Depression is an all-consuming condition and when it hits someone, it can feel like they've become another person.
It’s a heartbreaking mental health condition for the person going through it but it can also be devastating for their family and friends as they try to navigate the best way to help that person.
Unfortunately, it’s not always a straightforward process and, if you live with someone experiencing a depressive episode, for a while, it can feel like their depression has permeated every part of your life too.
It’s natural to want to help them, to want to fix them and to feel frustrated and angry when they don’t do what you suggest or tell you that you don’t understand.
However, even though you can’t fight this fight for them, there are things you can do to show them how much you love them and that you’re with them every step of the way.
Don’t try to fix them
All you want is to see the person you love smiling but you can’t fix their depression for them, know matter how hard you try.
The best thing you can do is be there for them when they need you. Instead of always trying to come up with a solution, actively listen to them and sympathise with what they’re going through.
By providing a space where they can be honest around you and not have to “pretend to be happy” or put on an act, you’re letting them know that you love them regardless of their mood.
Be supportive but respect their boundaries
It’s important to be there for a depressed person but it’s also vital to respect their boundaries.
Don’t force them to talk about something if they don’t want to. Instead, try to re-engage them with the activities that they enjoyed doing before they became depressed. You may meet some resistance but that’s okay. Respect their answer but try again the next day.
If they don’t want to spend time with you, don’t take it personally. They’re dealing with a psychological condition and won’t always be able to behave the way they know you want them to.
Recognise that depression is only one part of them
It takes immense strength to live with depression. To carry that pain day after day and still believe, somewhere deep within them, that better days are coming requires enormous courage.
But having depression doesn’t define the person you love. They may also be funny, kind, goofy and smart. Maybe they love sports, books, movies or cooking shows. When signs of their happier self re-emerge, celebrate them.
Be a part of their healing process
Talk to them about their triggers or what they need from you. If it’s something different to what you’ve been doing, be open to the response and don’t take it personally.
If they suggest or agree to go to therapy, be enthusiastic about their decision. Even better, go to therapy with them and be as proactive and encouraging as you can about anything that sets them on the path of recovery.
Look after your own mental health
Living with or being in a relationship with a depressed person is not easy and it’s vital that you acknowledge your own needs as well.
Keep the lines of communication open at all times. Only by talking with the person will you know how they’re feeling at any given moment and what you need from each other to have the best possible day.
Remember that your loved one’s depression is not about you. However, you will need a strong support network around you and external outlets for your frustration or anger. Be kind to yourself and talk to a therapist or mental health professional if you need help.