Although the holidays mostly make me think of joy and happy times, unfortunately it's also a time when many people feel loss, loneliness and other emotional pain most acutely. Few people like to talk about it publicly, but actually there are many, many people who at different points in their lives suffer from depression. A person suffering from depression shouldn't feel like a pariah or like they are damaged and isolated - there are causes and treatments for depression, if only the person can find the help they need. Some of the greatest help can come from loved ones, like spouses, partners or other significant others and family. But when you love someone who is dealing with depression, it's not always easy to know how best to help. Certain missteps can even make the loved one feel worse, and that makes the helper hesitant to try again. But don't give up!
I am not a mental health professional myself, and I will say more about the importance of seeking such help at the end of the post. But there are things we can do for our loved ones regardless of our expertise. There's a post on The Darling Bakers that gives a great place to start with some tips for how to show your love to someone struggling with depression.
Here are some of their suggestions:
1. Help them keep clutter at bay.
When a person begins spiraling into depression, they may feel like they are slowing down while the world around them speeds up. The mail may end up in stacks, dishes can pile up in the sink, laundry may go undone as the depressed person begins to feel more and more overwhelmed by their daily routine and unable to keep up. By giving your partner some extra help sorting mail, washing dishes or using paper plates and keeping chaos in check in general, you’ll be giving them (and yourself) the gift of a calm environment.
2. Fix them a healthy meal.
Your partner may do one of two things when they are in a depressed state. They may eat very little, or they may overeat. In either case, they may find that driving through a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza online is just easier than fixing a meal. Eating like this, or neglecting to eat will only degrade your partner’s health, causing them to go deeper into their depression. Help your loved one keep their body healthy, and their mind will follow.
3.Get them outside.
The benefits of getting outside for a depressed person are huge. And it is possibly the last thing on earth your partner will want to do. Take them to be somewhere in nature. Pack a picnic and lie in the sun, take a leisurely hike (exercise is an effective mood booster!) or plant a garden.
4. Ask them to help you understand what they’re feeling.
If your partner is able to articulate what they are going through, it will help them and you better understand what you are dealing with, and may give insight into a plan of action for helping your partner. Also, feeling alone is common for a depressed person and anything that combats that feeling will help alleviate the severity and length of the depression.
5. Reassure them that you can handle their feelings.
Your partner may be feeling worthless, angry and even guilty while they are depressed. They may be afraid that they will end up alone because no one will put up with their episodes forever. Reassure them that you are in the relationship for the long haul and they won’t scare you away because they have an illness.
I strongly recommend that you follow the link to read the full article, which includes 5 more tips and more information. Also - although these tips are good ways to help your loved one deal with depression, it is not necessarily enough. It's not healthy to take the whole burden of their condition on by yourself. One of the best things you can do is to encourage your loved one to seek the help they need. They can talk to their family physician or other primary care doctor, who can make a recommendation based on their assessment of the severity of the depression, and on whether or not it's chronic. There are also many wonderful counselors with different approaches, from just one or two conversation sessions to get over a hump or for more long-term cognitive therapy, or, in certain cases (as determined with the consultation of a medical professional, and with the person's consent), medications for depression and/or anxiety.
The most important thing is to show them that you love them and will stay by their side - and to help them remember that there is hope for them to reach the other side of the dark times and find joy again.