How can you help your loved ones without losing yourself
We all know that depression affects mood, sleep patterns, appetite, motivation, and even the will to live. But what many people do not realize is the extent to which depression affects relationships. If your partner is depressed, your marriage or relationship is ten times more likely to end than if you were with to a nondepressed person.
Depression is a devastating disorder for the depressed person.
This staggering statistic is not the only indicator of how destructive depression can be to relationships. The close relationships of depressed people are more stressful and conflictual than the relationships of nondepressed people,
Aasith a twenty-eight-year-old accountant, has not been sleeping and has been having trouble concentrating at work. Since the birth of their son four months ago, his wife has been moody and disinterested in sex. He misses the closeness with her and feels sad reluctant to talk to her about his concerns because he does not want to make her more upset. Rather than express his feelings, he spends more time playing golf with his buddies.
When Aasith first came to therapy to discuss his concerns about his wife, he spoke at length about her sadness and lack of energy. As a caring husband, he was understandably concerned about her adjustment to motherhood. He described all the ways in which her depressed mood had affected her personality, from her lack of interest in sex and her usual activities, to her irritability with their infant. When he was asked about how her depression had affected him, he paused and said, “I guess only in that I care about how she feels.” When he was encouraged to think further about his reactions to her depression, he reluctantly revealed that he felt lonely and scared. He admitted that he had not been paying attention to how he was handling the situation because he was so caught up in his wife’s problems.
Only after he had begun to pay attention to his own reactions and feelings was he able to talk to his wife about the changes in their relationship and encourage her to seek help for depression, loving someone who is depressed brews confusion, frustration, resentment, and pain.
The close relationships of depressed people are more stressful and conflictual than the relationships of nondepressed people, and arguments and misunderstandings are much more common. In this context, it comes as no surprise that depression, and sexual problems caused by depression, are the most common reasons couples seek marital counseling and that approximately 50 percent of depressed women complain of serious marital problems.
You may be so intent on helping the other person that you are blind to ways in which you are affected. Yet if you begin to reflect on your interactions with the depressed person, you may begin to recognize that indeed you do have important feelings and reactions. Perhaps you have felt frustrated with your spouse for being antisocial and overly pessimistic, When previously attentive, warm, demonstrative partners turn irritable, distant, and thoughtless, mates are unlikely to attribute the change to a psychological illness, and take as rejection even though they may have read about depression in the abstract. Instead, they jump to what seem to be more likely explanations: a waning of affection.
As you read, you may discover that depression is affecting you in ways that you have not realized. But don’t worry, we do not intend to leave you mired in this new knowledge without tools to do something about it. A step-by-step guideline as to how to use your reactions to get along better with the depressed person, to increase your sense of hopefulness, and to be a more skilled helper in the fight against depression.
Our experience as therapists and the results of recent research studies have convinced us that everyone benefits when feelings and reactions to a loved one’s depression are understood and acted upon constructively. learning that your involuntary reactions are thoroughly normal is a giant first step toward regaining equilibrium.
BE RELAXED AND NON JUDGEMENTAL
Calling out a partner’s behaviour or focusing on concerning warning signs can make them defensive and push away. Instead of “You never show interest, take initiative or show love, affection anymore, what’s up with that?” try “I feel like we haven’t hung out since long time , are you up for dinner or coffee to catch up?” It can also help to speak with them at a relaxed time and place that puts you both at ease. Since some people who are struggling use alcohol to ineffectively cope, taking them out for coffee or a walk may be a better choice than grabbing drinks.
BE FIRST TO OPEN UP
If they’re not receptive to meeting up or sharing their thoughts and feelings, being open and honest can lower their defenses and encourage them to be the same way
DON’T TRY TO DIAGNOSE OR FIX IT
Remember, you’re not a therapist, and it isn’t your job to solve the emotional challenges they may be facing. Your role is to listen, respond without judgment, offer support and encourage them to get help if needed
HELP THEM TO FIND HELP
For many people, getting help is no big deal, but some friends may feel embarrassed about reaching out for help, or they may come from communities where it’s looked down upon or seen as a sign of weakness. And journeying into the world of mental health professionals for the first time can feel overwhelming to anybody. So offer to navigate the process with them: researching options online, or even going with them to their first appointment and waiting to meet them after for lunch or a walk.
DON’T GIVE UP
No matter how careful and understanding your approach, sometimes Partners just aren’t ready to have the conversation or accept support. Remember that mental health struggles can impact the way a person perceives situations, reacts to stressor views themselves. Don’t give up after one unsuccessful attempt and don’t express anger or frustration if they aren’t responding in the way you’d hoped. But if your concerns continue or escalate, or you’re worried that your spouse might harm themselves, reach out to their other friends, family members, faculty or trusted people in their lives.
“YOU AREN’T ALONE”
When approaching a loved one who might be struggling emotionally, it’s important to be patient, open-minded and supportive. You may not understand, but you can listen and be there for them. If a spouse / partner is experiencing suicidal ideation, find specific
It can help to remind them that we all go through tough times, by sharing something you’re struggling with now or talking about a time when you needed support and how that helped you, If someone you care about is depressed you will likely experience a wide range of emotions and reactions from anger to grief, from withdrawal to critical statements like, “You just need to stop feeling sorry for yourself!” You are not alone in your thoughts and feelings about your loved one. Everyone who cares about a depressed person goes through some or all of the common feelings and reactions. They are absolutely normal and should be expected.
“YOU CAN FEEL BETTER”
Help your spouse to see that reaching out for support is the first step to feeling better. When we’re struggling, it’s common to feel like no one can really help us. The good news is, most mental health challenges can be overcome, managed, or treated.
WHAT TO SAY
People who are struggling might not proactively ask for support. Some good approaches to being what they need are “You’ve been there for me so many times, how can I be there for you now?” or “I’m always just a phone call away”.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
The saying “you can’t take care of other people if you aren’t taking care of yourself” is especially true here. Taking on the burden of a partner in emotional distress can be overwhelming and draining, so remember to recognize your limits, set boundaries and reach out for help if you need
Let the healing begin!