25 Jul What it’s Like to Have a Partner Who Deals with Depression
In this series of blogs, we explore the realities of anxiety and depression through the lens of real-world first-person narratives from anonymous teens. What else can we learn about these issues? How can we work to overcome them together? Let’s talk about it.
Watching someone you love struggle with depression is incredibly difficult. I won’t say that it’s more or less difficult than depression itself because that’s not a fair comparison.
For a long time, I denied my own emotional struggles because they paled in comparison to my partner’s depression. However, when I started reflecting on how his depression had affected me, I knew that I had to start being honest with myself. In an effort to help individuals who are in the same position, I want to be transparent about some of the issues I’ve faced while dating someone who deals with depression.
Prioritizing their mental health over your own.
When I first began dating my boyfriend, I wanted to do everything I could to take away his sadness. I spent so much time focused on my partner’s mental health issues that I began to let my own mental health slip into the background. It was caught between supporting a loved one and trying to love myself.
Realizing how much time and energy I was investing into my partner’s mental health, I took a step back to consider my own well-being. I was struggling with an anxiety disorder myself and wasn’t in a place to emotionally support my partner. Once I communicated with him that I was wrestling with my own issues, my boyfriend began to check in with me more frequently to make sure I was doing O.K.
Underestimating the value of your support.
I can’t count the number of times my, “How can I help?” was met by a defeated, “I don’t know.” Without a clear-cut way to help my partner, I felt useless. When I made my feelings known, my boyfriend explained that just by asking the question, I already was helping.
I know now that I will not always be able to control my partner’s happiness. What I can control is how I show my support. Often, just listening to my partner and letting him know that I am there if he needs me is more than enough.
Wishing things could go back to “the way they were.”
There will be highs and lows. While this is true of any relationship, it is especially characteristic of relationships in which someone deals with depression. When my boyfriend is having a depressive episode, I feel guilty thinking back to an easier time when my partner was in better spirits and wishing we could go back in time.
I came to realize that it was normal to long for the good times and to worry that things would be like this forever. While it felt selfish to have these thoughts, I came to learn that my boyfriend felt the exact same way. I had to keep in mind that my partner’s depression was not a choice and that these dark times were a wave that we could ride out together.
Feeling emotionally neglected.
One of the criteria for a successful relationship is that the needs of both parties be met. When my partner was in an especially depressed state, my emotional, physical, or interpersonal needs often fell to the wayside. A lot of the time, my partner was so absorbed in his own depression that he couldn’t recognize when he was neglecting my needs.
While I understood the hardship my boyfriend was enduring, I also knew that I needed to be honest and communicate with him what I was lacking from the relationship. I prefaced the conversation by affirming his experience and avoiding accusatory language. I didn’t feel like yelling or blaming him for the feelings I was experiencing would do much to effect positive change. He immediately felt bad for having made me feel this way and did not even realize he was doing so. From there, we were able to make a plan for him to seek treatment for his own struggles so we could both put more energy into a strong relationship.
Worrying that ending the relationship could trigger an episode.
Breaking up is never easy, but can be even more difficult when worrying that your ex may sink into a deeper depression post-breakup. At a certain point, I felt like my partner was no longer receptive to my support and refused to make the changes he had promised to address. It was then that I decided I needed a break. While I felt guilty about this decision and worried about my partner’s mental health during this break, I knew it was not fair to stay in a relationship out of guilt.
If you do decide to end your relationship, be conscious of how your words may affect your partner and be sensitive to the issues they are struggling with. If you are worried that your partner may hurt themselves or someone else, do not hesitate to use the resources located here. You are not alone.