11 Tips For Taking Care Of Yourself When Your Partner Is Depressed
If your partner is depressed, then you know how difficult it can be to help them through their ups and downs. One day they feel OK. The next, not so much. And the day after that, they are unrecognizable. Helping them through it all is obviously incredibly important. But it's also important to help yourself when your partner is depressed.
Because, as with any illness, looking after a sick loved can be exhausting, time-consuming, and unpredictable. This is especially the case with depression, as everyone is different when it comes to how they want (or don't want) to be helped. This is the nature of depression — a disease that rears its ugly head in a variety of ways.
As Dr. Michele Barton, director of clinical health psychology at Behavioral Associates, says in an email to Bustle, "Depression can manifest in a number of fashions based on the individual's combination of symptoms leading to the diagnosis ... Some experience sleep disturbance, either too much or too little. Some experience eating and weight changes, usually an extreme weight loss or weight gain." And that's all on top of the other, more pervasive depressive symptoms (think loss of interest in activities, persistent sadness, etc.)
This can make knowing what to do, when it comes to helping your SO, feel damn near impossible. While your brain is screaming "fix it fix it fix it," your help isn't always wanted, or appreciated. It can be confusing. Not to mention, all the changes can really affect your lifestyle, health, and well-being, according to Barton. So here are some ways to keep it all in perspective, and help your partner while also helping yourself.
1. Remember It's Not Your Fault
One of the most difficult things about helping your partner deal with depression is the nagging feeling that it's all your fault. You spend the most time with them, after all, so it's natural to feel like their unhappiness is a direct reflection on you. But wanna know something cool? It's not. "We don’t blame ourselves if a loved one gets cancer, and we should not blame ourselves if a loved one develops mental illness," said Julie K. Hersh on Psychology Today. Easier said than done, of course, and yet it can help to keep this in mind.
2. Help Yourself By Helping Them
The sooner your partner gets professional help, the better. "The longer an individual remains in a depressive state the worse it becomes, and the harder it is to treat that depression," Barton says. So do both of you a favor, and help steer your partner (with their permission) towards the doctor's office.
3. Get Your Own Therapist
Helping someone cope with depression can bring up a lot of emotions, like anger, frustration, and confusion (just to name a few). To better deal with it all, it may be necessary to find your own therapist. According to Barton, chatting it up with a doctor can help you gain more understanding about depression. And, they can offer up some tailor-made coping mechanisms.
4. Make A Plan Together
The next time your partner shows a bit of gumption, seize the day and sit them down to discuss how they want to be treated. "Open up a dialogue to co-create an action plan for their low days," suggested Ruby Fremon on HuffingtonPost.com. "How do they want to approach those days? What would they like to experience on those days? And what would help them shift through those days?" Not having to guess will prevent a lot of fights, and a lot of misunderstandings.
5. Be Willing To Comfort Them
Your partner may be super needy right now, so be ready to watch hours of Netflix, listen to what they have to say, make them dinner, lie with them in bed, etc. etc. If you can expect this, you'll feel less letdown when your SO doesn't want to go out. A little understanding, and some altered expectations, can go along way.
6. Don't Take It Personally
On the flip side of the hyper-snuggly depressed partner, is the partner who wants nothing to do with you, ever. This can hurt a lot, for obvious reasons. But it's important that you don't take it personally. "Depression can tank your partner’s sex drive, make them seem bored with the things you talk about, or take the joy out of things they might otherwise enjoy," said Eric Ravenscraft on Lifehacker.com. When you're aware that's what depression does, it can take some of the sting out.
7. Take Really Good Care Of Yourself
OK, so you're devoting nearly 100 percent of your time and attention to your SO. That's great, and very loving of you. But it is going to be necessary to take some time to yourself. "[Pay] close attention to things like sleeping, eating well, drinking enough water, exercising (possibly even increased exercise), and continue to seek joy in activities that are pleasurable, even if you have to do them alone," Barton suggests.
8. Set Up Clear Boundaries
This is a big one, because while some partners may want to be left alone, others may be over-the-top desirous of your time. This is when clear boundaries become 100 percent necessary. As Ravenscraft said, "... you should identify what you need to be happy, healthy, and able to continue supporting both yourself and your partner." Hint: this will most likely include that above self-care tips.
9. Reach Out To Friends
If you're starting to feel alone and isolated, then it's high time you reach out to some friends and fam. Seeking support from friends, family, and any affiliations available to you can be really helpful, according to Barton. So take the time, and don't feel guilty about it.
10. Create An Open Dialogue
Dealing with your partner's depression is going to be way more difficult if you guys don't talk about it. That's why the floor should always be open, when (and if they want to open up. All you have to do is hold that space, and let them know you're available, according to Fremon. It'll make things easier on both of you.
11. Recognize That It's A Process
All of the above is going to create wave after wave of emotion, both positive and negative. As Barton says, "... individuals may go through a series of emotions emerging from the loss of the partner they know and love. This loss and the resulting emotions closely resemble those associated with Kubler-Ross stages of Bereavement." These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. After acceptance, you may start to approach your role in this in a more logical, realistic, and constructive fashion, according to Barton. Until then, however, it can be quite the mess — and that's OK.
Because depression isn't easy for anyone. It's obviously going to be really hard for your partner, as they work through their feelings and get help. But it's going to be really tough on you, too. So be willing to support your SO as much as they need, while also supporting yourself. Facing it together will make it all much easier. And if you do, you'll both get through it.
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