Depression can drain your relationship. But it doesn’t have to.
How can you have a healthy, happy relationship even on your darkest days?
Give your partner resources about depression.
When your girlfriend starts to research depression, the first Google search may scare her – she’ll stumble upon stories of artists who killed themselves, families torn apart by suicide, statistics about depression being incurable and a list of horrifying Zoloft side effects.
To keep her from getting, well, depressed, beat her to the punch and give her some resources. I suggest starting with some light materials such as Hyperbole and a Half. This comic does a better job of explaining depression than WebMD does.
Keep a journal.
You don’t have to write, “Dear Diary.” Use this journal as a scientific log to keep track of your moods. What triggers you? What makes you happy? What distracts you from your depression? When does your mood shift suddenly? The better data you take, the better you’ll be able to address and avoid your triggers.
Get professional help.
Medicine isn’t for everyone, but it’s for a lot of people. Depression has been seen as the artists’ disease, but it often stems from a chemical imbalance. Chemical imbalances aren’t as tragically romantic as Pablo Picasso wasting away during his Blue Period or Sylvia Plath sticking her head in an oven, but these imbalances can be managed with antidepressants.
If you’re anti-medicine, look into psychiatric resources in your area. If you’re a student, many of these resources are available on campus for free.
Throw yourself into your work or your studies or your extracurricular activities. Find what you’re passionate about and pursue it headfirst. Learn a language, pick up a sport, become a hip-hop head, start an a capella group. It doesn’t matter what you do, but find something to take your mind off of your depression for a few hours each day.
Hit the gym.
Exercise releases endorphins that elevate your mood and lower your stress levels. Peel your girlfriend off the couch and turn gym time into a daily date. It will put you both in better moods.
Ask your partner to be honest.
Sometimes, depression makes people hypersensitive – one negative remark, and you crumble. So this next step will be hard. However, you need to ask your partner to be gently but brutally honest.
When you’re being a jerk, they should tell you. When you’re being insensitive, or when you’re embarrassing yourself, or when you’re blowing things out of proportion, they should tell you. When they’re exasperated and tired of dealing with your depression, they should tell you. It will be hard for you to hear, but it will help you to know where you should most improve.
Be gentle with yourself.
The road to recovery is long and you’ll want to beat yourself up. Often. But be gentle. Everyone has good days and bad days, and you’re a much better girlfriend than you think.
You are loved. On your darkest days, remember that you are loved.