By Indiana Lee
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world; in fact, 19.4 million people have at least one depressive episode each year. Accordingly, you likely know someone who lives with depression — maybe even someone who struggles with it daily.
When that someone is your partner, and depression develops a presence in your everyday life, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope.
You may ask yourself: How can you love and support your partner while making your own mental health a priority? What can you do to help them, yourself and your relationship all at once?
Here are a few suggestions to get started.
Because depression is a common mental health condition, most people have a general familiarity with the typical ways in which it manifests. However, everyone experiences depression differently. Many of the core symptoms are the same, such as loss of interest in normal activities, changes in sleeping or eating habits and feelings of guilt or worthlessness. But your partner may experience less commonly known symptoms, like anxiety or anger. They also might be highly functional on some days and in a nonfunctional depressive state the next.
When you’re in a relationship with someone with depression, learning more about mental illness should be your first step. There are plenty of widely circulated myths about depression, so doing your research or asking your partner to share their experience with you is important. This dialogue can strengthen your communication skills, improve your relationship and boost your emotional intelligence.
Growing this “emotional intelligence” — and developing traits like empathy and self-awareness — can help you to feel more in-tune with and connected to your partner. When you’re acutely in touch with both your partner’s and your own emotional well-being, you both can be there for each other on a deeper level.
When you love someone, seeing them hurting or struggling in any way can be heartbreaking. It can often seem like there is no “right” way to support them. Perhaps you try a gentle approach one day and a firmer one the next, only to feel like nothing is working. You might even try taking clues from TV shows that depict depression accurately, like “This is Us.” Unfortunately, the fact that depression impacts people differently means that not even the best screenwriters in the world can always get it exactly right.
One of the best things you can do is to simply talk to your partner and ask what they need. Ask what you can do to help them feel supported. It’s also important to maintain balance within the relationship and keep things as consistent as possible. Be compassionate with their needs and understand that those needs may change.
Additionally, it can be helpful to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship and highlight them to your partner. You can also plan something you know they’ll enjoy. Or, do something that might boost their spirits, like setting up a date night at home if they don’t feel up to going out. Planning a movie marathon, cooking them dinner or having a game night are all great ways for your partner to stay in their comfort zone while allowing you to reconnect and get closer as a couple.
Wanting to take care of your partner is a good thing, but it cannot always be your top priority.
You can’t take care of someone when you’re completely burnt out — physically or mentally. You may not struggle with depression yourself, but you are more likely to experience mental health struggles if you’re not prioritizing your own well-being. You might start to feel overly stressed, tired and anxious if you’re worrying about your partner all the time.
It’s not selfish to put your own mental health first. In fact, doing so will allow you to better support your partner because you’ll have the drive, energy and focus to attend to their needs. Self-care doesn’t have to be something over-the-top and luxurious. There are things you can do each day to boost your mental health:
If you love someone with depression, remember that you’re not alone. It can be helpful to talk to someone else about your life and what you’re dealing with. You don’t have to carry the weight of your relationship on your shoulders or sacrifice your well-being in order to support your partner. You can love them and support them while still taking care of yourself.
Indiana Lee has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana also has experience in owning and operating her own business. She encourages readers to follow her on Twitter.
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