Supporting Someone with Depression: Issues You May Face
When someone we love is depressed and wants help it’s only natural to offer support. However depression often isn’t something that passes in a few days. It may worsen, drag on for weeks, months or even longer and it takes its toll. As the partner or nearest relative you may naturally want or feel the need to give support but there are some unforeseen issues you may need to confront and which is the subject of my post.
I think it’s worth asking whether you feel you’re the right person to do this? For example, you may feel painted into a corner, resentful of the assumption that your role is to support and that your life will be negatively affected as a result. Alternatively you may dearly want to give support but you have a stack of responsibilities like work, young children, or an elderly and dependent parent. You may have your own emotional or medical issues to contend with. The point I’m making is twofold. First, not everyone suited to the role of helper or caregiver or they are simply not in a position to provide the level of support that might be needed. Secondly, the idea of helping may be appealing but over the longer term it can affect people in very different ways.
Supporting someone with depression can be fulfilling and even rewarding, but it can also be frustrating, difficult, and emotionally depleting. The reasons things can turn sour are many and varied but for the sake of argument let’s assume your relationship up to the point of their depression has been loving and harmonious. It can come as something of a low blow to learn that their depression is being blamed on you. Maybe your partner or loved one starts to point the finger or maybe it’s one of their friends or relatives. It’s not easy being scapegoated but you need to know that you are not responsible. Sometimes people who are depressed blame themselves for everything but sometimes they look for causes outside of themselves. It may be completely unfair and irrational but it can happen.
Depression can push people away or it can suck them in, and both are difficult to cope with. There may come a point when you realize they have become so dependent on you they seem incapable of making any decision for themselves. You also know this isn’t good for either of you and you know something needs to be done. Your partner will not become better if they don’t start taking charge of their own life. It’s useful to try reversing the situation by gently pointing out what is happening and how it’s affecting you. Reassure them you aren’t withdrawing support but encourage more in the way of independent actions from them.
Time is key to recovery but there will be very frustrating periods when you feel they simply aren’t making much of an effort. For example, it can seem odd that someone who is very depressed can also see the humor in things, that they can do certain things but not others, that they can seemingly stay in bed for ever while you carry the burden. Then there are the times when they seem to improve only to slide back. You begin to wonder if this is your lot and if things will ever improve? There is no magic solution. There is nothing experts have kept back from you regarding techniques or solutions you could employ. Sadly there is little you can do, because the problem isn’t yours. The solution, such as it is, invariably comes down to time and treatment.