Growing up with depression can be hard and confusing. You have to learn different coping mechanisms than your peers, you learn more about yourself and (depending on who you surround yourself with) you have to be aware of your relationships. Being depressed and actively working on building a healthy relationship can seem like an uphill battle, and being on the other side of the relationship can be hard to. When you date someone who has depression (or any other mental illness) you may be scared you are doing all the wrong things. Watching someone you care for struggle with the day to day mood swings, shutdowns, or SUPER HIGHS and the devastating lows can be difficult. While you don’t know how to help your partner, you still want to do something for them. Sadly, not every single person with depression fall into the same helping category. Does your S/O like to be hugged when they are crying? Do they need you to stay with them on a regular basis so they don’t feel alone? The best way to know how to help your loved ones is by asking and opening up a dialogue about how they feel. Making sure you listen to them when they tell you how they are feeling will also help them feel supported and like they aren’t so alone. If you are not sure how else to help, there is some easy “do this” and “do not do this” list to follow.
Do let them be sad. Do not force happiness on them, it will come in time. Give them time to process their emotions. If you try to force them to feel better and act/seem happier, they may build up a wall around their emotions and feelings which would put a restraint on your relationship.
Don’t assume that they are curable. Depression is not just a linear plane of crying, sleeping, and eating. Sometimes it is four weeks of good days followed by one tragic day. Recovery is a lifelong journey, while situational depression is what your S/O may be struggling with, that is not always the case. Understand that this is not an easy fix situation, and you cannot save them this time.
Do research Depression. There is no better way to show someone that you care for them like researching what they have. By taking that extra step and learning back how depression works will 1. help you understand your partner and 2. help your partner feel like you really get it.
Don’t speak for them. Around 85% of psychiatric patients have anxiety tacked onto their depression. If this is the case, it is very important to not speak for your partner. Unless they specifically tell you “Hey, my anxiety is acting up right now, can you [order for me], [talk to the cashier], [ask for ketchup],” let them do it their self. Sometimes the best way to be helpful is to shut up.
Don’t claim you “have been through the same thing” – when you haven’t. Do not equate being depressed to the time your dog ran away and you cried for three days. Depression is not something you can claim to really understand unless you have been depressed, do not confuse fleeting emotions with a constant state.
Do check on them from time to time. This does not mean to make a big deal out of how they are feeling. This is just a little check-up from time to time, and it is just to make sure everything is alright. While they may be totally fine/not wish to discuss their emotions, it is still really nice to at least let them know that you are thinking about them.
Do let them be vulnerable. If your S/O wants to open up about their traumas (and you feel comfortable with it) then listen. Actively listen to what they are telling you, as opening up and talking about your issues and how you feel is apart of healing.
Don’t force them to be vulnerable. Forcing them to open up will only result in a toxic sense of privacy. Walls are easily built whenever you are forcefully trying to tear them down. Asking about someone’s day is not a bad thing, but forcing them to tell you their deepest secrets is.
Do treat them like a normal person. Because that is what they are. A normal person. Even if you believe my ‘do and don’t‘ list is full of hypocritical crap, this one ‘do’ is so important. Do not act like you are higher and mighter than they are just because they have a mental illness.
The bottom line is, show that you care about your partner and make sure that they don’t feel alone. Being depressed can be very isolating, and when you don’t have a strong support system you can feel even worse about the situation. I am so thankful to have a boyfriend (and friends) who are supportive and help as much as they are able to.