Living with depression sucks. Anyone that has it will tell you that. But what’s it like when you’re dating someone with depression? The answer tends to be complicated.
In short, depression is a mental illness that causes low moods for what can be short or extended periods. These periods of low mood are caused by a chemical imbalance within the brain which can also be triggered by life events. For example, many find that large changes or stressful events may set them into a period of depression.
No two people will have the same causes and reaction to depression, the key is to understand your partner.
Hopefully, by taking the time to learn and understand, you will be able to support your partner on their journey.
Do work to understand & support
It’s important to bear in mind that letting someone know you have depression is daunting. Regardless of the stage of your relationship, it is important to acknowledge what they’ve said and appreciate their bravery. Once you are aware, you should begin to take steps towards understanding your partner’s needs and supporting them where you can. As much as it is a challenge for you, they are also dating with depression, which is no small task.
If you’re looking for inspiration, there are many books about depression that can help provide understanding. There are also movies about depression that you can watch, such as Anomalisa and Cake, featuring Jennifer Aniston. They provide a deeper understanding of depression and help to normalise it.
Find out the severity of their depression. Do they suffer from crippling depression, chronic depression, or something else? By understanding the severity of if, you will be able to understand low periods much better. Your role, as a partner, is to be as supportive as you can be – this is perhaps the most important place to start.
Do talk openly about it
Being open takes time to build up to. In any relationship, building trust is the first step to opening up to each other. Once the trust is built and you can begin talking openly, you can begin to support on a more personal level.
When you are dating someone with depression, it is important to listen. What may seem trivial to you, could be potentially life-threatening for them. It is vital to ensure you do not dismiss any of their feelings, instead, begin to talk through them calmly. People are not dating with depression to cure their feelings, but to find support that helps them see that there are better days ahead.
Do find ways to overcome it
You aren’t a trained professional, nor do you have to be. What you can do is find your partner’s triggers and help to avoid them. If you notice that particular changes or life events are contributing factors, assess what you can do to limit them. Do they feel as though they are the only ones? Perhaps this is where watching movies about depression may help them understand that they are not alone. Is stress a factor? Can you organise or plan to limit this occurrence? – You’ll learn how to help them support themselves.
It’s also good to mention that these are all parts of a normal and healthy relationship. Dating someone with depression is likely to have trials and tribulations, but so is every relationship! The key is working as a team to support each other through it.
As innocent or minor as these things may seem, there are things to avoid doing and saying. Here are some potentially harmful things that you should refrain from saying.
Don’t blame them
Depression isn’t anyone’s fault. If you read any books about depression, this is the first thing they’ll tell you. Mental illnesses stem from chemical imbalances or genetic conditions, which are uncontrollable and very challenging to live with. Blaming someone for their mental illness is alienating and demoralising.
An equivalent scenario is blaming someone for the weather. Just as we can’t control the weather on a rainy day, someone with depression cannot control how grey clouds may overcome them.
Don’t recite generic phrases
As much as they’re coming from a good place, generic phrases can be the worst thing to say. Let’s explore three phrases that you might be tempted to say, but probably shouldn’t.
Things Could Be Worse
When it comes to dating someone with depression, the chances are that they feel nothing could be worse. There aren’t always triggers and low moments may just happen. It’s important not to focus on the way other people may feel and make it specific to your partner. Depression sucks – there are no two ways about it.
You Don’t Seem Depressed
Everyone copes with depression differently. If someone seems fine, they may just be good at covering up their feelings and this is potentially more of a concern. By telling someone they don’t ‘look depressed’ can seem like a compliment, but the reality is that it has taken a lot of work and effort to get to that point. Don’t dismiss their feelings based on the way they appear to be.
This Is Just A Bad Day
Most days are probably bad days. It can be difficult for people who do not suffer from a mental illness, to understand that these aren’t just passing phases. They’re likely endlessly low periods. Don’t try to compare these feelings to people who don’t have depression, it’s an entirely different story.
Don’t ignore what they say
Far too often, when concerns are voiced, they are ignored. When you ignore someone’s feelings, especially someone with depression, there can be detrimental effects. Ignoring someone with crippling depression may send them into a spiral where they feel rejected and more alone than before.
Depression is an isolating condition. It makes you feel as though you are totally alone and when you finally dare to speak, being ignored is shattering. When someone lets you know how they are feeling, validate their feelings and work to reduce them. Suggest a walk, bring them food or even bring them books about depression. These are all ways to either distract them or help them realise that they are not alone. Opening up takes courage, and if someone trusts you to do so – don’t sweep it under the rug.
Relationships should be reciprocal and both you and your partner should be helping each other. Working together is important and as much as you should be giving your support, your partner should be open to taking it. Remember that you should be taking care of yourself. By being the best version of yourself, you make the best partner to someone else.