Depression is, to me, the most painful thing that can happen to a person. If you have suffered from major depression, you know what I’m talking about.
Depression is also very painful for anyone who lives with a depressed person. My five years of depression was a very difficult time for my wife. All the things we were planning to do when we left our careers were put on hold because, “Pat just isn’t up to traveling and being around people.” And I wasn’t. I just wanted to suffer by myself and be a recluse.
Somewhere in this fog, I realized
my wife needed to get away from me for her own sanity. I could see the gloom in her face and was afraid she might catch depression from being around me. So I encouraged her to go shopping with friends and do other activities without me. One major event for her was a week-long trip to the Southeast with two friends; another was a week in Birmingham with our son and his wife. When she returned home with a smile on her face, I felt a ray of light in my dark domain.
Love means wanting what is best for someone else, and I wanted what was best for my wife.
What can you do if you are living with someone who is depressed or have a friend or relative who is depressed?
- Keep your expectations low. Triumph over depression is a long haul.
- Be encouraging but not unrealistic. Your friend, relative, or mate needs to hear that he/she will eventually get better…and it will take some time…but it will happen.
- Don’t blame this person for being afflicted with depression any more than you would blame a person for having cancer. Depression is an illness.
- Don’t blame yourself for someone else’s depression, though he/she may blame you out of frustration. The causes of depression go much deeper than anything you might be doing wrong.
- Support and compassionate attention are needed, but that’s not enough to keep the black dog of depression at bay. Strongly suggest he/she first see a medical doctor for a complete physical because depression may have a physiological cause, such as a thyroid condition. Follow that up with a suggestion to see a psychotherapist for the causes of the depression and a psychiatrist for possible medication to bring about stability. Somewhere down the line, when a semblance of stability is operative, the spiritual dimension needs to be addressed. Actually, all the things above are what I do as a coach for the depressed.
- Accept the universe; healing may come slowly amidst ongoing ups and downs. Don’t give up. Never give up. I have triumphed over major depression, but it took me five years. And I have coached people who considered themselves a hopeless case, and they are free of depression today. It is what it is and you need to persevere.
- Give yourself space. Don’t let someone else’s depression sink you. Take care of yourself physically (exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep) and emotionally (spend time by yourself, listen to soothing music, get out of the house as often as you can).
- Finally, realize that the person you love is not at present the person who has loved you, but a troubled, confused soul needing unconditional love that says, “I love you just the way you are, and pray that one day you will be the person you once were. It will happen.”
These are suggestions to start with. If you want more discussion of this topic, let me know by commenting.