Honest reflections about marriage and mission work when dealing with the anxiety and depression

  • Abby Clayton

Where it all began - Abby's response

The wedding was over. The honeymoon had begun. Staying in the most stunning villa in the mountains of Malaga, we began married life with great joy and excitement.

And yet it was while we were on our honeymoon that I first began to have inklings that Charlie was battling with an unknown, unseen, unexplained force. I can’t really describe what or how I knew – I just did. On a gut level, I knew something wasn’t right, but couldn’t really work out what. In all the excitement, the signs were largely veiled.

And yet underneath, I suspected depression.

Part of me knew something about depression – having had friends suffer with it, I had knowledge of what sort of thing it entailed. But I had little understanding. Part of me ignored it, not wanting to pin labels on things. And another part of me felt like I’d been dealt a life sentence with no real way out.


In the early years of marriage, there is so much learning about and getting to know…it was hard to figure out what was just personality, what was normal human flaws, what was adjustment, and what was this other dynamic present in our relationship. Part of the joy of relationship, especially marriage, is the constant learning about one another, naturally revealing parts of the other that make you think ‘that’s why I married you!’ and revealing other parts that make you think ‘that isn’t!!’ At the same time, we were preparing to move to a new country and take on a totally different way of life and vocation; change is stressful, and so there was no surprise that we both had malfunctioning moments.

But as the months ticked on, these moments of struggling to cope for Charlie began to seem less and less linked to a rational or reasonable cause. I began to watch and observe, trying to make sense of what was going on. It would take another three years before I began to raise these observations with Charlie, along with the possibility that his struggle to cope could be anxiety or depression.

Often, it’s not until someone holds the mirror that we can truly see ourselves for who we are. Marriage has a sharp way of revealing our flaws as well as our strengths. There have been days over the last 9 years that I have questioned why God allowed Charlie’s depression, anxiety, and anger to be a part of our marriage. And I’ve arrived at the realisation that in some way, from the moment we said our vows, the work in exposing and healing these deep wounds in Charlie began. It was going to take a relationship strong and safe enough (and a wife stubborn enough), for him to be able to unpack, process and heal the places in his inner world that were so badly wounded.

Our path has not been pretty: when it comes to emotional healing, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it. What we write on here are the reflections and ongoing thinking of that black dog hunt. Even the process of writing is quite emotional for me; but it’s also healing, to express and hopefully give courage to others, those who suffer and those who love them.

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