Depression is a serious, life-altering disorder that impacts not only the person afflicted with it but those around them. Depression can affect `1 in 15 adults at any given time, and 1 in 6 adults can expect to experience depression in their lifetime.
Do you love someone who is suffering from high functioning depression? If you aren’t sure, here are some of the symptoms to look for.
In order to corroborate that this is a true depression, the person must experience one or more of these for two or more weeks (so if someone just has a case of the blues, for example, feeling down for a couple of days, that is different from what the medical community calls depression).
- Feeling upset or depressed
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Radical changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Sleep deprivation or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in unproductive physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or sluggish movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or experiencing guilt pangs.
- Difficulty thinking and focusing, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide are common when your partner has depression
Gritty facts about high functioning depression
- For people suffering from high functioning depression, it might be difficult to comprehend their symptoms even as their spouse, who is apparently closest to them.
- Even if your partner seems to have it all together, is successful, they might just be afflicted with high functioning depression if they find simple, everyday tasks like getting out of bed, or going to work as uphill tasks.
- For those grappling with high functioning depression, it is a constant struggle between heart and mind. They keep feeling the pull between a total emotional meltdown and joy.
- They unintentionally shut out people, as a partner you must know it is not out of willingness, but their internal battle.
Loving someone with high functioning depression can be hard
The depressed person can feel guilty about how much their mental illness takes over the relationship. And the person who loves the depressed person can feel resentful, guilty, responsible, and worry about leaving the depressed person alone for any length of time.
It’s a difficult situation for both parties.
What are some of the ways you can take care of yourself when you love someone with high functioning depression?
How to help someone with high functioning depression
Know this. You will never be able to cure or fix your loved one’s depression. And it isn’t your job to do so.
Even if you are a mental health professional, you should not be treating your partner’s illness. Leave that to an expert who is neutral and not in the relationship. The depressive person should be under the watchful care of a team of professionals:
- a psychiatrist who can prescribe appropriate antidepressants and other medications, and
- a therapist who can work with your partner with talk-therapy and other techniques to help them manage their illness.
Learn all you can about depression, and how you can support your partner
You will need to learn about how to live with this part of your relationship, without having it take over everything. Part of this is accepting your partner as a whole human, a person apart from a depressive.
In fact, let’s say they are a person with depression, not a depressive. You will want to focus on the great parts of your partner that are not part of their illness: their creativity, their wonder, their empathy for others, all the things that drew you to them in the first place.
Remember to maintain balance in the relationship
You both have needs, but sometimes it is difficult for you to ask for yours to be met because your loved one’s needs seem to be so much larger than yours. But in order for you to feel satisfied, your needs need to be recognized, too. How can you do this?
First, don’t ignore your needs. Pushing them away won’t make them disappear. You’ll end up feeling lonely and resentful. If you sense your partner cannot meet your needs, develop another network outside of the relationship where you can go to get these met.
A partner for sports, or a friend who will meet you for coffee each week, another person with whom you can go to the movies or museum.
Make sure you have a community outside of your relationship that you can tap into so that you can feel the connection that your partner who is suffering from high functioning depression may not always be able to provide.
Know how to support your loved one when they are in depression
Again, you cannot cure them or bring them out of the depression. Their medical team is there for that. But you can be there for them, letting them know you see them, you hear them, you love and have empathy for them . Give your partner a hug, hold them, let them cry and tell them it is okay, this will pass. Ask your partner what you can do to be of help.
In hindsight, it can be a positive experience for you
Loving someone with a mental illness is tough, but there are some life-enhancing aspects for the caregiver. An increased sense of empathy for all who suffer is one of these.
Other positives can include giving you an opportunity to guide your life by your heart, and not a set of societal constructs. You will learn to value all humans for their complexities, vulnerabilities, frailness, and their personal challenges.
You will learn to forgive your partner when they act from a place of depression when they are angry or irrational. You will learn patience, compassion, and perspective.
You will learn to practice your own self-care, by taking breaks from time to time from your role as a caregiver to your partner with high functioning depression. And you will learn how great it feels to stand by someone you love through their episodes of depression.
It means loving the only way any of us ever should
What is real love, but listening with our ears and our hearts, keeping an open mind and a willingness to look into the many facets of each other’s souls?