The following are quotes from various sources on the subject of Mental Health and Physical Health and how they affect marriages. We pray that these quotes will minister to your situation and give you added clarity and help.
• When we exchange wedding vows, we are usually the picture of health. The husband-to-be looks into the face of his bride and sees the radiant glow of vigor and energy. But we are mortal and fragile, and even the young become ill. When this happens, too often we can identify with David in his discouragement: “My friends and companions stood aloof from my plague, and my kinsmen stand afar off“ (Psalm 38:11, RSV). Sadly, not only our kinsfolk keep their distance. Sometimes our spouses are not there for us either. (John Robert Throop, contributing author to the book, “Husbands and Wives”)
• Illness —especially when it is chronic —taxes marriage. Why? For one thing, an illness creates a deep dependence of one spouse on the other. The sick spouse simply can’t do the things he or she used to do effortlessly. The relationship changes: now the care-giving and serving goes mostly in one direction, whereas it formerly was mutual. Sickness also brings out selfishness even in people who are spiritually deep. When you’re sick, you must employ all your resources in getting well. The focus is on yourself and your needs. Or if a child is the ill member of the family, all caring goes to that child and the marriage is put on hold. Finally, if your spouse suffers, it may be too much for you to handle emotionally. For men especially, the vulnerability revealed by pain and suffering is nothing short of overwhelming. In our culture, men have been encouraged to keep feelings hidden, and this can be unbearable if part of the “one flesh” is hurting.
The situation is even more complex if the illness is mental, not physical. Jill suffered from acute depression. Because her problems were due to chemical imbalances in the brain, her moods were very hard for her to control. Bob did his best to keep focused on his work, on caring for the two children, and on looking after his wife’s needs when she was not hospitalized. The strain and pain was written all over his face. “At least when there’s a physical problem, like cancer or heart disease, you have an idea of what life will be like,” said Bob. “But in mental illness, I never know what to expect when I get home from work. And I never know what will be expected. (John Robert Throop, contributing author to the book, “Husbands and Wives”)
• Why art thou cast down, o my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. (Psalm 42:11 KJV)
• Worry is an intriguing problem from a clinical point of view. We all have an inherent tendency to anticipate or prepare for future events by thinking about them in advance. We use thoughts and images to help us either understand or solve our problems. But worry is more than just thinking about things; it seems to take on a life of its own. It becomes an “enemy within,” distracting us from our work with its relentless flow of bothersome thoughts. While it may fool us into thinking that it is directed at solving problems, it never delivers the goods. We never get closure on anything we worry about.
One research group defined worry as “a chain of negative and relatively uncontrollable thoughts and images.” Another person described worry as “interest paid in advance on a debt you may never owe,” a description that probably captures it best of all. Most worry focuses on the future (what will happen tomorrow, next week, or next year), but a lot of it focuses on the past.
…What are some of the consequences of worry? Misery, certainly, but there are many other consequences as well: headaches, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, overeating, lower tolerance of frustration, irritability, and bad disposition. There is even some suggestion that worry creates high blood pressure, heart disease, and ulcers. While there is no hard evidence yet, worry is even suspected to be an aggravating factor in cancer. (Dr Archibald Hart, from the book, “The Anxiety Cure”)
• Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
• Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable —if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me —put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)
• A string of significant losses can damage mental health. Death of parents or children, loss of a job, financial reversals, and serious medical problems —all can contribute to a major psychological crisis that builds over time. Sometimes certain stressors, such as marital tensions, resurrect old traumas like the divorce of a husband’s parents when he was a boy. This could trigger unrecognized fears of abandonment by a spouse, leading the husband to over-react and obsess over his wife’s whereabouts. Anniversary dates marking old wounds or tragedies can also spark reactions that could benefit from therapeutic intervention.
But what if your spouse has little or no insight into his or her feelings and behaviors? What if he or she rejects the idea of counseling? You might begin by suggesting that your spouse see your family physician for a thorough physical and possibly lab tests. This is often less threatening than pushing the notion of therapy, which can result in protests like, “You think I’m crazy!” and “You think I need a shrink!” Such an approach is also valuable in ruling out other possible causes for symptoms. Diabetics and those suffering from thyroid disorders may also experience mood swings, for example. Elderly people who seem to be rapidly declining into dementia may be suffering from an undiagnosed urinary tract infection.
