Living with a partner that is suffering depression can be a hugely challenging experience that can leave you feeling lost and hopeless. It can feel as though the way they feel is your fault, that if only you could work out exactly what they needed you to do, you would do it so they would feel better. But the reality is, it seems nothing will improve their mood for long. Your partner may have periods of feeling ‘up’ which provides some hope that things may change. Only to find them plummet back down into that dark place. You may be constantly vigilant, making sure they are taking their medication or asking how they are feeling. Yet it may feel like nothing works.
So what is the best way to handle this?
1. Learn to detach – I know this may seem cold but the fact is, the way they feel is not your responsibility. Their happiness is not your responsibility either. I understand that all you may want to do is help but the truth is they must help themselves. It is up to them to reach out for support when they need it. Then the support will be there. If they are willing to take constructive steps to help themselves you can support them in this but you cannot do it for them. This is where many people slip up. By trying to ‘save’ them this can leave you feeling guilty or with a sense of hopelessness around what to do.
2. Listen to them – This may sound simple but it is important to really listen to what they are asking for. They may be needing space, or time out, but when you have an agenda of what you think is best for them you don’t really hear them. Honour what they are asking for.
3. Get Support – When you are in a close relationship it is difficult because you will not be getting your needs met, as your partner will not be in a position to offer you the love and attention you deserve. This is because they are in a state of disconnection and withdrawal which makes it very difficult for them to express their love. It can be very distressing to be around this energy. This means it is vital to get the support you need through other means for a time; via trusted friends, and relatives or finding a great therapist to support you in working through your feelings and giving you strategies work on.
4. Take threats of suicide seriously – It is vital that every threat of suicide is taken seriously. Ring the mental health line or call an ambulance. I understand that if your partner threatens often this can feel like they may just be seeking attention, but the reality is they actually do need attention. Facts are, most people don’t want to kill themselves but don’t know what to do or what help they actually need or where to go to get it. Mental health services in your area such as Lifeline in Australia can provide an array of facilities that can provide support.