It’s always such a pleasure to meet like-minded people. I’ve suffered with depression during my life time, but only recently have I been diagnosed with clinical depression. I have always wondered what it was like to be on the other side of a partnership where depression exists.
I am excited that through my new love of blogging, I met Alexandra – a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in New York – who is on that other side of a partnership which I am so curious about. She was more than happy to share her professional wisdom with my readers. I loved the read and I am sure you will, too!
Don’t forget to share the love! Let’s all share Alexandra’s post and hopefully be able to help someone who is in need.
No matter how much I blog about thing that I love such as budgeting, cooking, and interior decorating… my writings will always bring me back to my roots. In real life, I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I work with individuals, couples, and families on a full time basis; assisting them with achieving any goals they have while attending therapy.
Today, I am writing a guest post for a beautiful blogger that struggles with a word many people use too often…. Depression. According to NIMH (The National Institute of Mental Health), major depressive disorder or clinical depression, “is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.” (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml)
There are many symptoms that are attached to the diagnosis of depression such as feelings of hopelessness, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, decreased energy, fatigue, appetite changes, thoughts of suicide, restlessness, difficulty focusing, problems sitting still, etc. People do not have to experience every symptom, however should be formally diagnosed by a health care professional to ensure they meet criteria for the disorder and are actively seeking treatment whether this be medication management and therapy to work toward treatment goals.
As a clinician, I diagnose very carefully. There are many aspects to take into consideration such as major life events, recent changes, recent experience of trauma, how does the patient look, how are they presenting, what is the family’s view of the presented problem, history of mental illness within the family, has this person experienced these feelings before, and most importantly; how are their symptoms affecting their day to day life?
Just like addiction, mental health does not only affect the person who is diagnosed, but all the loved ones that are involved with this person as well. Family members, spouses, siblings, and friends may also be experiencing a wide variety of emotions associated with the changes their loved one has made, have a lack of understanding which in turn may show as feelings of frustration toward specific behaviors, and even loved ones saying, “Just get up and get over it.”
Being a significant other to someone who suffers from depression can be a challenging task, both mentally and physically. You may feel that you are overcompensating in your relationship due to your loved one’s illness; therefore creating feelings of resentment. You may be experiencing sadness yourself, as you no longer know how to manage a situation where your loved one becomes extremely reactive, has lack of activity and motivation, negative thought processes, lack of hope, and lack of “life.”
Something I will always preach- is self care. The importance of taking care of yourself in the midst of anyone else’s problems. What tends to happen, is that we, as significant others, loose interest in things we once loved, we feel angry, resentful, unsure if we can continue in a place of such sadness, worthless ourselves due to feelings of, “Why am I not enough for them to stop feeling this way? What about our family, our kids, our house, everything we worked for? Is it not enough?” We may tend to “snap” at our loved one when they fall back into their negative behavior patterns that are associated with depression, hate the way we are acting, behaving and feeling. Most importantly, we may even experience feelings of guilt, for enjoying ourselves, while our loved one does not have the same experiences.
Here are 10 ways on how to manage a relationship where Depression exists:
- Get yourself educated: Go online and look up NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and find meetings you can attend to assist yourself in being educated on this mental illness. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the stronger you become, and the more you can handle. The site is: http://www.nami.org Get up and help yourself. Don’t have the mindset that “they need to be fixed, this is not my problem.” NAMI offers 12 week educational classes on mental illness as well as support groups. You are being poorly affected by this, and you deserve help as well. Don’t short change yourself. These meetings are filled with tons of information that will allow you to empower yourself and assist instead of continuing to have feelings of resentment for how your life is on the decline due to someone else’s.
- Seek therapy: “Me, seek therapy? I don’t even have the problem.” I hear this more than not. Yes, you seek therapy with a qualified clinician where you can have your own time to process your feelings in a safe, non judgmental place. Let’s be realistic…. You most likely have very insensitive feelings about people that suffer with depression and most likely need your own space to get those out. Nothing negative can come out from trying it and seeing what it’s like to focus on yourself, take care of yourself, your mental health and wellbeing.
