Have you ever experienced a loved one’s depression?

Depression is a tricky beast because it can make people we love act in very different ways. Someone who may be warm and present when they are not struggling with depression can become distant and cold when they are. Now, there are a million different ways people deal with depression and you may care for someone who handles it by hiding it. That’s a whole other kettle of fish. But, the point is, it’s hard and we have some ideas that can help. 

Why is learning to cope with a loved one’s depression important?

Because dealing with a loved one’s depression can be taxing. Especially under the kind of stressful conditions of the last few years. A loved one’s depression can be…well depressing for everyone around. You can feel guilty and blameworthy, especially if you want to have some fun or peace in your own life. Or you can be angry and controlling. Sound familiar? It’s not easy.

Living with a parent, spouse, child, or another individual who has depression can be so painful on a daily basis. You love them and want to help, but this is often fraught with the toll it takes on you, especially if you are a caretaker. This winter season presents new challenges because you can’t get out because of the Pandemic, and the isolation may be causing a problem with your depressed loved one, too.

Self Care With A Recovery Bullet Journal

A loved one’s depression means you need to plan ways to manage your own mental health 

Even the most compassionate and loving person may find themselves overwhelmed with trying to cope with a loved one’s depression. But there are things that you can do to help you to remain in the relationship and keep your own sanity.

  • Read and learn as much as you can about depression. The more you learn, especially as you learn it isn’t the person’s fault, the more understanding you might be. Depression is a scary disorder, and knowing exactly what the illness is and isn’t can help with your relationship to the depressed person.
  • Join an online support group such as NAMI (nami.org) or go to a NAMI meeting.
  • Seek counseling for yourself and for the children.
  • Understand that this isn’t your fault. Depression is an illness like diabetes; it’s a health issue. You didn’t cause it; you can’t treat it. 
  • Recognize the importance of medication and therapy. A rule of thumb is that 40% get better on medications only, 40% get better with therapy only, but 80% get better with the combination of both, while the other 20% struggling with a depression need other attention (including coping with other issues) and it may not go away. Be a support regarding these treatments.
  • Blaming does no good and saying dumb things (link to previous article) is harmful.
  • You may become sad and overwhelmed by the person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but this is not your depression. You are simply on overload by being around this person. You need to not take on your loved one’s issues.
  • Set boundaries for yourself (and for the children). This means that you limit what you can do for the depressed person as he/she/they need to take action on their own for their own needs.

How To Take Care Of  You

  • Love yourself by continuing your own life
  • When working, focus on work
  • When relaxing, focus on relaxing 
  • Journal about your feelings
  • Do activities with family and friends with and without the depressed person
  • Eat healthy, exercise, rest, and maintain hygiene as these are the basics one should do daily for themselves
  • Go to a place that’s quiet and reflect
  • Be in nature
  • Read/meditate/pray/walk/garden/swim/go out to dinner/go to a movie/play video games
  • Journal about your experiences (for your eyes only)
  • Treat yourself to a goodie now-and-then to reward yourself for your coping. Worry stones can help relieve stress.
  • If you have children who are affected, make sure they take care of themselves and do activities with them alone and stay on top of how they are doing at school or at work. Get a recovery coloring book to help them cope
  • Vent your feelings to a trusted friend or family member (but be aware of not overburdening them with your issues)
  • Be kind to yourself 

And finally, you may realize that you have to leave a relationship if this is too overwhelming. Yet you can’t just abandon a child who is depressed, so utilizing the above coping skills can be valuable for you. But if all else fails for your relationship with a spouse or if you’re caretaking a parent or other loved one, know that there is help available in the community.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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