I want to start off by giving Heather a big thank you for allowing me to grace the pages of her blog. She is a totally badass woman who inspires me daily. Having her as my partner has been an absolute privilege. Readers of medicallyblondesite, you are in good hands. I also should begin by mentioning that this post, like with all things love-related, is highly individualized and each person’s experiences and battles with mental health will vary considerably. Regardless, I hope this can provide a healthy framework for those of you who do care and love someone with depression, while also giving those struggling with their own mental health an opportunity to communicate these suggestions with their partner so that their needs can be met to the fullest extent.
The American Psychiatric Association explains that depression “causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.” For an in depth and reliable description of more symptoms associated with depression please check out this link.
Love and relationships for any 24-year-old man are not easy. Despite the countless objections from author Nicholas Sparks, for most guys my age (including myself), love is not necessarily natural. We have to learn, often the hard way, how to be the healthy and supportive partner our significant others deserve. As one can imagine, this process can be complicated when the person you love is struggling with depression.
So simple to say and explain, yet oftentimes so difficult to put into practice. Encourage your significant other. Remind them how important they are to you and that you are always supporting them, even if it is quietly and from afar. This may be easy when things are good, but be sure to do this even when your partner is struggling with depression and pushes you away. Just like you crave and want their love and support, I guarantee your partner wants the same from you. They may want this love and support in a different way than you would expect, so be sure to listen and learn. Even if in that moment they can’t properly communicate it. They need you more than you may realize.
Help them help themselves
I may have an undergrad degree in psych, but I am certainly no licensed counselor or psychiatrist. Even if I were my job, as a partner, is not to assess and administer medical and mental health advice, it is to support Heather. One of the best ways to do this is to live my life in a healthy way and encourage her to explore and pursue interests and passions that will help her grow and improve mental wellbeing. This one can be tricky at times, trust me. I care so much about Heather and her happiness I want nothing more than to swoop in and “fix” everything all at once. But trust me when I say there is absolutely nothing more rewarding than seeing your partner go out and take control of their mental well-being on their own, knowing that you supported or encouraged them in some small way.
Take control of your own well-being
Just like you need to allow your partner to pursue their own mental health, you need to ensure you are doing the same. Whether you like it or not, there is no way that you can be the support and rock someone struggling with mental illness needs if you are not taking the time to address your own mental health and wellness at the same time. Be sure to form a healthy and close support group. There may be times that you are struggling and your significant other cannot be there for you. I should note that oftentimes they desperately want to be able to support you, but simply cannot in that moment. Don’t hold it against them or resent them for it. Instead lean on your support group and focus on creating a better you.
Remember depression is an illness, not a choice
So often in our society people seem to think that depression is a frame of mind, that individuals struggling with it simply aren’t positive enough. This concept could not be more wrong, depression is an illness. People struggling want to get better, they would kill to be able to kick these feelings, but it is not that simple. They can’t just cheer up (so please don’t ask). I like to mentally compare depression to having a cold or the flu. If your significant other was struggling with the flu how you would treat them? You would (hopefully) care for them, love them, and give them the adequate rest and medical attention needed to recover. Depression is no different folks. Reshaping your mindset to see depression as a medical illness will drastically change the way you view and care for your partner for the better.
Don’t take things personally
This was a big one for me. I am (proudly) super in tune with my emotional side and tend to put a lot of emphasis on the sappy side of our relationship. Whenever I first began dating Heather, I would take the fact that she wasn’t up for talking endlessly on the phone or maybe needed some extra alone time really personally. I’ve since learned that these differences are part of our personalities yet become exasperated and highlighted by depression. It has helped me immensely to view these moments as opportunities to allow Heather to heal and care for her own needs, rather than look at them as negatives and that she loves me any less.
Conscientiously love them
I find this is important in any relationship, especially those were one partner struggles with depression. When symptoms flare up and the going gets tough between you and your significant other, it can be really easy to let yourself get pushed out of their life and for resentment to set in. Go back to the reasons you love them and the commitments you have made to this person. Each morning I like to text Heather and in this moment I mentally remind myself why I love her and that I chose her, all of her (the good, the bad, the great, the depressed, and the sassy). Doing this leads to a refreshing and healthy mindset full of love and compassion. Also, sharing this practice with your significant other will help them as well. Oftentimes people in relationships with depression feel guilt and shame. They may feel that they aren’t good enough and that they aren’t meeting your needs. The ability to show your significant other that you are conscious of their current struggles and limitations and that you love them regardless (or in my case because of this) is a great way to help them feel encouraged.
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