In addition, a physician knowledgeable about psychiatric disorders may be able to convince a defensive spouse that he or she does indeed need psychological help. The doctor can then make an appropriate referral (Phillip J. Swihart, a contributing author to the book, “The First Five Years of Marriage”)
• What most people associate with depression is a feeling of gloom or sadness, but there is a much more important set of symptoms to keep in mind: depression is usually accompanied by a “slowing down” of the body. A profound lethargy or fatigue is probably a more important signal that you have succumbed to depression than whether or not you feel profoundly sad. The more pronounced the fatigue, the more serious is your depression. (Dr Archibald Hart, from article titled, “Depression” posted on Family.org)
• Encouraging your mate to “snap out” of depression rarely does any good. Depressed people often want to rid themselves of the symptoms, but often the despair, exhaustion, fear, immobilizing apathy, hopelessness, and inner desperation remain, despite their desires to change or frequent prayers for divine liberation. King David, the man after God’s own heart, struggled more than once with depression. Psalms 69, 88, 102, and especially 43, record his desperation. Many other Bible figures struggled with depression and so have generations of people since, both believers and nonbelievers. The causes of depression are complex and differ from person to person. (Gary and Julie Collins, contributing authors to the book, “Husbands and Wives”)
• I grew up in Africa and know many places that do not have electric light. Candles or oil can be expensive. So, with the onset of darkness comes rest, initially, and later, sleep. I would suggest to you that this is a healthier pattern of life than the lifestyle we have created by extending the lighted hours, often with light as bright as the sun. What is the effect of this increased daylight? Increased stress and depleted tranquilizers. What is the solution? We must build back into our lives some of the rest time that has been taken away from us. Don’t misread me. I’m only saying that some of the rest time needs to be reclaimed, especially if we are suffering from anxiety or stress problems. (Dr Archibald Hart, from the book, “The Anxiety Cure”)
• Stigmas and misconceptions often prevent those with depressive illnesses (which often include anxiety and panic) from getting treatment. For some, words like mental illness and therapy still evoke images of patients in strait jackets or neurotic movie characters with phobias of germs, elevators and their shadows. In reality, depression can be much less obvious. Even so, it still debilitates and destroys its victims if left untreated. (Carolyn MacInnes, from article “How to Help When Your Spouse is Depressed” posted on Family.org)
• An interesting point about panic attacks: A fairly high percentage of attacks (61 percent) come while going to sleep. Quite a few occur during sleep and wake the sufferer. Since these patterns are quite common, let me comment on them. Why would a panic attack occur when you are relaxing or sleeping? It is a well-known fact that most stress symptoms don’t appear when you are at the height of your stressful situation. Take tension headaches, for example. They don’t attack while you are intensely preoccupied with some deadline and rushing to finish up a project. Tension headaches strike after the project is over, or more commonly, as you leave the office to go home, drive home, or sit down to unwind. This is how adrenaline works. During the emergency, adrenaline protects us from pain or stress discomfort. Only after adrenaline has done its job does it demand its penalty. (Dr Archibald Hart, from the book, “The Anxiety Cure”)
• What Can You Do To Prevent Panic Attacks? Good preparation. After a stressful situation, allow yourself plenty of time to “unwind,” and do your unwinding slowly. In other words, avoid a sudden drop in adrenaline. For instance, when you first get home from work, don’t go and crash in front of the television. Take a little walk. Enjoy the slow wind-down. Smell the flowers. Attend to “unfinished business” in your thinking. Do a “mental wash” and clean out any unresolved resentment, anger, or disappointments. Let go of stuff that is not really your responsibility. Listen to the birds. Then go home and putter around for a while. Then sit and read. Finally, relax completely. Such a slow wind-down pattern can avoid the sudden drop in adrenaline that seems to precipitate the onset of the more serious stress symptoms. (Dr Archibald Hart, from the book, “The Anxiety Cure”)
• Bi-polars have a higher suicide rate than others. This means two things. First, what you’re doing is important for your loved one. Someday you might actually be saving his life, so please be vigilant and serious about your responsibilities to him. It also means that one day your loved one might take his own life. It’s a horrible thing to contemplate, and we suggest you not dwell on it at all. Instead, dwell on the positive.
