Helping Your Depressed Partner
Updated: Jan 2
"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
- Psalm 42:11
Depression is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
It's an unpredictable and completely devastating mental illness. It isn't just being sad, crying, and not wanting to leave the house. For me, those are some of the easiest parts of depression (although, depression, in general, isn't easy).
Depression can be not getting up to get food because just the thought of having to put one foot in front of the other is exhausting.
Depression can be accepting living in clutter and mess because you can't bring yourself to tidy up and make things clean and pristine, because clean and pristine isn't how you feel.
Depression can be staying awake all night, without knowing why you can't sleep, or depression can be sleeping for hours and hours on end, without knowing why you're so sleepy.
Depression can be so many things and nothing all at once, but it depends on the person and how their depression chooses to manifest itself. But mostly, depression can be lonely.
That's why partners with depression, no matter how they may seem, need companionship and they need stability.
When your partner is depressed, they may not feel like plastering a fake smile on their face for the sake of maintaining a facade of being okay. Sometimes, it gets too tiring to fake it. You have to let them know that it's okay to feel this way and it's okay to not want to be happy - but not for forever.
It's important to let them know that these feelings are temporary. It's hard to see in the moment, when they're deep in sadness and lethargy and so many emotions they can't even understand. But, these emotions are temporary - they come and they go. And when they go, such a weight will be lifted off their shoulders that they'll wonder how long they haven't been breathing right. It'll be such a great feeling and it'll show them that hard times never last forever.
And they may get irritated at this, because it's so hard for them to see it and visualize them ever being happy or being the person that they were. And they may try to push you away, because they're too overcome with anger or irritation to see it any way but their way. And that's okay, too.
Depression can make people easily angered or irritated and sometimes, they won't even notice until later that they shouldn't have reacted that way. Just be there for them. If they say they need space, give them space, but let them know that when they've gotten the space they needed, you'll be right there waiting for them. Stability and reassurance are keys.
But stability may not always be what they provide for you. Sometimes plans will be made and last minute, they'll say they don't want to go because they're too tired or they "just don't feel like it". And, honestly, it's not fair to you. And it's understandable if you feel like your efforts aren't being reciprocated. But know that they're trying, really trying. They're trying to be "okay" and trying to be the person you fell in love with again. But, its hard to be the person you know you are when you feel like a completely different person. Both of your feelings are valid, and both of you are trying and that's all that matters.
When they don't want to go out, it's okay to stay home sometimes. But sometimes, they have to follow through. They have to make themselves go out, because sometimes, it'll be therapeutic for them. And sometimes, they'll feel lost and so distanced from the crowd. But once they're home, let them do what they need to do to feel stable again.
And when they talk to you about their feelings and how their depression is making them feel, it's okay to listen and be there for them. They need that. But they also need a therapist. It's really easy to talk to your partner about everything that's troubling you, because they always want the best for you and want to help you, but it's also easy to stress them out with the feeling of needing to constantly be a safe haven for you. It's stressful to place your burdens all on someone's shoulders because then, your shoulders are free and light. But your partner's shoulders have so much weight on them. They have not only your weight, but their weight that they were already carrying on their shoulders. And that puts a strain on them and your relationship's health, because now, you're both see-sawing each other's issues onto one another. When all you need to do is listen to each other and encourage each other to talk to an outside source.
Depression can be lonely for both partners, but you both need each other, because it's all temporary.
If you, or your partner believes you may be suffering from symptoms of depression, visit your doctor and consider going into therapy. It doesn't hurt to be aware.