Men and women are raised with contradiction when it comes to the topic of mental health; expressing mental health issues is taboo, which is nothing more than an illusion. And this illusion creates differences in your relationship.
Men are expected to stay strong, which leads them to believe that feelings and emotions are “for the weak.” Women are taught to be kind and quiet, and more compromising. All of these beliefs conclude in the over-stressing of our minds.
Depression is very common, as some circumstances can generate this state, such as the loss of a parent, loss of job, significant family changes, illness, and many more other circumstances. So many of us have been there, when we were on the verge of breaking apart. When our worlds fall into a dark place. When we pull ourselves away from our loved ones, because it might feel like we would bother them or simply because we might not feel worth the attention and connection.
Here are some obvious symptoms of depression:
Losing your spark
Loss of interest in things that used to bring joy
Tearing up or crying over every small mishap.
Noticeable appetite change
Unexplained mood swings
But depression doesn’t always look like this and isn’t evident every time.
Here are some Not-So-Obvious Depression Symptoms:
Physical Pain (headache, backaches, digestive problems, chronic pain conditions, etc)
Not wanting to shower or personal hygiene care
Feeling tired most of the time
Big changes in weight (whether is gaining or losing)
Feeling guilty, overwhelmed and/or shame
Increase of alcohol (or other drugs) intake
Low sex drive
If you suspect your partner is depressed, the first thing you need to find out is if he/she is depressed because of a recent event or a life-changing situation? Or did this happen organically? If no outer situation may have caused the depression, then your partners should be encouraged to seek medical help as there could be a biological reason causing the depression, as a vitamin deficiency, thyroid issues, and other medical conditions, that may need to be treated.
If you find out your partner is depressed, it is only natural to want to do everything in your power to "fix them.” You might even feel guilty he/she is depressed, but you must know that this is not your fault. However, here are some things you can do to help your partner.
Create a Supportive Environment
It’s important to remember that your partner’s depression isn’t anyone’s fault. While you can’t fix it, your support will help your partner work through this difficult time.
Create healthy meals as nutritious meals help combat depression.
Help out a little more than usual with chores. When a person is depressed, anything can feel and look like a huge responsibility, if you can help by alleviating some of the chores.
Ask how you can be of help. Having a conversation about this might reveal how you can be helpful more effectively, and without guessing.
Simply Be There
While finding your partner professional help might be ideal, he/she might not want that right away. Therefore, the best thing you can do is be present.
You don't have to have all the answers, but you can simply be present, offer a hug, a shoulder to cry on and provide encouraging statements such as:
We will get through this together
You are important to me, and I will do anything for you. Tell me, what can I do to help?
I am always here for you
Patient, Stay Calm and Provide Support
Your partner’s sudden mood swings and change in behavior may be affecting you too. But stay firm and calm at all the times. Dealing with depression might give your partner a sense of shame. He or she might be keeping you at a distance, which might provoke anger in you; but try your best to not take it personally. Instead, mention how you feel the distance and how you miss your spouse.
Pay attention to what they say
Be alert about the small changes. Notice when they use words like death and afterlife or so. They might be having suicidal thoughts to escape the abyss they’ve fallen into. Here is a link on common warning signs of suicidality: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/recognizing-suicidal-behavior#1
If in doubt, reach out to a local suicide hotline, such as this one in Florida: Henderson Mobile Crisis Unit for adults at (954) 463-0911.
Remind them of who they are and the things they love
When people feel depressed, they tend to judge themselves harshly. Be sure to point out the strengths and areas of improvement to help your partner see progress. Depression also takes away your passion and spark. Encourage your partner to keep working on what they want and like, help them recreate and bring back what they’ve been losing as a side effect.
Understand the Gender division
Men and women both tend to isolate when depressed, but women tend to display more what looks like sadness, while men tend to express depression with sessions of anger and aggressive behavior.
Don't forget to take care of yourself
Caring for a partner with depression is emotionally taxing for the caregiver. It’s important to practice self-care and increase your own support network during this time.
Depression is consuming and Depression is legitimate. The world we live in has created this norm; “if you aren’t strong then you are weak”. But the world is also starting to see that depression is real, and not all depressions look the same.
There is hope! Depression can be managed and it can be overcome. With patience and support, your relationship can get back on track. In long term relationships, we are bound to experience personal struggles that affect the relationship, and it is important to remember this to protect the relationship as a whole.
To your relationship’s success!
Your therapy friend,
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