Relationships can be a serious boon when struggling with depression. Friends, family members, and loving partners can be essential to keeping you afloat when things get tough, and it’s their love and support that often keeps us going. However, it’s not always easy being involved with other people.
When you’re in a relationship with someone, regardless of what the nature of the relationship is, there’s a need for trust and open communication. There’s the danger of being hurt, being misunderstood, or being betrayed. Relationships, as enriching as they are, are never easy.
But they must be maintained. Healthy relationships are an important part of managing depression, especially if your depression is recurring or chronic. Surrounding yourself with positive and encouraging folks can help convince you that things are better than they seem, on days when you need convincing.
Relationships don’t replace professional help or real treatment, but they play a role in enforcing many of the things therapists aim to impart during therapy, and they play a vital role in helping you feel valued, and giving your life meaning. But how do you go about maintaining these relationships while depressed? Depression sucks the joy out of even the simplest things, and nearly anything can become overwhelming.
Relationships are often give-and-take, and if you don’t feel you have much to give, it can be very difficult to nurture and maintain important connections. But with a few ground rules and some help, you can continue to keep your friends and even make new ones, while managing your depression.
Honesty is an Important Policy
There is no healthy reason to lie about your depression. While your friends might say some uninformed things about mental illness and depression, if they’re truly your friends, chances are that if you speak more openly about your condition and help them inform themselves, they’ll quickly come around and understand that it’s an illness that requires professional treatment. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them. It’s your choice – but having close friends on your side who know what you’re going through can be a big help.
If you’re worried about the stigma that comes attached to depression, then it’s important to consider that that stigma is a societal problem – and if there’s any place to feel safe and apart from society’s views of you, it should be among close friends and loved ones. Don’t repress your condition – instead, use it as an opportunity to grow closer to your friends and weed out the people who would rather be judgmental than keep an open mind about someone they consider a friend.
It’s also important to recognize that, unless your friends have experienced depressive symptoms (and there’s a good chance some of them might have and are also unwilling to talk about it alone), they’re likely not going to completely understand what you are going through.
They will empathize, and they will do their best to intellectually comprehend what a depressive disorder is, but your unique experience with the disease and the way it affects your thoughts, your feelings, and even your body, will remain purely conceptual to them. To that degree, they’re not always going to provide you with the outlet you need to speak to someone about your experience, as they’re not going to be able to relate.
Find Others Who Share Your Experiences
That’s where it becomes important to seek groups outside of your current friend group to talk about depression and the challenges it presents. The Internet is full of groups dedicated to discussing individual illnesses and conditions, and you’re likely to find people with similar backgrounds, and plenty of things in common who share some of the same fears and problems as you do.
Being open and honest about your emotions is important, because friends and family members should expect trust from one another and return in kind. While it’s understandable that might not talk to your friends or family about everything you’re going through, especially if they can’t relate, it helps to just let them know when you’re having a bad day, or ask for a little help when you know you might need it, or to ask them to back off or please understand if they begin to get frustrated with you over something you can’t control.
Tell Your Partner What Depression Means to You
Of all the people you interact with, the ones you interact with the most will be the most important. In many cases, that’s a partner or spouse. If you’re in a relationship with a significant other and you’ve begun to be comfortable with one another, it’s important that they fully understand both what depression is on a technical level, and what depression means to you.
That means recognizing when you’re having a harder time, knowing what helps calm you down or help make you happy, knowing what to do when you’re having a can’t-get-out-of-bed kind of day, and knowing what treatments you have tried, and which have worked.
Ideally, a partner should understand what their partner’s condition entails, and what their responsibilities are as an emotional and physical pillar in their partner’s life. They need to know your limits, your greatest challenges, your day-to-day struggles. They might not completely relate to what it means to be depressed, but they’re likely going to do their best to support your treatment (and convince you to get help, if you aren’t getting help).
Talk to Your Partner About Sex
One of the more common aspects of a depressive disorder is a low sex drive, which can complicate many relationships. Sometimes, it’s a matter of libido. At other times, it means you cannot achieve an orgasm. Sometimes it’s a matter of medication, and sometimes it’s part of the illness itself. The right treatment can help, and lifestyle changes help too – eating better and exercising regularly both contribute to a stronger and healthier sex drive.
But having the right attitude goes a very long way. Speak to your partner about your issues with sex (if you have any) and suggest other ways to get intimate, including much longer foreplay, exploring certain kinks, simply cuddling, or kissing, and anything else you are comfortable with.
Don’t Ignore Being Social
It’s important to make an effort to be social, even if it isn’t very often that you get out and have a good time with others. For one, it isn’t healthy to simply stay at home, even if you leave to go run errands or go to work.
Spending a little time with our friends or with family can take a lot of effort, but it is well worth the trouble. If you’re in a relationship, don’t forget to have a date night every now and again. Even if it’s just for a few hours, getting out of the house and seeing something different can help your mind refresh and get away from old thoughts and constant negativity.
Continue Seeking Help
Professional help is important when treating and managing depression in the long-term. Whether it’s medication, therapy, or an alternative treatment like TMS, depression is more than just prolonged sadness – it’s an illness that requires medical and psychiatric attention, and one that, like other chronic illnesses, can be managed through consistent monitoring and regular treatments.