When you love someone who has depression, you’re going to think that it’s your fault. No matter how many people tell you otherwise, no matter how educated you are on the topic, and no matter what you logically know to be true, your heart is going to draw its own conclusions. You weren’t attentive enough, it will tell you. You travelled too often. You called too sparsely. You didn’t see the warning signs that you should have seen. You’ll grow accustomed to an anvil of guilt that nestles into the pit of your stomach. You could have prevented this, will be your mantra. It won’t be true, but it will be there.
When you love someone who has depression, you’ll overcorrect. You’ll want to make up for every day you were not there with 12 days where you are. You’ll bring over cookies and funny movies. You’ll be attentive and present. You’ll read books about supporting someone with depression and you’ll become a textbook version of the perfect companion. You’ll listen instead of speak. You’ll support instead of judge. You’ll say the words “I understand” more times than you can count. You will promise to weather out the storm with them. You’ll mean it.
When you love someone who has depression, you will think that you can fix it. You’ll become a walking inventory of all the different tactics they could try. “Why not antidepressants?” you will ask them. “Why not therapy? Or exercise? Exercise helps in up to 80% of cases of depression, did you know that?” You will get accustomed to being shut down. You will not mind. You’ll go about it with the relentless enthusiasm of a high school cheerleader — fiercely believing that something will get through to them soon. It just has to. You know it.
When you love someone who has depression, you will become frustrated. They’re just not trying hard enough, you’ll decide. They could get over this. Your brain will be locked in a constant battle with itself, one half rational and unwavering, the other emotional and frazzled. You will swing between feelings of outward anger and inward guilt with lightning speed. You won’t be able to work out whose fault all this is; only that it’s someone’s. Because it has to be. Because if not then who’s ever going to fix it?
When you love someone who has depression, you will miss them. You will watch the person you once shared so many joys with shrink hopelessly into themselves. One day you’ll think back to the happier times you shared and feel struck by the contrast of how things are now. You’ll get the distinct feeling that someone you love has passed away. You will mourn that person. You’ll sift through old pictures and love letters and cry. You’ll realize you may never get that same person back and you’ll feel sorry: Not just for them but also for yourself. For the happier times that are over now. The times that you aren’t sure you will ever get back.
When you love someone who has depression, you will think about giving up. The image you once had of your ability to overcome any situation become punctured: Shot to the heart by a single, unforgiving diagnosis. You cannot fix this. You cannot save them. This understanding will warp your understanding of the world so badly that you will start to feel helpless yourself. Start to sense that dragging undercurrent of despair twisting itself around your ankles. You will want to entertain it, but you won’t. Because when you love someone who has depression, you will never give up. You will not step down. You will support and love and hope and endure for as long as it damn well takes. There will not be another choice. There never has been.
When you love someone who has depression, you will simply keep on loving. Because in the end, you will know that it’s all you can do.