How I convinced my father that my mother’s depression would not go away on its own.

Is one of your parents depressed, and the other parent in denial, and thus, a hindrance to treatment?

My mother was vehemently against taking an antidepressant, and wouldn’t state why, even though she was very amenable to taking prescription-strength narcotic painkillers, as well as Valium.

But for some mysterious reason, she refused to listen to why she should take an antidepressant.

Even though her clinical depression was draining my father, he, too, was very opposed to having his wife on an antidepressant.

I planned on staying with my parents for about three days, following my mother’s minor knee surgery, to help her recover. This was when I realized that she had developed clinical depression.

After six weeks of living with my parents to care for my mother who was crippled by depression, I convinced my father to speak to my mother’s doctor about prescribing an antidepressant.

The day I convinced him that an antidepressant was the only option left, was the culmination of six weeks of intense perseverance on my part.

Here are some objections (in bold) that the spouse, who’s in denial of a partner’s depression, might cook up, and after each objection, is what you, the daughter, son or other family member, can counter with.

I heard that antidepressants take two weeks to start kicking in.

“This depression will last a lot longer than two weeks without antidepressants.

“Before you know it, two weeks will have gone by, and she’ll still be disabled by depression, and then you’ll wish you had started her on an antidepressant two weeks ago.

“You don’t want to be kicking yourself for letting two weeks go by and she’s still suffering with depression.

“You don’t want to be thinking, ‘If she began antidepressants two weeks ago, where would we be now? Dang, I wish I got her on antidepressants two weeks ago.’

“There is no golden rule that it takes two weeks or four weeks for antidepressants to start working. That’s just a bell curve. For some people, the effect can be immediate, especially in severe depression.”

(In my mother’s case, the Cymbalta produced dramatic results the NEXT DAY).

She (or he) will never agree to see a psychiatrist. “You don’t need to see a psychiatrist to get a prescription to an antidepressant. Any medical doctor can prescribe any drug. Her general physician can prescribe an antidepressant.”

She’ll never agree to go see even her general doctor for an antidepressant.

“Call the doctor’s office up, identify yourself, and ask if he could prescribe an antidepressant. He might do it over the phone without requiring a visit.”

(The phone call worked for my father, but this is no guarantee it will work for most people; we may have lucked out, because prior to this, my parents had been in his office and my father had inquired about an antidepressant, to which the doctor disagreed  —  details following).

Her doctor said she doesn’t need an antidepressant. “Does her doctor LIVE with us to see what’s going on?”

My father accompanied my mother on a visit to her general physician for carpal tunnel syndrome, and at one point he asked about an antidepressant. The doctor said an antidepressant wasn’t necessary.

Ironically, my mother became hysterical after the doctor told her that he couldn’t line up an appointment with a hand surgeon sooner than one week away, and she cried her way out of his office.

After arriving home, my father told me that the doctor didn’t think she needed an antidepressant. When I objected, my father got angry. So repeat: “Does the doctor live here to see what’s going on?!”

Even if I get the antidepressants, she’ll refuse to take them. “Not necessarily. Take things one step at a time. Cross that bridge when you get to it.”

Examine your unique circumstances. In my mother’s case, we could have easily given her Cymbalta without her knowing it was an antidepressant, calling it an “anxiety pill” instead (which Cymbalta is also prescribed for anyways), because my mother never goes online and thus would never Google Cymbalta.

If I tell her it’s an antidepressant, she’ll refuse to take it, and if I lie, she’ll look it up on the Internet anyways and find out.

 “Tell her it’s an antidepressant and tell her you think it’s the right thing to do; when she sees you support antidepressant treatment, she’ll likely follow suit.”

This is exactly what happened with my mother; the moment my father relaxed his opposition to antidepressants, my mother instantly deferred to his judgment.

Crying spells are a symptom of depression, and my mother had plenty, but my father insisted: She keeps crying because of all the pain she’s in (carpal tunnel syndrome).

She must REALLY be feeling excruciating pain to be crying like that. The pain is what’s depressing her.

“Have you noticed that most of the time when she cries, she’s NOT reporting any physical pain?”

(My mother’s carpal tunnel syndrome pain triggered multitudes of sobbing episodes, but more sobbing episodes were during pain-free periods).

Point out to the spouse all the non-pain-related reasons that the depressed person has been weeping; reasons that should not make an emotionally well person break down.

Point out that when pain is severe enough, it’s impossible to cry: “A person will groan, moan, curse or holler, or even pass out, from truly excruciating pain. Who weeps upon stubbing a toe?”

“Think of the worst pain you’ve ever had; did you weep and weep? Maybe you screamed, but you didn’t sob.

Weeping is not a normal response to physical pain; it’s a response to EMOTIONAL pain, which can be brought on by moderate or even mild pain in a severely depressed individual.”

Point out that the crying sounds like she just learned her best friend died in a fire (which was exactly how my mother’s crying sounded).

She’s always been this way with pain. Point out how untrue this statement is, by citing examples. I cited examples of how my mother had responded in the past to physical pain (absolutely no crying or even teary eyes).

Never be afraid to use the word “depressed” repeatedly when referring to the patient.

Don’t give up. Keep harping on the fact that clinical depression will not disappear on its own; that nobody snaps out of this kind of depression; that you cannot talk a person out of FEELING the despair and darkness of major depression; and that,  for Pete’s sake, since when is it normal to completely shut down, entire body and appetite and social connections and all, over carpal tunnel syndrome (or whatever relatively minor circumstance applies to your loved-one)?

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.