The helplessness of watching someone you care about experience dark thought patterns, hold themselves in such a negative light and often distance themselves from you can, in turn, make you feel like you’re not good enough.
I mean, you might be an absolute berk, but if you care enough to read this then chances are it’s really not you and it’s really not them; it’s their depression.
‘I was with my ex boyfriend when I got diagnosed with depression and anxiety,’ Sarah* tells Metro.co.uk. ‘At first, he was supportive and helped me to research mental health, treatment, and counselling. This was new for both of us so we were both struggling to understand what was happening.
‘However, within a few weeks he didn’t understand why I wasn’t doing ‘better’, because I’d started taking medication and had had a few weeks away from work.
‘He didn’t seem to understand me when I told him I wasn’t able to get out of bed, how I couldn’t even shower some days, and how I felt so low.
‘His messages of support and love soon felt hollow and were replaced with emotional blackmail; HE needed me. HE was lonely. HE felt abandoned.
‘I had to break up with him […] he was making me feel 100% worse. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.’ If you’re currently with someone who’s depressed, you might be able to relate to Sarah’s ex-boyfriend.
It’s easy (and understandable, so try not to feel like a crappy partner if this applies to you) to blame yourself for your other half’s mental health struggles, or to get cranky about how they ‘put on a show’ for everyone else, and then with you they’re always silent, retreating to bed or simply not engaging.
Chris* told me that before he knew his girlfriend was depressed, he was convinced she was always annoyed at him and that he was letting her down. (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk) ‘But as soon as she told me that she’d started to take antidepressants I realised that she wasn’t being moody, she was ill,’
Chris says. ‘She wasn’t locking herself up in our room because she hated me, it’s because she needed time to herself because her depression was flaring up.’ Look, depression has a different effect on everyone unfortunate enough to be encased in it. I cannot in any way speak for everyone suffering, but as someone who has been very ill with it before I can say that from my experience, depression makes you fairly self involved; it doesn’t occur to you that your partner or friend may be wondering how they can help, or be feeling like you’re shutting them out.
It would never cross your mind that anyone else is interested in why you’re feeling or behaving a certain way. When it was at its worst for me, depression essentially turned me into a narcissistic teenager, oblivious of anyone else. So don’t be afraid to ask your partner questions, because they’re unlikely to present any answers to you unprompted. Sandra Dean from Counselling Directory agrees: ‘For example, if it seems that your partner is making more of a problem of something than you think necessary (referred to as catastrophising), instead of saying “I think you’re overreacting”, ask why they feel the way they do about it. ‘Someone [with depression] can over-think things or may need more time to do things, or seem confused. ‘If you take time to ask questions, you can learn to empathise and thus help them to be themselves, and not worried to show or tell you what they are going through. ‘Acceptance is key in any relationship, so if you can both be yourselves and if you are compatible, there can be a lot of fun to be had. Look for compatibility as you would with any person.’ How your partner is feeling is in no way under your control, and is unlikely to be your fault (if you’re reading this piece then all evidence suggests you do actually care, bless your heart). MORE: HEALTH What is binge eating disorder? Three best friends pose together in their underwear to celebrate their stoma bags Disabled woman risks her life by doing yoga Obviously every couple is different – as is every experience of depression – but a good place to start is to do your own research into depression and mental health, and to take Sandra’s advice, I’d say. Simply asking someone what they need from you or how you can support them can make a huge difference, as can a heads up from your partner if they’re feeling far from 10/10. ‘I do struggle with my girlfriend’s depression,’ says Chris. ‘It’s stressful not knowing who I’m coming home to. ‘I told her this and we talked about having some kind of signal, so she started to use a raincloud emoji when she was feeling her worst and cancelling on plans, or to symbolise in advance that she would be in bed when I got home. ‘It’s such a small thing but it’s made it a little easier to manage for both of us.’ The poo emoji will probably work just as well. What works for Chris and his girlfriend won’t work for every couple, but it all ultimately comes down to compatibility, as Sandra highlights. If you’re prepared to learn about the condition and empathise with your partner’s struggles – as, say, you would if they were suffering from a broken rib – then evidence suggests you guys will be ok.