Supporting a Partner with Depression While Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Posted on July 24, 2017

When you care deeply for someone with depression, your biggest wish is for them to be well. Hence, it is easy to forget to care for yourself, as your needs and wants are replaced by theirs. Depression is complicated and can be hard for someone to describe to a person who does not have the illness. You may feel helpless and incapable, for example, not knowing what to ask or do to make them feel better. Poorna Bell, whose late husband Rob suffered from chronic depression, shares the self-care strategies she learnt while looking after him.

1) Look after yourself. Dr Monica Cain, a counselling psychologist, states that you need to look after yourself first before you can be helpful to your partner. The pressure partners face is tough, for example, feeling the need to keep your lives running smoothly. Dr Cain advises being aware of this pressure, especially when it starts feeling overwhelming.

2) Being aware that depression affects the person physically as well. While depression is a mental illness, it also impacts physical energy levels. It may be tempting to bring your partner out for a social activity or a walk. However, the low energy levels depression brings about may make them feel tired and unable to leave the house.

3) Continue doing what you love. According to Jayne Hardy, people with depression feel helpless and hopeless. They often think highly of loved ones and find it difficult to see how they can help make your life easier. Bell mentioned that her husband had told her that he felt he was ruining her life. She stopped doing what she loved to be with him at home, making him feel guilty that she was not enjoying herself because of him. You may feel angry or frustrated that your partner is unable to join you for social activities, but do not stop doing what you love.

4) Take charge of admin and finance when needed. Simple tasks like checking the mail can be extremely tough for people with depression. They often hide their finances, and feel ashamed to say that they are finding it tough to handle them. According to Dr Antonis Kousoulis, a clinician, having to be the main support for your partner is stressful, but you will feel less stressed with the knowledge that your partner’s finances and paperwork is being handled well. Hence, an agreement can be made that when your partner is not feeling well enough to handle it themselves, you can take over their administrative work until they feel well enough to do so.

5) Talk to friends and family. Talking to family and friends is a good way to break stigma and build support for you and your partner, according to Dr Kousoulis. Advice for a person with depression is similar to advice for their partner – have support, understand more about depression, have open channels of communication, ask questions and prioritise self-care.

6) Don’t take your partner’s bad days personally. A person with depression can have equally emotional highs and lows. Some days will be good – you are remembered of who you fell in love with. On bad days, your partner may feel like a stranger. Try not to take these bad days personally. This is harder to put into action than said. As such, find coping mechanisms. For Bell, she went to therapy, exercised and lowered her degree of expectations from Rob during his bad times. She reminded herself that her husband is still inside him somewhere.
Most importantly, Hardy says, continue loving the person. You may not feel like you are helping, and you may feel helpless, but having just your patience and understanding makes a difference.

Category(s):Depression, Self-Care / Self Compassion

Source material from The Guardian

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