In antidepressant ads, if there’s a family member in the frame, he or she is a helpless spectator looking on. As the author relates, the scene is all too accurate.
Arthur E. Giron
These days, you can scarcely watch TV without seeing an ad for an antidepressant. They all seem to be shot from the same script: dimly lit room, unkempt actor. Cue the dolorous music. If there’s a family member in the frame, he or she is a helpless spectator looking on.
The scene is all too accurate. My husband is clinically depressed, and for more than a decade, I’ve been the onlooker. If he’d had any other disease, I would have sat in the doctor’s office beside him when the diagnosis was made and treatment plans were discussed. But depression is different. It’s a lonely, anonymous battle—so much so that I can’t use my real name here for fear of violating my husband’s privacy.
My husband’s depression was first diagnosed 13 years ago. A salesperson for a tobacco company, he was the proverbial glad-hander: ready with a joke, asking after his customers’ families. But at home he was a different man. He spoke to me in grunts, if at all. His penchant for a beer after work escalated into a full-blown drinking problem. Soon I started to ask myself why I was in the marriage at all. We went to a counselor, who suspected, quite rightly, that something else was wrong and referred my husband to a psychiatrist.
I felt, as Walt Whitman wrote, “both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.” My husband came home with a prescription for Paxil, which he said would take about two weeks to “activate.” I wish his psychiatrist had bothered to prepare me for what that meant.One sunny Saturday morning, I returned from the grocery store to find my husband pacing the living room, wild-eyed, fists clenched and teeth gnashing. “Oh my God, I can’t settle down,” he said. I was terrified. The dosage was tapered back, and after a day or so, my husband returned to normal—whatever that was.