Living with someone who suffers from depression can take its toll. When at my worst my husband always says it is like his wife has disappeared. What makes it worse is the illness makes me so consumed with my own thoughts that I often fail to see the effect I have on him.
In their book living with a black dog Matthew and his wife Ainsley explain how depression can affect those closest to the sufferer:
“A black dog in any relationship can be confronting, frightening, but navigated together, the bond can be deeper, richer and better for it.”
(Johnstone, 2008, 71)
It truly is all those things. But without the support many would crumble completely. But it’s hard for the supporter too.
I have snapped at him for everything, I have told him off for the most ridiculous things from moving on the sofa to making too much noise. I have moaned at him for not doing the littlest of things and shouted at him for nothing. He has borne the brunt of all of my anger and frustration. When things haven’t gone well at work he has taken the consequences of it. I have moaned to him about it and then all the frustration and anger I have had with other situations I have taken out on him.
If you are going to help your loved one it is important that you stay well. It is important that you remain strong for them during their illness but in order to do this you must take care of yourself as well.
1. Get out when you can. If it means running to the local supermarket to grab some milk and a free coffee, as my husband does from Waitrose, do it. It may only be 10-15 minutes but it can just take you away from the situation for a little while, just to build up a little bit more patience and strength. When you get the chance take a longer break, go for a drink with some friends and blow of some steam. Have a good moan to them, let it all of your chest and don’t bottle it up.
2. Don’t get sucked into their illness. It can be easy to fall into the depression yourself. Living with someone who is constantly down and low can make you feel this way. When they find the negative in everything, you can start to do the same. When you live with a person with depression you can be drawn into their low feelings just like a fly is caught up into a spider’s web. The best advice for anyone living with someone with depression is do whatever you need to do to avoid this.
3.Another piece of advice for those closest is don’t take it personally. At times my husband asks me “are you in a mood with me?” He is asking because I become very withdrawn at times. The depression attacks me from within. The phrase you take it out on those you are closest to is certainly true. Hence him asking me over and over whether I am cross with or annoyed with him. The answer is 100% no. He has done nothing to upset me. He has done nothing wrong at all. I just can’t stand to be in my own company. Unfortunately he gets the brunt of how I feel. So if you have someone close to you who has depression and has been treating you pretty shoddily recently, take heart-it is not personal. Most of the time it is not anything you have done or said, they are just really struggling to be alive at times. It is an effort just to sit still because their head is making them feel so bad.
4. One of the things that is important to remember, so as to preserve yourself as a loved one of someone with depression, is take some slack but don’t start doing everything. It is true that depression completely cripples someone’s motivation, enthusiasm and energy levels. Firstly if you do everything you will burn out. Secondly it has been important for me to do what I can do so I don’t feel completely useless and a failure. I feel like I have some worth. So when you live with someone with depression it may help to take up a little bit of the slack temporarily but don’t suddenly start doing everything. It won’t help you or the person with the illness.
5. Finally it is important to remember you will get it wrong from time to time. You will lose your rag, you will fail to show patience at the correct time and you will snap. When this happens, take a step back and don’t beat yourself up, you are human and it is impossible to be understanding, compassionate, a good listener and be with someone who is depressed 100% of the time. Ultimately the message is you will lose your cool living with someone with depression. Do it and move on.
I’m sorry to my husband for all the times I have been like this. I am sorry for snapping at him. I am sorry for not listening and I am sorry for being distant. I love him so much. So don’t take these actions personally. This illness will be over and I will get better again.
Thank you for sticking with me always. Keep strong!