When a loved one struggles with depression, it can be a tremendous challenge to know how to best support them — and yourself
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 19.4 million people have at least one depressive episode each year. Depression is one of the most prominent mental health conditions across the globe, right next to anxiety. Odds are there is someone in your life going through one of these episodes who could use some love.
But, when that someone is your partner and depression hits home, you quickly see how difficult depression can be for everyone involved.
No matter where you are in your own mental health journey, having a partner with depression is a unique challenge. How can you love and support them while keeping your own mental health a priority? What can you do to help them, yourself, and your relationship all at once?
Let’s explores how we can love someone experiencing depression. Going about it the right way can make all the difference.
Learn and Grow With Them
Because depression is so prominent, most people have a general idea of what it is. The problem with that is that everyone experiences depression differently. Many of the symptoms are quite similar for everyone:
- Feelings of sadness
- Irritability or frustration
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
While these symptoms are common, your loved one may not experience all of them. They also might be highly functional on some days and in a complete depressive state the next. When in a relationship with someone who is depressed, learning more about it should be your first step. There are plenty of myths out there about the condition, so do your research and really, ask your partner to tell you more more about it. It can open new doors for your relationship, and boost your emotional intelligence (EI). Building EI starts with core skills such as:
- Being more self-aware
- Learning the language of empathy
- Striving for your own version of happiness
- Practicing gratitude
- Staying playful
Growing your Emotional Inteligence can help you to feel more in-tune and connected with your partner. When you’re more self-aware of your emotional wellbeing, you can be there for your partner on a deeper level.
How to Support Your Partner
When you love someone, seeing them hurting or struggling in any way is heartbreaking. It can often seem like there is no ‘right’ way to support them. You might try a gentle approach one day and a firmer one the next, every day might call for something different. You might try taking cues from films or TV shows that depict depression fairly, like This is Us. Unfortunately, that depression impacts people differently means there is no simple appraoch that works for everyone, you’ll have to learn your partner’s unique sitution
One of the best things you can do is to simply talk to your partner and ask what they need. Ask what you can do to help them feel supported? It’s also important to maintain balance within the relationship and keep things as consistent as possible. Be compassionate with their needs and understand that those needs may change.
Don’t be afraid to focus on the positive things in your relationship and try to highlight them. You love your partner for a reason, whether they’re depressed or not. Bring up happy, fun times in conversation. Try to plan something you know they’ll enjoy. Or, do something that might boost their spirits, like setting up a date night at home if they don’t feel up to going out. Putting together a private movie theater, cooking them dinner, or having a game night are all great ways for your partner to stay in their comfort zone while allowing you to reconnect and get closer as a couple.
The Importance of Self-Care
Wanting to take care of your partner is a good thing, but it shouldn’t always be your top priority.
You can’t take care of someone when you’re completely burnt out — physically or mentally. You may not struggle with depression, but you can become more susceptible to mental health struggles yourself if you’re not practicing self-care. You might start to feel overly stressed, tired, and anxious as you worry about your partner all of the time.
It’s not selfish to put your own mental health first. In fact, doing so will allow you to better support your partner because you’ll have the drive, energy, and focus to do it.
Self-care doesn’t have to be something over-the-top and luxurious. There are things you can do each day to boost your mental health:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Making sleep a priority
- Doing an activity you enjoy
- Practicing gratitude
If you love someone with depression, remember… you’re not alone (and neither are they).
It can be helpful to talk to someone else about your life and what you’re dealing with, even if it’s just to maintain your mental health. You don’t have to carry the weight of your relationship on your shoulders or sacrifice your wellbeing to make sure your partner is always okay. Love them the best way you know how, and show support as much as possible. It’s not a problem to be fixed, sometimes we get a little dark and the best thing we can do is shine a little brighter for those who need it.
You may also enjoy reading The Courageous Art of Supporting Someone in Grief (At Any Age) by Angie Lucas