Living /Caring for someone with Depression
by Ainsley Johnstone
“That’s fine, we’ll face it together” was my response when Matthew, the man I was in love with, just told me he suffered from depression. We had only begun our relationship and I could see it was a rather difficult thing for him to tell me, but I thought that’s ok we’ll just deal with it.
I really had no idea what depression was. I had no idea how it would affect me, how it would affect our relationship and how it would change our lives.
Many people have asked me what were the symptoms, what were the signs? I was lucky, Matthew being a very open and honest communicator told me when we wasn’t feeling great. He would describe what mental turmoil he was going through and I was willing to listen and try to get an understanding of what this depression or the Black Dog as we liked to call it, was all about.
It was not easy to listen to. It was hard to hear how much pain he was feeling and not be able to do anything about it. The only thing I could do was listen, support him and be patient. At first I found it difficult to believe, here was this happy, fun and possibly the most exciting person I had ever met feeling nothing what so ever. His outward appearance carefully disguised a deep despair and it became an exhausting act for him to keep up.
After getting to know the black dog I did notice subtle changes. Changes in mood and the negativity. He would sometimes be distant and I would think have I done something wrong? Why is he not enjoying all the things we typically love to do? Why is sleeping through the night such torture? It’s hard to not to take depression personally and to remember that it’s the depression talking not the person you love.
When you have a partner with depression, you are navigating a shared journey. You go into battle not with that person, but right along side them. It can be worrying, frustrating, upsetting and leave you wondering what do I do? You desperately want that person back to their lovely normal self so you can go on enjoying the life you have together. You see, often depression is a chemical imbalance so it doesn’t care if you have a loving family, good relationship, supportive friends and success. There is no apparent rhyme or reason to it.
One thing I found really helpful was talking about it. Together, we saw a doctor and I also saw his doctor on my own. This was an important step for me, to have some of my own feelings validated and supported. There were times I felt angry, guilty, sad and alone and it wasn’t until this doctor really persisted in asking me about my feelings that I actually acknowledged them. What a huge release that was!
I talked to some friends who also suffered from the Black Dog and they kindly shared their experience. Not only did they give Matthew their love and support, but me as well. Supportive friends and family can have a huge impact in the healing process.
As time has gone on Matthew and I have come to accept that depression may always be a part of our life, however it will never be the beast it once was. We have figured out many little ways to spot the triggers of depression and most importantly how to manage it. There is no quick fix or magic pill just a combination of open communication, nurturing each other through exercise and good nutrition as well as having the right mental health professional supporting you.
It was nearly 10 years ago when he first told me about his depression. Matthew is well and the future looks very positive. Even though there have been some tough times we believe our relationship is stronger and deeper for it. And even if depression pops it’s head in every now and then, together we know how to deal with it.