Post # 1
Without going into heavy details – or posting this in ’emotional’ – what I am wondering is whether or not there are any other bees who have first hand experience with dealing with depression in their relationship (either you have it or the person you love does).
I have experienced some rather serious depression when I was younger and have been in treatment for it for a long time (which has been super helpful and positive for me.) For the majority of our relationship in four years, I’ve been stable and happy, keeping things in check and doing a good job of staying positive.
However, In the last 6 months I’ve had a roller coaster of a time in my personal life (for the most part unrelated to my actual relationship) and it’s taken it’s toll on me. I’m really in a position where I need my partner to love and support me – and yet because he doesn’t grasp the concept of depression, he really doesn’t know how to be helpful or even understand/sympathize with what I go through. I know what helps me when I am feeling low is a lot of affection and lovey-ness coming my way – combined with routine. With all of the chaos around me, I need him to bring me back to center and to remind me that things will be alright. Instead I feel like I am spending most of my time taking care of his needs, at times when I’m really needing someone to help me.
What I’m interested in are examples or stories of how anyone has worked within their relationship to handle this or overcome the difficulty of one person being depressed. I know there are plenty of stories of “so and so was depressed and that ended our relationship” – but does anyone have helpful advice or a positive experience I can draw from?
Post # 3
Get the book Understanding Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You. Here’s the link. In high school and college I struggled a lot with depression, to the point of going on medication. This book got me active in overcoming my own depression and helped me to stop sabotaging myself. I think it would be a helpful resource for your SO to read and get a better understanding of what you are expereincing. I’m a clinical social worker, so I know first hand the difficulty that some people have understanding mental health disorders versus conscious personal behaviors and the thought that someone could change if they wanted to. It sounds like your SO is somewhere in the middle, but that it would be helpful for you if he had a better understanding of depression and what you experience so he can be more supportive and positive for you.
I was in relationships while I really in crisis and on medication, but unfortunately both relationships ended poorly. I tried to express my needs, but the first of the 2 bf’s just ordered me to “stop it… or else…” In the second relationship, we had a lot more open discussion, and he was more understanding, but he used what I was going through as reason for him to control everything because I “wasn’t able” to, despite working and going to school full time.
I would talk a lot about both of your fears and concerns and what you do and don’t understand about how depression can affect your lives together through the years. Also, see if he’ll go to a few joint sessions with you, or as your therapist to recommend some resources for your SO, or activities/conversations you can have that might help you and your SO have more understanding of each other.
I hope this helps some.
Post # 4
I have been in a similar situation to what you are describing, and what helped me was to find a good therapist and use that to both help my depression and to help clarify and articulate what I needed and wanted from my Fiance. He had no previous experience with depression and thus no knowledge of how to support/be there for me. I had to be very clear with him, ie “Next time I am upset like this, I would find it comforting for you to do x and y.” Sometimes I was able to make statements like that immediately following some incident, sometimes it would have to be the next day or so that we discussed this. It sounds like you know what you need from him; maybe on a day that you feel able to handle it, sit down with him and have a clear discussion of what’s going on and what you need from him, with very specific examples. I know my Fiance was anxious to help me, he just didn’t know how, and if I laid out for him what I needed he did it. I’m sure your SO feels the same way- it’s hard for them when they have no basis for understanding what you’re going through and to be on the sidelines. And I second the PP- help him learn more about depression in general, and maybe suggest a joint session with your counsellor to talk about support strategies and how to deal with this as a couple. And remember, he’ll have a learning curve, it will take him a few tries before he gets it right. Best wishes- this isn’t easy and I hope you are able to overcome this soon as you have in the past.
Post # 5
Thanks for the feedback. I went out on my lunch break and bought the book you suggested and treated myself to a pretty journal so I could write a bit about things as I read them. My big frustration has been that while I don’t wish him to actually know what it’s like to feel so low, I certainly wish that he would a) acknowledge that my feelings are valid (even if he doesn’t understand where they come from) and b) listen to me when I do say things like “I’m feeling this way and this is what I need.”
So I’m planning to revisit some of those moments adn try to see if in his own way he was reaching out to me or if he really doesn’t get it, and then go from there on getting him more educated.
The only whiny comment I have here is that it seems kind of crappy that I’m the person who needs to have some support right now and yet I’m goingt o have to spend my energy teaching him about supporting me. Ironic.
Post # 6
I was in a similar situation; I have had depression in the past, and this time last year was extremely hard for me for various reasons. Fiance has no experience with depression at all, and he would try to say “It’s OK,” but literally, that was all he would or really could say. That would exarcerbate the situation because I did not feel like I had any support from him, and like you, it made me feel like my feelings were less valid.
I resolved it by adjusting my expectations. I think we expect our significant others to be everything for us, and sometimes, they are just not capable of that. I went back to counseling, and after a few weeks, I was fine. If it seems strange that I only did a few weeks, let me explain that I have done EMDR in the past to deal with the bulk of my problems, and since then, I occassionally just need to sort of get back in check. Even since then, I have learned some of the sociological factors that may influence depression, I have gotten really good at managing it.
Moral of the story, he was trying the best he could, but his way of handling it was not helping me. So I stopped expecting him to handle it, and I just took care of it myself. So in a way, that is similar to what you are saying about having to teach him how to support you. I did end up telling him that certain times I will just need him to hold me and let me cry without telling me not to worry or to just listen while I explain while I am upset, even if he doesn’t understand why it’s a big deal to me. He was very amenable once he knew my expectations because like your Fiance he did not have experience or really know what he was supposed to do.
