Ways to help with depression…
Why I write about depression?
Depression… Dear worry heads, I write this post to reveal the point of view of a husband, who supported his depressed wife in the darkest days of her life.
It was a while ago when I wrote my book “No amount of anxiety will push me away” and even though, thanks to my help she recovered from this terrible illness, at the time it affected me dearly.
I never showed my wife what I felt because she had too much on her plate and I needed to be strong for her.
If I showed her then in any way that it put pressure on me, my feelings would reflect in something far worse. My wife tried to commit suicide on four occasions, twice in front of me but I could not allow this to happen!
Standing on the sideline when a partner goes through depression feels like a helpless experience. You might feel frustrated and overwhelmed.
Whenever you attempt to help, you feel rejected or ignored. There are times when you might even feel responsible for your partner’s depression in some way. This illness can isolate people despite their best attempts to help.
On occasions I was told by my wife to leave her alone and the way she expressed it was through shouting.
Naturally, you feel judged. You haven’t done anything wrong. You try to help but receive negativity. It negatively impacts relationships and leaves loved ones feeling helpless and afraid.
At the time her mood is sad, hopeless, filled with anger. It is not her fault, but she cannot help it. It’s just how it goes. Outbursts of anger and blaming others are common. The lack of interest in pleasure is very noticeable. I notice that she seems not to care about finding joy anymore.
All these factors can make it difficult to know how to help a depressed partner. But your support is important. You can’t cure your partner’s depression, but you can help your partner along the road to recovery.
The first thing you need to do is learn about depression. Depression is not a static illness. People may have bad days, but they also have good ones.
My lovely wife had periods of time where she was happy, but the cloud of sadness can come unexpectedly.
It is because depression can greatly impact many aspects of your life such as mood, loss of appetite, sleep, interest in pleasure, fatigue, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, not being able to make decisions, thoughts of death, and even explainable physical symptoms.
What to do?
An important first step in helping your loved one is to understand this illness. Symptoms of depression can vary, they can change over time. It is never the same, not for everyone.
Every person is different and has different reasons for their anxiety and depression. In most cases, doctors do not understand that and treat everyone the same. But you know, your partner is an individual.
You can read about depression and consult a professional for more information, but the best way to understand how your partner experiences depression is to openly ask questions and listen, listen, listen… be there. Simple yet powerful. Be there.
Of course, you should acknowledge a professional psychotherapist’s suggestions, but the most helpful advice I can give you is – be there, listen.
Do not talk whenever your partner opens up to you unless they want you to. Just listen. Many times, I have caught myself “interrupting” her speech trying to give solutions to the problem. In my wife’s eyes, I wasn’t listening.
Constant interruptions made her feel fed up and she finished the conversation feeling angry.
The reason for this was, as she explained, the feeling of being ignored and not listened to while she made her best efforts to explain how she felt.
Suggesting solutions while she was speaking, felt to her like a total lack of respect for what she had to say. In other words, if I talked halfway through whilst she spoke, I ignored her. So, my interruptions meant I wasn’t there for her.
Best ways to help:
You might feel like the best way to help the person is to find treatment in your area, such as a support group, or talk to other people who battle with anxiety and depression individually. This way you can find out what works.
Often the best thing you can do for your partner simply shows up. I did that. I went with my wife to a group where people talk about their experiences. It was very interesting plus I contributed some of my thoughts to the group.
There were a 50% women to men ratio, about 12 people in total. Different ages and backgrounds. All of them were alone. My wife was the only person who had a loved one by her side. I felt proud, she felt supported whilst the rest of the group were alone.
You see, just by showing up you reveal how much you care. Without words, you can show your support. Just be there.
I spoke at that meeting regarding my perspective on the matter and other members of the group really found it helpful. There was a guy who was worried about his girlfriend not understanding his illness. She wanted to go out with him, be with friends, and hoped that it would make him feel better.
