How I'm Learning to Navigate a New Relationship With Depression in the Mix
As I sit here on our lazy boy, legs extended, laptop in lap, Kevin is wiggling his butt and waving his arms around the living room with a huge smile on his face exclaiming, “It’s dance party mode!” I’m in the midst of a depressive episode. He’s trying to make me laugh, and it’s working.
I hadn’t been hit by depression until about two months after Kevin and I started dating in May. It was magical — unbelievable even. I thought, Perhaps our love has been the antidote all this time!? For the past few years, the trend has been that my moods cycled about every two weeks. Some mornings I’d bound out of bed, link up my phone to my bluetooth speaker and blast some groovy tunes before jumping in the shower. Other mornings, I awoke to my body groaning, barely mustering an email or text to my boss saying, “I’m not feeling well and I’m not going to make it in.” Guilt and shame would tuck me in a little tighter as I fell back into full slumber mode.
In those first couple of months when our relationship was sailing oh so smoothly, I told Kevin about my depression – a kind of preemptive “relationship damage control” before it hit because I knew it would, eventually.
He read my blog posts about my experience with depression and though he said he didn’t understand the firsthand experience of it, he wanted me to know he was there for me and wanted to understand the best he could. I felt reassured. Each time depression has surfaced since we’ve been together, Kevin reassures me he is here and, “we are going to get through this.”
I’ve not been in a relationship where my partner so explicitly vocalizes and expresses their presence and support when the clouds loom. When in “depressed mode,” I tend to isolate myself regardless of the support system I have in place. It goes against one of the fundamental symptoms of depression to reach out for or willingly accept support. Relationships are challenging enough. Meeting and melding together two separate lives involves emotional gymnastics and diligence through discomfort. Now throw depression into the mix.
Sometimes being in a relationship with someone who lives with depression is scary. How can you support your partner when they push you away? What do you do when they tell you they want to be left alone while clearly in distress? How do you respond when they lay curled in bed all day, sometimes for days?
Being in a relationship as the person living with depression is frightening for me. How can I trust my partner will accept me, “depressive warts” and all? What do I do when he tells me he wants to help when I feel the situation is helpless? How do I respond when he attempts to get me out of bed when all I want to do is sleep all day?
There are no clear cut answers to these questions but there are ways each partner can help their relationship through the stormy storms of depression. Kevin and I are learning how to navigate our way through the times when the thunder rolls. Sometimes he does things like yell, “It’s dance party mode!” while wiggling his butt and waving his arms around the living room with a huge smile on his face. How can I not take him up on his invitation?
Follow this journey on xo, O.
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Thinkstock photo via TongRo Images Inc.