When Your Partner Suffers from Depression—Be Supportive While Keeping Healthy Boundaries
Watching someone you love suffer from depression can be as devastating for you as it is for them.
You might be struggling with what role to take—the drill sergeant that tells them to buck up, the nurse who takes care of them, or the motivational speaker who tries to put an optimistic spin on everything?
It can be exhausting and seemingly impossible to know just how to support a person suffering from depression. Even more challenging—knowing how to create boundaries that support your own mental and emotional health.
The Airplane Scenario
When supporting someone who is suffering from depression, remember the in-case-of-emergency scenario in airplanes. When cabin pressures drop, the rule is to secure your air mask before assisting others. The same rule applies when helping someone through their depression.
You can’t properly provide support to your partner if you are suffering, too. Often the stress of caring for someone with depression can significantly impact the quality of the caretaker’s life. You might even begin experiencing depressive symptoms yourself when trying to be empathetic with a depressive person.
That is why creating boundaries is so essential.
Many people feel guilty when thinking of creating these boundaries for several reasons. One reason is that they may think they are going to make the person feel further isolated. Another reason might be that if the person’s depression symptoms do not improve, the caregiver will think it was because they weren’t doing enough.
However, setting boundaries does not mean that you cannot provide proper care, compassion, stability, and trust to your partner. To the contrary, boundaries are what make those things possible and sustainable.
What Is Your Limit?
Many people find that they want to give as much as they can for the person they love. However, blazing through your internal stop sign that warns that you have reached your limit of emotional support will only lead you to crash down the road.
It is important to sit down with yourself and determine what your limit is and how to communicate with your partner when that limit has been met.
One great approach to communicating limits is collaboration. With collaboration, your partner won’t feel that you are abandoning them or are uncaring, but rather that you’re trying to actively work with them to find a solution. So, try responding to a request with, “That is something I am not equipped to do at this time, but let’s see if we can find a better resource for you.”
Blurred lines create instability and can make a person suffering from depression feel a lack of security and trust in their treatment plan. In addition, you, as the caregiver, may begin to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the inconsistencies and changing levels of care.
Although you can provide social support for your depressed partner, you can’t play every role of what they might need.
So, sit down with your partner and discuss what roles you are equipped to play and which ones they need to seek elsewhere. This may include encouraging them to seek professional help or attending group therapies.
Identifying roles and what kind of support you can provide helps to not only ensure your depressed loved one is getting all of their needs adequately met, but also prevents your mental and emotional health from becoming completely drained.
Making Time For Yourself
You can’t be on-call all day, every day. Be sure to schedule time for yourself to decompress and reset your mind.
Try treating yourself to a massage or a long bubble bath. Or, you might also try attending regular yoga or fitness classes. Also, keep in mind that you may benefit from attending therapy yourself. Therapy can provide additional tools and reinforcement to continue supporting your loved one.
Clearly, depression is a crippling condition for those who suffer from it. However, it is also severely taxing for the person who supports someone with depression. Therefore, keep your mental and emotional health intact so that you can better care for your partner and yourself.