I’ve never been depressed. I’ve had my share of my own crazy and sure, I have my bad times. I have those times where I start crying while brushing my teeth and I’m not sure why. We’ve all experienced this to an extent. You go through a patch where staying in bed all day isn’t just the better option — it’s the only one. But as blue as things may look at that point, a lot of us are lucky enough to have the ability to say “I’m feeling depressed,” as opposed to “I have depression.”
There’s a big difference between those statements, and the key word is feeling.
Originally posted on Literally, Darling.
Like I said, I’ve never been depressed. But I know a lot about depression. Over the past few years, someone very close to me whom I love dearly became depressed. And I had no idea what I was getting into.
Let’s call my friend Hubert. Why? Because Hubert is a funny name, and nothing about this situation is funny.
Hubert went through some life changes. Some things turned out less than desirable for him, but all in all, Hubert would agree that nothing terrible happened to him. This is a common misconception about depression — you don’t have to have a traumatic home life, a horrible experience or witness the death of a loved one to become depressed. Depression has no rhyme or reason. It just happens.
I didn’t understand this at the time. I found myself wondering at times why Hubert was taking things so hard. He can get past this, I thought to myself, all he has to do is just try.
But he couldn’t. Because despite the fact that Hubert’s life mantra is “I can do anything if I try,” he couldn’t bring himself to. He couldn’t even bring himself to care. He couldn’t even try to try.
You know those commercials for the antidepressant with the tagline, “depression hurts more than just you,” or “depression hurts everyone?” It’s true. Loving someone with depression is hard.
We’re not inside their heads. We can’t understand why they are doing the things they are doing. We can’t understand why they won’t listen to reason, and they often don’t have the ability to articulate why.
It took a long time, but I finally figured some of it out. Strangely enough, a webcomic put a lot of things into perspective for me. It was hard, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but as hard as it is, your loved one needs you. And when you’re through the thick of it, your acceptance and help through that time will mean more to them than you will ever understand. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.
1. Your loved one isn’t just sad.
Depression isn’t a state of being, it’s an affliction. Like a cold or the flu, it can come out of nowhere and hit them. Or think of it another way: your friend is in an abusive relationship with depression. Depression has cut off their ability to have other friends. Depression has crippled their social life. Depression is constantly putting them through hell, making everything more stressful, making them doubt themselves, making everything difficult. Depression has beaten them — to the point where they will have actual physical pain. Depression has taken control of their life, to the point where it’s easier to just feel nothing.
2. They’re not depressed because of you, so don’t take it personally.
It’s hard not to take things personally. It’s even harder to not wonder if you did something to make your loved one depressed. When you’re depressed, you feel this complete and utter inability to be yourself, and it makes it ten times harder when you’re around loved ones; i.e., people who know the real “you.” Being with strangers can sometimes be easier for them. They get to put on a show. They get to pretend that they aren’t depressed for a short amount of time. It can really hurt you to see this, and you sometimes wonder if it’s just you causing the depression. But it’s not. If your loved one is acting depressed around you, its a good sign in a strange way. It means that they love and trust you enough to share this with you. Sometimes, they try to hide it — sometimes, they’ll push you away. The only thing to do is just be there.
3. You can’t “fix” them.
I know you think that by being positive and following them around like their personal cheerleader, one day it might occur to them, “Yeah! life is great and things are awesome and I’m fixed!” But it won’t. Endless supplies of positivity aren’t helpful — they actually do more harm than good. It’s frustrating. It’s reminding them that they aren’t full of cheer. And most importantly, they aren’t sad. I know it looks like they are, and sometimes they can feel incredibly down, but cheering up won’t help. They’re experiencing a complete lack of emotion, and you can’t fix something that doesn’t exist. All the funny animal gifs in the world aren’t going to cure them. Just be there. Remind them that this is temporary. Don’t tell them to keep trying, just remind them that there’s a light out there. Listen and validate their feelings, but don’t try to explain them or cheer the person up. Don’t offer opinions or advice. You don’t have to walk around like a complete sad sack, of course — that won’t help. Just be normal, but be supportive.
