Living with a depressed person.

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It isn`t easy living with someone who is depressed, it tests you on every level and it is extremely draining. Here are some thoughts and recollections from personal experience and I hope, some ideas and coping mechanisms relating to how to look after yourself when you are caring for or living with someone who is depressed. I understand depression is a serious business, it can be completely paralysing and debilitates an individual so absolutely, they can become immobilised by it, physically, sexually and emotionally so I do not underestimate how powerful an impact depression can have upon a person and their relationships and serious depression can of course lead to long term medication, hospitalisation and sometimes, suicide.

I have occasional periods of feeling low – my mother used to refer to it as waking up with the devil on her back, however, I live with the luxury of knowing this will pass so I surrender to it safe in the knowledge that within two or three weeks I will get up one morning and think – hey – I feel better and all is well with the world once more. For some people though, this experience of feeling better simply does not exist and the depressive state can hang around twenty four seven. I have had a lot of years to consider why or how this occurs and I think it is a mixture of familial inheritance (or a predisposition to depression,) coupled with environment and events that may lower our self-esteem and confidence as well as other factors for example, not believing anything can help and so not trying out different therapies/supplements/diets and so on that might make a massive difference. I have been known to call this lack of action a lazy reluctance and that is when I have exhausted all avenues to find help and none have been explored. So how can we combat the effects upon ourselves, when living with a depressed person because it can be really depressing, no pun intended?

Initially as a young woman I used to research avenues of help for my depressed friend and enthusiastically explore these over a few beers in the evening, excited at the prospect of change. This approach however, failed since how do you help someone who does not want to be helped? It is so frustrating especially as one of my traits is a desire to sort out other peoples problems. In the early days I listened attentively to them and would write lots of notes suggesting where to go to find something that might shift them out of their downward state of mind. Therapy – a new diet – exercise – let us go for a drive in the country – a walk in the park – visit the cinema? All of these suggestions some of them tried, did not even dent a hole in their overall frame of mind and so it became quite emotionally exhausting just trying to help. It felt for me like I had a troublesome otherness attached to me, depleting my energy. It felt a bit like the passing away of a person who when I first met them in their teens was a happy person, a clown and as with a passing, I went through all the emotions of bereavement because I had lost the person I knew and they had been replaced with a doppelganger. It has taken a long time to process these stages of loss and I think now I am nearly seventy, I am at a place of peace and here are some ways in which I achieved that.

I stopped taking responsibility for the other person`s happiness.

I forged a career and a life, especially a social life, of my own. I refuse to be defined by any individual, I am not a nurse to someone, I am not their carer.

I remain as far as possible, empathetic to my friends plight however, I cannot do anything to make it better, that is up to them so I try as far as possible, to listen and respond in a kind way. This doesn`t always work and I can be sharp or sarcastic or unkind but I do try.

I will not engage in repetitive conversations or going round in circles and generally say so. I will say, we have talked about this several times so I am not prepared to talk about it any more.

I take myself out of the situation – literally!

I try to focus on looking after myself. I meditate, go for walks somewhere pretty, ground myself when I awake, my next plan is to start open water swimming as this is incredibly beneficial to our mental well being as is pursuing any hobby which you enjoy.

Once I realised (and it took a long time) that I am not here solely to make someone else happy, I also realised I could forgive myself, stop feeling guilty, stop responding to their triggers or repeated themes and relax in the knowledge I have done my part. You can of course cease the relationship (whether it is a friend or a partner) and I have done that too – no-one likes banging their head against a brick wall. My point is that if you love someone, it is possible to overcome the negative impact of their stuff on your own mental health.

If you relate to this blog. then I hope it has been helpful, even if it is just to know that you are not alone. Please feel free to respond on WordPress, I will always get back to you.

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