7 Ways I Help My Spouse Feel Secure During My Depressive Episodes
Many people have asked myself and my husband how we have stayed together for so long with my mental illness looming overhead. It’s a fair question; I know many couples that have ended up divorcing because one or the other couldn’t handle the added pressure that mental illness may bring. I think in our case, that added element of pressure only served as a way to make our marriage stronger. Of course, at the beginning we struggled. We struggled a great deal, but we knew we loved each other enough to keep working on the relationship.
I don’t doubt there are some people who cope with depression or anxiety saying to themselves, “I can barely take care of myself during a bout of depression, how am I supposed to worry about someone else?” To that I say, I understand and I’ve been there. I was diagnosed nearly 25 years ago.
However, it’s essential your partner be made aware of what you’re going through. You can’t just shut down and isolate. The next time you go looking for their support, they may not be there because you’ve made them feel alienated.
I’m not suggesting you jump in to this list with both feet. Take your time, and find what works best for you and your spouse. I know from experience that when you stick together during the bad times, the good times are so much sweeter.
My husband told me the day we got married, “Well, you’re stuck with me now.” But, I didn’t always make it easy for him. Once I learned to utilize some of the methods on this list, we began to communicate better, even in the darkest of times. I understand that to some, these techniques may be common sense, but to those of us with a mental illness, sometimes it’s hard to get out of our own way and just focus on the basics.
1. Talk to your spouse and tell them what you are feeling.
Even if you’re having trouble coming up with the why and the how, as soon as you feel you may be falling into a depressive episode, let them know.
2. Assure your partner they are not the cause of your mood.
You have no idea how powerful something so simple can be. Sit down and tell them point blank, they have nothing to do with how you’re feeling.
3. Tell them it’s OK that they can’t fix the situation.
This was a big one for my husband. He loves me and he doesn’t want to see me in pain. So, he often felt as if there had to be something he could do to make it better for me. Unfortunately for most of us, we need to work through it in our own time to feel better.
4. Offer them simple options to possibly help make you feel better.
Maybe you’re having a craving for chocolate or you just really want a tuna fish sandwich. Ask your spouse to pick one of these items up for you. Be genuine when they bring it home for you. Let them know that they’ve helped even if it’s just a little.
5. Try to make sure you don’t take anything out on them.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in my relationship early on was my temper, and because my husband was the only one around, he got to feel the wrath. This goes hand in hand with communication. Even if you simply say, “Look, I’m not doing well right now and it may seem like I’m taking it out on you. I’m sorry if I do, it’s not your fault”.
6. Thank them for being there for you.
Many times the only real remedy a situation needs is a “thank you.” Once your partner feels appreciated, they’re more likely to be more supportive more often. It’s a rewarding feeling to know you’ve helped the one you love.
7. If you’re having trouble giving your feelings a voice, write them a letter.
This is valuable on many levels. It can help the situation in the present, but if your partner is anything like my husband, he’ll keep it and read it when times get hard again. If you’re truly transparent and honest with your emotions, it could be the best thing to happen to your relationship.
I hope you’ll consider trying a couple of these the next time you feel like you’re sinking into depression. You can have a strong relationship with a solid structure while enduring mental illness. It doesn’t have to be a struggle. Believe me when I tell you that having a stable partnership takes one of the heaviest loads off your back in a dark time. Depression is exhausting enough, but knowing your relationship is falling apart around you only makes it 10 times harder to navigate through the darkness. Do yourself a favor and just try. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
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Thinkstock photo by Gary Houlder