Monday, February 9, 2009

How I Coped With My Husband’s Depression / Judy

If you suppose that the full-blown rapture of young romantic love is the sum of the possibilities which spring from the fountains of life, you have not yet lived to see the devotion and the comfort of longtime married love. Married couples are tried by temptation, misunderstandings, separation, financial problems, family crises, illness; and all the while love grows stronger, the mature love enjoys a bliss not even imagined by newlyweds. (Boyd K. Packer, Mine Errand from the Lord, pg 246-247)

how i coped with my husband’s depression

Woman’s Day, July 19, 1994, pgs 70 & 72.
By Judy Abbott

Three years ago, my husband and I faced the biggest challenge of our 26-year marriage: his descent into severe depression and anxiety.

Lloyd and I met at age 15, then married eight years later. During the next 18 years we had nine children and traveled the world with the military. Whatever we did—even a task as mundane as grocery shopping—was fun because we were together. His droll sense of humor kept me in stitches for years. In fact, my life was filled with so much laughter and affection that I never understood why people said you had to work at marriage.

when the laughter stopped

Then Lloyd resigned his military commission and began a new job. Soon after that, the laughter gradually stopped. Not only was the job physically and mentally draining, but Lloyd was also harassed, belittled and constantly threatened with termination. He looked for another job but found nothing that paid enough to cover our expenses. He began to resent our large family (we still had six kids between the ages of 6 and 19 at home).  The cost of supporting so many people made him feel trapped.

The longer he had the job, the more morose he became. One of the kids said, “it’s like a dark cloud is following Dad around.” In fact, Lloyd frowned so fiercely that all talk and laughter dried up whenever he entered a room. Once, when our daughter called from college, he said, “you’ll have to come home because we’re bankrupt.” We weren’t, but that was his bleak view of the world at the time. I knew my husband was troubled, but I simply didn’t know how to help him.

When Lloyd began to have physical symptoms, I grew even more worried. Occasionally I’d see him clutch his stomach and double over, “I feel like I’m being crushed to death,” he said.

Then the insomnia began. Lloyd awoke between 1 and 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. He was so exhausted that his work suffered. His long commute—an hour each way—put him in additional peril. Sometimes he fell asleep at the wheel and drove off the road. Once he even drifted into the path of an 18-wheeler, where he was awakened by the blast of its air horn.


One of Lloyd’s friends at work was a doctor who’d watched his deterioration with concern. When Lloyd walked into the doctor’s office and announced, “I can’t go on any longer; I just want to put my head down and howl,” his friend called me. We arranged for my husband to be admitted into the hospital immediately.

I left Lloyd behind the locked door of a psychiatric ward and made it to the parking lot before the tears started. I sat in the car, put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed. I was overwhelmed with grief, but I was also hopeful that at last someone might be able to help us.

Lloyd’s treatment included a combination of drug therapy, group therapy and daily consultation with a psychiatrist. Lloyd’s condition was diagnosed as “situational depression,” caused by his stressful job. Fortunately, that’s easier to treat than other forms of depressive illness, and his prognosis for recovery was excellent.

focus on the happiness of our lives

I felt so bad for Lloyd that tears welled up whenever I thought of him. I wasn't any good for anybody then, so I tried to push him from my mind. I needed all my strength to keep the family together and see to the children’s needs. Our 6-year-old had already pulled the hair out of his eyebrows, and the others were hurting too. To help everyone, I suggested we try to focus on the happiness in our lives. Together we laughed, watched our favorite videos and took pleasure in the spring flowers. I also pampered myself with bubble baths and other small treats.

Most of all, I tried not to think about Lloyd. It seemed callous, and I felt guilty at times, but it was necessary for my own sanity. I’d force myself to think about a movie I'd seen or I'd daydream about redecorating the house. When all else failed, I even recited the multiplication tables. I wasn't always successful, but I did learn to control almost all of my thoughts.

Lloyd was hospitalized for three weeks, and I spent two hours with him every night. During one visit, he suffered a severe panic attack. He became pale and sweaty, his voice quavered and his whole body clenched. I patted him gently and told him how I’d managed pain during childbirth. When the nurse came in, we were sitting side by side on his bed doing Lamaze breathing techniques.


After his release from the hospital, Lloyd continued taking antidepressant drugs and attended weekly counseling sessions for six months. For another four months he had monthly counseling, while gradually cutting down on medication. Today—three years later—he neither sees a counselor nor takes any antidepressant drugs.

We're still struggling, though. Lloyd did lose the job that caused him so much grief. While trying to recover, he had to look for and learn a new entry-level job. I was forced to go to work for the first time since our children were born. It was a big adjustment for everyone, and even with two salaries, our income is little over half what it used to be.

Despite these setbacks, Lloyd and I learned that our love and commitment to each other are strong and solid. I watched him face his personal hell and appreciated the courage it took for him overcome it. He says I was his savior—always supportive and loving and never critical. I feel like I've fallen in love with all over again.

lloyd’s comment:  Judy is my friend and rescuer, no doubt about it.  But I had to bottom out and be on a psychiatric ward before I'd let her in close enough to help.

Guys, don't be so foolish as I was. You who kneeled at altars across from your sweethearts jointly made priesthood covenants that affect you together and individually. Don’t fail to recognize the robes of the priesthood that your wives wear. They have great power granted to them that greatly bless their husband’s lives when husbands are humble enough and wise enough to accept their exratraordinary influence.


  1. Wow, Judy, this is an amazing article. Hard to imagine Lloyd going through this. I can't even picture him NOT laughing. I suggested a friend of mine (going thru something similar) read this. I think it will give her hope. Thanks for sharing it.


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