- Couples therapy: After having some time alone with a private therapist, seek out couples counseling when you feel you are ready to work together. At times, it becomes very hard to work on someone else’s stuff, when they aren’t even around. Couples therapy will provide the space where a neutral being (the therapist) can assist with problem solving techniques, learning of coping skills, and most importantly planning out situations before they happen that way you aren’t running by the seat of your pants each and every time a new behavior or situation comes up.
- Make a List of all the things you love: What do I mean by this? What are your favorite things to do in the whole world? For example, mine are cooking, organizing, writing, budgeting, horseback riding, ice skating, going to small towns and window shopping, spending time with family, going to yoga classes, etc. Have this list close by at all times. When you’re feeling stressed- these become your coping skills! Utilize them and use them often. Something should not be listed if you loved it 20 years ago and haven’t thought about doing it since. Coping skills consist of things you are actually willing to implement into your life. Do what you love… you deserve it!
- Do not enable your loved one: The definition of enabling, is doing something for someone that they can do for themselves. Meaning, do not do things for them that they are capable of doing. If you have now begun picking up after them, doing their laundry, making their dinner, cleaning up after them while they sit on the couch in the same place… guess what? You’re enabling them. Enabling is disabling and you are continuing to enforce, “I am not able to do this.” Loved ones become part of the problem instead of the solution. Figure out how you are going to live in a mess and stop taking care of their things for them. Please keep in mind I am not talking about children here, I am talking about relationships…. Therefore this should include two adults. Do not make their doctors appointments for them, etc. It is your job to assist them with fostering their independence. They are The only reason they aren’t is because of the people around them that make them feel incapable as well as their own negative thought process. Be apart of the solution, not the problem.
- Don’t Engage in the Negativity: Do not make hurtful comments to your loved one such as, ‘I can’t take you anymore, you’re just too much, will this ever end, I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” These words are very hurtful and will not help anyone within the situation. I do believe, that while working through therapy, people can decipher whether or not they are capable of remaining in a relationship where depression exists and I do believe honesty is the best policy when needing to admit this. People tend to stay in places because they feel bad…. Don’t you think it would be better if you said, “I’m sorry, I really care about you, but know that I am not able to handle a situation like this. I do not want to continue to remain in a place where I will be hurtful to you because I do not feel capable of doing this.” Would you want someone staying with you out of pity? Probably not. I always say, “Don’t let someone else take you out of your own character.” When and if I notice myself becoming more negative due to another person’s behaviors, that is MY job to check in with myself, seek therapy, talk to a friend, and get myself back on track. We are not here to play the blame game. It is no one’s fault why your life has changed, and the only person who can change it for the better is you.
- Do Not Blame and Accept Responsibility: I started on this topic on number 6. Do not blame your loved one for why your life has changed. You are in control of your life… you are equally as much part of the problem as everyone else involved. Start accepting responsibility for allowing yourself to go to this place and work diligently on figuring out how you can help yourself come out of it. I don’t mean to sound harsh while writing this… and if you spoke to me in real life- I’m not. I speak how things are, that way there is no room for error or misinterpretation. When accepting responsibility, it is empowering. It feels good to be responsible for yourself and your life. You can do this.
- Be Part of the Solution: Assist your loved one by talking to them about their feelings in a non judgmental way. We all at some point in our lives, miraculously become therapists. Be the best therapist you can be! After being educated on the condition from your meetings, explain what you have learned. I know there is a tendency to have all conversations be “about them and not about you” so here is your chance.
- Share what you have learned to show your efforts in helping yourself and helping your loved one.
- Suggest your loved one to seek help from a medical professional. Remember, you can’t help someone who is not willing to help themselves. Speak to your clinician if you are in a place where your loved one refuses to seek treatment.
