Loving a depressed person is a frustrating and thankless task. They may seem fine one second, and totally despondent the next. They might blame you for their depression, insist that they are not depressed, and alternate between cruelty and hopelessness. It’s no wonder that so many caregivers to depressed loved ones end up depressed themselves.
Illness as complex as depression demands complex treatment. Your loved one cannot will their way out of it, but treatment can and does work—though it sometimes takes a while. This means that the very best thing you can do for your loved one is encouraging them to seek therapy. In the meantime, here are five steps you can take to support your loved one.
Don’t Demean Their Feelings
You will not win an argument with a depressed person about whether they should feel the way they do. Sure, it might be tempting to try to talk them out of their negative thoughts, but doing so only makes them feel like you’re not listening and don’t care. Listen to their feelings and validate them. Then, if the stream of negativity seems like too much, change the subject. Don’t try to force them to find the positive or admit that things aren’t that bad. Doing so can cause them to shut down and feel worse.
Provide a Distraction
You cannot cure your loved one of their depression, but you may be able to distract them from their pain. Try taking them out for lunch at a favourite restaurant, or scheduling a date night. Sometimes a distraction from the pain can inspire your loved one to remember what life without depression was like. And that might just be the push they need to pursue the treatment they deserve.
Encourage Healthy Living
Healthy living, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, can help combat depression. You can’t force your loved one to lead a healthy lifestyle, and you should not try. You can, however, create an environment where health is easy to embrace. Walk the dog together each night, or ask your loved one to join you at a delicious new health food restaurant. Tending to the body can help calm the mind,and your loved one might simply lack the energy to do this on their own.
Offer Unconditional Love
People with depression often alternate between rejecting their loved ones and being terrified of abandonment. Rest assured that this behaviour has nothing to do with you, and is not a reflection of how much your loved one cares for you. Offer unconditional love, even when your loved one seems angry or flustered. By reassuring your loved one that you love them no matter what, you remove their sense of isolation and despair.
Take Care of Yourself
You cannot take care of your loved one if you are not taking care of yourself. There is no shame in taking a break to tend to your needs. Indeed, if you don’t, you might end up depressed. If you’re having trouble coping, know that therapy can help you just as much as it helps your loved one, so contact Three Seas today!