Whether you’re the one experiencing it or not, depression isn’t easy for anybody. It can be worrying, maddening, and even exhausting to see a loved one in emotional turmoil. Being in a relationship with someone who suffers from depression will challenge you both individually and as a couple, but this doesn’t mean that a healthy relationship is impossible. It will likely take some time and work to find a balance between self-care and quality time, just as any relationship requires effort and compromise. Supporting each other through a challenging time, however, could even strengthen your relationship in ways you haven’t experienced before. Here are 7 things that your girlfriend with depression wishes you knew, from the perspective of a girlfriend with depression.
1. You’re Not Responsible For My Feelings
As much as you want to, you can’t just make me happy. For many, depression is bigger than a temporary response to trauma; it can be caused by a chemical imbalance or an issue in the brain, which I do not expect you to fix without a medical degree. I love your encouragement and attention (please don’t stop) but don’t be discouraged if my symptoms don’t disappear despite your best efforts. This is my battle to fight, but I still need you on my side.
2. Let Me Help You Help Me
I have cared for a mentally ill partner in the past, so I know how difficult it can be to maintain the balance of a healthy relationship. On the one hand, I wanted to make them happy– or at least take the pain away as much as I could– but it didn’t take long before that took a toll on my own mental health. I didn’t know how to handle both the stressors of my own life and the trauma my partner was experiencing, so I hope you feel like you’re able to talk to me if you ever feel the same. Sometimes a conversation is all you need to get a better understanding of your partner’s needs and expectations, as well as your own.
3. Sometimes I’ll Choose Not To Do Something
My priorities might be different than yours. For example, I may choose not to attend an event I’ve been looking forward to because I’m already feeling overwhelmed with emotion. While I may be depriving myself of fun, I am choosing to spend the little energy I do have on the things I need to do, such as homework or housework, instead of the things I want to do. It’s no different than deciding to spend a night in because you’re tired. We all need to recharge.
4. Depression Isn’t As Simple As Sadness
A misleading misconception about depression is that it is sadness and lethargy, not many people are aware that anxious behaviors can actually be a symptom of depression (restlessness, irritability, etc.). It can be difficult to predict what depression looks like in every individual. There are just as many physical symptoms of depression as well, some of which do not respond to treatment, “such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed” (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).
5. Forgive Me If I Forget
Depression can slow my thoughts and processing as much as it can slow down my body. Every now and then I’ll stumble across a photo of a place or time that I can’t recall, or it’ll become difficult to put events in order in my mind. Unfortunately, my short term memory is just as finicky. It’s not uncommon that I’ll forget the second half of my sentence before I’ve spoken the first, and my name recollection game is weak. It’s frustrating, but it’s my reality, and I’m learning how to work with what I’ve got. Please be patient!
6. Decisions Can Be Difficult
When depression causes me to lose interest and pleasure, I sometimes lose preferences too. It can be difficult to know what I like when everything feels numb, miserable, or exhausting, so please bear with me if it takes some time for me to make up my mind. Even little decisions might feel catastrophic, but it helps when those around me are calm and open-minded. I’m not trying to make things difficult, but I also understand if you get frustrated sometimes. Believe me, I do too.
7. A Little Support Goes A Long Way To a Girlfriend With Depression
I don’t expect you to drop everything and cater to my every whim whenever I am struggling. I know that you are your own person with your own responsibilities, which are equally as important as mine are to me. As long as there is equal effort and open communication, I will never be angry if you need to care for yourself instead of me. All I ask from my partner is authenticity and support, whether that be in the form of a phone call, a long hug, or an uplifting meme.