Step by step, day by day: living with depression in a relationship
My second bout of severe depression started when I was happy with life. My girlfriend of over ten years had just moved in with me in London where I had started working two years before. I had just been awarded a teaching prize at work and I was also exercising regularly but below the surface things were not all well. In hindsight, there were all the classical warning signs of depression such as loss of appetite, lack of interest in things and early morning waking.
Communication, mutual interests and hope have always been important aspects in our relationship and it was precisely these which were to be tested most in the following two years. During the summer of 2009 I went from bad to worse and far beyond the point of putting on a brave face. Getting out of bed felt like climbing a huge mountain. Almost all I talked about was the bleakness of life, the hopelessness of my situation and all the causes and solutions to my depression I could think of. At the same time, all the big and little joys that had made us happy together eroded rapidly.
A vital part of my recovery has been the support of my girlfriend
A vital part of my recovery has been the support of my girlfriend and particularly the feeling of security and support. She never made steps for me but helped me find my own way through it. She encouraged me with any aspect which would aid my recovery such as exercise, volunteering, GP visits, therapy and getting involved with Time to Change. She helped me to eventually feel more comfortable to talk about my depression with other people.
Deep depression removed all pleasure from both our lives for a long period. We adjusted by trying to take everything step by step and living day by day. For some time we cancelled all major things which could cause unnecessary stress. We took each day as it came and if something didn’t work out we would try something differently the next day. We were able to talk about everything, even difficult and troubling topics such as suicidal thoughts. We made emergency plans in case things took a turn for the worse. It was vital to really listen to each other and for me to keep helping out at home, even if it meant buying a bottle of milk.
A carer can often feel desperate, exhausted and angry
A carer can often feel desperate, exhausted and angry, which takes courage, patience and hope to get through. Carers play a vital role which cannot be expressed in financial terms and their importance is often not recognised by society. Coming through a long and difficult period together has strengthened our relationship as it has shown us how strong we both are and what our love really is about. We understand and appreciate each other on a deeper level now and know that we can fully trust each other.
We have come to appreciate the small things in life much more and tend to worry less. I am extremely grateful to have come out on the other side and that my girlfriend has had the strength and courage to support me through it.