03 Oct Dealing with Depression in Relationships
Relationships aren’t easy but they’re especially not easy when one of you, or maybe even both of you, have depression. We all deal with depression in different ways, which can also be incredibly confusing. Some people get depressed because of their lack of success. Some people get depressed through loneliness. Some people choose to withdraw and seek solitude, while others need human contact.
This mental illness can be a complicated beast, causing the person suffering with it to shut down and reject the people closest to them. The partner on the receiving end can feel lost and confused, not knowing how to handle the situation.
Depression can definitely cause problems in a relationship, but a break down in a relationship can also be the trigger of depression too. Going through a breakup is one of the number 1 causes of depression as it can bring up feelings of abandonment, sadness, loss and loneliness. While many self-help books will say it’s certainly important to be happy on your own, there’s still no denying that relationships are one of our major sources of happiness and a deficit in this area of our lives can leave us feeling sad and depressed.
I have been susceptible to depression my whole life. For me, it is just normal. We all have a base level of happiness. My level of happiness just happens to be lower than others and I’ve had to come to accept that. Sometimes I see happy, smiley people and I think – how can you be that bubbly and happy all the time? I envy them, I really do. For me, a lot of my depressive thoughts stem from feelings of abandonment as a child which caused a feeling of low self esteem.
However, there’s no denying that relationships definitely bring me a sense of security, happiness and confidence. Well…my kind of happiness. You see the issue is sometimes when your base level happiness is lower than other people’s – your partner can start to think, “Why am I not making her happy?” In fact, I am happy, I’m just my version of happy.
I think it’s OK to acknowledge that yes, relationships can be a source of happiness, since most of us on this Earth are in search of someone we can spend our time with. Life is better when shared and love is definitely a powerful drug. It can make you feel on cloud nine. Of course, your relationship shouldn’t be the only thing you have in your life but it’s OK to admit it’s a big part of it. Having said all this, relationships aren’t a complete cure for depression and depression can sometimes rear its ugly head.
The way we display depression
For me, when I’m in full depression, it is obvious. I just stop eating. I sleep all the time and generally seem low. I tell people I’m feeling low, I make phone calls to a therapist and I try to work through it as best I can. I feel as if my heart and my windpipe are being crushed and my head and limbs feel heavy. It’s like a drowning feeling, not being able to pull myself up for air. Other people hide it incredibly well. They are laughing and joking with you one minute, being the entertaining comedy act, then the next minute tears are flowing down their face. This kind of depression is the most dangerous, because it’s easy to see that person and think; “he/she isn’t depressed at all, they can’t even begin to understand real depression”. If your partner has this type of depression it’s easy to miss the warning signs and to not be as sensitive to their feelings.
Try to really take notice of your partner and learn to develop your intuition when it comes to depression. Showing compassion and being there for them is the best thing you can do.
The most important thing when it comes to dealing with depression in relationships is communication. If you are open about your internal struggles, your partner is better equipped to help you and understand you. It is not always easy to speak up or to explain why you are depressed, but opening up can help bring you closer together. While you crave being alone, this is just not something to go through alone.
The best relationships are where the two people are true teammates facing the world together. If you don’t have depression but your partner does, lend a listening ear and try to be as patient as you can. Definitely do NOT tell them to snap out of it, this will only make things worse. The ability to show empathy and be there for them through their troubles is the sign of a great partnership.
How do I know if it’s my depression or my relationship?
If you’re feeling depressed you might find yourself starting to wonder if you’re in the wrong relationship. You might lose interest in them or lose interest in sex. Perhaps you think they’re being critical of you. Take a step back. Often the way you perceive others is actually a reflection of how you’re feeling about yourself. So for example, you may think someone is being critical of you, but actually you’re being overly critical of yourself. Depression can distort things and paint an overall more negative view of the situation. The best way to overcome this is by feeling more secure within yourself. You cannot look outwardly for approval from your partner – in fact – you need to adopt self-compassion.
In a well-rounded relationship, both partners should be able to express their feelings and to communicate. If your partner tells you that they need more help around the house, you could look at it one of two ways. A depressed person might think: “He/she doesn’t really like me. I disappoint them.” whereas a more healthy way to look at it would be, “I understand his/her viewpoint and will try to help out more.”
Step back for a while and really assess your relationship. Everyone has flaws and weaknesses, but do their good traits cancel out the bad? If you know the person only wants the best for you, and you enjoy seeing them on a daily basis, then it is most likely your depression talking.
Express what you need
Every person has an internal dialogue. We anticipate what the other person will say and we have a script in our head of what we expect them to say. It can be really disappointing when that person doesn’t say/do what we hoped they’d do. For example, a classic one is “Maybe I shouldn’t….” What you’re often really doing is inviting the other person to say, “Don’t be silly!” but if they don’t get the memo…things can go wrong. If this happens, try to identify what you hoped would happen. Tell them how you need to be supported in order to feel better. If your partner knows what you need, things become much clearer.
Both of us have depression, can it work?
You’d think that two people with depression might mean double trouble but in fact, if two of you have depression you both are finely tuned to understand each other. You can pull each other out of it and know how best to deal with it, and it’s not likely that you’ll both have depression at the same time. The way you display depression might be different and you may have different reasons for it but you’ll have a lot of compassion in a relationship.
Depression can really take its toll on relationships. But in the end, you cannot let depression win.