My Strong Black Male Husband Has Depression
I am one of the lucky ones (or so it seems), I was fortunate to meet my husband in college. We were both chemical engineering students at Georgia Institute of Technology, and had all the potential to be a well-educated power couple! I’ll never forget when I laid eyes on my husband fall 2007 — I was a transfer student from Clark Atlanta University as part of the Dual Degree Engineering Program. He was tall, peanut butter complexion, with a nice lean build, and a chemical engineering student! I thought to myself “mmm he’s kind of cute annnndddd smart!” Apparently, he felt the same way, because we were an official item on campus before the end of the semester.
The relationship started off great; he had just finished pledging his fraternity (something he had always wanted to do), so as you can imagine, he was in good spirits. We spent our days in classes and our evenings studying and getting to know each other. He was a breath of fresh air as I had just gotten out of a pretty bad breakup. Unfortunately, the new love began to wear off after a few months. I knew something wasn’t right with him; I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
I remember watching him not take a bath for days at a time; his hair began to fall out in patches, and it was a struggle to get him to part from his dingy t-shirts and ragged pants. I thought all of these were symptoms of being an engineering student at Georgia Tech, so I didn’t look too deep into them. He missed celebrating my birthdays and our anniversaries; I also had the hardest time getting him to celebrate his own birthday. Feeling my frustration, he attempted to make up for by celebrating my missed birthdays and Valentines Day on one day (which was very sweet by the way). All of this was unusual for me because every other guy I ever dated enjoyed celebrating holidays and birthdays and would go all out for me.
As the years would go by, I would often get sad when my birthday, or our anniversary, valentines day, etc. would come up, because I knew we wouldn’t celebrate the way I desired, or even at all. I loved him so much that I was willing to forgo celebrating significant milestones and dates. I began to believe that this was who he is, that this was how it was going to be.
When I would introduce him to my family and friends, he’d shrink down in his own little corner, struggling to find the right words. I’d glance over at him, and I could tell that he was uncomfortable and wanted to leave asap. Later, I’d get a call or text from my friend/family asking what was wrong with him, was he okay, etc. I concluded that he was an introvert and that was who he was.
We got married after four years of dating — and had a long distance relationship for the entire first year of our marriage. Weekend road trips were the norm, and we’d meet up in Savannah, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Charlotte, and spend a few days together before returning to individual homes. Every weekend we’d meet, I would enjoy his company, but still, something was off. I thought getting married would light the spark that was missing from our relationship, but it didn’t, it felt like I was visiting my homeboy that I had an intimate relationship with. I would desperately try to pull more emotion, more feeling, more depth, out of him, but would often come up short. I figured this was all because we were living apart and we were both stressed and tired from the constant road trips.
In 2012 our prayers were answered, and we both were able to relocate to the Atlanta, GA metro — he got a promotion and a new job, I started a tech company and got a new job. Life was great! Shortly after moving to Georgia we bought a new home and had more money than we could spend (our dual income put us in one of the top income tax brackets). My husband was now happier, we had money to do what we wanted, and I was living my dream — we finally fixed what was wrong (or so I thought). We lived a seemingly good life. I say this because I worked two jobs — my tech startup, and my day job, and I was hardly at home to even notice or care what my husband was dealing with. I’d leave the house at 6 AM and come home at 11 PM every night.
Our life took an interesting turn when we welcomed our first child into the world. I saw my husband slowly began to break down again. He became distant, angry, frustrated, and all around unpleasant. I became responsible for everything, the cooking, the cleaning, and taking care of our newborn. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I was still a co-founder of a tech startup too! I was resentful and angry, as I battled post-partum depression through it all. I never fully recovered after birthing my child, simply because I didn’t have time to recover — I had to make sure I didn’t fall apart for the sake of our daughter.
My husband started searching for his happiness and came up with several reasons why he was experiencing a breakdown. He thought it was because my startup wasn’t making money (I had left my day job at this point) and our finances were suffering significantly, he hated the commute and working at his job, our house was too big to maintain, he didn’t enjoy living in the suburbs, and much more.
We began to make several life-changing moves to help him find his happiness — uprooting our lives by selling our house, moving several times, him changing jobs, me stepping down from leadership at my startup, starting a new company, downsizing our home, buying frivolous items, and a whole host of other things. I wanted my husband to be happy, so I obliged. None of it worked. In fact, my husband got worse. He would go several days without bathing or shaving. He dressed like a bum and would show up to work late every day. Bill late fee notices would appear in our mailbox, and payments would be missed (he handled all of the money).
Our turning point was in 2016 when we were pregnant with our second child. I became fearful that he would get even worse, and after finding out that several of his immediate family members suffered from mental illness, I demanded that he see a therapist. I would ask him daily to make an appointment with a therapist, but he kept putting it off. One day my prayers were answered, after getting demoted from his job, he decided it was now time to get professional help. His diagnosis came at no surprise — he was indeed depressed, and he suffered from chronic depression called dysthymia. It was also discovered that he’d been depressed pretty much most of his life — the entire time we have been together.
He started going to therapy to get help with his diagnoses. A few short months later, the unimaginable happens three weeks after giving birth to our son — he gets fired from his job (due to poor performance because he’s depressed) and ultimately lost our insurance. Here I am with a depressed husband, two small children (a 2-year-old and a newborn), and no income/insurance. This is a wife of a depressed husband/breadwinners worst nightmare! I knew that I only had one option left, and that was to pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I prayed like I never prayed before. I asked God for healing, for the grace to deal with my husband, and for our situation to turn around quickly.
I watched my husband reach his lowest point, the depression cost him his job, and almost his marriage. There were many times he’d say to me, just leave, quit; you don’t have to be here! I would tell him, no we made a vow, till death do us part, but honestly, I began to consider it. When those thoughts would slip into my mind, I would pray. I wasn’t going to let the depression win.
In addition to praying our way through it, we joined a local church and got involved, and ramped up our financial giving. He also discovered that chemical engineering isn’t his passion and decided to pursue a career as a data scientist. He and his friend cofounded a small community to help black men discuss mental illness. He also learned his triggers and asked me to take over when the depression would overtake him. I would have to take care of our entire household, from kids to chores, to managing my physical, emotional needs as his wife. Slowly I have begun to see improvements.
Right now, we are moving in the right direction — he is working as a data analyst now, and taking classes to become a data scientist. We still don’t have insurance, so therapy isn’t an option yet. He still gets frustrated and has a hard time managing everything, but he’s better, much, much, better. I still cover him in prayer every single day, and I know soon, very soon, he will be fully healed from depression. I took a vow — till death do us part, not till depression do us part. I am committed to seeing him through this illness.
Author Chanel Martin is a certified Life Purpose Coach and Brand & Media Exposure Coach. She helps entrepreneurs turn their purpose into profit and get brand exposure. A co-founder of two hair care companies, her brands have gained national exposure with media outlets such as MSNBC, Forbes, Essence, Ebony, BET, Business Insider, The Real, and more. Chanel also teaches companies how to raise funding for their small business or non-profit. You can learn more about her by visiting her website: www.chanelemartin.com.