I wish I could say that being there for a loved one when they are going through Depression is easy, you are carried by your Love for them and never ever have fear, doubt or frustration during the process. That is obviously flowery love rubbish. It’s hard, you doubt, you have fear, you are frustrated, but the best of us stick by and fight alongside this loved one because you do love them.
My partner has been my sounding board
I am so lucky to have my partner. Alex has been my cornerstone, my resting place, my rock, my sanity and so many times my sounding board when the roiling thoughts in my head just needed to get out. I know he won’t mind me saying though, that he didn’t necessarily start out this way, because neither of us had any idea how to start dealing with my depression.
First step is to talk, and to admit it to yourself
First step is to talk, even this can be an incredibly difficult, no matter how good you are at opening up to your partner, no matter how close you are, this is that next step to admission, admit it to yourself, admit it to those closest to you.
My advice, only some of which I followed with Alex, but in hindsight have learned; prepare for the conversation, have a strong idea of how you want to word what you have to say. I would start by asking that your partner allow you to finish what you have to say before asking any questions. I would have some print outs or websites open that detail the symptoms of Depression to help put your symptoms into perspective, and most importantly, be 100% honest.
Everyone is different with what they need
While going through Depression with your partner is difficult, I have struggled even more with friends, I will admit that I wasn’t there for a friend who herself had Depression, I had no idea how. When you or your partner is going through Depression, you are there with them, day-to-day, dealing with the emotions, the confusions. You typically have opportunities to talk, or just to be there and to hold the other and make them feel like everything is okay, just so long as you are cuddling.
However, with friends it is easy to continue on in your life without thinking about what a friend is going through constantly. Furthermore, every one is different with what they need, each stage of depression requires a different approach, if you don’t see each other every day it’s tricky to understand what they need at that time.
I just need to know that friends were there
At the beginning of my depression I was in my avoidance phase, if I wasn’t in the right frame of mind I didn’t want to talk about it. If anybody asked how I was doing at this time I was doing fine, that was it, don’t want to talk about it, how are you? Move on. I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t want help, I didn’t want comfort, I just wanted to know they were there, like before to have wine and a laugh with. I had to learn that these are the people who know you best, talk to them, tell them what is going on.
Going to a counsellor is great for the third-party unassociated point of view, however your friends can have insights into you, your history, your personality. I just needed to know that they were there, whether I needed a laugh, a cry, a hug or a beer … or seven. For me, that was plenty. I’m often telling friends who have other friends with Depression that you cannot constantly ask how they are, how they’re feeling or give suggestions on how to feel better, constantly try to be chirpy because you think it will help – it doesn’t, it just annoys us.
Be honest and don't be afraid to talk
I think it is important that if your friend tells you they are suffering from Depression you should ask them just to tell you what they need from you and you will be there. These communication lines are incredibly important. As I said above a friend of mine suffered from Depression, we didn’t have these communication lines open, I got so caught up in my life I forgot how it felt to feel so alone in Depression, I didn’t ask what she needed from me, I didn’t forgive her turbulent moods nor did I make myself available, just when she really needed me.
My lessons from this comes down to open communication. You cannot get through any relationship without communication, but it is even more important when the people around you need to understand what you need at any given time. Be honest and don’t be afraid to talk, remember that not every body understands, not through any fault of their own, but because Depression is difficult to understand.
Communication. Understanding. Patience.