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Bill’s Depression and Me, Part 1 - Daily Treasure - April 7

  • 2021 Apr 07

What She Said! Part 1: Bill’s Depression and Me, Part 1

By Sue Tell, Guest Writer


May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. -Romans 15:5-6

My marriage verse was about to take on a new meaning.

The Downhill Slide Begins

We were both blindsided … or perhaps it is more accurate to say we were so caught up in the next thing, the thing we should dothat we were unaware of our reality.

It was the summer of 1999 and our Navigator National Staff Conference in Florida just ended. Bill directed it. He loves the challenges of pulling off big events; he was in his element. Not surprisingly he was (we both were) tired, exhausted really. 

With the conference in our rear-view mirror, we headed north with our pop-up camper to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week on the beach. It was good. Before we left the camp-ground I remember calling from the payphone to set up a time at the University of Tennessee to visit the Navigator ministry. Our son was a staff intern there and we had a few extra days (so, let’s fill them up) before heading back home to Colorado. 

What about me?

I was going with the flow. I regret that I was not in tune enough with our reality to see the yellow flags.

Something is Not Right

Soon after returning to Colorado, Bill left for a staff meeting. We were thankful it was close to our home and he did not have to travel far after our long trip.

 In the middle of the night, he experienced a panic attack, a first. Was he just overly tired? 

Later, in September, we were given the gift of a week in the Colorado Mountains to rest. The Aspens were at their height. Again, it was good … but not the solution.

Another meeting called for his participation. I accompanied him. Although he participated in the work portion of the meeting, he (and I) opted out of all the social pieces.

What about me?

Awareness was dawning. This is more than over-tiredness. I was physically with him most of the time. My schedule bowed to his. 

My new role – Bill’s advocate

Bill was still going on ministry trips although we now decided to commit to one trip at a time, no back to back trips if possible. I always went with him.

One of our favorite trips each year was to the Grace Presbyterian Missions Conference at our home church in Peoria, Illinois. Not only are we honored to represent that church, but we have many friends from our years there. Bill ended up not being able to participate.

He called our doctor in Colorado from Illinois. Concern was high.

What about me?

Acceptance. Protection. Me protecting Bill.


When we returned from Illinois, Bill was officially diagnosed with Clinical Depression, a genetic disposition that runs in his family. Medication was prescribed. It took several months to get the right meds and the right dosages. After the Illinois trip, Bill was officially on sick leave from The Navigators.

During those years I had a part-time job. I had the freedom to make my own hours and I continued to work, always toting a cell phone with me so Bill could reach me if he wanted.

What about me?

I increasingly became the family decision-maker. All interactions went through me. I was so very thankful for our friend, Alan Andrews, The US Director of The Navigators, who called me every day to check on Bill. For this year I made the decision to ask our sons to not come home for Thanksgiving.

Then Came December

It was the first Sunday in Advent. We had not been to church in two months. Bill felt ready to return. Me too! It was a wonderful Sunday – for me. Bill couldn’t wait to leave. All our well-meaning friends who were so glad to see him back made him feel claustrophobic.

What about me?

For the first time, I was discouraged. To be continued – the uphill journey.


Father, I pray for myself, and I pray for all who are caregivers, that You would give us wisdom and kindness to care well for those You have called us to walk with. Amen


Sue Tell and her husband Bill have been married for almost 46 years and have served on the staff of The Navigators for 46 years as well. Although their official roles have changed over the years, the campus ministry has always been a part of their lives. Sue writes a weekly faith-based blog, Echoes of Grace, that you can find at suetell.com. She also enjoys facilitating Sabbath-Living retreats to help women grow in their friendship with God. Bill and Sue have two married sons, five grands, and her favorite walking buddy, a Golden Retriever named Lexie.

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