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November 2, 2016

My Husband Is Depressed and Won't Get Help

Hey, Bonita…

My husband of 15 years is struggling with depression. Over the past two years, I've watched him get worse and worse. He's angry all the time, doesn't eat at times and definitely doesn't want to have sex or do anything physical. Everything gets on his nerves except a small handful of things. He worries constantly about money and his job.

I love him, and I understand mental illness, but the problem is he won't get any help for this. He refuses to go see his primary care about it and won't go to counseling with me or by himself. He doesn't have the energy to exercise. I want to support him, but I can't keep living with him in this state. I tell him that, and he tells me to move out. Then I start to do it, and he apologizes and begs me not to go, makes promises to talk to the doctor or whatever, but doesn't follow through. I don't know what to do anymore.

My heart goes out to your husband, because I've dealt with depression and anxiety myself for years. I know what it's like to hate your job and your life and to have someone close to you watch you unravel. I'm medicated, and I also do talk therapy when I can afford it, and it's made a huge difference in my relationships, self-image and quality of life. Your husband's stuck in some kind of rut that he feels powerless to change, and unfortunately, he seems to be taking out his anger and frustrations on you. I mean, what else do you call it when he tells you to buzz off for asking him to help himself?

He probably does care about you to some degree, but it sounds like he's in a place where he can't care about much at all. The money/job issue is a huge red flag here. It sounds like he probably hates his job, and that hatred is exacerbated by the fact that it’s not paying him enough. Add to that an inability to find new work or get promoted, and you've got one angry man who feels weak and exploited. If money's so tight that quitting isn't even an option, it can be enough to make you cry.

Your husband needs to take your advice. He needs to talk to his doctor and get medicated, or he could lose you, and I wonder if he has any other friends around. Then again, he acts like he doesn't care about you until he actually sees you walking away, and I don't like that at all. That's cruel of him and shows a serious lack of respect for you and your feelings. He's just pushing you away when you're trying to help.

That's his depression talking, but that doesn't make it acceptable. I know he's dealing with mental illness right now, but I don't feel that you should subject yourself to that kind of emotional abuse and mistreatment from your husband.

Here's an idea: Follow through on your ultimatum. Don't back down. Yeah, sure, he'll beg to you stay. You know he'll do that already, so continue to move out. I believe the reason he's not taking action is because he has yet to lose anything tangible because of his depression. He's unhappy, but he's comfortable with his bad job and joyless marriage. He needs a reminder that you have a right to happiness and love, too, and he's not helping you feel either of those things.

Happiness doesn't fall in our laps. Sometimes we have to make it for ourselves, and that includes loving ourselves so we can better love others. Go on Craigslist and get a sublet, or find a fun homegirl to crash with. Make your return to the home conditional (for example, you'll come back when he shows you his Fluoxetine prescription). I believe your marriage has a future, but your husband needs to take his health seriously in order to keep it intact. Don't back down.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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