He didn’t want to go because the last thing he needed when he was feeling so low was to be around other people, people he didn’t know. She felt rejected, he felt judged. Both parties didn’t understand. He needed answers, he joined the group. As it happens, I was there. I was in her shoes before.
As I mentioned in my book “No amount of anxiety will push me away”, me and my wife are dancers. We have a passion for it, that’s what we do. However, her illness prevented her from going out, seeing people in the state she was in was the last thing on her mind.
I, on the other hand, wanted to go and be with people. In the same way, as this guy’s girlfriend did, I believed going out would help. You see, our minds worked differently.
We thought that going out, getting busy wouldn’t allow our depressed partners to think of their sadness. They however felt the opposite. We wanted to help, they felt pushed towards something they didn’t feel positive about.
I explained to the guy at the group meeting about the importance of conversation.
You need to talk to her, explain your reasons for feeling the way you do at you just need some time before you start to go out and socialize again, at the same time she needs to listen to you so she can understand how you feel.
Silence solves no problems, the conversation does!
He agreed and said he’d give it a go and he left that evening happy and full of hope with a positive attitude.
Why are support groups created? Because people need to talk and sometimes talking to strangers helps more than talking to family. When you are afraid to speak out, you can just show up and simply listen.
Without saying a word, you are a part of something. It helps because you get to know people’s stories and realize, you are not alone. If your loved one can be there for you it’s a bonus, it can have a really positive effect on your relationship and your lives going forward.
You don’t need to know all the answers…
You don’t have all the answers but that’s okay. Again, what you can do is sit and listen. You can hold your partner’s hand, offer hugs, and be present. You can respond with encouraging words such as “tell me what can I do to help”?
Even though your partner might think you can’t help, the thought of knowing you care enough to ask means the world! There is another way of showing that you care.
By saying that you are there for them or that you’ll get through this together is a big help, because the person knows that she/he is not alone.
You must encourage treatment with talking therapies, specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The reason for this is because with CBT, as long as suffer is willing to engage in therapy, they will see progress.
CBT therapists are specifically trained to help with strategies to combat anxiety and depression with or without the use of antidepressants because ultimately, it’s all about mindset, and therapists trained in CBT can provide sufferers with the tools to combat anxiety and depression help them to recognize their specific triggers.
My wife recognized that she suffered from anxiety and depression, but some people may not.
For many people, symptoms are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in daily tasks, such as work, school, activities, or relationships, but they may still be in denial or too ashamed to admit that they have a problem, due to feeling that they might be seen as weak.
Others might not understand the symptoms of depression and think that their feelings are just something that they must endure.
Being a burden is a very common thought of depressed people. “I think we need to divorce,” my wife said. She didn’t say it once but twice. Boom! Sounds drastic right?
You see, I give you an example of my life to show you how desperate the person feels. She feels like she is a burden in my life. She wants to relieve “my pain”, set me free of her worries.
She feels she stops me from living my life, from doing things that I love. Multiply that by other people, her family, her friends. She feels she is a burden to everyone, not only me.
Her mind tells her that everyone else suffers just because she exists. She’s in a dark place, believing it’s true. She blames herself and that is so overwhelming, so powerful that her thoughts go further. Beyond imaginable. She thinks of suicide…
Yes, while you are oblivious to what is in her mind, your partner is most likely to plan her death while drying her hair.
Despite your best efforts, your partner might feel it’s not enough. You cannot judge and say that you do enough. You are not in a depressed person’s shoes and you will never fully understand how it feels.
You may recognize the signs, feelings, solutions to some issues but you will never fully grasp how it really is. But don’t let it discourage you, keep working to support them. It feels like a never-ending, but it is going to pay off.
Meanwhile, to speed up the process, you need to create a warm and supportive environment. It is important for you to remember that your partner’s depression isn’t anyone’s fault. While you can’t fix it, your support will help your partner work through this difficult time.