Post # 7
That is also some really great advice. Thanks (and I sent you a message too.)
The idea of really handling it myself is something I need to consider. Changing what you expect out of a person will change the outcome, certainly. I don’t need much from him, other than maybe to hold my hand, let me have my moment to just cry about it, and move on. The rest of this I know I can handle with some more therapy and time.
Post # 8
I replied. I’ll warn you — it’s long! And yeah, that is what I need from my Fiance, too. He knows that sometimes I just need to cry it out, and I like for him to be there to hug me. Nothing too demanding of him! Then, I do not get upset with him for not having the right words, and he does not feel awkward trying to reassure me. I know he is there for me as best he can be, and he knows that it is not my normal state and it will pass.
Post # 9
- Wedding: May 2011 - Bartram's Garden
I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life, and when the boy and I started getting serious, it was a major issue in our relationship. And still is.
Basically, what happens is this: I get depressed, he wants to “fix” things, I tell him that there’s nothing he can do, he feels helpless, I get frustrated, lather, rinse, repeat. It took a long time for him to understand that there’s absolutely nothing he can do beyond just being there for me, and it took me a long time to understand how helpless he felt when I was having a really bad time.
We’re working on it and things have improved, but it’s still a challenge. I see a therapist every week, which helps a lot. We try to talk about the issue when I’m not having a hard time – that way, we’re both more objective and levelheaded.
Post # 10
I’m posting from a sort of different perspective, in that my FH has chronic depression. We’ve been together for four years and there have been a lot of ups and downs. Maybe it was a bit easier for me to understand because I have been borderline depressed for a few periods in my life, but I think what was also helpful for me to know from him was that a) when he would be upset or irritable, it wasn’t about me and b) that having a “let’s fix this!” attitude was not helpful. I really do think that it’s important to let your honey know that trying to fix things is not so great–I think it’s sort of a natural impulse when someone cares about you that they want to help so badly, and don’t realize how annoying it can sound. But it’s also SUPER important to let them know that it’s not about them and to not take things personally. If you are in a really intense relationship in particular it can be overwhelming if you take some of the stuff that your partner says too much to heart–once my FH and I worked out that there were times he would maybe be irritable and it would maybe have nothing to do with me, it was a lot easier for us to communciate, and for me to know when it was better to just let him be rather than to keep asking him “what’s wrong?”
Post # 11
Look online for resources in your area; there are often support groups for people with mental health issues and sometimes for families as well. Maybe you’ll find those helpful. I hope it all works out for you.
Post # 12
I suffered from depression big time my senior year in high school. It got to a point where I would go to school, go to work and come home and get in the bed. I talked with a therapist which didn’t help very much but when I went away to college I felt magically better.
Lately I’ve been feeling very sad again. I go for days without having a voice conversation with anyone. Sometimes I cry for no reason at all. My fiance will want to know what’s wrong and either I have no explanation or I tell him how lonely and depressed I am and he will get angry. I wish there was someway I could make him understand. He doesn’t read any of the material I show to him or anything. It makes me even more sad when he gets angry with me for something I can’t control.
Post # 14
@mrstilly Thank you for the link to that book! I “looked inside” I could so totally connect with what I read so far. I can’t wait to get the book and get a copy for others in my family too. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Post # 15
My husband suffers from borderline depression. It’s not very serious, but every once in awhile he hits a serious funk for a few days. Honestly, i give him space and let him ride it out himself. I’ll try to do something to bring a smile to his face, but i always feel like i can support him without meddling too much. He knows i’m there, but it’s his battle because as much as I wish I could, I cannot just fix it for him. I have asked him many times, “if there is anything I can do to make it better, I would do it. Is there ANYTHING?” and sometimes he says no. Once in awhile, he says, “just sit with me”. And that is what I do.
IF there is something you know would make your day easier, let him know. He probably doesn’t know how to help. Feeling helpless really sucks. And i feel VERY helpless when Darling Husband is in his depressive moods. They aren’t very often anymore. He had then more when he got back from Iraq last year. I’d make him a special dinner or bring him home a cupcake from work. It wasn’t so much the food, so much as “i care about you and this is how i show it”. And that is I felt I could do. So while I can totally relate to your FI’s helplessness, know that he’s probably trying to help in the only way he can.
Also, a therapist is a great thing and one I think you should consider. I know when I went through some stuff in life, I didn’t feel like I could burden people around me without bringing them down. But having a professional to unload on and actually decipher my feelings for me was much better. Now, i saw a grief counselor, but after a few months, I started to recognize patterns and self-correct almost. I could self affirm what i was feeling, why, dissect it, and it helped me understand and rationalize my feelings. I like to break things down, though, and that may or may not work for you.
I hope things get better for you. I’m always worried the day will come that DH’s depression becomes more of a permanent thing
Post # 16
I have dealt with depression both with myself at one point in my life, and also having a close friend with severe, crippling depression, and an ex with another very severe mental illness.
My thoughts on the issue are that you may want to consider looking into professional help, if this is something that comes and goes in your life. By seeing a therapist, it will they will be able to help you think up new coping skills, figure out ways to combat depression, and may be able to help your Fiance better understand what is going on.
I understand that wanting your Fiance to be extra loving or supportive is there when you feel down. On the opposite end, like ejs4y8 said, I think it can be hard to know what to do to make someone feel better, and also sometimes even when you try, it just isn’t the right thing or doesn’t do anything. Depression effects both partners though, so maybe if you think of it that way you will feel less alone in it.
I think it’s great you got the book and are being proactive about your feelings, but I hope you’re also considering professional help as well.