4. Any emotion is good.
Sometimes, when people start the long, long climb up out of depression, their emotions come back to them in weird ways. Some people get the crying, the breaking down and sobbing. Feel free to comfort them. Some people get the manic happiness that seems incredibly fake. Encourage this — but be careful. It can switch quickly. But a lot of people get the anger. Anger, for some unknown reason, seems to be the easiest way to vent the months and months of non-feeling that your loved one has gone through. So be prepared. They will get angry at you. They will scream at the cat and curse-out their shoe. The strangest and sometimes smallest things will set them off. I know that this hurts more than anything, and it seems so backwards. But by getting angry, they finally have a way to vent their frustration. Encourage it, or at the very least, let them rage in peace.
5. Take care of yourself.
Your first thought will be to take care of your loved one, but loving someone with depression can seriously mess you up as well. You feel like you need to be in it with them, but you don’t. You need to take care of yourself. Keep focusing on your goals and dreams. Sometimes you will feel like a horrible person bragging about your new promotion or going out with friends. You feel like you should hide it from your loved one or downplay your accomplishments, because it seems like a smack in the face to them. But —I can’t stress this enough — don’t. They will still be happy for you. Your success and happiness might remind them of what they’re lacking, but you cannot sacrifice yourself. You need to go out and be with friends. You need to get fresh air.
In addition, sometimes, you’re going to cry. Sometimes, you’re going to hurt. Sometimes, you won’t be able to handle it, and you feel like you need to hide it from your loved one. Don’t. Express to them that this is hard, but you’re in it with them. Don’t tell them that you cried yourself to sleep, but open up a bit. Find a healthy way to get the stress out — even if it’s ranting to your dog.
6. Be patient.
Depression sucks. It sucks the life out of everything, and you need to be careful to not let it suck the life out of you. Read about it, find out about it — it’s amazing how ignorant and misinformed we are about depression.
Check out this wonderful explanation of depression by Hyperbole-and-a-half.
5 Tips for Dating Someone Who Struggles With Depression by PsychologyToday
57 thoughts on “Loving Someone With Depression”
Great point about not taking it personally! We have our depression and we have our friends ~ the friends are not the cause of the depression. Hugs!
Thanks for this. The anger bit was interesting as my mum, who experiences depression, can have angry bursts, sometimes seems drawn to anger, and maybe that explains it.
I am sorry to hear that. Depression can be expressed through anger, particularly in men. I hope this post helped a bit.
Best wishes, CC.
These are the posts that really get through to those around me. Thanks for sharing! 💕
This is strong. I’ve battled with depression for as long as I can remember. I’ve never had a partner understand and I’m not mad about that. It takes a special kind of person to assess the thought process of another, especially when you have so much skin in the game (as a loved one).
If you guys get a second check my blog out ! I’m trying to improve and learn to express myself. Thank you
I wish I read this sooner. I too dated someone recently, and our relationship went to hell for the depression. Thank you for putting it into words.
I am so sorry to hear that- mental illness is difficult for the individual with it, and for those around them. I hope this share helped at least in some way.
Reblogged this on Fourty Two.
Reblogged this on Felo De Se.
This is a great post about the other side of depression. I have major depressive disorder, so it was interesting to read this. I never really realized how it could be affecting anyone else. Depression does affect everyone involved in your life. I never realized this. Thank you so much for writing and posting this. 🙂
I am suffering now since soooo soo Long time clinical Depression. Many times I tried to write about it, but I failed. I wasn’t able to find the right words, to describe my Situation… I always had a Need to write I don’t know why.
I’ve found this post by luck. And…I will reblog it. This is what I was in search for since years. seriously.
