How to Love Someone with Depression
By Elizabeth Barrera
I’ve never had the experience of loving someone with depression, nor have I ever been in close contact with someone suffering from it either. However, I do get to experience seeing one of my best friends love someone with depression, and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve had to watch. I never fully understood why she was so patient or quick to understand how he treated their relationship or why he was so on and off with her and how she seemed almost unbothered by it. To me, he was simply playing with her emotions and tuning her in and out as he pleased. To me, he was just another jerk, except I didn’t understand depression the way she does, and I still don’t.
Because of my lack of knowledge, I decided to do a little research for myself in hopes of understanding their relationship and being more empathetic the next time she confided in me. During my research I discovered three things (among many others) that are extremely important to remember about people with depression:
- One day they’ll need you endlessly, and the next they might push you away.
- They are not a project to fix.
- They are not depressed by choice.
Based on my research, there are a number of things to remember when dating someone with depression - so many that I don’t think I can even speak on them without having firsthand experience. I did learn a few other things though. One of them was to not be quick to judge someone who suffers from depression. Rather than jumping to conclusions, it’s best to do some research and make an effort to understand the illness and its complexities.
Loving someone with depression means it’s more about them than it is about you alone or you as a couple. It means you’ll have to put them first quite a few times, trust that they are trying to feel better, and be more patient than ever before. Some days they’ll be happy to tell you about their productive day, while others you may not even get a call or text back. So if you’re going to love someone with depression, make sure you’re ready to be more of a giver than a taker, and especially make sure that’s something you’re okay with.
And even though you’ll most likely be giving more than you’re receiving, you should always protect your mental health. You may be invested in the relationship or have changed your focus to fixing him, but your mental health and overall happiness come first. You’ll have to learn what your limits are and have an open conversation about the efforts needed on both ends. If your happiness and health are at risk, it’s okay to walk away.
But it’s also okay to stay.
Yes, people will judge you, and no, they won’t understand. Someone who doesn’t know your significant other will think he’s not worth your time and their mentality will be this way because they don’t understand depression. And this is something I cannot speak on at all, hence, my example from before. Yet, I do know a few things. Loving someone who doesn’t suffer from a mental illness is already hard enough, so I can only imagine what loving someone with depression is like. But if you are going to love someone with a mental illness, you need to be willing to be with them through the good, the bad, and the really ugly and bad. Not every day will it be rainbows and butterflies.
So here’s how to love someone with depression:
Research and learn about the illness. You don’t have to be getting a Ph.D to learn about it, but you can learn about early signs, triggers, therapy, and how you can help. You’ll have to be well aware of knowing when to give them space, regardless of how difficult it may be for you to do so. You’ll have to learn to admit when you’re no longer enough help to them, and their need of someone professional. Loving someone with depression encompasses the following personality traits: compassion, maturity, strength, patience, willingness, and kindness. Remember, they’re going to need 100% of you, because they’ll already feel like they don’t have anyone else.
So be available, be supportive, and know your limits.
If you know someone with suicidal thoughts, please contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). To learn more about helplines and resources, visit http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/