I was very busy from the moment we landed in Slovenia. There were many things which needed to be taken care of as soon as we arrived. Little things such as getting our money exchanged to the local currency and establishing a bank account, took more time than usual. Becoming familiar with our surroundings and where to find groceries, obtaining a vehicle, and simply unpacking kept us busy for a short while. Then we transitioned into trying to find housing, all the while we continued to deal with government agencies in an effort to obtain our visas. We were meeting new people and going to gatherings and dinners. There were the trips to Italy, and other errands. I was always going somewhere and doing something. Cheryl and Mike went with me many of those times, but my focus was on accomplishing what needed to get done so we could finally get settled in our new situation and begin doing the work we felt called to do. I knew that Cheryl was experiencing a degree of culture shock, but didn't realize just how bad it was.
I don't remember when I began to know there was something really wrong with Cheryl. I began to notice that she had become more withdrawn and wouldn't go with me when I needed to go out. She started going to bed earlier every night and getting up later each morning, which I found unusual. I also noticed some weight loss but didn't understand why. Part of it could have been the different foods and eating patterns in Slovenia, along with increased physical activity. We walked miles whenever we went downtown! But even when she wasn't eating much at all, I didn't really know why. Overall, I think lack of knowledge about depression played a huge factor in my response. I just didn't know.
Part of the problem I had in recognizing her condition I blame on erroneous ideas related to depression. I had always believed that only weak people get depressed, and my wife was certainly not weak. She had just sold her home and moved to another continent. She had been strong after the deaths of our two kids; she was not a weak woman. So the idea of her being depressed never really occurred to me. It didn't seem like a possibility.
I was frustrated that she was becoming less social, refusing to go places with me. I began to feel alone. As things progressed, I felt like our relationship was hanging on by a thread, and at times I thought I was going to lose her, but I believed that our marriage commitment to each other would pull us through whatever we were facing.
When Cheryl went back to the States with Peter and Kristina, I felt several things. On one hand, I was glad she was going if she could get help, since things were not getting better for her in Slovenia. On the other hand, in the back of my mind I had a fleeting thought that perhaps she wouldn't come back, but I quickly dismissed it. Ultimately, I believed she would get help, and then return.
I have learned a lot through this, and how vulnerable we all are to the ravages of depression. We should never assume anyone is immune to it, and should offer grace and compassion to those going through it.