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What You Should Know When You Love Someone With Depression

They are everything you’ve ever dreamed of, but struggle with seeing themselves as the perfection that they are. When you love a person who has depression, they will appreciate your compassion more than they can even say. Understanding and being there for them will take patience and empathy on your part; but they will pay it back tenfold and love you that much more for it.

Depression doesn’t care how successful they are, that they’re in a relationship with someone who tells them they’re amazing 20 times a day, and looks at them like they might be magic.

Depression is not a choice. It has nothing to do with being weak. It’s not something someone can just “get over” — it is not just a bad day or a bad mood, it cuts deeper than that. It’s frustrating. It’s leading yourself down the darkest of paths. It feels helpless, and it’s often feeling on edge, going back and forth between caring too much and not caring at all. It can leave someone feeling paralyzed in their own mind and body, unable to do the things they used to love to do or the things they know they should be doing.

A silent hug can do so much more than any clichéd sayings. Advice can often be meaningless — “you should smile more” can come across as empty, insulting even, and can create more tension within. Listen with the intent to understand; you don’t have to reply.

Let them know you’re there for them. Asking them questions to help guide them in discovering what could make them feel better is key: I’m here for you. I believe in you. I believe you are stronger than this and I believe you’ll get through this. What can I do to help you? What do you think would make you feel better? Remind them they don’t have to do this alone. That it’s OK to be vulnerable; it’s beautiful, in fact. Bring them out of their routine where you two can connect. Directly ask them how they are really feeling and how are they coping with their depression, ways they’re practicing self-care. This is everything.

They might push you away before they can bring you closer. People who suffer from depression are just as frustrated about it as you are. Probably more. They can isolate themselves, pushing away people they need the most. They have definitely worried about every aspect of your relationship at length — often getting frustrated with feeling like they might be a burden on you.

You’re quick to remind them how much you love them, but they are just as quick to be overcome with crippling doubt — it’s not about you. If they need space or become distant don’t blame yourself and wonder how you could do things differently to heal them. Sometimes just getting through the day can be overwhelming and exhausting. If they cancel plans suddenly, leave events early or say no to things altogether, it’s not about anything you did. It’s not about you at all.

You’re allowed to get frustrated, too. Loving a person who has depression doesn’t mean you have to cater to all of their needs or walk around eggshells when you’re around them. Be patient, be supportive, but also communicate your needs and concerns. You’re allowed to acknowledge if something is beginning to create a negative impact in your life; to show them love and kindness without self-sacrificing.

In those moments of frustration, take a step back. You want to help them but you also need to maintain your own sense of happiness and fulfillment. Discuss and set boundaries. You can find a balance that works for both of you.

When you love a person who has depression, you need to understand you will not always understand.

At the same time, you will see that there is always a silver lining — experiencing mental anguish can actually make one more empathetic and creative. Some of the most influential, empathetic and fascinating people have experienced depression; and though it can be difficult to understand what they’re going through, love them anyway. And love them all the way.

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