How we learn to relate to others is essential in determining the success of our relationships. Often, communicating with others can be one of the most difficult tasks a person with depression faces. On the other hand, the friends and loved ones who are involved in these relationships can feel it is impossible to get through to the depressed person. An understanding of both points of view is imperative for the people concerned to be able to communicate most effectively.
Relationships From a Depression Point Of View
When I used to suffer from depression and anxiety, my relationships were very strained. In fact, I pushed a lot of people out of my life, because of my behaviour towards them. I would isolate myself and lash out at those who cared for me so that I could avoid social situations. I would often want for someone to reach out to me, yet I was distant and aloof. Also, I knew I was the one responsible for pushing people away and yet; I often blamed them for abandoning me. It’s no doubt that my relationships were a mess!
My actions seemed to be in contradiction to what I truly wanted. That was because when you’re depressed, you often don’t know what exactly is wrong. It’s chaos inside your mind. It can be intensely overwhelming trying to piece together your mangled logic, let alone explain them to someone else. So you end up telling everyone to leave you alone and then wonder why they left you.
Though I had difficulty stopping my damaging behaviours, I always knew they were the actual issue causing strain on my relationships. Because I didn’t know how to change my behaviours, I felt shame. The remorse led to even more damaging behaviours including negative self-talk and substance abuse to hide from the reality. Of course, all of these behaviours got dumped onto those around me, and I was feeling that guilt too.
Relationships From a Loved One’s Point Of View
If you have a relationship with someone who suffers from depression chances are you genuinely want to help them feel better. It can be extremely painful to see someone you care for withdrawing from life. You make attempts to reach out, but you get pushed away. You ask, and yet you can’t seem to get straight answers as to what is wrong. All you want to do is help them!
However, if you have no idea what they are feeling or what to do, it can feel impossible to give comfort. Naturally, the constant dark moods and withdrawing behaviours can begin to wear you down. Being pushed away and lashed out at can affect your self-esteem and happiness. You start to wonder why you are even trying. Looking back, I can understand the pain and frustration of those who had any relationship with me.
What Can Be Done?
Fulfilling relationships have a huge impact on our mental health. The flip side to this is that the mental health of the people in the relationship can have a huge effect on the quality of the relationship. So what can be done? Ultimately, relationships always take two people to make it work. I believe it is the responsibility of both parties involved in any relationship to make it work! As such, I have comprised a list of suggestions that I believe will help both the person suffering from depression, as well as the loved one, and that will lead to a more satisfying relationship.
If You Suffer From Depression
- You have to own it! Deep inside I always knew I was responsible for many relationship failures. You can’t expect friends or family to stand by your side without question if you are going to lash out at them, over and over again. You can’t expect them to ask you to go out every weekend when you have said no every time for a year. If you want happy relationships, you are going to have to do your part. Deep inside, you know your behaviour is causing strain on your relationships, and you must start by owning that fact.
- Then, you need to start looking for some things that you can do with others. Perhaps, being in the same room together, watching a movie or reading a book. Nobody is expecting you to be the life of the party. However, making an effort in ways that you can, is a great start to rebuilding healthy relationships. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, just focus on what you can do; it will go a long way. Remember it’s going to be challenging and awkward at first, but it’s not impossible.
- Create a list of things you can do to distract yourself from your depressed state. For me, going for walks at night was very helpful. It was quiet and peaceful, and I was able to let my mind enjoy the peace. Reading books was another way I could get my mind focused on something other than my depression. When you notice yourself sinking into that dark hole, you can grab your list to help you refocus your thinking. When you introduce productive distractions into your daily life, your mood will be more positive, and those around you will notice.
- Engage in only positive relationships! I mean every kind of relationship! Your relationship with the books you read, television and music need attention too. When I suffered from depression, I changed my relationships with my mp3 player! I deleted the music and filled it with positivity and success audiobooks and podcasts. The same needs to apply to the people who surround you. No negativity allowed! You need to immerse yourself in positive relationships only!
If You’re A Loved One
- For a loved one, who has some form of relationship with a depressed person, you must understand where they are at mentally. You can’t snap them out of it! It’s like when you are sick. You feel down in the dumps, you don’t have your average energy, and you have trouble feeling excited or passionate about anything. You sincerely feel lousy and don’t want to do anything but go to bed and sleep. Depression and anxiety cause these physical symptoms in a person.
- If you try to care for someone with a physical illness, you will not try to cure them. So it only makes sense that you apply the same logic to a mental illness. You can support and care for someone, but you can not cure the ailment. In fact, I vividly remember that I always appreciated that when I did go out with others, they didn’t try to talk about what was bothering me but naturally spent time with me. I had no problems finding my dark hole myself and certainly did not want to spend my social time there.
- For yourself, it is imperative that you need to set clear boundaries! Do not accept any form of lashing out at you. You would never allow someone with the flu to sneeze in your face, nor should you allow a mental illness to be projected onto you. You do not deserve to take that on. You can care for someone who is not feeling well, but it should be appreciated. That is how healthy relationships work.
- Adjust your expectations for time spent together. If a person with depression doesn’t want to talk, instead of pressuring them, try watching a movie with them! I would go for comedy as humor is a powerful tool for helping someone’s mood. Try to have patience. Showing you are there for them, but not pushing for more than they can give, will strengthen your bond.
- If you are dealing with someone suffering from depression, you must also remember to grow your other relationships. You need to have positive relationships. In fact, I believe in reaching up in your relationships. Get around people who are smarter than you, better at your sport than you. These people will help you grow, and that is the most important thing if you ever hope to help someone else. It’s essential to take care of your needs, by spending time with people who are positive.
- Keep in mind the positives. This person has character traits you like about them. You care for this person for a reason. Today may not be a good day. However, it does not define them. There will be times that the depression is not in focus and they display all of the things you love about them. By reinforcing the things you love about this person, it will help them feel good about themselves.
Each relationship in our lives is complicated and unique. A relationship that involves someone with depression can have its set of challenges to work through. It’s is crucial for both the person suffering from depression and the friend or loved one to remember why this person is important to you. In doing so, you focus on the reasons you want to work through the challenges. As with any test in our relationships, success will be determined by the commitment by both people involved.