Now, there will be changes in lifestyle that can make a big difference in the treatment process. Because depression lowers a person’s energy and affects sleep and appetite. It can be difficult for people to make healthy choices. You can help them through.
Encourage your partner with healthy eating, you can even cook for them. I personally love to cook. If I can do it for my wife, I will kill two birds with one stone. Exercising together is another way of showing support and treatment. If you love dancing or even going for long walks is a great way to start.
Share a passion!
My wife is lucky that we share the same thing. Dance is our passion. Both of us do, what we love, and we do it together. It’s healthy, it’s healing, and creates a low-stress environment. Routines can help depressed people feel more in control of their day-to-day lives.
People are creatures of habit. If our life goes off track, we begin to worry.
So, let’s do our best to keep the same routines. The only exception would be for instance a holiday. Something extremely positive that is a change but can impact us only in a positive way.
Depression is an illness that can cause a loss of interest in many pleasurable activities and make people sometimes avoid social interactions. By going away for a break your partner will have no choice but to interact and it will happen in a way that is natural, not forced.
Otherwise, make a weekly plan to go to a movie, the theatre, or go on a trip to the zoo. Find your idea for activities you can do together, even playing board games can help to stimulate the low mood. Start small to help your loved one begin socializing again. It really works.
Anxiety is overwhelming and exhausting. So many times, my wife has suddenly woken from her sleep crying and in a panic not knowing what’s happening to her and why? I usually got up and explain to her that it is just a panic attack, it will pass in about 10 to 15 minutes and it does.
She has experienced a lot of panic attacks in the past and she now has the ability to go through them and even control them because she trusts me enough to know that I’m right and that the palpitations, the shaking, and the feeling of dread will soon disappear.
Sometimes when I made her realize what was happening, my wife calmed down in a minute or two. The following morning, she was too exhausted to work and felt guilty for not going which then made her depressed.
Sometimes she was strong enough to talk to her manager, most of the time I give him a call, but I still had to go to work myself feeling bad for leaving her alone.
She felt bad and guilty for not going to work, but more so about not letting me sleep the previous night. Yet again, she felt like a burden to me saying, I would be better off with someone else.
I used to respond then, usually via text message, since I’m on my way to work, that I love who she is not the illness.
I married her for better or worse and her anxiety and depression won’t change that in fact, my love can become only stronger. I care for her, no matter what.
On one beautiful morning, I got off the train and started to walk to work. It wasn’t far, maybe 10 mins on foot. All of a sudden, a white feather in a slow circular motion, started to fall from the sky, ending up by my feet.
To my amusement, I looked up and saw nothing but a clear, blue sky. Where has that come from? I wondered, walking on an empty road. Later that evening I decided to tell my wife what happened.
She grabbed my hand, kissed me, and said that I was her Angel.
What do you mean I asked? She said, “feathers appear when Angels are near. Darling, you are my Angel”. She told me, how much I meant to her, and that without me her life wouldn’t be worth living.
Living with your partner can be challenging.
Mood disorders affect nearly one in five adults, yet little attention is given to the impact that these disorders have on intimate relationships. When I say, “mood disorder,” I’m referring to conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, Bipolar-Disorder, and even PTSD.
But let’s focus on the subject of this post-depression and a bit of anxiety as it usually goes along with depression.
Before I get to examples of my own, I would like to underline a few facts. While there are many forms of mood disorders, depression and anxiety are the most common. These illnesses can make connecting emotionally difficult and increase conflict in the strongest of relationships.
Quite often there are symptoms, such as withdrawing from social interaction due to the lack of interest, and that alone can create havoc in a relationship.
The trouble with me…
Yes, you read it correctly – the trouble with me is that I am an optimist. To some extent, it is a very good thing. It allows me to cope well under pressure. But my positive character is also my greatest enemy. Why is that?
Because in the same way as my wife, who suffers from anxiety and depression and hides her feelings, I do exactly the same.
