If your partner has been diagnosed with or is exhibiting signs of depression, it is strenuous on the relationship, and it can be stressful for you to figure out how to help. It is a self-isolating disorder that renders both the patient and the patient’s loved ones feeling hopeless and vulnerable.
My husband has been suffering from depression since he was a teenager. He can be triggered by random events or nothing at all, and in the past, I stood on the sidelines, at a loss as to why this was happening and what I should do. His depression has improved substantially due to improved self-care, self-awareness, and appropriate treatment. Over time, I have learned so much about the best ways to support my husband in his time of need. Depression is not an insurmountable condition. You can and should work together to get through the toughest parts.
Here are some ways to support a partner dealing with depression:
1. LEARN ABOUT DEPRESSION
Depression is a mood disorder that tends to cause a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest, and can interfere with your daily life. While depression can manifest differently in different people, there are certain symptoms that are characteristics of depression, including: feelings of sadness or hopelessness, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in normal activities, fatigue, anger, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts. Depression can also be caused by a number of different factors, the main reasons being abuse, death of a loved one, genetics, major life event, substance abuse, and other serious illnesses. The more that you learn about depression and its many facets, the better equipped you will be to recognize the symptoms and support your partner. Although there will be hard times, you can still have a healthy and happy relationship.
Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.
2. BE THERE AND SHOW THEM UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
When your partner is going through a particularly difficult time, be more intentional about making sure your love is felt, through whatever means they are most receptive to. Whether that means cooking their favorite dinner, watching their favorite movie, or spending quality time together, do whatever it is that will make them feel happy and loved. Reassure them that as challenging as the disorder is on you, you know it is much harder for them and that you are here to help.
A big part of depression is feeling really lonely, even if you’re in a room full of a million people.
3. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Your partner’s symptoms may be mild or severe, and the effect that it may have on their life can vary.For many people with depression, the signs of depression may not be obvious to them, and they could be reluctant to seek outside help. However, depression rarely improves without treatment. You can help your partner by expressing your concerns, discussing treatment options, and helping make appointments. Offer to go with them to the appointments if that is something they want.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.
5. MONITOR THEIR SELF-CARE BUT DON’T NAG THEM
For many people, self-care is an important part of keeping depressive episodes at bay. These things can include regular exercise, eating well, socialization with friends and family, and spending time doing what they love. Encourage them to keep up these good habits but don’t get on their case if they are slacking. You can offer support, but it is ultimately their responsibility to keep it up.
Keep yourself busy if you want to avoid depression. For me, inactivity is the enemy.
6. KNOW WHEN TO STAY CLOSE AND WHEN TO GIVE THEM SPACE
Telling other people to leave them alone is a common response for people who are going through depressive episodes. Sometimes space is what they need, but other times, they need people around them who love them, even if it is just to sit in silence. When your partner tells you they need space, ask them to make sure that is really what they want. If they seem unsure or hesitant, stay close until they tell you otherwise.
Our love will blend together like turquoise is blue and green. There’s no depression or envy when both blur into one.
7. KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS AND LET THEM KNOW WHEN YOU SEE THEM
Your partner will likely have warning signs before they sink into a depressive episode. These can be things like abnormal sleep patterns, negative self-talk, being uninterested in doing things they previously enjoyed, or increased anxiety and stress. If you notice these tell-tale signs, let your partner know so that they can be cognizant and deliberate in trying to keep the episode at bay. They may not be aware of the signs when it is happening to them.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
8. NEVER USE THEIR ILLNESS AGAINST THEM
Even in the midst of arguments, never use things that your partner said or did during a depressive episode as a weapon against them. Talking about what happened is encouraged, but never use those incidents maliciously or as a way to make them feel guilty about what their disorder is doing to you. This will not be beneficial for their recovery process or for your relationship.
Dear, if you’ve chosen the wrong road, don’t be sad, it is not late to turn around.
9. BE PREPARED TO PICK UP SOME OF THE SLACK
If your partner is going through a depressive episode, it is unlikely they will be able to pull their weight when it comes to things like housework, errands, and paying the bills. Be willing and ready to cover some of their responsibilities during this time. Keep in mind that this is only temporary, that they are not doing this to try to catch a break, and do your best to not feel resentful about doing extra work.
Do not be upset! Everything will be ok, if you need me, I can always talk with you or be silent.
10. ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL FRUSTRATED AND TIRED
Being the one always in the supportive role when your partner is going through a difficult time can be challenging and exhausting. Your feelings are just as valid, and you need to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and meeting your own needs before jumping into a supportive role. Seek support from someone who you trust to talk about your struggles. Don’t treat your partner’s depression as something shameful and try to hide it. Most of all, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Give what you can and don’t overdo it.
Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
This will not be an easy process for either one of you. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone. There are resources and support available, so take advantage of them as much as possible. But as long as you keep your love for each other growing, your relationship at the forefront of your minds and always maintain open communication, you will be able to get through it together.
The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.