Living with depression is certainly no bed of roses but living with someone who suffers from depression can be emotionally and physically draining. The nature of depression is such that the person is sometimes barely able to function. They becoming inward looking, often insensitive to the needs of those around them, yet highly sensitive to any real or perceived criticism about themselves. Understanding that depression isn't a choice is a necessary first step in understanding the nature of the beast. Despite this, the person who lives with and cares for someone with depression may feel upset, unprepared and unskilled in knowing how to help. Their own emotional state can be thrown into turmoil as they experience anger, frustration and sometimes even personal recriminations about why their loved one feels the way they do.
An awful lot of time could be spent on this topic, so condensing ideas into a few bite-sized chunks is likely to miss a number of useful and important tips. However, my thoughts are to start the ball rolling and look to you and your own experiences to pass comment and extend the ideas.
Let's start with what we already know. We know, for example, that supportive relationships can help to reduce the chance of relapse. We also know that a supportive relationship boosts self-esteem. The ingredients of a supportive relationship appear to include such things as avoiding hostility, criticism and even over-involvement and over-protectiveness. Respect for the person and giving feedback that encourages or enhances the person's capabilities are all important ingredients.
Even though it may seem like an eternity, depression does pass. During depression a number of things may change. For example, the way your loved one communicates is likely to change. Some people with depression avoid eye contact, avoid speaking and avoid physical contact too. Others become angry, bitter and critical and may blame you and others for their predicament. Situations like this are challenging, unrewarding and unfulfilling. They will test you in ways you may never have experienced but your reactions and your ability to manage the inertia, the snubs, the paranoia and the level of dependency that frequently accompanies depression, is important. You are not however required to martyr yourself to the person's needs and demands and neither should you become an emotional punch-bag. Communication is an important tool in keeping your relationship alive, so use it.
Symptoms of depression do however vary and unless the depression is quite severe you may find there are times in the day when the mood changes a little. Mornings can often be quite a difficult time for people who are depressed so gently does it. You may find some days, or some times of day, are a bit better than others. Capitalize on these moments to encourage a little physical activity like a short walk. Make use of the things you know are normally pleasurable like a meal choice, or a funny dvd (better for obvious reasons than a depressing one). Give the person a cuddle. They may not cuddle you back, but then again if they don't push you away you may be having more of an effect than you know. People who are depressed often feel rejected and whilst their behavior may suggest they are rejecting you, they are sensitive to anything that reinforces their belief.
In and amongst all this it's important to remember that you can't own someone else's depression. You can't fix it and you can't cajole the person out of it, but you can support their treatment plan. You absolutely must look after yourself too. Even the most optimistic of people find they are affected by the low moods of those around them. The way you do this really depends upon your own situation and circumstances but don't be afraid to get support whether from family, friends or health professionals.