There is no joy in depression. If you are the person who experiences it, you’ll know that. It seems to eat into your very soul. If you’re the partner of someone who’s depressed, you’ll know that too – because it is you who has to deal with the fallout, day in, day out.
Of course there are different types of depression, but I’m talking about the slow-burning, insidious, generalised type of depression that seems to worm its way into an individual and form the background to their life. Deep down they feel ‘bad’ or ‘empty’ for much of the time and probably have no idea why.
The thing is, neither of you may realise that they are depressed. If you’ve lived with someone for a long time, you’ll be used to each other’s idiosyncrasies , so it’s quite common to accept their depressed behaviour and excuse it, for example by telling yourself that this is “Just how they are”, or “He/She must have got out of the wrong side of the bed”. On the other hand, your partner may be receiving treatment for depression anyway. This doesn’t make it any easier on you though.
Depression manifests in many ways and it’s different for everyone. Some of the negative behaviour can range from sadness and weeping, to self-blame, to complaining and putting a negative ‘spin’ on everything, to criticising and blaming others (especially you), to real anger and aggression (especially directed towards you.)
But behind all of this is a sense of loss (perhaps of a job, a relationship, faculties, identity) and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. The important thing to realise is that it is the depressed behaviour, not the person inside that is the issue. It is frightening and overwhelming for them, and they cannot just ‘snap out of it.’
However, as the partner, you are the one most likely to be on the receiving end of all this, picking up the pieces, and living with long term stress. It’s the niggling every day stuff that no-one else sees or knows about that gets you. You may have a hundred unanswered questions and feel sad, guilty, desperately worried and sometimes angry and bitter.
The more you worry and try to figure out what went wrong and how to help, the more exhausted you get, until you are totally drained with nothing left to give. You might feel trapped too, especially if you are in the house together for a large part of the day with no-one else to talk to. Plus which, you might feel disloyal talking about how your partner’s depression is affecting you – so you tell no-one.
Yet it is so important to take a step back a little, otherwise you are in danger of becoming ill yourself. Therefore:
- It is ok and necessary to get some support for yourself. Talking to someone you trust can be such a relief.
- It is important to keep your own life going, especially engaging in activities that involve other people. This helps to keep your perspective fresh.
- Reconnect with your bright side. Laugh! Sing! Find the joy in your life again.
I have been on this journey myself – and it can be really tough. But with the right help, you can develop your inner strength and boost your confidence. Doing so will help your partner too.
If you are depressed yourself, please don’t use what I’ve said as a stick to beat yourself with. This is a tumultuous journey, and you both need a little help along the way.
Caroline Carr is the founder of LET THE SUNSHINE IN at www.lettingthesunshinein.com – a website which helps people connect with their bright side, even when their partner is depressed. She is a life coach and hypnotherapist, a teacher of Laughter Yoga, and a Lifemusic practitioner. She is also the author of several self help books including ‘LIVING WITH DEPRESSION – how to cope when your partner is depressed.’
by Caroline Carr