So, someone you love is depressed. That sucks. I don’t think how much it sucks can be overestimated. This is hard. Really hard. And there is no ‘quick fix’.
I have experienced this situation from both sides – I have loved someone who is depressed, and I have been depressed – and I wish I had all the answers. But I don’t. I do, however, have some advice to offer.
Depression is an illness. It’s not just feeling sad. Read. Research. Be informed. The internet is your friend.
You may not always understand. That’s ok. Listen. Respond to what you’re being told. Let the person know that you love them, that you’re there for them. And follow through. Offer hugs when they’re needed, and space when it’s needed. Never force yourself into the situation. But try to be there when you can.
The person you love may do things you don’t agree with in order to cope. They may struggle with alcohol, drugs, self harm, eating normally, or any number of other issues. Try not to judge them. Encourage them to be as safe as they can be, and to work on developing healthier coping strategies. But accept that change will take time. Is anything really that bad when the alternative could be losing them entirely?
Be honest with yourself about how much you can cope with. Don’t think you have to have all the answers. There is no shame in admitting that you can’t cope with something alone. Encourage the person you love to seek help, and accept that you can’t be their only form of support. Don’t take it personally if they talk to other people sometimes. Take the opportunity to take time out, do things for yourself, have fun, and trust other people to pick up the slack.
Take care of yourself first. On an aeroplane, in the event of an emergency, they tell you to fix your own oxygen mask before helping others. You can’t help anyone if you can’t breathe. Loving a depressed person can be upsetting and frustrating. Find people to support you. If you need to talk about how you’re feeling, try to use your own support system. The person you love has a degree of understanding about how you feel, and will already feel guilty for the negative effect that their illness is having on you. They will want to help, but may not be in a position to. And adding to their guilt won’t help anyone.
And finally, if you feel can’t can’t cope at all, seriously consider removing yourself from the situation. Sometimes things are too big, and it takes a very brave person to admit that. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and don’t let anyone tell you it does.
Love from me x