Depression sucks. If you've ever experienced it, briefly or for a long period of time, you know this to be true. Similarly, if you've seen your partner or someone you love experience it, you know how helpless you can feel in trying to help.
I've been with my current partner for almost seven years. When we met my depression was, I feel, a lot worse. I'm older now. I'm better at handling the illness. Back then, it was certainly more of a constant, nagging experience and I'd just gotten out of a relationship with someone who also had severe depression so needless to say we weren't the best help for each other. I'm starting to feel better now, but the depression itself certainly hasn't gone altogether. I'd dated people before who were dismissive of my depression or destructive in nature which worsened my mental health a great deal.
I therefore feel so lucky to have someone who cares for me and really knows how to handle me when I'm at my worst. It's up to the individual as to whether they want to seek therapy or medication but around that, there are little things that you can definitely do to help someone with depression. From my experience, and from the help of my wonderful partner, here are some things you could do to help a depressed lover.
1) Keep Them From Harmful Activities
If they already have depression then things like smoking and drinking probably aren't making it any better. Try to be supportive, but just try to keep them from doing anything self destructive, even the little things that may seem harmless.
2) Support Them In Helpful Activities
Even if what helps them is sitting under a blanket in complete, comatose like silence and stillness for a few hours. If you can be there if means a lot even if your partner can't tell you. Encourage them to do the things they love. Make sure they eat and eat well.
3) Keep The Place Clear
If you can do a little bit of tidying, this can be very helpful. They say a tidy house makes a tidy mind and whether or not this is true it certainly makes things feel a little more organised. It's easy enough to leave mess, but mess accumulates and becomes clutter which can quickly become full domestic chaos. If your surroundings feel more clean and clear, this may help.
4) Eat Well
Try to have a diet involving lots of healthy food with a real focus on fruits and vegetables and less sugary, salt-filled, processed food causing blood sugar levels to drop and the body to feel sluggish. To fix something bad inside you have to put in something good.
5) Take Your Partner Outside
They say a little sunshine is the best way to boost happiness. Try to get them to go on a walk, however brief. Encourage exercise and exploration. Try and find activities and things to do.
6) Ask Them About Their Feelings.
If they don't want to talk then that's OK. If they do then talking it out can actually help boost their mood. Don't always try to find a solution to every problem. Don't try to turn it into a teachable moment. Sometimes when we're depressed and we just want to offload some emotional baggage all we want to hear is someone say to us "Yeah, that sucks. I love you." rather than "wow, have you tried doing this?" or "yep, that's life. Get used to it."
7) Prompt Self Care.
Remind them to do little things to care for themselves. This can be as simple as making their bed in the morning, having a warm bath, listening to a relaxing audiobook before bed. A few gentle reminders may set them into the habit of doing these little things which may help to restore a sense of order and structure.
8) Banish Their Destructive Thoughts.
In my relationship I've had some really low moments when life around me was getting too much. Even though I have plenty of people in my life who love me that love doesn't always penetrate the walls depression can put up. At one point, when I was experiencing quite extreme suicidal ideation, my partner just sat with me and didn't belittle me for these feelings. My partner, knowing I'm a writer, broke it down for me with a metaphor: 'you have to remember that there's a killer in your brain. It's eating away on the inside and trying to make you destroy the outside. Don't let it make you finish the job.'
9) Smile. Hug. Show Love.
Unless they need personal space, hug them. Give out long hugs and try not to break away from that hug if they're not letting go - you have no idea how much they may need that hug. Snuggle up on the couch under a blanket and just be close. Sometimes just a little bit of human affection can make you feel a little better. If something makes them laugh try to keep making them laugh. Smile around them and try to prompt them to smile. The more we smile and laugh actually can help to boost our mood.
10) Remind Them That They Are Loved.
Do nice little things for them like breakfast in bed, picking them flowers, putting on their favourite movie. Make them cups of tea or cook their favourite meal. Do little things to spark up positive feelings. Sometimes it really makes the difference when depression seems to be taking over.
11) Take Care Of Yourself Too
If you are trying to help someone you love who is mentally ill and you yourself are also mentally ill or become mentally ill whilst caring for them, this is potentially problematic. It can be really difficult to balance caring and being cared for. I feel if all parties in the relationship are experiencing depression or mental illness, then it is crucial to support and love each other but to also consider getting external help through therapy, medication or whatever may work for you. It takes a lot to be someone's crutch and it's even harder to do when you yourself are falling.