“You say you’re ‘depressed’ — all I see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective — it just means you’re human.” ― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
We as a whole get miserable once in a while — that is an unavoidable truth — and when somebody is miserable, there are things you can do to encourage them. Things you realize that will encourage them. However, shouldn’t something be said about when somebody is discouraged? As any individual who has dated or cherished somebody who manages despondency could perceive you, that is a completely unique creature.
Depression is not simply “being sad” all the time; it’s a mood disorder with diagnosable symptoms, including diminished interest or pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain (or a decrease or increase in appetite), feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, and suicidal thoughts, among a handful of others symptoms.
Given that, it’s no wonder why trying to be there for a partner who is suffering from depression can be difficult. You desperately want them to feel better, but all of your attempts to “cheer them up” fall flat. It seems an impossible task. The truth? It isn’t impossible to support them in the way they need you to, but it will take love, care, patience, and persistence — and it won’t always be easy.
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Take Time to Listen
“One of the first things to know is that friends and family members can be a lifeline for someone who lives with depression,” says Dr. Deborah Serani, author of “Living With Depression” and senior adjunct professor at Adelphi University. “One of the most important things you can do is just listen to your loved one.
“Ask how they’re feeling, but don’t force them to talk if they aren’t interested. When they do share, allow conversations to flow in an easy and open way.”
It’s critical, Dr. Serani notes, not to guide your accomplice how or to feel quite a bit improved. Rather, she recommends asking them how you might help them while they’re going through a burdensome episode. Some of the time, it’s enough only for them to have a protected spot (you) to go to.
Depression comes in many structures, which can leave somebody who is attempting to offer an accomplice support feeling befuddled and baffled. The best solution for that is to do a little research on the turmoil and arm yourself with the information you really want so as not to be overwhelmed or to underrate the weightiness of the circumstance.
“Your partner needs patience and unconditional love,” explains clinical psychologist Dr. Adam Borland. “Learning about depression and the treatments that are available makes it easier to display both. You’re also able to speak from a place of knowledge and better understand the ebb and flow of the treatment process.”
Reading up about the signs and symptoms of depression can also help you regain a sense of control, says psychotherapist and leadership coach Sarah Greenberg, especially when things seem to be spiraling. “By educating yourself about the signs and symptoms of depression, you’ll be less likely to blame yourself or blame your partner for its occurrence,” she says. “You’ll be more likely to understand what to expect, and to know where to get support.”
Support Their Treatment
Thankfully, depression isn’t something that individuals “simply need to live with.” Treatment choices commonly incorporate seeing a specialist, taking recommended drug, or both. In the event that your accomplice is displaying side effects of misery and you accept they would profit from proficient assistance, your most memorable work in this division is giving them support.
According to Jayne Leonard, a counselor and psychotherapist based in Ireland, there are a few approaches you can take to inspire your partner to get the help they need. Documenting and sharing your partner’s symptoms with them, sharing your thoughts and concerns, expressing your desire to help, and discussing potential treatment options are all useful tactics.
Once a treatment routine has been established, it then becomes your job to make sure your partner stays on track. Supporting a partner through the treatment process, explains Leonard, can include helping them keep track of appointments and medications, doing physical activities together, planning and preparing healthy meals, and helping them set small, achievable goals.
Another small but important thing to remember, according to Leonard, is pointing out your partner’s progress along their journey to recovery.
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Accept You Cannot Always Help
Despite treatment methods and your best efforts, there are times when your partner may be having a particularly bad day and there is simply nothing you can do about it. There may be times when it feels as if your partner is trying to push you away, even though you’re only trying to help. This is normal.
“Sometimes we do the opposite of what our partner needs by smothering them in an effort to help,” explains South Carolina-based counselor Kasia Ciszewski. This response can be harmful, which is why it’s important to understand why they push you away and what to do about it.
“Depressed partners push those closest to them away as a defense mechanism for various reasons, like feeling more comfortable alone or not having the energy to keep up with you. It’s situational, just like your response should be.”
Lack of energy, loss of concentration, feeling like a burden, feelings of embarrassment, and being scared of hurting the people they love are all reasons a partner might push you away when they’re having a bad day, according to Ciszewski. “It’s tough to be a partner and not to try and fix things,” she says. “But sometimes, the more we try to fix a situation, the worse we can make it. It’s almost better to ride the storm, if possible.”
Take Care of Yourself
Through everything, you additionally need to make sure to pay special attention to yourself, for however much you need to help your accomplice, you’re no decent to them on the off chance that you’re worn out yourself.
“Caring for a partner with depression can be draining, frustrating, and frightening,” says Leonard. “Research indicates that having a spouse with depression increases a person’s risk of developing depressive symptoms. This risk is particularly high in cases where a man is supporting a woman with depression.”
Knowing that, make sure you are taking care of your own physical and mental health by exercising regularly, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Saving time for things that you enjoy outside of your relationship, such as going out with friends, should also be high on the list.
It can all feel like a lot at times, but taking it day by day and keeping these tips in mind can help you and your partner maintain a loving relationship even as they push through their mental health journey.