I have struggled with depression for my whole life, 52-years. For a long time, I didn’t have a name for why I always felt so hopeless and full of despair. I just lived with it.
Then I got married. And he had to live with it too. It was not fun.
Being in a relationship when you are dealing with depression can be very difficult but I am here to tell you that relationships do not have to self-destruct because of it.
Here are my latest – Five Ways to Hold up Your End of the Relationship When You’re Dealing with Depression.
- Recognize when you are depressed.
For those of us who live with depression, we can usually tell when it hits. Simple tasks that just the day before was easy to do become difficult. Sleep is elusive. We are short-tempered and crabby. Each of us manifests depression differently but usually, we know when we are experiencing it.
Keeping in touch with your depression and sharing its presence with your partner is very important. Don’t just expect your partner to guess that you are depressed. They might not recognize the signs and might not respond to your new mood and that could lead to some big problems between the two of you.
So when depression hits, be clear about it. You and your partner you have a bit of a battle ahead. Together.
- Talk to your partner about what depression is like.
Even the most sympathetic of partners does not really understand what depression is like unless they suffer from it themselves. Because of this, it is important to try to teach them what depression looks like for you.
When we talked my message for my husband was 1) you have not caused this and 2) you can’t fix it and 3) I can’t just suck it up and feel better. For me, it was essential that he knew these three things to be true.
Next, I explained to him what my depression looked like. That when I was depressed I felt like I had a gorilla on my back. Moving around, getting things done, communicating effectively, all required such a herculean effort that I could barely manage. When I was depressed, I was exhausted, easily angered, prone to long bouts of crying. Going to work, seeing his family, taking care of myself, all filled me with such an overwhelming sense of dread that I could not bear it.
So, when you ARE NOT depressed, take some time and share your experience with your partner. The better understanding they have of your depression the better they will be able to deal with and cope with it.
- Plan for what to do when depression hits.
A key part of dealing with depression for me, and for my husband, was that I was able to when I wasn’t depressed, make a plan for what I needed when I was depressed. I knew from experience what I needed to get through my depression. Sharing it with my partner was key.
For me, when I get depressed I need four things: to get outside, to sleep, Pad Thai and sex. I knew that those things would not cure my depression but that they made living with it easier.
So, when I WAS NOT depressed, my husband and I made a plan for what to do when I was. We would let me sleep in, go for a hike, get Pad Thai, have sex and send me back to sleep. We would do that, or some variation of that, to stay connected while I was depressed and help me get through it.
What we also agreed was that he wouldn’t try to fix it. Many people like to fix things. You can’t fix depression. Accepting that was a great way for my husband to manage when I was depressed because he wasn’t constantly frustrated, searching for ways to help me.
- Do not make your partner suffer.
So you have talked to your partner about your depression and made a plan for what you need when you are in it. Both of those things are great. Proactive. Good for you.
Sometimes, however, those things just don’t work and you are miserable. You are short tempered and difficult and not fun to be with.
At times like that, let your partner go. Let them go about their day, guilt-free. The last thing in the world you want to do is tether someone you love to your depression.
Encourage your partner to go do something they love instead of hanging around being miserable with you. If you let them do this they will come home refreshed and better able to support you. And they might even bring you some Pad Thai.
- Agree to seek help.
One of the hardest things for someone who loves someone with depression is their sense of helplessness. They know that there is nothing that they can do to help their partner get out of this dark place. And that sense of helplessness can tear relationships apart.
What can you do? You can agree to seek help in dealing with your depression. That help can be what you want it to be: medication, yoga, therapy. Whatever works for you?
It is important, for both of you in the relationship, to know that the depression is not something that will be ignored but that will be addressed head-on. That it is something that you can both learn to deal with and take on together. As a couple.
Get some help. Both for you and for the one you love.
So there you go – my five Ways to Hold up Your End of the Relationship When You’re Dealing with Depression.
Depression can have a devastating effect on relationships. It does not have to be a death knell, however. Some relationships can actually thrive when couples tackle depression together.
Share with your partner what your depression looks like, allow them to fully understand it and share with you the tools you have in place to manage it. Give them the freedom to escape from it for a bit if necessary. But be in it together.
Because if together you can manage depression then there is nothing else that you cannot take on. Together.
Looking for more ways to deal with depression and your relationship? Contact me here and I can help!