Thank you so much, that you’ve spared time to learn about our Situation and then finally put them into perfect words…
God bless you and “Hubert”
I love this post!!! I have always felt that because of my depression, I would never find someone that could Love me. I then met and dated a guy for a year and a half and thought that all of my worrying was in vein, because he loved me. He recently broke up with me and told me i needed to be “admitted.” I was so heartbroken and went back to thinking that my depression made me unlovable. But articles like this give me encouragement. Thank you for sharing. I love it.
Ive just come across this post. I can’t thank you enough for posting it! I battle with Depression and a huge part of it is the guilt for putting my loved ones through it! I truly appreciate your words and understanding! You are awesome for putting it out there as there are still lots of ‘unknowns’ on this subject!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!:) x
I agree that this is a great post- Huffington Post did a nice job!
Do not ever feel guilty for your mental illness! It is never your fault, and those who love you will support you nonetheless.
Thank you so very much for reading and commenting. I am glad you found this post useful.
Wishing you the best, CC.
I am currently goig through a break up with my ex who is depressed and I am struggling entirely. Thank you for sharing this.
Please check out my site and my latest post about dealing with depression in a relationship. I would love your feedback
I have experienced this myself, and can understand how difficult it all is.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and I will be sure to check out your blog as well.
Wishing you the best, CC.
Thank you so much for your kind words and taking the time to read. It is difficult, but it is all about the journey; learning to be better every day!
This piece is really eye opening and enlightening as well as helpful. I also have been doing some writing on the issue of depression and mental health, having realized the gravity of this issue in our society. my website is http://www.truthzombie.wordpress.com, bloggers be sure to check it out, you would find it helpful. I support the movement against depression
I love this. You have mentioned a lot of information hat I needed to know! I also love the image of you crying while brushing your teeth. It’s a strong image! WOW! Great writing!
I did not write the post, but I agree that it is very well-written and a great post!
No worries! Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
☺️☺️☺️ you are welcome
Fantastic post. Depression is a dark sea, collapsing on a persons mind. Nobody from the outside really can see what’s going on, and most tend to think they’re just sad or that they are over exaggerating. They don’t understand that even though you just woke up, you haven’t the energy to even get up and take a shower. Depression, and every other mental illness is just that: an illness. People must stop classifying it as something less than a physical illness, because the mind is the most important think a human has.
Thank you for writing this incredible post 😊 I’ve suffered depression off and on throughout my life, in different forms, for different reasons. I’m so happy to find this. And I’m relieved. I’m bookmarking this to share with my partner ❤️
~The Silent Wave Blog writer/Laina 🌟🌟
Depression or no depression? Just love him/her truly!
I absolutely agree! Mental illness does not define a person.
Very good article, thank you for taking of your time to post it for us others to get to read.
You are very welcome! I think it’s really important as well.
Very relevant and insightful information during times that put more and more pressures on society. Thank you for sharing.
I agree- these topics are very important, especially when mental illness is on the rise.
Thank you for reading and for your comment!
Enjoyed reading this post. It really opens your eyes and gives you a wake up call. I really like how you explain that feeling depressed and being depressed is so different. Speaking for myself I know sometimes I will come across times in my life that I feel is the end and I become extremely sad breaking out in tears randomly. However, after I have a good cry and sometime to myself I pick back up and keep going. I have come across others that go through the same thing but to a higher degree and I sometimes will say it’s ok things will be better but I do think those words can be more harmful than helpful as you say when people are going through depression.
Hope, this article is so well presented. All should read and learn from it. Years ago I experienced such a point in my life. Its scary and one that often we try to hide because its a topic not to be discussed in most circles. Looking back, it was an important season. Thank God for God.
Thank you! I am glad you found this content helpful. Depression is all too common, so it is important to know how to support others. I am sorry for your difficult experiences, but I am glad that you can talk about it and address it. This way, we can acknowledge our challenges and learn to cope.
I wish you the best.
Oh yes I have overcome it wonderfully. It occurred many years ago while in my 20’s and pushing the edge of the envelop career wise. The experience opened my mind to the realities of it and prepared me to help others in my field of social work. Depression is on the rise and we all need to be sensitive to its symptoms. Often people are experiencing it and won’t admit it or can’t see it.
