I have been married to my husband Rich for 29 years. A large part of my attraction to him was his shyness. He was always a bit reserved, but what I did not know until about five years into our marriage was that he wasn’t just shy or reserved; he had depression, which he had always been masking.
My husband kept his symptoms buried; he was able to function and present a happy self to everyone around him, but, as I would come to learn, he was faking it most of the time. When he finally shared this with me, we began looking into treatments immediately.
The ups and downs of trying to find the right treatment were incredibly difficult. Rich took medications for about 20 years and seemingly tried every option. It was a frustrating rollercoaster ride; doctors constantly added different combinations of medications to try, but none seemed to work. I started to journal (and still do) to express my thoughts and feelings. I would also make notes about what medications he took, the side effects and how he was or was not progressing.
One day, as I was reading an article online, I came across an advertisement for a non-drug treatment option. Normally, I would not click on such an ad for fear of it being spam, but I was that desperate to find a solution.
After that, we began to research online for non-drug options. This is when we found a treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which turned out to be the right treatment for him.
We went to see a certified physician in our city, and they determined that Rich was a perfect candidate for TMS, which works by using magnetic pulses to stimulate underactive areas of the brain. Through the years, Rich had adverse side effects from a few different antidepressant medications, but this non-invasive form of brain stimulation was different from the start. My husband was grateful that he could comfortably and safely sit in the doctor’s office and receive the treatment with few to no side effects.
I continued to journal and track his progress. We also made a point of creating a routine. I think this is critical for any caregiver — to develop a routine with the person you are caring for, allowing them to focus on recovery and know what to expect. We would do simple things, like have breakfast together and take a walk before going to his TMS treatment or stop for ice cream afterward.
Rich started to feel relief after just one week. After several more treatments, his mood really started to improve. It was not instant, but once the light shines in, it shines bright. He started experiencing enjoyment in activities that he had not been able to appreciate in years. He even started making plans with me, like taking road trips. He was smiling!
We kept going and made sure to keep our routine intact. I kept journaling and looking back at my notes. The change in him was extraordinary. It was nice to see how far he’d come. He was going outside to garden — I would watch him and think, “Who is this man?”
What We Learned
A big take-away for us was finding the right provider and trusting the process. The company we used for TMS treatment has performed more than 4 million sessions and treated more than 110,000 patients. That gave us peace of mind from the very beginning. While this advice is always difficult to hear, you must be patient — recovery doesn’t happen overnight, but I could see him progressing each and every day.
As a caregiver, you will likely face a great deal of stress. You are not alone. You don’t have to shoulder every difficulty yourself. You’ll need to accept occasional disappointments but know that depression can be treated.
Now, the cloud has lifted. My husband is no longer looking through a veil — he is more inspired and can see and feel the exciting things in life. It is such a different world of happy. As a caregiver and wife, this has changed our lives forever. I have my husband back, the love of my life, and for that I am so thankful.
Please, if you try TMS (or any treatment) for your mental health, stick with the treatments and stick to the path together. Depression can be a lifelong battle — don’t stop trying. When you see the positive changes, it will all be worth it.
Elsa and Rich met more than 30 years ago at Magic Mountain where Rich was an electrician and Elsa was a ride operator. After dating for eight years, they wed. Though they were living what appeared to be a happy life, inside, Rich was suffering with depression. It was nearly five years before he revealed his mental health issue to Elsa. Committing together to the process of getting better, they now share their story, the power of TMS treatment and how it changed their lives forever.