5 Things No One Ever Told You About Dealing With a Depressed Partner
Estimated time it takes to read this article: 9 minutes
Do you know how to help someone with depression?
Ever laid around on the couch?
No, no, no...I don’t mean like a lazy Sunday, relaxing before the work week.
I mean laying around for hours on end covered in the feeling of this soul-crushing self-worthlessness that you are unable to do anything except simply exist on this one piece of furniture.
For the days I had like that, this is the smallest piece of optimism I held on to.
“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.”
I felt that if I knew what it was like to die inside, one day I’d enjoy life so much more.
Whether you’re just discovering depression within a loved one or yourself...I hope this serves as a sort of comfort and guidance to understanding it better.
Keep in mind, nothing below is a universal truth.
These are just some starting points for you to better understand depression.
Mainly how to help your depressed spouse, loved one, or partner deal and heal on their own time.
1 - Depression is something that cannot be turned off and nobody chooses it.
Why is your brain such an asshole?
When you need it most it, it’s most liable to crack.
It loves pulling that shit.
You can find tons of medical journals where people cite most mental illnesses being brought on by periods of traumatic stress.
How do people get to such a low state without seeking help?
Let’s think about why so many people get trapped driving in floods.
They should just know not to drive on a flooded road, right?
Imagine being in a car trying to cross what appears to be a small puddle in the road. The further you get, you start to realize it’s not such a small puddle. This small puddle is now standing water that is now covering half your wheels.
Suddenly, your car starts to move as you realize this standing water is a moving, it’s a small river. Before long your car gets filled while you try to figure whether you should jump out or stay in your vehicle while dealing with the panic.
You didn’t choose where the situation led but you don’t see how to get out of the situation.
That’s how depression can feel.
Depression is one of the most dehumanizing and tiring emotional experiences a person can encounter in their life.
It can feel like you’re lost. It can feel like you're disconnected. It can feel like you’re dependent. It can feel like there’s nothing left at all.
A negative feeling thought from last week may spin itself into another entirely different negative thought the next.
Imagine your brain is telling you always different horrible things.
You tune it out. After a while, though, you start to consider what it’s saying.
You feed yourself with this mental chatter.
Then, you start to believe it.
It’s incredibly hard to identify the truth of your own thoughts when you're in a state.
It’s important to check in with your partner to notice if they are unable to take joy in anything that used to give them excitement. If they start having more bad days than good. If depression seems to be creeping over them.
No one chooses depression, and no one can turn it off and on when they feel like it.
2 - The idea of ‘depression’ is hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it yourself
Everyone experiences rough patches in their life. No doubt.
The death of a loved one. The loss of a job. Cutting ties in a relationship.
These things carry a strong emotional weight, but they aren’t depression.
These things can even certainly trigger it, but these natural feelings don’t necessarily define depression.
Depression is with and without cause.
Figuring out when exactly you are depressed is a bit of a problem.
Realize that it's not the case. Easier said than done. But the entire scope of things is blurry. Whenever you're in this state of mind. It's hard to see the big picture.
It’s like a lens you view everything as horrible.
A good day can still be a really shitty day overall.
It’s the way you process or view life. You can take in things, not as how they are in reality, but how YOU perceive them.
The worst part of my story is that my wife went through a depression a few years back. Before my own depression. It was the worst timing.
I made a mess of it trying to support her. I didn’t know what to do. I was like a deer in the head lights. I tried to fix it, but there was nothing to fix. I had no experience of what it felt like.
I didn’t know why she just couldn’t NOT think those thoughts.
I didn’t understand it was just this feeling she was left with without any of the thoughts to trigger a feeling.
This is why suicide comes up so often in depression.
It’s just this feeling that you’re left with that is so entirely isolating.
Especially if your partner hasn’t experienced it themselves.
3 - It’s entirely frustrating to provide THAT much patience
Depression is exhausting for both people involved.
It can try even the most loving of relationships. The smallest problems can become complicated and damaging when you deal with someone who has depression.
Give space, but don’t let them fall into a routine.
Take the time to plan a few things with them to break their routine. It could be a simple as going for a walk with them holding their hand.
Be a reminder to them that they are not alone with this.
It may seem like they are a different person entirely.
It’s important to understand you can only give what you have yourself. Don’t tire yourself to the point you can’t provide care. Set aside some time for yourself. Catch up on sleep, eat healthy, watch your energy levels.
4 - We unknowingly act on extremities
It can be about everything and nothing. It can come out as anything.
One day you can be fine around friends but then feel the immense sinking feeling when you are alone.
Sometimes you can be out with friends feeling like an alien then entirely in your own element by yourself.
Depression can also come out as anger. The anger can linger too. What used to be a small fleeting spark of anger can turn into a huge bonfire of negative emotions and actions.
There’s so much frustration associated with depression too.
You’re frustrated that you feel this way. Frustrated that you aren’t your old self. Frustrated you can’t pin down what it is that’s causing this and eliminating it.
You can act on a pendulum that swings to each extremity.
5 - Most of all, we need you as our sidekick
Not everyone with depression is lucky enough to have a partner that loves and cares for them.
There’s never a one size fits all diagnosis for depression. These are a few of the most important qualities I’ve found in how to help someone with depression and being helped with depression.
I try to briefly give some of the science behind each suggestion so you can feel confident that what you are doing actually works.
Touch is huge. Just give a quiet hug. Then again. And again. In fact, research studies have found that a chemical in our brain called oxytocin that is released when we experience a hug or a pleasant touch.
It’s a pretty powerful and remarkable thing to think that a simple touch can literally change someone’s brain chemistry of someone you love, for the better.
Exercise. Each step can feel like the weight of the world, but it’s so important to exercise. Research suggests exercise is an effective weapon against depression.
When you exercise, your body releases little feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins reduce your perception of pain, whether that’s physical, emotional, or mental. Exercise is also linked to higher self-esteem, better sleep, less stress, and more energy.
Just start small and encourage them to go for a walk with you. It’s a worthwhile distraction.
Motivation. No matter how many kind words or how many pep talks you give, depression seems to find its way back in. Nevertheless, it’s still entirely important for you to motivate us.
Be supportive. Give space but don’t let your loved one fall into a routine.
Last but certainly not least...
Encourage keeping track of your thoughts and moods. It's important for you to encourage your partner to keep notes of things that are happening in their mind on a timeline. This might be just a line or two every day on their mood.
If you're in a depressive state, chances are it will reflect in a record of your thoughts. It’s worth taking note of your history of thoughts and feelings to identify ‘where you are at’ mentally.
This is especially helpful if you are trying to new treatment method to track your progress. Since if you aren’t getting better after trying something, it gives you some insight into what to try next.
Professional help. I understand everyone’s opinion is different on medicine, medical professionals, etc. When I first considered it, I thought...“What? I’m not crazy...I don’t need to go talk to someone.” I even thought...“Meds for your brain every day? Like for crazy people? I don’t need to be on a medication like that...” It’s fair to say I had no clue about this stuff.
What works and what doesn’t for depression? Should I get on meds or should I just talk it out with someone? It’s important to do some research on your options and what fits best for the severity of what you feel.
Back to my quote, do I enjoy life more after my depression?
Depression isn’t something that you take a pill and wave it goodbye. For me and most people out there, it IS a constant battle. However, the habits I’ve built to become happier and better person have made me feel more like my old self than I could have imagined.
I want to hear from you
Have you had to learn how to help someone with depression?
Have you had to help a partner with depression? Are you yourself dealing with depression?
Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Even if it’s just a sentence.
All the best,
Special thanks to Marc and Angel for giving me the inspiration to write my story about this.