I put on a brave face for her, and regardless of how easy it is for me to do, I am only a human being, and eventually, I may break. Below I will give you two examples…
I love the gym. I am a huge fitness fan. I used to do some pure bodybuilding and I really liked it, but since I got into a mixture of Crossfit and Olympic weightlifting, I became very passionate about it. Before I met my wife, I did a 3-hour workout daily, sometimes even twice a day.
When we got together, she was very into that too, but after an injury my wife suffered, she stopped working out and dancing for about 2 years due to back and pelvic pain.
Since then she has never picked up where she left off as she still suffers from chronic pelvic pain not only caused by an old injury but also because we recently found out that she is suffering from endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic disease where the womb lining starts to grow outside of the womb into other areas in the pelvic cavity and sometimes beyond. This is one of the main reasons her anxiety and depression kicked in.
These days I train two times a week, sometimes only once. The goal of my story is, I still have a big passion for it, and wished I could do it every day, but the love for my wife is stronger than a gym, and I always choose to be with my wife in the times of her worry, rather than at the gym.
The gym is not only my passion but there’s also more to it… as I mentioned, I’m a big fan of it. I don’t do pubs and drinking. I’m not one of those guys, who just sit and chat. I train because it makes me feel alive.
I believe, that a true man should own a healthy, strong body. To be a leader is in my nature. As a true Alpha male protects his partner and does everything in his power to give her security.
Aside from that, the gym is, where I forget daily issues and it is an escape from reality, and daily life.
The guys I know there are all into fitness, and we have common subjects to talk about. Where is a better place to test your manliness, if not the gym? Since Greek times, mnemonic used to compete. Nothing changed today.
To be the best is a challenge, and I love a good competition. Apart from getting stronger, I beat my personal records and prove to myself, that I can do something, that not many can.
Not only does this help me maintain a healthy body, but I get mentally stronger. I feel I can move mountains. I am more confident, therefore, I reach more goals in life.
The second example, that I wanted to mention, and I did so in the previous chapter, is dancing. My wife and I are dancers. This is how we met. She was my dance teacher, I was her student.
Sometimes life happens like in the movies, we started to dance together, teach together and we got into Latin-Ballroom, which aside from the gym, is another passion of mine. I mentioned at the beginning of my book about my wife being injured.
Since then our dance time got cut from maybe 20 hours a week to at best 3 or 4 hours a week and at worst 1 hour a week or nothing.
We don’t dance as often as we used to these days, and even though I believe, that we will again, at the moment we don’t, and it is frustrating for both of us.
So, without doing something I love, as often as I wish I could, regardless of the optimism that I possess, it makes me feel upset and there’s no way around it.
It’s just the way life is and not only that, it made my wife feel guilty, that I didn’t fulfill my potential. Even though she told me to go to the gym, I chose to stay with her in her time of need.
My excuse for it was, that I am perfectly healthy and fine, as opposed to her, so I should cope better. And yes – I do, but no one is unbreakable…
Do not pretend that things are fine!
For many partners of depressed individuals, there is a natural instinct to protect them in an effort to minimize conflict, couples may hide their frustration with the other person’s depressive or anxious symptoms. Unfortunately, this desire to protect often backfires, and as resentment builds and emotional closeness fades.
Luckily for myself and my wife, our love is strong enough to out-stand all the obstacles, that life throws at us. But not every couple’s love is strong. Instead of pretending things are fine, a better way is to confront the challenges.
By being open and honest, we are able to maintain a sense of intimacy and trust that we have. I often think that love, real love, is doing whatever you can do to make that person happy and immune from any hurt.
Anxiety is a mental health condition, that I knew nothing about before I met my wife. I thought it was just a phrase for someone who felt a little nervous from time to time. It is so much more than that – it is debilitating for the person who is suffering.
You need to do what I did and educate yourself about anxiety and depression. The more I read and learned about it, the more I understood. And the best advice I can give you before you read your first article or book on the subject is to simply listen.
