The title of this post might be slightly misleading, but I couldn’t think of a better title that wasn’t too long or rambling. This isn’t another blog post about how to cope with your own depression and how I’ve overcome it. It’s true that I’ve been depressed but today I’m talking about what happens when your partner becomes depressed.
From my own research, this isn’t a topic that is talked about often. The focus of most blog posts and help forums is on the person who is depressed – and rightly so. But there’s such little help out there for those of us who have or are currently living with someone who’s depressed and I think that’s because we feel too selfish to even consider that we might need help too. The fact of the matter is, though, that living with someone who has depression is hard. Seeing the person that you love and care for change so drastically can send you into a spiral of different emotions and feelings of helplessness. Or at least it did for me.
And don’t get me wrong – you try. Every single day you try to help your partner overcome the dark cloud that’s constantly hanging over them, their own feelings of hopelessness and despair. But there comes a point that you can’t be positive and cheerful anymore. Before you know it, that hopelessness and feeling like there’s just no way out start to take their firm hold on you, refusing to let go for even a second.
Sometimes that can’t be helped. It’s well known that living with someone who has depression can often result in you becoming depressed too. It’s a sad fact. But the reality is that allowing that to happen won’t help your partner and it won’t help you. So I’ve composed a short list of things that you can actively do to look after yourself and your partner during such a difficult time.
- Take time out for yourself. Your mental health is of paramount importance, especially if you want to be able to help your partner – otherwise it’s just like the blind leading the blind. Go to a spa, take up a new hobby, go to the gym for a few hours .. anything to get you out the house and have some time to yourself. You need it. You deserve it.
- Don’t give up. It seems like the easiest option at times, to just succumb to the darkness and hope that someone else can pull you out like you’ve tried to do with your partner. But they might not. And the best person who can help you is yourself. Just try to remember that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel – take it from someone who knows.
- Seek help. You’re not on your own – and neither is your partner. Look into seeing a therapist or go to your GP to get information on counselling services or support groups. Google is also a fantastic tool for getting telephone numbers or online chats of support organisations, like Samaritans or Breathing Space. If things are getting worse, you might even want to consider medication for either you or your partner. Don’t forget that there are alternative therapies such as St Johns Wort or even Kalms that can often be beneficial for high levels of stress or anxiety.
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone leads such a painted life on social media now – no one’s life is that perfect. People will always pick and choose the things that they want to share with the world and those things will almost always be positive. This doesn’t reflect the truth of anyone’s life. So don’t get down because Susie from Finance went on a two week holiday to Florida with her partner and they had a “wonderful” time – they probably argued at least twice and had a terrible flight. Allowing this to get to you will just add fuel to the fire – and you really don’t need that right now.
- Talk to your partner. Tell them how you’re feeling too. It’s tempting to deal with everything on your own – their worries and anxieties as well as yours. But you’re not in this alone. Despite how it might feel, your partner is still there and they can still support you. Just be careful not to criticise – depression is no one’s fault.
- Talk to someone else. A family member, a friend … anyone you trust. Sometimes outside perspective can really help. And sometimes just offloading your worries and emotions can make you feel a million times better too. You might feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders right now, but you don’t have to deal with this all by yourself. You’re not alone.
To be honest, I could go on for hours here about everything I’ve learned about supporting someone with depression and coping with it. But this blog post is beginning to get quite long and if you’re in this situation right now, six bullet points is more than enough for you to deal with.
Try not to be too overwhelmed. It’s a scary, adult situation and there’s no quick fix – believe me, I’ve tried. Be patience and stay strong. Things will get better.