Your partner has just told you they are depressed. And that they are really struggling with it, especially this particular week. You want to be there for them but you don’t know how to. You don’t even know where to begin.
So here’s the 101: depression is one of the most difficult things to cope with in life. Mainly because depression is a trickster. It convinces you there is nothing actually wrong with you but all you feel is hopelessness. It convinces you that you are worthless, that there is nothing for you to live for and everyone around you would be happier if you just disappeared. That is what goes through the head of someone who is depressed every single day. When you love someone with depression, this is what they need you to understand and do.
1. This is not your fault. There is literally nothing you can do to fix it. And that’s okay.
Depression is not like a fever. It doesn’t have a tangible cure. And when someone you love is depressed, it is not your job to make them happy when they are struggling with depression because there isn’t a whole lot you can do to ‘fix’ it, and it is not something you need to aspire to do. The problem is within their heads and they need time and space to deal with it.
2. Be as normal as you can around them.
Normalcy from a partner is a good way for the person who is depressed to know that their depression is not causing other people stress and unhappiness and this really helps them cope with it better. If they have to cope with your unhappiness as well as their own, they could spiral down into a darker place.
3. Let them know they are loved.
Everyone in this world needs to know they are loved. But for depressed people, it is important to them to know that they are loved despite this black pit of despair within their own minds that is constantly convincing them that they are not loved, not cared for, not understood. If you remind them in some small way or the other everyday that you are there for them if they need you, it will give them security and safety they need.
4. Give them space, as much space as they need.
Depression is an extremely isolating experience. Someone struggling with it is going to need lots of time to deal with what is inside their head trying to make them believe they aren’t good enough. The truth is, if they do not have the time and space to deal with it, they will not be able to cope. Be there for them, but be aware that they need time and space away from you to deal with this.
5. And never, under any circumstances use the following words:
- “Just think positively.”
- “You could just choose to be happy.”
- “Stop wallowing in self pity!”
- “It’s probably just a bad week.”
- “Think of all the people less fortunate than yourself!”
- “Stop feeling so sorry for yourself.”
Any of the above sentences are capable of causing more harm than any sort of good, and no matter how frustrated you feel, you must never ever use them towards someone suffering from depression. If they could choose to be happy, if they could be in a better place, they would have already done that. If they could just think positive, they wouldn’t be depressed. If they could fix themselves in an instant they would but they cannot.
There is no handbook that can truly teach self care because every individual who suffers with depression is different. They need different things. But they all share one thing in common: When someone with depression tells you they are having a bad week or month and actually trusts you enough to tell you why, they aren’t doing it because they want you to fix them. They are telling you because they believe you are important enough to them to know why they are not feeling a hundred percent that day. Respect and love them for doing that. Because they clearly respect and love you.