- Offer to spend time with your loved one to create a list of questions they may have as well as that you may have about their diagnosed depression. There is normally a lot of fear that comes along with asking questions. Let them know that you are there for them.
- Continue to express that you are willing to help them in their “recovery.” I say that word because I believe when there are any kinds of problems, people must go into their own recovery (aka, helping yourself).
- Create boundaries: Structure is the most important part of life. Without structure, there is chaos. Get organized, figure out what boundaries you would like to place within your relationship and make them clear. Ex. I will drive you to your doctor’s appointments, but I will not be responsible for making your future appointments. You are capable and in charge of your healthcare and I will assist but not do for you.”
- Evaluate every situation: If your loved one is no longer showering, keeping up with daily hygiene, not able to clean up after themselves, not eating or sleeping right; this may be time to call in a health care professional. Depression is a serious mental illness that requires a multitude of treatments. I will list below different ways to assist in crisis situations. Although you may feel frustrated, if a person is not able to take care of themselves or their surroundings; a medical professional may need to intervene at this time. Check to see for feelings of hopelessness, phrases of worthlessness, or even the, ‘I would be better off dead.” We are dealing with very serious situations that need to be handled quickly and effectively. Please read below.
If you feel that your loved one is really suffering and not functioning to normal day to day levels please utilize the following:
- Contact mobile crisis: Most states offer something called mobile crisis. This is a team of clinicians that are dispatched to a location to give a psychological evaluation on site to determine if an individual needs to be taken to the emergency room for further evaluation. This is a calm solution to getting your loved one checked out. There is a phone intake that is required to ensure the individual meets the criteria. Situations such as these are hopeless thoughts, feelings, fear of potentially hurting oneself, engaging in self injurious behaviors such as cutting/burning themselves and/or homicidal threats (a plan or intent to hurt another person).
- Call 911. If your loved one is sending you text messages stating, “I just want to die. I don’t belong here anymore. I can’t go on like this.” Take these messages seriously. Call 911 and tell them that your loved one is verbalizing suicidal ideations and you fear they will hurt themselves. The police will come, evaluate the situation and bring the person to the psych emergency room. If your loved one is just “saying it to say it” with no meaning behind it… guess what? They will probably think twice before saying it again.
- This goes back to the topic of boundaries. One time I dated someone and they wrote me, “I should just kill myself.” I set the boundary immediately and said, “If you make one more comment like that I am going to call 911 and you will be in the hospital in a matter of 15 minutes. Say what you mean and mean what you say.” I can guarantee you that situation has not occurred again. And yes, I would have called the police. False statements and threats are not funny and should not be made lightly. Set your boundaries.
Disclaimer: Please note that if you are reading this blog, I am not directly your clinician. I can answer general questions; however am not able to answer directly about your specific situations. This article does not claim to assist and/or change your current situation, however is a list of suggestions for individuals struggling with a loved ones diagnosis of depression.
I do have clients that I see privately and do accept a limited amount of patient’s for phone sessions if you are in another state. If you have any questions with regards to this, please contact on my contact link or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also engage in life coaching, motivational counselling to assist individuals with achieving their personal goals.
Thank you for reading!
Alexandra Gleason, LMFT
My name is Alexandra; most people call me Ali. I am 28 years old, born and raised in Long Island, New York. It has been my dream to officially start a blog to share my unique perspective of life, love and passions with others. By trade I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and also a Sign Language Interpreter, however I call myself a mind traveler due to my mind wandering and being whatever is I need it to be. I am also a certified aerial yoga instructor, I have mastered the art of billing for many years, server/bartender (however I’ve never drank in my life), traveler, mommy of 3 pitbulls, identical twin, wife to my bride Tiffany; amongst many other things. I am obsessed with eating healthy (however don’t do this all the time), cooking, cleaning, organizing, designing our house, decorating, and creating calm- zen like environments. I truly believe when things are organized, people are much calmer.