My partner suffered for years… but I had no idea until now 16



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I thought I knew my partner inside out, but know I realise I don’t. Some of his inner-most feelings he has kept to himself – not because he’s dishonest, but he wants to protect me. And I now know he’s not alone.

The world as I knew it changed after sports commentator Mike Gibson’s long-time unsuccessful battle with depression was made public recently.

“How are you? Are you really okay?” I asked my partner after hearing the news of Gibson’s death.

I expected a “Yes, of course I’m fine,” but that’s not what happened.

He paused for a few seconds and then said, “No, I’m not. I suffer from depression.”

I was totally taken aback. We have been together only five years, but I thought I’d know something like that. I didn’t. It turned out that my now-63-year-old partner had been suffering from depression on and off for the past 30 years and had seen a counsellor about it multiple times, including recently. It turned out he was on anti-depressant medication.

My partner had done a brilliant acting job of covering up his depression. Whenever we went out anywhere he was the life and soul of the party. If anyone looked like they were enjoying themselves, it was him. He’d be so animated and involved in what was going on, that you had to drag him away. In fact, at one function he stayed so long talking that the waiters removed the table in front of him.

When he told me about his depression, his over-the-top gayness that had so frustrated me at times made sense. He was overcompensating for his feelings of depression. A sort of “if I act happy, I’ll be happy” approach.

Since then, I have tried to be as supportive as I can. I think hard about what I say to him. I try to look at everything he says in the best possible light. I don’t snap when he does something I consider silly.

I remind myself of how much I love him and how precious every moment we have left on this planet is.

His confession also made me wonder how the other men I know are – how they really are.

I looked up a friend from way back who was a fairly solitary person. I hadn’t spoken to him in a couple of years. It turned out he had been forced to give up work because of a medical condition and in between his bright quips I could see he was really hurting. I let him know how much his friendship meant to me and have tried to stay in regular touch since then.

Talking to another baby boomer girlfriend, I told her of my experience with my partner. It turned out her partner too had been suffering from depression since he retired earlier that year. It appeared the job that he thought was so boring and was so keen to leave, actually played an important part in anchoring his life. He had told her about it, but had hidden it from the rest of his friends. He and my partner got on well, so I asked my partner to touch base with him and be as supportive as possible. Maybe they could help each other, I thought.

I also found another female friend had been unable to shake her feelings of grief after losing her partner two years ago.

Before you start thinking that everyone I know is depressed, they’re not. Many others were totally fine, or at least said they were fine.

However, my experience with the friends I have mentioned shows that depression can strike anyone, anywhere. Men might tend to hide it better because they don’t want to own up to anything that goes against the image of being a “manly” man, but they are just as prone to it as we women are, if not more.

And I got the impression that those friends who did level with me about their inner-most feelings got a tremendous sense of relief from just talking about it. As the old saying goes,”A problem shared is a problem halved.”

Have you suffered from depression or has someone else in your family? Does talking about it help? Is there a family member or friend you feel might be having issues, but feels unable to discuss them? 

If you or someone else you know needs help, you can contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Yip people don’t say anything..because nobody gives a sit.

    1 REPLY
    • Laura, I work as a community carer. WE do care. Take care sweetie. I’ve been there myself.

  2. We all suffer with depression at times ,most of us try to get out of it but it’s a hole for some us that we just can’t get out of .Love ,understanding and empathy goes along way to help each other.

  3. Yes I’ve suffered from depression. I had post natal depression with two of my three children and at other periods too. I never recognised it as depression or an illness at the time. Later in life I had a severe diagnosed episode that I couldn’t get beyond without help and it was then I understood depression more and could look back and identity the earlier black periods for what they were.

  4. My husband has suffered from depression for over 22 years. He is on medication but struggles every day. His depression is not only hereditary but he has had 2 strokes. The first one 21 years ago was bad but he got through it and continued on with his normal life. Then 8 weeks before he retired he had another stroke which left him with no speech and paralysis on the right side. Naturally his depression escalated and the medication was no longer suitable. We now have his medication right but he still struggles. You are right Debbie, kindness and empathy are powerful but sometimes you have to inject a bit of tough love. My husband’s depression is difficult because he can’t talk about it like others can. Being together for over 45 years I know him very well and can usually pick up on signals that he is not doing the best. We get out and about and the local men’s shed has been a lifesaver for us both but never give up!

  5. My sister suffered from depression, after the birth of her third child she became very depressed, she was hospitalized and given shock treatment. In those days, 50 years ago the treatments were pretty barbaric, to cut a very long story shot, she was in and out of Psychiatric hospitals for the next 40 years. Her husband left her, she was not there much to see her children grow. She was every experimental drug on the market, they gave her 2 brain labotomy’s then she got breast cancer, they removed her breast, then it spread to her bowel it was also removed. But the final straw for my beautiful flower , my sister, was when her husband moved in near her with his new wife, she very quietly committed suicide. There is not a day goes by that I do not miss her

  6. The most interesting read. The trouble is exactly that you think you know them, but you dont 🙁 If you confront their feelings, they reply with I’m fine 🙁 denial is paramount for most depressed people. Thanks for the article 🙂

  7. Most people just thought I was cranky, but the truth is I didn’t want to see or be around anyone. My husband was the biggest help and we would just walk & talk & just got a lot of stuff out of my system. Still have bouts but see it coming and with the help of medication ( which by the way doesn’t turn me into a zombie) I can keep a handle on it. I believe finding someone to talk to, REALLY talk is a great help.

  8. We need to share this and always ask “Are you OK?” and then LISTEN to the answer.

    1 REPLY
    • joy, what you say about actually “listening” is very very important. Sometimes you assume just asking “R U OK” will give you a positive answer. So when you get the opposite, it is important to give time, and listen. The hardest thing is when you ask someone “R U OK” and they say yes, but they aren’t.

  9. My husband has HD it’s a genetic brain disorder and he continually suffers from depression. I’ve also have suffered from depression. Learn and watch for the signs sometimes they are only small.

  10. This is so true about some people with depression appear to be very happy – I know, I am one of them. Until I “came out” about it no-one suspected and were, in fact, very surprised. It is so hard to live with you do whatever you can to make it easier for yourself and others you care about

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