Using Silence During Depression
If your relationship is normally highly active and perhaps filled with lots of chatter it can be particularly hard to understand what is happening during depression. As the person folds in on themselves and pays you less attention it can be painful to watch, and even harder to take. These are the times you want to ask questions. What’s wrong? Is it something I’ve said or done? Tell me how I can help?
Silence affects couples in very different ways. Some find it unbearably tense, but if your partner is depressed filling the space with questions or comments or appealing to reason for some kind of explanation, is unlikely to yield anything productive. The person who is depressed often has no explanation. They are as confused as you and probably more so. Even if they say they think they are depressed they may not be able to explain why. Your possible attempts at making light of the situation or encouraging them to snap out of it will simply be viewed as critical and patronizing and as evidence of the fact you have no insight or understanding how they are feeling.
If you’re not used to solitude, or a life without some kind of background noise, it can be hard to accept that silence can be your friend and a powerful aid to recovery. Silence can be used in more than one way. For example, many people with depression continue to go about their daily activities. They go to work and they continue to function at some level. You may wonder why they can manage at work but not at home, but home is a place of sanctuary. When they get home their reserves are depleted and they need time to recover. Simply allowing time and space may not be easy but you may be helping more than you realize.
Of course people with depression don’t necessarily inhabit a silent void. However, when they do speak the content of what they say often reflects a negative mindset. This is another time when silence can be used. You don’t have to respond to everything they say and if they ask why you aren’t speaking or responding you can say you’re listening to what they are saying.
The important thing in using silence is that you aren’t using it as a weapon. Staying mute is a way many of us signal our displeasure. This passive-aggressive behavior isn’t productive and only results in greater levels of tension and resentment. Silence, if used thoughtfully, will convey that you are sensitive and that you are listening. Their depression doesn’t have to control what you say or how you behave and there may well be times that you fall out over things or you forget yourself. You aren’t expected to be angelic, just a little wiser as to how things might benefit both of you.