Don’t talk, don’t interrupt, just listen. Your partner will forever be grateful for this.
So, we were in a place, where we were just surviving. All we had was each other.
Our lives were consumed by talk of anxiety and depression, there was no obvious way out. It seemed that way, but the thing we had in our favor was that we talked. I was as understanding as I possibly could be. I read about anxiety, we read books together and it worked, it was all we needed.
Learn about depression!
By learning about the illness, you can equip yourselves with the information necessary to minimize the impact of anxiety and depression and develop an effective treatment plan, together, without even reaching out to doctors.
Because guess what – their answer is always the same, “take two of those and you will get better…”.
Giving you a pill is always their answer. It angers me to no end! They never even listen to you, they assume, that the antidepressants will solve all the problems. They don’t even ask why the person feels the way she/he feels?
How dare they?
This is not to say that for some people antidepressants on a short-term basis along with psychotherapy works well. Antidepressants on their own, do not! And don’t forget that these tablets can often cause side effects and more physical symptoms than you had before taking them!
In my wife’s case, it is the physical problems and obstacles in her life that cause her anxiety and depression.
Doctors may have the knowledge and have earned their titles, but I am an expert in my wife. It is me that has seen her struggling to take medication and feeling like it is the only option, only to find that it makes her 10 times worse.
Another thing to consider is, that each person is unique. Learn about your partner’s specific brand of anxiety or/and depression.
- Are there triggers, like changes in the season or lack of sleep, which exacerbate the issue?
- What kinds of lifestyle changes support a better, more stable mood?
- And how can you help?
For my wife for instance it is work. After her endless pleads for help, I had to take things into my own hands. I decided to call her employer and have set up a meeting with them. I took a day off work, and I went to the meeting. My wife was present.
I explained to her manager my point of view regarding her struggles. I spoke up openly about it and explained, that she was struggling to come to work, because of dealing with the stress there and trying to deal with a long-term health condition and mental health problems on top of that.
I explained that the stress at work and the conditions she was working in were not helping her condition and as an employer, they were one employee down at the moment, so both sides were losing out because they weren’t taking any action to improve things.
I also explained the problem with my wife being on and off work and then having to work reduced hours had started to affect our financial situation, our relationship, our marriage. I know that we live in times where there should be equality between men and women, but it still isn’t.
I found, that doctors listened to me because I’m a man because I wasn’t going to let them dismiss me and they knew I was there for a reason, that they were neglecting my wife’s pleads for change.
I helped to make a change and they finally agreed to an occupational health referral.
She is now back at work still working fewer hours temporarily, but at least with some hope that occupational health will help sort out some positive changes. Don’t ever be afraid to fight for what’s right!
Take care of yourself!
One of the reasons that mood disorders can be so problematic in relationships, is that the symptoms do not promote intimacy or closeness.
When struggling with depression, anxiety, or both, people can become closed off to others, numb, and even angry or aggressive.
These symptoms can quickly create a negative cycle within the relationship causing a lot of conflicts. Luckily for myself and my wife, again, we talk things through, never allowing things to get worse.
Making self-care a priority is crucial for both partners, in order to improve things ahead. You cannot help someone else if you cannot help yourself first. Taking care of someone with a mood disorder can feel like trying to fill a bottomless bucket — you give and give, and it’s never enough.
Love and kindness are important parts of taking care of someone with a mood disorder, but it is not enough. You need to take care of your needs first.
Everyone must make time to replenish themselves or there will be nothing left to give. With ongoing self-care, together you can face the challenge of mood disorders.
“You cannot help someone else, if you cannot help yourself first.” – Lucjan B.
So, the moral of the story is, help your loved one by being there for him/her. Above all, never give up! I wish you all the very best and if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact us at [email protected]
Take care for now and good luck!
Hi, I’m Lucjan! The reason why I decided to create this blog was my beautiful wife, who experienced a lot of pain in life, but also the lack of information about endometriosis and fibromyalgia for men…