Fifteen million adults are affected with major depression in the United States each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression is widespread and is even more on the rise in 2020, due to the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic; there was a 1,000 percent increase in calls to a federal emergency hotline for people in distress in April 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019. Depression is especially hard on marriages. When one or more partners is depressed, the marriage is nine times more likely to end in divorce.
Carole Leathem knows firsthand about the strain depression and anxiety can put on a marriage, despite the promise to love through sickness and health. Carole’s husband, Bill, a pastor at the time, began a cycle of struggling with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Learning to deal with his episodes of anger and control, in addition to his thoughts of suicide, Leathem had to learn to fight not only for her forty-year marriage but also for her own survival and well-being. She documents her story in her new book, Finding Joy in My Messy Life: How I’m Surviving My Husband’s Journey with Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidal Thoughts, to help others walking through similar journeys.
“I have discovered you can have joy when everything is falling apart,” Leathem said. “My story is not over. It continues to be messy, yet I still have joy and trust God in the trials.”
A recent study by Lifeway Research, Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith, found that those who struggle with mental illness as well as their families carry shame and stigma associated with the disease. Indiana pastor Marcus Carlson says “The stigma around mental health in our society is destroying us. The stigma is even deeper amongst pastors and church staff.”
Leathem, too, carried shame of her husband’s illness, embarrassed of their situation and fearful of what people thought. When she finally understood herself and accepted that her husband suffers from a genetic, chemical imbalance that produces anxiety and depression, she was able to begin coping herself and helping others.
“I wanted to write this book to encourage people that God is a personal God, and He shows up,” Leathem said. “And with my husband’s blessing to share our messy story, I also wanted to share my biblical and practical coping tools I use daily to survive the difficulties of loving someone who struggles with mental illness.”
Carole Leathem is a gifted speaker, teacher, storyteller, and motivator, speaking at women’s retreats and teaching Bible studies and life groups for over twenty years. She is also a blogger and vlogger through her ministry website, Carole’s Journey. Along with life in ministry, Carole was a commercial actress in Hollywood for fifteen years. Married to her husband, Bill, for forty-four years, they live in Bakersfield, California, and have two grown children and six (seven is due in the summer of 2021) beloved grandchildren. Carole is passionate about sharing her story with those God puts in her life. She loves spending time at the beach, especially Maui, and never tires of visiting Disneyland.