When Your Loved One Is Depressed

what to do when a loved one is depressed

There are so many emotions involved when a loved one is depressed. This is something I have learned from experience — It is a little difficult to be in a relationship with me. Honestly, I now know that I’m pretty awesome in general, but I am self-aware enough to realize that living with someone full-time who has mental health issues is so NOT easy. Maybe you are like me and wish you knew how to talk to your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/? What do they need to know when their loved one is depressed or anxious or dealing with any type of mental health issue?

If so, I thought I would share some words that might help those around you as you deal with your illness. You can even print it out and give it to your significant other.

Give This To Your Loved Ones When You ARE DEPRESSED

Dear Loved One:

Being a parent/spouse/boyfriend or girlfriend/friend to someone who deals with mental health issues such as the ones I have (major depressive disorder, general anxiety, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and ADHD) is never boring, but it isn’t always fun. Being a part of my life means taking on a different type of responsibility that would not normally come with a fully healthy person. You need to know how much I appreciate you and I acknowledge that I have no idea what our life together is like from your perspective.

I need you to know that I love you.

It seems like I am also dealing with a strong wave of depression, feeling extremely anxious on top of that, and my brain keeps hyper-focusing on reliving past traumatic events. Basically, I am going through a bad time right now. Due to the nature of our relationship, you may feel that you are part of the problem. Let me promise you that is definitely not true, but you do have a big effect on how I will deal with my illness. I would like to share with you some things you should know so we can fight together to help me get better.

  1. Love doesn’t cure-all. You may wish that just because we have this amazing incredible relationship that I should be happy all the time. But no, love cannot conquer an actual physical brain disorder. If I had high blood pressure or diabetes, our love couldn’t cure me of those illnesses either.
  2. There are times when you have had to take on the role of caretaker in addition to all the amazing things you already do. As a caretaker, your priority is to take care of yourself first. If you are exhausted, overly stressed, or aren’t taking care of your own basic needs then you won’t be able to help take care of mine. Be strong in this and I’ll thank you later.
  3. PLEASE don’t do the things that you think I need. Ask me and I will tell you the best I can. To be completely honest, I don’t give a shit if there are dishes in the sink or if there is laundry that needs to be put away. Yes, it is nice that you do that, but I would much rather you wouldn’t roll your eyes at me when I cry. To help prevent or at least make these times more manageable, please make sure that I don’t forget to take my medications. Even with that pill reminder box, I will still forget.
  4. Do NOT, under any circumstances — even as a joke — tell me to just get over it. This is a complicated illness brought on by faulty brain chemistry and years of emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. I want me to get better a million times more than even you do. Trust that I will never give up on healing and learning all the coping tools I can to allow for a better quality of life for you and for me.
  5. Don’t ever forget that each day may be different. Yesterday, I may have gotten a bit hyperfocused and cleaned/organized for hours. It may take me another two weeks or a month before I can do that again. It is so incredibly awesome when that happens though, right?
  6. If I say I need alone time, please, please, please — do not take it personally. Most of what I need to do to get better is internal. If I don’t get enough time to withdraw into myself and figure things out, then it will take me that much longer to cycle back out again (climb out of that big black hole/find my way out of the storm/turn the wolf into a puppy again). And if we have kids, help me to pick up the slack with them. Especially as they are young, try to get them out of the house when I am unable to do that.
  7. Do not ask me how long it will take before I am better again. I do not have a fucking clue. I ask myself the same stupid question every waking moment.
  8. If you need to vent how hard it is, go ahead. It will be okay. Venting is different from anger though. You do need your own support system and ways to deal with those negative feelings. Don’t bury them. You may even want your own therapist for a while to help you deal with what I am going through.
  9. Each episode of depression is different. That one time a couple of years ago, it was a little helpful to veg on the couch and watch a bunch of romantic comedies so I laughed a lot. Other times, you have seen me get hyper-focused on a computer game or into reading or pour myself into a new hobby. At my worst, I may need to sit in my room, alone, in the dark, rocking back and forth crying. I might want to try all of these things again or try something completely new. Make gentle suggestions, but if I let you know it isn’t helping, please listen. Most of all, if I don’t use your idea or if your idea doesn’t work, it is not rejection in any way, shape, or form.
  10. You are going to feel helpless. You love me and it will drive you crazy that you can’t fix me. It’s a horrible feeling and I can’t take that away from you. But, I can tell you that even though you might think you aren’t doing a lot, if you are following the above advice — you are doing more than you can imagine. Thank you so much for reading.
It's okay not to be okay

Love from me

What else do you do when a loved one is depressed?

Please feel free to print this out and hand it to Your Person. Or take the bits that pertain to your life and rewrite it to fit better. This is the fourth incarnation of this and I originally wrote “When Your Loved One is Depressed” maybe 20 years or so ago (I have no concept of time). Perhaps you are the person with a loved one who is depressed, please know that this is for you, and I wrote it on their behalf.

If the relationship that you are in is making your mental health issues worse, please contact The Hotline or call 800-787-7233.

If your mental health has gone to a super dark place and you are scared that you might harm yourself, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 800-273-8255.

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