Here's How Husband Supported His Wife While Battling With Severe Depression
Tim Coghlan tells how he supported his wife while she was battling with severe depression. He hopes that their story would inspire other people on World Mental Health Day, which falls on Wednesday, October 10.
Coghlan is married to writer and social entrepreneur Enoch Li, who suffered from severe depression, as per the South China Morning Post. In 2008, the couple met in Tokyo, and then they decided to move to Beijing as Li had been offered a new job there.
Days after they moved, she experienced her first migraine. At first, the couple assumed it was only due to culture shock, stress, and other environmental factors - including poor air quality.
However, her headache persisted until the autumn season, so they decided to consult several specialists. She started to manifest other symptoms such as claustrophobia, tunnel vision, frequent colds, vertigo, dizziness, and nausea. In 2009, doctors were able to diagnose Li wherein she was suffering from a major depressive disorder.
"Getting the diagnosis was a relief," Coghlan said while recalling those times. "I felt we could finally start to treat the illness properly. I did not have any problems with her having depression - for me it was just a sickness like having the flu."
But, caring for a depressed person could be challenging than expected. Li could not get out of the bed, and she started to have mood swings then would suddenly burst into tears.
"I tried to say the right things, but it hardly ever helped. Then I would get frustrated and sometimes lose my temper and become angry. I'm a positive person and the worst part of all for me was that Enoch would bring my mood down," Coghlan says. "I would get up and be excited about the day ahead - but she just wanted to die. This was very hard for me to reconcile."
Coghlan had a new job two months after his wife was diagnosed. He said caring for his wife while focusing on his career was very difficult. He had to leave his meetings and events earlier, missed a flight or important business meeting because his wife needed him to go home.
Li also had suicidal thoughts, which made an impact on Coghlan's life as well. He makes sure Li would only have one access to sleeping pills per day. He hid all scissors, razor blades, and knives. When he came home one day, he found his wife sitting on the windowsill, so he had to install locks on all the windows of their sixth-floor apartment.
"It was like child-proofing our home, although we had no children at the time," he says.
Eventually, Li got better. She started to have a positive outlook and she turned her career and life around by talking about burnout and depression to help other people suffering from the same condition. However, she had relapses. Her first one was in 2013, and when they had their daughter back in 2014 - she suffered postnatal anxiety.
Coghlan becomes a father for the first time which changed his life, while Li started to struggle and her suicidal thoughts resurfaced once again. Throughout the relapses that followed, the couple finally accepted the emotional ups and downs in life, and they began to better deal with them.
"As a partner and primary carer, you have to accept that depression may be part of your life forever. But people tend to see it only as a sad thing. We tend to be afraid of negative emotions and I think that is wrong. If you get professional help, that will provide you with the right tools so that you are better prepared and resilient," he said.
Coghlan realized that caring his depressed wife gave him a sense of responsibility, which ultimately helped him grow up. After being a stay-at-home dad and blogger under the name "Kangaroo Daddy," he is now re-embarking on his career facilitating cross-border business dealing between China, as well as other countries.
Meanwhile, Li, who is a speaker and a published writer, used her experiences by founding "Bearapy" to help reduce workplace burnout through the psychology of playfulness. Her newest book - Stress In the City: Playing My Way Out of Depression - was recently released in the United States and the United Kingdom, and is available in bookstores in China and Hong Kong.