When you love someone with depression, you must understand that depression is not sadness. It is not feeling blue, or simply having an off day or week. It is not something they can simply snap out of. They cannot “choose” happiness instead, despite what Pinterest may tell you.
The thing you must understand when you love someone with depression is that it is an illness, and one that can be absolutely debilitating.
It is a weight that can keep them from leaving their bed, crashing waves that keep them from reaching out when they are drowning. Depression is the leech that drains them of all of their energy, their feeling, their willpower. It is their own voice in the back of their mind that tells them they are unlovable, that they are not good enough. It is the stubborn and pervasive belief that it will never get better.
Even if you know these things about them are not true, that they are worthy of love and more than enough, you must realize that these beliefs are very real to them. It is part of the illness. These are its symptoms.
So instead of telling them that what they feel is simply not true, acknowledge their pain. Explain that even though you know how loved they are, you recognize they do not realize it. Tell them that you see how much they are hurting, how you hear it in their voice as it wavers as they choke back tears explaining what war they were fighting in their mind that day.
When you love someone with depression, never delegitimize their suffering. Because it is this undermining of mental illness that keeps the stigma alive. It is what keeps people from getting help because they think what they feel is because of something wrong with them, as opposed to an illness.
So encourage them to go to therapy if they can and drive them to their first appointment if they are afraid. Support them if they need to take medication. Help them find support groups or forums online.
Let them know they are never alone.
Because depression can get better, and it does with proper treatment and support. But not without hard work from the person who suffers. Realize that first and foremost; it is them fighting through it, and it is never a quick fix. It takes patience and mastering new skill sets to cope. So be a helping hand as they heal. Cheer them on for every victory, be it big or small. Sometimes that means that they got out of bed, Sometimes it means laughter breaking through tears.
But mostly when you love someone with depression, it is important to remember that they are more than their illness.
Because they are going to forget that fact. They will define themselves by their bad days, by their symptoms. By their pain. They are going to succumb to that voice in the back of their mind that tells them that they are unloved, that they are not enough.
And when they do, you need to be the one that argues back and reminds them that depression is not what defines them. It is not all that they are. Instead, talk about their compassion, their kindness. Their strength to get through every damn day. Talk about their sense of humor, their intelligence. Their patience. Talk about all that they are beyond their illness. Because when you love someone with depression, it is not their depression you think of first.
It is them.