It’s not the easiest thing to do.
I’ve been on both sides in a relationship, the depressed and the one loving someone through a bout of depression. With my recent post about what a depressive episode is like for me, I received some responses that prompted me to write about this. A few people expressed a feeling of relief knowing someone who is feeling the same exact way they are and not being alone in their struggle. It’s sometimes comforting knowing someone else who understands and “gets it” because honestly, not many people do. Globally, over 300 million people are suffering from depression and yet there’s still so much misinformation about it.
For people who
- Have never experienced depression themselves
- Doesn’t know anyone close to them who struggles or
- Believes depression is only caused by traumatic event
it can be difficult to understand or empathize with someone who may be in a cyclical or constant state of depression, even without a trigger.
There won’t always be a reason.
“What’s got you down?” “Why are you sad?” “what’s the reason you feel sad?” A lot of times, someone who is depressed won’t be able to articulate the exact reason why we feel the way we do. Yes, traumatic experiences, loss, grief, and other factors can trigger depression but this isn’t always the case.
Don’t be solution minded.
You’re not responsible for fixing us. You actually can’t fix us. Try as you may, coming up with and giving what you think may be a sudden cure for our struggle will prove futile. Sometimes your presence alone is enough to aid in us feeling a little better. Just knowing you’re there and in support of us.
Words won’t always help either.
Saying things like “it’ll get better,” “you just need to get out of the house,” “snap out of it”, “just choose to be happy”, or “you’ll be fine” is meaningless to someone who is in the thick of it. Trust me, if it were that easy none of us would feel stuck in this some days. Even said with good intentions, these statements can stir up a bit of guilt and shame. Because it’s not that simple. It’s easy to tell someone these things because you think you’re giving them a simple way to make them feel better or ease their pain, but these kinds of phrases can sometimes come across as empty and insulting to someone who just isn’t in a mental space to receive them. We’re not choosing to feel this way.
It’s okay not to know what to do.
“Okay so I can’t give solutions, and I may have to watch what I say to not accidentally make them feel worse.. I’m lost.” This is perfectly okay. Hell, some days WE don’t know what to do to feel better ourselves and we definitely don’t expect you to either. It can be a hopeless feeling seeing someone you love struggle and not know what to do.
Ask how we feel most supported.
This is important. For your sake and ours. Everyone doesn’t deal with depression the same way. Everyone isn’t comforted the same way. What worked for ___ *insert name of another person you may know who struggles* may not necessarily work for us. So the best way to get past this is to simply ask. “How can I support you through this?” “What do I already do that makes you feel best supported?” “What do I do that doesn’t make you feel supported?” Healthy communication is a vital part of loving someone who is depressed.
You don’t have to baby us.
Be empathetic, and sometimes add a bit more compassion in your words and actions. But don’t treat us like a fragile newborn who needs to be protected from every little thing that may be harmful to our well-being.
Mood swings are normal.
It’s very possible for us to cry our eyes out and stay in bed all day one day, and be happy and cheerful on the dance floor the next day. Every day won’t be hard, and every day won’t be easy. It’s also very much so possible to “fake the funk”. Don’t take a “good day” as proof of complete recovery.
Don’t make it about you.
The people we spend the most time with are usually the people who experience every aspect of our depression. The super highs, and the dangerous lows. So, it may sometimes feel like you could’ve caused a problem or somehow heightened the struggle and this isn’t the case. Try not to take it personally when we’re snappier than normal or withdrawn from you or things we normally enjoy.
We’re scared to lose you.
Depression can make us feel like a burden. Like we’re too much, we’re draining you, and we’re unworthy of you loving us during this time. This fact can show itself in many ways, including how we talk to or treat you. And definitely how we talk to and treat ourselves.
You don’t have to accept our mistreatment.
Have patience, but know your limits and know what you will and won’t accept. Depending on the person you can experience a change in attitude, snappiness, withdrawal, irritability, anger, and the list goes on. Some even resort to physical and verbal abuse, manipulative behavior, guilt trips, and so on. Depression is not an excuse to mistreat the ones we love and you definitely don’t have to accept it.
Be honest if it becomes too much.
Loving someone through depression is hard. It’s can be difficult and exhausting, frustrating. You may feel guilty for feeling “okay” and the person you love isn’t. It’s very well possible to get to the point of no longer wanting to deal with it. Especially if we’re making it even more difficult to do so. Holding back your feelings for the sake of ours is this quickest way to foster a feeling of resentment. Remember to take care of yourself during this time too.