What do you do when you want to help but whatever you try only seems to make things worse? Loving someone who’s depressed can feel like the most frustrating experience. You might try a bit of tough love, wonder why that doesn’t help and then get angry with them, and then you feel guilty. Things start to feel better and you get a glimmer of hope until it all goes downhill again, and you wonder if it’s worthwhile, and then you feel guilty. Sometimes you wonder if you’re contributing to their depression – and then you feel very guilty!
Loving someone with depression can be a bit of a rollercoaster in itself. I have quite a few patients struggling with this, and who have developed symptoms themselves because of the stress of their situation. Each person’s depression is different, but if you notice at least 5 of the following symptoms in a loved one, they may have depression:
• Depressed or gloomy mood
• Diminished pleasure in almost all activities
• Diminished ability to concentrate or indecisiveness
• Thoughts of death or suicide
• Loss of libido
• Weight loss or gain for no real reason, or a change in appetite
• Insomnia (or the opposite)
• Fatigue or loss of energy
• Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
Clearly, all of these things are difficult to cope with – and whilst your loved one is coping with it all they often have little energy left over to think about anyone else, so they can seem extremely selfish, being unable to reciprocate love although they need it so much themselves. Sometimes they may feel angry, life doesn’t feel fair to them and they feel inadequate and helpless and bitter. And how does all of this impact you? These are some feelings expressed to me by family members of a depressed person:
“Meanwhile, I’m just expected to take the neglect and abuse and keep on smiling, but not smiling too much because that rubs in how miserable he is and shows I don’t understand – it’s impossible!”
“I just want a little something back sometimes”
“I wish I had it in me to give up like he has but someone has to cope”
“I thought she was my soul mate but this is destroying us”
“I hate him for what he’s doing to the family but he hates himself more and that’s hard to live with”
“I feel drained, mentally and physically exhausted to the point I’m wondering if I have depression too”
It’s often difficult to remember that depression is an illness. It can develop very gradually, or very quickly. It can come to anyone regardless of sex, age, race or wealth. It is not a choice – it is an illness. As a homeopath I notice that there is always a cause – it doesn’t just come from nowhere – but sometimes it’s very well hidden. Depression is not an emotion – but a defense against emotions. The depressed person is usually keeping a lot of feelings bottled up inside, even when it feels like they’re letting you know about it all – all of the time. I have been able to help so many people with depression, but sometimes they give up to the extent that they don’t even seek out help and you might feel that you are their only support – and that in itself is draining. A few things you can still do are:
1. Look after yourself as well. Try to be considerate and thoughtful, remember that the depression is not the person you love – the depression is a symptom of an illness. Have a support system for you – friends or a partner you can talk to and have fun with, have some hobbies you enjoy.
2. Be kind. Even if it doesn’t seem to be appreciated kindness is always right. Easing their burden in just a small way can help a great deal and actions often mean more than words.
3. Learn about depression – then learn what it’s like for them. Let them know that you care enough to listen.
4. Don’t feel like you always have to advise them about how you would handle it if you were them – that may just reinforce their feelings of inadequacy.
5. Encourage them to do things – exercise is good, maybe seek counselling or good homeopathic treatment, or whatever they feel might help them.
Anti-depressants are apparently the number one prescribed medication, but there are other ways to help which are longer lasting and without side effects. If someone you love suffers with depression, give me a call on 01626 201107 to see how homeopathy can help you both.