@EmilyJean: I’ve suffered severe depression for 8 years. First I would like to say thank you for caring enough to ask how you can help him, that alone is a huge step. Also recognizing that it’s a medical disease, and nothing you or anyone else has any control over, is pretty big.
I too hate anti-depressants. I’ve been on I think 6 (?) different meds. None worked until my most recent try, and even that took several weeks to notice any difference. But the side effects kick in right away. “Numb” is exactly how I describe the feeling- I hate it as well, but I’m a major suicide risk without any meds, so I don’t have much choice.
For me, the best thing my Fiance can do is just be there when I need him. If I call him at 3am saying “I’m sad and want to talk,” he knows that means I really need him- usually when I need him the most my mind won’t let me actually ask for help. He can recognize when something’s wrong, and he’s figured out which signs to watch for. Even just a giant hug and “I love you, you’re beautiful” can be amazing on a bad day. He tries to tell me that things will work out and he’s there for me, and when he’s saying it I tell him it’s not okay, but I really do like hearing it from him. Once I spilled my ice cream as I was bringing home takeout and I started bawling, he just held me and said it’s fine, mistakes happen, and he helped me clean it up while telling me he loved me and that I wasn’t clumsy, things happen.
I’m sure that sounds ridiculous to someone who hasn’t dealt with this, but being clumsy is the one thing I hate about myself that will always get me down, so when I feel like I’ve failed the most, Fiance tells me he loves me anyway and it doesn’t matter. Obviously everything Fiance does for me, you’ll have to adjust for your Fiance, since spilling ice cream might not make him upset, lol. He might need encouragement in other areas, and he might communicate his need for your support in other ways.
Also, the one thing I can think of that is the absolute WORST thing I’ve heard, is that “It could be worse,” or “You’re not the only one that feels this way.” Thing is, when you’re depressed it IS worse, at least in your mind, and it feels like it can’t get any worse, and it’s lonely and hearing someone else talk about starving African children just makes me feel guilty for feeling something that I can’t control. So I’d recommend avoiding that. You could meet with a counselor once just to get some ideas, they usually know what things can help or hurt.
It sounds like you’re doing great for him already, and I know you’re not psychic. But keep in mind that a perfect day can turn into the worst day ever in a split second. A lot of times I feel worse than I even let on to Fiance because I hate being negative all the time and I don’t want him to have to see that. I have no idea how Fiance deals with me or how he stays so patient, so I really give you credit for it.
So now that I’ve written an entire book about the subject… feel free to PM me if anything isn’t clear or you have any specific questions 🙂