Your needs matter, too.
It's a real challenge to be an optimist in today's world. Violence seems ever-present in countries across the globe and in our own communities, too.
At our jobs, we often feel like we're working harder and longer hours with less pay (and our paychecks don't go as far as we'd like them to). On top of all of this, nobody has found a cure for cancer or reversed global warming yet! The list of stress, worries, and woes we all face goes on and on.
But, when you're in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression, the troubles of the world can seem even bigger and more overwhelming.
It's even understandable if you've stopped tuning into the news or staying on top of current events because just getting through the crises in your own home takes up all of your emotional energy.
This is one of the biggest dangers of being with a partner who is depressed: You frequently and quickly feel all tapped out.
Even though your own mental, physical, and spiritual health desperately needs attention, the tendency for many is to push those needs aside, "for later, when things even out." You're possibly tired of people telling you to "take care of yourself," because this seems like a luxury (and maybe even an impossibility).
Depression is a serious illness and, of course, you want to be a source of support and help for your partner who is suffering. Chances are, the one you love DOES rely on you to help them get through the low times.
There are different levels of severity when it comes to depression that range from mild and temporary to more chronic, clinical depression. And it's usually a huge help (and maybe even a life-saving act) for your depressed partner to work with a qualified professional who can help them feel better and continue to feel better over time.
But, keep in mind, even with treatment, depression can significantly impact your relationship.
It's tough for your partner to be fully present and responsive to you and what you want in the relationship when sadness, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, or despair regularly get in the way. Your partner may be working very hard to just get through each day, which means they may seem distant and withdrawn from you.
Even as you rationally know that your partner's depression is what's dragging them down (and away from you) it's still emotionally painful.
It can feel like a rejection that happens over and over again, and you may seriously question whether or not your partner loves you, or even cares about you. So, while a smart self-care habit is an absolute necessity for everyone ... it's even more important if your partner suffers from depression.
So here are 3 ways to look out for yourself while still being available to support your partner:
1. Determine which types of self-care really recharge you best.
Self-care can look different from person to person, so choose what truly feels good and nourishes you. This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal, so if you don't like to get a massage, don't get one!
Start by noticing where you feel tight and tense in your body, and in which kind of situations this occurs. Recognize which activities you gravitate toward when you feel overwhelmed or down AND pay close attention to what actually eases that tension and makes you feel supported (instead of just feeling numbed out, distracted, or dulled).
Get creative and explore new ways to nurture and care for yourself. Keep in mind, self-care can be as simple as sitting down for five minutes to drink a glass of cold water and breathing deeply.
2. Make your own self-care a priority as often as you can.
This might seem impossible or even selfish when your partner is in such emotional pain (and possibly even in crisis). You may believe that you have to stay "at the ready" or be "on guard" constantly watching your partner for signs that their depression is getting worse or, if things had improved lately, that it might be returning.
You may feel like it's your "job" to make sure your partner is OK all of the time, even if they have a therapist or are undergoing some other form of mental health treatment. But here's a truth you might be ignoring ...
Your primary "job" and responsibility is tending to your own health and well-being. You simply can't be there to support your partner (or anyone) in a meaningful and effective way if you don't tend to your own needs first.
The "in case of emergencies" instructions given by flight attendants applies here too: Put your oxygen mask on first, and then assist those around you. Find out what you need to nourish, relax, and refresh on a regular basis and then make time for it!
3. Be responsive to your partner's needs ... not reactive.
When someone you love is in pain or turmoil, the tendency is to react and try to "fix" whatever is going on. The urge is to just do something to take back control over a scary or uncomfortable situation.
Instead of being reactive (which is rarely helpful to anyone), practice calming down and finding out what's really needed here.
In most cases, a pause to breathe will only help you both. Then, ask your partner for specific ways you can be of support. If they don't know, consult with a professional who can offer you suggestions (if possible, get this kind of information BEFORE a crisis).
Help your partner understand that your needs matter, as well.
It's wise to sit down with your partner, when they're NOT in an emotionally intense place, and come up with ideas and agreements for your role (and limits) in supporting your partner's efforts to heal and feel better.
Healthy communication is a must when your partner struggles with depression. Speaking your truth is also a form of self-care and this can be done with kindness and compassion.