Q: I've been battling severe depression and anxiety for some time. These feelings are bad enough, but I'm concerned that I'm making life difficult for my wife and kids. What should I do?
Jim: Your concern is actually a hopeful sign. Some who suffer from depression withdraw so deeply into themselves that they're incapable of thinking about others. I'm glad to hear of your care for your family and encourage you to follow that thought.
That said, it's worth noting that depression can distort your perceptions, including your sense of the impact on your family. Perhaps it's not as bad you fear. Talk with your wife and ask about her thoughts and feelings -- and listen carefully. She may be able to give you a more objective perspective. You must address your condition, but don't take on a needless load of worry or guilt.
Decisive action is vital in countering depression and anxiety. Are you talking with your family physician about this? Have you engaged the services of a licensed counselor? Do you keep appointments faithfully and follow doctor's orders? Have you started taking appropriate medication? If you've taken any of these steps, I applaud you. If not, I strongly recommend that you start now.
Once you're moving in the right direction, tell your spouse and children how you're combatting your depression -- and enlist their support. You'd be surprised what this kind of communication can mean. In talking openly about your struggles, you're giving your wife and kids a tremendous gift of encouragement and hope. In the end, you'll be stronger and closer as a family by facing the problem together as a team.
Our staff would love to help you on this journey. I invite you to call our counseling department for a free consultation: 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: My boyfriend and I have been living together for the past couple of years, but I recently found out that he's been sexting a "friend" of mine. When I confronted him, he said it's my fault -- then left me and our baby. I feel so alone, hurt and betrayed. What should I do?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Your boyfriend's actions suggest he's ill-equipped and uninterested in being a husband or a dad. If that's his choice, you need to let him walk away. After all, he's responsible for his own behavior. Realistically, is the man you've described really the kind of person you want playing the role of father in your child's life?
This is the time to stand up for yourself and your baby. But note that ending the relationship with your boyfriend shouldn't release him from his financial obligations as a parent. You'd do well to legally secure that support.
Meanwhile, I strongly recommend that you start reaching out for help wherever you can find it, beginning with your own family if possible. Look into community resources, and seek out a good church.
Once you've addressed your physical needs and those of your baby, start working on the spiritual and psychological aspects of your situation. Honestly assess if there are negative personal issues in your past that may have led you to become involved with someone like your boyfriend in the first place. Deal with those issues now before initiating any new relationships with men. Our staff counselors can help (see phone number above).
One last thought: Even though living together before marriage might seem appealing for a number of reasons, research shows that couples who cohabitate are generally less satisfied in their relationship, are more likely to divorce if they do marry -- and frequently meet with experiences similar to your own. Going forward, we have extensive resources on building healthy relationships at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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