The Depression Diagnosis

Today’s story is not like one of my typical stories, which are meant to entertain, exaggerate, and cause a knowing smile to creep across your face. To the contrary, today’s story is very much a serious story about depression, the stigma surrounding it, and how actions impact others. 

If you or a loved one needs support, you can learn more from:

Popping the question

I remember it like it was yesterday. 

It was summer but it was also late enough in our northern prairie suburb that the 11 o’clock sunset had already happened. We were upstairs preparing for bed when I used verbal diarrhea to back into a question that had been on my mind for months; a question that would change everything in our relationship.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, and I don’t really know how to ask but I think I need to ask you a question,” I started, searching for the words as I committed myself to the difficult conversation.

“I’ve done a lot of reading on the internet,” I continued, “and I know that not everything you read on there is accurate or true, but I was reading from some sources linked in the Bell Let’s Talk mental health awareness campaign.”

I continued to belabor the introduction of my question instead of cutting to the chase. 

She, meanwhile, had her eyes gently locked on mine. 

Perhaps she was wondering where I was taking this conversation. Or, perhaps she already knew. But, I didn’t. So I continued my verbal diarrhea all over our bedroom walls as they listened intently to my every word, as they so often did.

Finally, after what felt like a 10-minute soliloquy about what I’d read and what I’d observed in her behavior throughout our entire relationship, I popped a terribly worded question: “Do you think you have depression?”

The wording and long-winded introduction aside, it was a question that changed everything in our relationship. More accurately, it was her – and then our – response to the question that changed our relationship.

She looked at me in silence.

It was deafening. The walls that had been eavesdropping on our late-night conversation felt like they were closing in.

Her blue eyes betrayed no emotion as she continued to look into mine.

Finally, she closed her eyes briefly. When she opened them, they looked as though they were made of glass. When the glass burst, tears started down her cheeks.

It was like Hoover Dam had shattered and years of pent up pressure was now bursting forth.

Ignorant bravado

It wasn’t until a few years ago I learned there are resources for people like me who support someone with depression. To my chagrin, I learned that among these resources were ways to approach the initial conversation.

When I discovered these my thoughts immediately ran to: “Where were you when I needed you?”

Regardless of how many resources are out there, the person with depression can only get help if they believe they need help. You can’t push them. The drive needs to come from within. 

However, you can learn to be supportive of them in words and actions to ensure they have a safe space to be in while they’re seeking the help they need and making any adjustments to their lifestyle.

Unfortunately, for my introverted wife, she had to live in a household – with me – that wasn’t conducive to having a healthy discussion about mental health. Hers, mine, anyones.

In the early days of our dating relationship and later our marriage, I wasn’t shy about sharing my opinion about mental health with my wife. Anxiety? Get over it. Anorexic? Eat something. Depression? Think happy thoughts.

Challenging topics like mental health were never on my radar growing up, nor were they as I matured into a young man in a serious relationship.

Challenging topics like mental health were never on my radar growing up, nor were they as I matured into a young man in a serious relationship. I had never given any deep thought to them nor learned about them. I was ignorant in the truest sense of the word. My opinions followed that ignorance.

Suffice to say, our house wasn’t the safest place for a conversation about depression.

Yet, I often wondered why my wife wasn’t ever motivated to do anything. Over time, I came to believe that my wife was lazy. Most people have lazy streaks; maybe she was just lazier than most.

Many years earlier, I had watched a close family member as they were treated for severe depression. It wasn’t until much later, as I began to wonder about my wife’s laziness, that I began to piece things together in my own mind. I became more curious about mental health.

Outwardly, I maintained my ignorant bravado. Yet, internally, I was spending time reflecting. I did a lot of research, learning, and soul searching. 

Eventually, I came to a realization: My wife had been displaying many signs pointing toward depression. 

Was she depressed? I didn’t know. Yet.

Following this realization, I softened my bravado. However, I also never brought up the topic either. I let it lie. I didn’t know how to bring it up.

I wondered if my wife even realized she had been exhibiting symptoms of depression all these years. Still, I didn’t dare ask because I was ill-equipped to deal with such a conversation and, despite my research, I didn’t know how to bring up the subject nor, if I did, how to help her.

The question, however, continued to linger in my mind until that late-night conversation that changed our relationship forever.

Living with depression together

Through glassy, tear-filled eyes, she responded to my long-winded question with a soft spoken, “I think so.”

The emotional dam had burst. She was sobbing. I was crying too.

Finally. Finally, she had a safe place where she could discuss what she later told me she had realized a few years before our conversation.

I can’t even imagine what she was feeling in those moments following the question. But I do know that – despite my verbal diarrhea – I could see a huge weight fall off of her.

In the following months, she and her doctor worked together to figure out a medication that would help her lift the fog of depression. She and I also discussed “spoon theory” as a way for us to be able to communicate in our relationship when she was having a particularly rough day, week, or month.

I understood what my role was in our relationship. She understood hers. And we started to make it work better than we ever had.

Now, it’s no longer her depression to manage on her own. It’s ours. Two are stronger than one. And our relationship is stronger for it.

Sharing depression with the world

It’s been exactly 5 years since my artist wife shared her depression diagnosis with the world in this blog post on her art website. And, every day since, I couldn’t be more proud of her. 

It takes incredible courage to be as vulnerable as she has been in wearing her depression diagnosis on her sleeve.

In the five years since sharing publicly, she has heard from many artists and other folks that her story had helped them in small or large ways with their own depression, mental health, or chronic illnesses.

In my own way, I hope today’s story might help those who are ignorant of depression or who are supporting someone with depression.

If you or a loved one needs support for depression or other mental health challenges, you can learn more from:

Read It Again


  1. Irene Scott

    Thank goodness more of us are becoming aware and talking about mental health. It is a very difficult problem that has treatments that work. Awesome you could share this difficult subject. Congratulations on taking the steps that have improved your relationship together. Hopefully it will encourage others to do the same

  2. Heather Seargeant

    Thank you so much for sharing.