DEPRESSION is not cancer. It's a completely different disease. Yet when I look back on my husband's depression and death by suicide three years ago, it sure looks a lot like cancer to me.

As an adolescent medicine physician in Los Angeles, I have cared for many patients with depression and mental illness, and as a pediatric resident in training, I cared for children with cancer. But the difference is how people view these illnesses is astounding.

Before we met, my husband's marriage had ended, and his ex-wife had told him that he did not deserve love.

Primed by genetics and an abusive childhood, he was convinced that he would always be alone. He attempted suicide with an overdose of pills.

When he unexpectedly woke up in the morning, he drove to the medical center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was checked into the psychiatric unit. He was treated, started on medication and improved.

Six months later we met, and soon felt that we were soul mates. He realized that he did deserve love.

We never took the suicide attempt lightly and always had professional support and treatment.

We were married for nearly 20 years. We had two children, purchased a home and negotiated our marriage as best we could. We communicated well and had the support of a couples therapist.

It seemed his horrible disease was cured - until it wasn't.

He wasn't cured : As with some cancers, his disease was simply in remission. And when his first suicide attempt was about the fear of never fnding love, his second fear, equally unwarranted, was that he was a complete failure as a provider.

My husband's father was not trained in any skill or profession. he was laid off in his 50s, and never worked again. When he died in his 60s, he left behind a financial mess.

He had always told my husband not to make the same mistakes, so my husband became both an electrical engineer and a lawyer. If one didn't work out, he always had a fallback.

Even as two professionals, the challenges in our marriage mostly centered on money.

We had the typical spending differences, but we worked through the issues well, learned to compromise and we're able to save for retirement.

We were not in danger financially, yet my husband still worried it was not enough.

During his final two years, his anxiety about work increased.

He slept more than usual and lost weight. He also lost his spark and joy. We saw our couples therapist more often, and she helped us navigate our issues and helped us better understand how to manage his disease.

I cut expenses to help alleviate his worry.

The weekend before he died, he couldn't get out of bed. i asked if I needed to take him to the hospital, and he said no.

On Saturday I called his psychiatrist, who spoke with him and made an appointment for Tuesday.

He died on Monday. I found out afterward that one of the last things he told his psychiatrist was that he felt he his intellect was going and that he was a failure, just like his dad.

The honor and serving of some very important writings on Depression, continues to part 2. The World Students Society thanks author Jill Halper, M.D.


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