Surviving Your Partner’s Depression
Clinical depression is a mood disorder that negatively impacts the depressed person’s thinking, feeling, and participation in life. Depression overrides the normal, expected function of emotions and causes one to “see” things in a negative light – happy things do not create happiness, exciting things do not bring excitement. This change in perception causes a lack of self-esteem, unhappiness, guilt, indecision, discouragement, sense of failure, thought disturbances, and sleep and appetite disturbances. It often leads the depressed individual to feelings of isolation, loneliness. These symptoms may seem to the non-depressed partner as narcissistic, unreachable and helplessness.
Fortunately, with treatment, your partner can return to him or her old self or even a better version. Although it is not possible for you to cure your partner’s depression, it is possible for you to support him or her on their journey to recovery and maintain your sanity.
What can you do support your partner?
- Try to understand your partner’s depression. Read all that you can, ask a professional, ask your partner questions about what depression is like for them. Ask what helps feel better and what things you could do more or less of to be supportive. Having someone accept you when you feel alone is crucial to recovery.
- Assist your partner in getting the proper diagnosis and treatment. The hopelessness and helplessness that often comes from depression may keep your partner from getting help and moving forward. You may need to be the one to step up and act as the coordinator of the care – schedule the appointments, monitor pill-taking, etc. until your partner’s depressive symptoms have lessened.
- Offer emotional support. Listen to your partner, offer reassurance that you still know their authentic self. Tell them that you are there for them until the depression symptoms subside. Point out their strengths and where you see improvements.
- Encourage your partner. Encourage him or her to – get out of bed, eat healthy meals, go for walks, get out of the house, go to the doctor/therapist, see friends or family, do things they enjoy, talk to you, etc.
- Be mindful of suicidality. With depression, the risk of suicide increases. It is essential to be able to spot the warning signs and get medical help if needed.
What can you do for you?
- Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and be gentle with yourself. It can be hard not to feel like there’s something you did or should do to “fix” your partner’s depression but do not allow yourself to make it about you. Remind yourself that your partner has a chronic illness, and while your support and understanding are vital in this situation, you cannot “fix” the situation. Try not to take the symptoms of your partner’s depression personally.
- Let those closest to you know that your partner is depressed. This openness will provide you and your partner with the support you need. You cannot do this alone, and your family and friends can help.
- Eat well and get sleep
- Stay in contact with friends and family
- Make time for your hobbies and interest
- Make time to be alone
- Socialize with others even if your partner cannot or will not go
- Practice Self-Care – Add activities to your day to help you manage your anxiety and enjoy life. These look different for everyone but might include praying, meditation, or yoga.
- Talk to someone – It is hard to maintain your own optimism and joy when someone you love is under a constant cloud. You do not have to handle this alone, reach out to a friend or contact a professional.