But since suicide is a real possibility, there is one thing we want you to keep in mind: you cannot keep anyone alive but yourself. You may do all the right things, be there every time he needs you, say all the things you believe to be supportive, and he might still commit suicide. If he does, grieve his loss— grieve it deeply— and shed equally deep and cleansing tears as you let out your sadness. But do not hang on to it and do not let destructive feelings of guilt and shame take over. It was not your responsibility to keep your loved one alive. That was between him and God. No one else. You only agreed to love him and “speak the truth in love” to him. That’s all. (From the book, “Mastering Your Moods” by Meier, Arterburn, and Minirth)
• During the recovery stages from a mood episode [with your spouse where they are debilitated for a period of time], try to have realistic expectations. Your loved one will probably not be able to go to work full-time right away. He or she may have to increase the workload gradually. On the other hand, don’t expect him to be an invalid, either. He just had a difficult experience, but not a permanently debilitating one. There is no need to be overprotective. Do things with your loved one, not for him. And most important, unless he is in an acute episode, do not make decisions for him. He needs the self-respect that comes from as much self-reliance as is reasonable and possible. When he is recovering from an episode, treat him normally. Remember, we all have good days and bad days. And even though you want to be on the lookout for recurrence, don’t over-interpret every good day as hypo-manic and every bad one as a depression. (From the book, “Mastering Your Moods” by Meier, Arterburn, and Minirth)
• Maybe you had hopes of being a “traditional” family in which the husband is the sole provider and the wife and mother is home full time —only to see a medical crisis change all that. This challenges your faith as well as your marital commitment. Your response as a couple will depend on your willingness to give up your expectations. When Jane was forced to fact the prospect that Al would never return to work, and that she’d have to get a more stressful job to help support their family, she relinquished her dream. She demonstrated not just obedience to her marital vows, but loyalty to the man she married. …Part of what helps couples get through medical crises is the ability to ask, “In the midst of all that’s happened, what can we be truly grateful for?” (Lon Adams, contributing author for the book, “The First Five Years of Marriage”)
• Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
• From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. (Psalm 61:2-3)
• You may have to be very flexible in adjusting to the changes that medical crisis brings. You may have to learn new skills, from using hypodermic needles to trusting God in ways you’ve never had to before. Jane, for example, had never considered herself a career woman. But maintaining her faith in God’s ability to provide for her family, she accepted the night hospital job and persevered in it. Rod and Ben had to “go with the flow,” too. They modified their expectations of their wives, and of themselves, and accepting the fact that a medical crisis requires compromise and sacrifice for the sake of the patient and other family members. (Lon Adams, contributing author for the book, “The First Five Years of Marriage”)
• Maintain a source of help for yourself. Help for yourself could come in a variety of forms: a supportive pastor, a close friend (one who can keep confidences and is of the same sex), a favorite activity outside the home, anything that will help give you equilibrium and a reference point. Maintaining your own devotional time with the Lord will prove very helpful too. (Gary D. Bennett, contributing author of the book, “Husbands and Wives”)
• Sometimes”sickness” can be the most “healthy” place to be if God is present, because He can change us there. (Myrna Pugh, contributing author of the book, “For Better, For Worse”)
• But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalm 73:28)
• I have come to understand that the vow to be faithful in sickness and in health is there not only to remind us to “hang in there” when the going gets rough, but also to remind us that by God’s grace we have health, and equally by His grace we can stay together bearing the burden of illness. It is possible in sickness to grow more deeply in service and humility and to recognize our mutual dependence not only on one another, but also on god. Illness is an opportunity for ministry far more often than merely an occasion for misery. (John Robert Throop, contributing author to the book, “Husbands and Wives”)
• Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:10)
• If you use the physical and emotional stresses of the climacteric years to understand and love each other more, you will have the joy of knowing that together you have won another battle. You can look forward to many peaceful, productive years to come. Together you can claim God’s promise to be with you through all the stages of life. “Listen to Me … you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs … I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you“ (Isaiah 46:3-4). (Jim and Sally Conway, contributing authors to the book, “Husbands and Wives”)
• “Someone has said that none of us can carry a lifetimes’ burden, but we can each carry this hour’s worth. “Your strength will equal your days“ (Deuteronomy 33:25).
O Lord, You alone are my strength. Pick me up when I collapse. Comfort me in pain. Carry me in weakness. Infuse me with Your power to go on. Thank You for staying close. Amen.
(Jana Carman, contributing author for the book, “For Better, For Worse”)