In my journey with depression I have been all too aware of how it has affected my relationships. I realize it not only makes me sad, but can hurt those around me, which in turn makes me feel even worse.
I don’t have any magic words on how to deal with loved ones suffering from depression, but I can give you suggestions based on what I have experienced.
My first suggestion, if you haven’t already, is to do your research on depression. Find out what it is, read stories of people who have it, and ask your loved one how it feels. Ask your loved one if there is anything that makes it worse, what thoughts go through their head, when it started, is there something that can help them feel better, etc. Try to be mindful of when the right time is to have this conversation. I know for me personally, I have a bad tendency to “shut down” and not want to talk when depression is hitting me hard. While sometimes talking through it does help me, sometimes it’s just better if I have some space to work through it in my own head. Please, do not feel hurt if your loved one is not ready to talk. Just let them know that you’re ready to listen whenever they are ready. I would also be careful of asking “what’s wrong?”, as sometimes there really isn’t anything wrong. Sometimes a person with depression just feels bad, and they feel guilty when they don’t have a specific reason of why they’re upset.
My second suggestion is to check your own thoughts and make sure you think of depression as a challenge that some strong people have to overcome in order to find their true happiness and purpose in life. Learn to believe that part of the reason your loved one has been placed in your life is so that you may become a better human being as well. It will be very hard to do this at first, but learn to be thankful that you have been entrusted with the courageous job of helping someone deal with depression. I feel very strongly about this belief as it is the way people will stop feeling “ashamed” that they have depression and it will allow people to feel safe to talk about it. The ability to feel safe about talking about depression is a big step towards learning how to feel better.
My third suggestion is to take care of yourself when your loved one is having a “bad day.” I feel absolutely terrible when my depression starts affecting those I love and I know it does. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, take care of yourself. Letting yourself feel bad is not going to help anyone. Understand that your loved one’s depression is not your fault. Do what you need to stay positive. Only then can you be truly helpful. (If you are spiritual, imagine a white or golden light around yourself, and say a small prayer for you and your loved one for guidance. I really believe this can help you and your loved one.)
My last suggestion is never give up on your loved one and always believe that depression can be healed. It is only in this belief that depression can be healed, no matter how long or hard the struggle is. Always keep depression an open subject and when the moments are right, help your loved one find help, as the solution does not lie in you. Do not put that pressure on yourself. You can only do what you can to help. To help your loved one find help is tricky, but trust yourself. Just by reading this you are helping. Maybe even showing your loved one my past blogs is helping. You were entrusted to help this person for a reason. Trust that what needs to come your way to help will come when you and/or your loved one is ready.
Thank you so much for your courage, love, and strength as you support your loved one on their journey with depression. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, you are appreciated and loved.