elses problem.
    When their own kids will not come home even ( especially ) for a holiday because they destroy it all the time and they have no relationship at all with their spouse as if their spouse does not ecist it is time to find a court room. Imagine they are bi polar not just depressed and deal with that all month or add secret addictions to it because they refuse to take meds. This is a person you stop being compassionate for and stop listening because they don’t take anyway accept to say go away.
    Health problems also build up with this man he has blood clots in one leg, sleep apnea now and diabetes and eating like a horse up in the middle of the night he has gained tons of weight so it is more like some slow suiciide but mental health and his doctor say there is nothing you can do about ths person. Divorce them, they get half of everything and a manic will blow it all in a matter of months. When they also have a family history of this and no one tells you before marrying them it is too bad you can’t sue them for lying. This is a self centered person and I feel nothing for someone who is mentally ill like this doing nothing to care about anyone but themselves.

  • Tez

    Jon, thank you so much for this. I still have a lot to learn about myself and my girlfriend.

  • Andrew

    Very nice to read and it all sounds cozy.
    Were there ever times when it all felt too much? The “it’s all about me” side of the illness overwhelming?
    With three young kids (2,4 and 7) and being the only source of family income, I simply cannot get enough sleep to get through the next day. I simply cannot find ‘me’ time. I simply cannot exercise and eat properly to keep myself from spirally down the same slippery pole of depression as my SO. I’ve about had enough. What does one do, as a person living with someone with depression, when this stage is reached? I’m supposed to be the rational one who has it together! I fear this quality is slipping fast.