That’s great to hear! It seems that such difficult obstacles are the things that make us grow the most.
I agree that mental illness is becoming more prevalent, so we need to educate others more than ever. There should be no shame or stigma in talking about it.
So true. We need to be able to talk about things and in so doing we all find connection points.
Without the love of my wife, I would never have recovered from my last depressive episode. Being Sectioned and detained in a Mental Health Institution isn’t much fun but Maureen’s twice daily visits kept me going until my release. She has dementia now but she always struggled to understand my depression wasn’t about her. Antidepressants were never going to be a solution to my depressive episodes: changing the way I interacted with my environment was the answer. Thank goodness I had such a good therapist otherwise I might still have been popping pills and suffering side effects.
I am very happy to hear that you had the unconditional support of a loved one during those particularly trying times. It is important for the people close to us to know that mental illness is not anyone’s fault and should not be taken personally. And I am very glad that you do not need medication! For many, it is not a problem and actually a very great way to cope with depression.
The scariest part when you witness this is that you aren’t sure it is a depression or a burnout or maybe just a phase. You just see this person change into someone you don’t know… a total stranger who wears the face of the person you love and trust. It drains you, hurts you in immeasurable ways. When they get better, you end up being the one with the scars. Or maybe, they weren’t in a depression, I don’t know. But the fear still remains that this person will disappear again… xoxo Sarah
Sarah, I am very sorry to hear that your experiences have been so difficult. It is important in those situations to know that the state or illness is no one’s fault, and is nothing personal. It sounds as though it may have been something more serious than a phase, but it is hard to say without the individual being properly evaluated in a clinical setting. I commend you for trying your best to be there for that person. Sometimes, it takes a long time for the person themselves to even determine what they are going through and how to handle it. I wish you both the best, and I hope that those experiences have not changed the way you look at those who may be mentally ill- we are all different and we cannot always control our illness.
Thank you for your kind words. When it is not diagnosed, it is indeed difficult to know whether it was due to illness that this person changed. Though, I knew they were going through hardships… I guess everyone experiences and deals with problems differently. It’s important to be patient, but somewhere we must protect ourselves from losing our identity. I guess in a way it made me more flexible.
You are very welcome!
I agree that we have to look after ourselves too, especially in those situations. If anything like this were to happen to you again, I would recommend you to refer them (gently) to a professional in a supportive and encouraging manner. Those kinds of suggestions are best done in the form of questions, such as, “Do you know that there are professionals you could talk to?” or “Would you like me to go with you to check it out?”. I hope to write a post on supporting friends going through a difficult time, so stay tuned if you are interested!
It remains a very sensitive manner. Especially here in Belgium. You go see “someone” because you’re supposedly “crazy”. I don’t like the use of that word, but it’s a stigma. Personally, I find it important to look for help when you know you have a problem. But not everyone will acknowledge that there is one… I’m looking forward to your post! xoxo Sarah
Awesome read. I believe I have someone among my most going through this at the very moment. Thanks!
You are very welcome! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I hope this is useful for you, and I wish you and your friend the best. Remember that the support of friends and family is among one of the best ‘medicines’ for those with mental illness.
Thank you for reading and commenting! I am glad you think so as well.
This is superb and right on. Everything you wrote was so accurate and important. This coming from a person who has lived with and through many severe depression episodes for years. Your friend is so extremely blessed to have someone like you be there for them. What a blessing you are. I hope many people read this article. You should repost this again sometime in the future. It is that great. Well written. Thank you for this post and your patience and understanding of this painful and horrific illness. Hugs.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting! However, I was not the one to write this piece. I really loved the piece (from Huffington Post) myself and had to share! I am so glad that you resonated with it so strongly. I hope you like other content on this site.
Well I still give you high praise for sharing it. Thank you very much.
I really appreciate this post, and feel like you really hit it head on. Excellent work!
Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I loved this piece and had to share.