This article first appeared on Your Tango and has been republished with permission.
"Depression" — ten letters, three syllables, and one living hell that no one can comprehend. It's a chemical and mental sadness that eats the soul, leaving a person feeling isolated and alone.
Combine that with anxiety and a slew of other mental health issues, and it can be even harder to keep going each day. If you're lucky enough to not suffer from depression or anxiety, it can wreak havoc on your relationships as well. If you have a friend, family member, or partner who has been diagnosed with depression, you must be careful in how you approach your relationship with them.
You must remember that you are dealing with more than just the person but the demons that haunt them. With so much suffering already in your loved one's life, you do not want to add to it.
It's important to be there for the ones you love as they battle something you can't necessarily see.
However, there are a few things you can do to make sure your loved one feels cared about and supported. To help the one you love battle their depression, here are some tips to follow.
1. Learn about how depression affects a person.
If you have never experienced depression, it is important that you do the next best thing: read up on it. Without properly understanding how debilitating of a disorder depression is, you are bound to misinterpret and even undermine the feelings of the other person.
By understanding the causes of depressive symptoms, you will be more able to handle the twists and turns of depression and may even stop them altogether.
In the age of information, billions of sources on depression exist. However, quantity does not equal quantity. Be sure that you find reputable websites on mental health that are both professional and easy to understand.
After all, you don't want to overload your brain with so much clinical jargon that it equates to the DSM-V. Reading these articles should inspire you, not overwhelm you.
2. Communicate with your loved one, but understand that it's tough to hear you.
Every human being you meet is like exploring another world. Each person has their own likes, dislikes, and behaviors. Because of this, each person responds differently to different types of support.
When facing episodes of depression, some prefer to distract themselves with a good Netflix binge or retail therapy session, while others might like to talk about their thoughts and feelings to friends and family.
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Communicate with your loved one and find out what support they find the most comfort in. Never be afraid to ask what you can do to make them feel better.
Over time, you will learn what makes or breaks the comfort in your loved one, making you a master sidekick.
Psychotherapist Caitlin Cantor states, "You and your partner can learn new a language to help you communicate in a way that makes you feel heard and validated while promoting closeness."
3. Be compassionate, but realize that they are in a dark space.
If you have never suffered from a mental disorder, it is easy to forget that disorders like depression influence an individual's behavior.
Because of this, you must always be aware of depression's presence in your loved one's thoughts and actions. Even if they lash out or sob, do not respond to bad behavior with bad behavior.
Be the bigger and better person by always showing sympathy, empathy, and compassion.
Though it may be difficult to deal with or recognize depression symptoms in your loved one, imagine how difficult it must be to live with depression itself. It takes so much strength and courage to live with such a crippling illness and choose to keep going despite it all.
Cantor states, "Remember that your partner has an illness. It isn’t their fault that they can’t just shake it off."
4. Setting emotional boundaries helps.
While it is important to provide comfort and support for him or her, you also have to take care of yourself. You are not a hotline service, so you can't always be available for them 24/7.
Let them know early on that while you do love and care for them, you also have other priorities. As a substitution for your absence, provide them with services they can use when in a bad state.
5. Stay positive even though there are things that remain unclear.
When dealing with a depressed loved one, it is important that you remain positive and encouraging for the both of you.
Even if your loved keeps bringing back the rainclouds, be sure you pick out the silver lining. Remind them of what a beautiful and wonderful person they are and what a beautiful and wonderful world they live in.
Be their guide in helping them find enjoyment in this life. This will not only help your loved one but help you in retraining your brain to find the goodness in everything.
Cantor says, "Intentionally focusing on your partner’s positive attributes is one way to support yourself in your relationship."
Maintaining a relationship with someone diagnosed with depression or anxiety is never easy. However, when it comes to genuine love, there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome.
As long as you and your loved one remain committed to each other and the love that you share, no one or thing can come between you.
The powers of compassion, love, and loyalty are some of the most underestimated powers on this planet. Never forget to tell your loved one and yourself this: If you are possible, anything is possible.
Cantor concludes, "But learning how to connect in our differences with others and learning to connect with our pain and our partner’s pain, is important because these elements exist in all relationships."
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