One of the most difficult situations a couple can face is when one partner suffers from depression. Most of the attention is usually focused on the person with depression. But it’s important to recognize the toll it can take on the person supporting them, both physically and emotionally.
If you’re taking care of a partner with depression, you can easily forget to care for yourself. Here are some useful tips to keep yourself healthy and strong during a difficult time.
Recognize Depression For What It Is
Depression is a real illness that impacts the brain and body at a hormonal level. It’s not the same thing as feeling blue or being in a bad mood. It’s more similar to a chronic physical illness like heart disease than it is to a bad mood. Just like other serious diseases, it’s not impossible to beat—but the battle can be tough.
Depression isn’t unusual, either. In 2012, 16 million Americans stated that they had a depressive episode in that year. That’s 7% of the population. According to the World Health Organization 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression.
The good news is you’re not alone. There are a lot of resources out there to support you and your partner.
Get Your Partner Help
Hiding or ignoring depression won’t make it go away. By the same token, handling the issue on your own can be extremely taxing and stressful. If you suspect that your partner is depressed consider seeking professional help.
That being said, starting a conversation about this with your loved one can be very difficult. You might hesitate approach the topic because you’re afraid it will insult your partner, or make them feel worse than they already do.
Here are some ways to initiate the conversation:
- Express yourself in a non-judgmental and non-accusatory way. State your concerns as observations. For example say, “I’ve noticed you seem down recently” or “I’ve noticed these differences in you (offer examples) and they concern me.”
- Ask questions. Ask your partner when they started to feel differently, what you can do to help, and if they have thought of going to see a therapist.
- Start the conversation when you both have time to focus without distractions.
If your partner refuses to make an appointment with a therapist, you can try to make it yourself. Offer to take your partner and go with them. Keep reminding yourself that they are ill. If your partner had heart disease, you wouldn’t try to fight it by yourself. You’d ask doctors, family, and friends for help.
If your partner doesn’t want to go to a therapist, suggest a visit to a general practitioner. The pressure may seem lower that way. They may need to hear that they should go to psychologist from a doctor instead of you. Encourage them to write down their symptoms before the visit.
Remember, finding the right professional to treat your partner’s depression may take some trial and error. You can help by researching your options. Keep trying until you find a professional that can help.
Take Care of Yourself
Sometimes it might feel like your partner’s depression is rubbing off on you. That’s normal in this situation. But remember, depression is their disease, not yours. You should do everything you can to maintain a healthy, happy life while helping your partner.
Simple positive behaviors such as eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising have enormous benefits for caretakers. You can even gently encourage (but not pressure) your partner to do the same. Remember not to take their rejection personally. It’s also OK to keep inviting them to do positive things with you such as going to a fun event, seeing friends, or spending time outdoors. It’s good for them to know you’re there even if they don’t want to join in. Try to keep a sense of normalcy in your life by continuing to do the things that you enjoy. It’s healthy to set boundaries to maintain your own mental and physical well-being.
Know that you can only help your partner to a certain extent. One of the most important things you can do is offer your support during their treatment by being patient, loving, and consistent.