Approximately 14.8 million Americans suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. That’s nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population and it only takes into account those who have been officially diagnosed. This does not account for the seemingly functional adults who deal with depression regularly but manage it on their own nor the many unknowns who have no idea they should be seeking help. With these considerations, the likelihood is that if we do not experience clinical depression ourselves, we know someone who does. The most significant person in my life, my husband, is one of those people.
So am I.
As you can imagine, this set up has high potential for emotional explosions and implosions. Believe me, we have been through our share. Fortunately, we have been able to not just survive but thrive as a couple in many way because of our approach to each other struggle. We are not always successful in our execution but we have picked on some valuable tools along the way with one another one.
Here are are some tips to help each other deal with depression:
Give each other space to be depressed.
My husband and I have both learned this the hard way. I recall a time I would put too much pressure on myself to be the one who could keep my guy happy; if he were down, I felt it my job to cheer him up as quickly as possible. When I failed, my own sadness was triggered, putting pressure on him to support me. This, of course, made him feel like he had to mask his depression for my safety which only made his situation worse. On the flip side, my husband is sometimes a tough love kind of guy which didn’t always give me the space to be in my sadness. Needless to say, this didn’t work for us long-term.
When our loved ones are hurting, it is natural for us to want to run to their rescue. We want them to feel supported and let them know there is no reason to be upset on your watch. However, the reality is often that people need a chance to feel what they are feeling, even if it’s irrational, and even when they know they are supported by you.
Communication is key.
The emphasis on communication may sound cliche but that doesn’t make it less true. No matter how well you know your loved ones, you cannot read their minds. Sure, we sometimes develop a knack for recognizing the predictability of their personality but so often do deep thoughts and feelings go unsaid and even completely hidden away. When suppressed long enough, seemingly explainable behavior patterns may develop as a result which can have negative consequences of their own. This requires not only for the us to listen better and be more attentive when our depressed beloved does speak or show signs but also for our us who are suffering to find the time and courage to speak with the opportunity presents itself.
Be patient. Give growth time.
Even when we have the tools to cope and comfort we will run into moments in which those tools seem useless. Some days, a good yoga session, healthy meal or comedy show may do the trick. Other days, it’s a good cry or a chance wallow in the sadness. You may even fell like depression is completely behind you in one moment, only to be faced with an abrupt emotional decline the next. It’s important to know that not everything works every time.
Use the tools in your joint wellness arsenal when you can but don’t feel all is lost if a method is not producing the same positive response. Tenacity and patience will help with bounce-back when motivation falls short; the more you practice the easier it gets later. Remember there is not reason to rush as life is a marathon, not a race. As long as you are moving, if even a little, you can and will be okay if you keep it up.
Do not create expectation out of comparison.
I’m totally guilty of having the thought, “If we could just do [insert activity] like [insert another person’s success story], we would be so much better off.”
Seeking hope from other stories of overcoming can be an inspiration and uplifting. All the same, it can be very damaging. We see it all the time in other scenarios, from weight loss to career building – especially on social media. So badly do we want the fairy tale ending of someone else’s story without having all the facts when the truth is there is no such thing as an ending. As long as someone is alive, they are going to experience hard times, what works for them may not work for you, and your story may not look like the illusion of their story. Comparing the process and progress of another to our own or someone we know and love creates further heaviness around the ebbs and flows of the other journey to be had.
Stay in your lane.