The response I have gotten from this series has been overwhelming! Imagine, someone made me cry when they shared how one of the posts helped them, I have been shocked to silence by the “Oh my God, I follow this series and I love it” comments and after the Single in Gidi Jazz & Wine Night last week, I am definitely encouraged that I’m not just ranting but actually helping people out there.
Sidebar: Please don’t miss out on the next SIG event, register on time and be sure to follow any instructions given to the T, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself on Sunday evening and it’s not because I had almost 3 bottles of wine on my own (-__-)
One of the recurring feedback I have been getting is “how does one actually deal with being with a depressed partner?”. I believe I listed a few in the previous post in this series, however, this post will extensively talk on practical and real life steps that can help.
My partner is coping with depression and I really want to help him/her. What do I need to do or know too? Well here are a few tips.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
Do not neglect yourself. It is very easy to get caught up in being a support system for your partner so much that your own emotional and physical needs become neglected. Remember, put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone on a crashing/malfunctioning plane. Being in a relationship with someone coping with depressions can be exhausting and draining if you don’t actively take the time to recharge, it can lead to anger, resentment, burnout and the end of the relationship. Take time out for yourself, do things you enjoy, seek out therapy or a support group for yourself. Do not ignore yourself.
Please note: It is essential to evaluate yourself and the state of your relationship truthfully. This is to figure out where you are mentally, emotionally e.t.c. and find out if you can continue in the relationship like I mentioned being with someone coping with depression can affect you adversely. This is something society is still a bit weird about but be very true to yourself and leave if you have to, it better than ending up with resentment or bitterness towards your partner.
HUG THEM A LOT!
Studies have shown that a genuine hug that lasts longer than 20 seconds can release happy chemicals in the brain and uplift the mood of the “hugger” and “huggee”. In weirder terms (Sheldon Cooper weird), give your partner anything from 3-6 Mississippi hugs (ask me what a Mississippi hug means in the comments). Depressed people usually do not want to be touched but a genuine hug without expectations of anything can give your partner a boost.
Please note: If your partner is not really a touchy-feely person, then try to be a little bit extra with whatever physical gesture they can stand, if they can stand been patted on the back, do it for a bit longer etc. just find a way to communicate a physical and genuine gesture to them.
IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO CURE THEM.
Like I mentioned in the last post, depression is an illness and according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1 in 5 people will experience it in their lifetime. You cannot cure the depression, neither can you buy, say or do something to make it go away, this is very frustrating but it’s the truth. Try your best to be supportive and understanding, it may not be appreciated instantly but at some point in the future when your partner recovers, it will be greatly appreciated. One of the things I constantly fear about coping with depression is that one day I will end up alone because no one will be able to put up with me or my depressive episodes. This constant fear comes with feelings of worthlessness, anger and even guilt, so don’t think they do not appreciate all you do for them, they do and sometimes this fear can even make them lash out or push you away because they feel they deserve to be alone.
So as often as you can and are comfortable with, reassure them that you are in the relationship for the long haul and even though you are frustrated, angry or sad you cannot help, you will not be scared off by an illness.
Remember: other than getting your partner to a doctor, there nothing you can do to “cure” them or make it go away.
LAUGH WITH THEM
Tell a silly joke, watch a comedy movie together, or my personal favourite; watching something as simple as funny Instagram videos or memes can encourage your partner to laugh in spite of their depression. Research has shown that laughter releases endorphins that can actually neutralize symptoms of depression and anxiety. Laugh at yourself and based on your relationship dynamics, bring up hilarious events from your past and just laugh, this will help you as well as I believe it reminds you that your partner is not their diagnosis and can strengthen your resolve to see them beat it or get a strong handle on the situation.
PINPOINT WHAT YOU CAN HANDLE AND STICK TO IT
Supporting your partner through a difficult time will always be stressful, there’s no need to shy away from this fact. It doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile thing to do but as I mentioned it can put you also at risk and you cannot be helpful to your partner if you are too overwhelmed. It’s very romantic and heroic to think “I will do whatever it takes to help my partner” but that mentality can pose a great risk to your own mental health and before you know; you’re tumbling down a never-ending hole of darkness, so be sure to give yourself CLEAR boundaries on what you can and cannot offer. This doesn’t mean having an idea of how much you can take before you break up even though I mentioned that it can actually lead to it. In more practical terms, you need to identify what you need to be healthy, happy and continue supporting yourself and your partner. This might be creating time for your hobbies, having specific alone time, socialising with other people or my personal favourite; people watching and finally do not feel guilty for setting these boundaries.
Please note: You NEED to set boundaries, yes you want to help your partner but you can only do so much. Your health will suffer if you let your life be controlled by your partner’s depression, there is always a psychological price to pay if you neglect yourself while taking care of others.
LET THEM KNOW WHEN YOU ARE UNHAPPY.
It is very easy to be afraid or uncomfortable to mention when you have something on your mind due to your partner’s depression. Emotions are already frayed, then there’s the fear that adding your own feelings or bringing up something that makes you angry or sad will trigger a depressive episode, so you most likely bottle up your own issues. While it might be helpful to let smaller issues go, you also need to be able to speak up when you’re unhappy about a recurring pattern/behaviour or event. Yes, they may be prone to depressive episodes but they love you and are most times more concerned about how their depression affects you, so please talk.
That’s it for this week, I hope this has been helpful, please leave a comment to let me know what aspect to focus on in the next post.