How to Help Your Partner Through the Darkness of Depression
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Post-Partum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder after a traumatic birth. Subsequently, I developed depression after too many medication switches. It was unbearable.
My husband was amazing and helped me get through the roughest days. Therapy and finding the right medication was the cure. However, his support was paramount.
He never judged me, scolded me, or told me to “get over it”. He was very empathetic and compassionate. Even though I’m sure there were days he didn’t feel like being my hero, he was.
In traditional marriage vows, they say “in sickness or in health”. He took this very seriously while also holding me accountable when I was being unreasonable.
It is the hardest thing in the world to see someone you love struggle and hurt and not be able to fix them.
There will be light at the end of this tunnel. You cannot fix your partner but there are a few things you can do to make this difficult time easier for them.
Encourage them to get help ASAP
When you notice your spouse exhibiting the signs of depression, talk to them about it. Privately discuss the changes you’ve noticed and provide examples.
Be compassionate and non-judgemental in your approach. You do not want your partner to feel attacked.
Let them know most people experience depression and that many people seek help for it. This help can be in the form of therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
When they go to their first therapy session or doctor appointment, ask your partner if they want you to come with them for support. You can even sit in the waiting room and wait for them. Asking for help from a professional is draining and emotional and your presence will mean a lot to them.
Make sure they are looking after themselves
Keep an eye on your partner’s habits. If you notice they’re not eating, offer to make something for them. Ensure they are taking a lunch to work with them.
Depression can cause a loss of appetite and plenty of forgetfulness. Sometimes, we don’t feel like eating or we simply forget. It is helpful when someone reminds us to fuel our bodies.
If you notice your partner is abusing drugs or alcohol, tackle the issue promptly and directly. Talk to them about it and encourage them to get help.
If your partner is suicidal at any time, call 911 or your local mobile crisis unit. This situation requires immediate medical attention that you cannot provide.
Be their safe place
During this difficult time, try to make your home a safe space for your partner. When they’re at work, send them a message letting them know you are excited to see them. When they arrive home, have their favorite meal waiting for them or tell them it’s their turn to pick a movie.
Give them a lot of hugs and tell them how proud you are of them.
This isn’t subservience, it’s love and it’s what they need right now.
Realize you cannot fix them
Unfortunately, you can do all of these things and your partner may not want to help themselves. In this case, be there for them but realize that your love will not be able to fix them.
If you trick yourself into thinking you can fix your partner, this could adversely affect your mental health.
There are plenty of services available for partners of spouses with mental illness or substance abuse. At this point, it is time to look after yourself and hopefully, your partner will follow suit.
Self-care is paramount
If you’ve been helping your partner through depression, you may start to feel unhappy. This is normal. You love this person and you want them to feel better. However, as I stated earlier: We cannot fix someone.
Self-care is your best friend. Make sure you are doing what you enjoy. Talk to your friends, take a bubble bath, journal, meditate. Do what makes you happy.
If you notice you are slipping into depression, make sure you get help as soon as possible. You will not be able to help anyone if you are also unwell.
Supporting your partner during depression is no small feat. It can be exhausting and difficult. You may feel helpless after seeing your loved one in so much pain. You may feel resentment and that they don’t appreciate the beautiful life that you have built together.
Depression isn’t about whether someone loves you or appreciates what they have. It is a complex mental illness. Whether the depression your partner is experiencing is chemical or situational, they need to get help and do the work to get better on their own.
You can help your partner fight the battle but you cannot win the war for them.