The havoc depression wreaks: Instability.

One of the many things that I am grateful Kevin has brought into my life,
is something I had not experienced before:
stability.

His life is rooted in:

  • having a large circle of good friends he sees regularly, as far as being mid-to-late 30-year-old men goes; two friends are our housemates (of sorts),
  • a close nuclear family who spend time together and are in touch with one another often,
  • a six-year-old job with many of the same colleagues, and
  • living in the same place the past six years.

(These are all protective factors of depression, btw. Meaning, these are some life variables that deter depressive symptoms from developing in a person. It mostly has to do with having close-knit networks of friends and family, AKA support. You can find research articles with more info about protective factors on Google Scholar here.)

One of the side effects of having depression that doesn’t get a lot of airplay is the instability-havoc it wreaks on a person’s life. Experiencing drastic or significant mood changes in a short period of time does more than just make someone appear to be “moody.”

  • Your ability to think clearly,
  • finish a coherent sentence, or
  • stay awake for a whole day for work —

they– like all habitual things one does in a day,
will not fall into a regular pattern
that a person living with depression can depend on and expect.

As a person living with chronic depression:

  • Your social contact drops so regularly that some friends stop inviting you out, or
  • your “negative energy” is a drag to be around, or
  • you’re weird and awkward, and you talk about morbid and sad things, or

you have no choice but to hide
because
your anxiety about being around other people is so
intense
it keeps you paralyzed in bed.

**
I’ve been meaning to get back into a regular meditation practice. I’m excited to bring Kevin to try it with me at a Buddhist temple. When I asked if he would be willing to go with me, he looked at me and said, “OK, but I’m not going to one of those sensory deprivation camps.”

To which I lifted my left brow with a quizzical side-stare and responded, “You mean the 10-day silent meditation retreat?”

**

It’s important to make time for stillness, especially for someone living with depression and their partner. It doesn’t have to be meditation in the traditional sense. Go on a hike or take a walk in your neighborhood.

Are you curious about meditation and its benefits?
Check out this lovely infographic made by @AmandaPage, Editor at HealthCentral.com :: .@HealthCentral.

MindfulnessInfographic_HealthCentral

Repost from Visually :: .@Visually

 

Need you to be extra touchy-feely.

Earlier on in our relationship, I pulled Kevin aside when we had a moment alone together in the kitchen. Friends were over.

“I need you to be extra touchy-feely, babe. Can you rub me on the back and check in to see how I’m doing? You do already do those things but I’m feeling anxious and I need them a bit more than usual tonight.”

“Sure, boo,” he said. My anxiety was at about a level 8…ish. (How does one even measure feelings on a Likert scale?)

These are the things that are good to relay to your partner regardless of your situation, but when you live with depression, this is particularly important. There needs to be explicit communication about how you’re feeling and what you need from your partner.

Carrying anxiety (or depression) by yourself becomes a habit when you grow up in an environment that enables you to carry the baggage solo. You forget that there’s an option or you’re not yet aware that there’s an option to practice vulnerability and trust. There’s an option to reach out. A healthy, sound relationship requires it of you to reach out to your partner.

I use to think that if my partner’s love for me was authentic, he would notice when I’m feeling out of sorts and that would cue him to reassure me in some way; if he didn’t catch on and offer care and support, I would get upset. Your partner can’t read your mind (and really, would you want them to?) and regardless of how obvious you think your situation is on the outside, it’s best to be upfront and proactive. Help your partner support you by telling them what you need of them. I assure you, they want to know. Your partner wants to support you. Depression tells you that no one wants to support you. Don’t listen. You and your partner will take turns leaning into eachother. That’s how it works.

Clinical Psychologist and author Dr. Sue Johnson wrote in her book, “Hold Me Tight“, “When safe connection seems lost, partners go into fight-or-flight mode… Most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection.”

I know it can be difficult when depression is visiting because the depressed partner, by nature of the illness, is unable to give as much to the relationship as they are able when they’re feeling OK. That’s OK. Kevin and I have acknowledged that and it (along with his kind and gentle soul) has given me permission to give myself permission to not feel guilty about the temporary imbalance. When I’m not under depression’s spell…

…these are some things that Kevin and I do to stay connected:

  • Take walks together with Fuzz after breakfast (I try to force myself out of bed to do this when depressed – it may only be a 10 minute walk but it makes a huge difference)
  • Leave surprise love notes for each other around the house (sometimes I sneak something into his lunch box)
  • Enjoy a weekly date night together – we met on a Wednesday, so those days are our weekiversary days (you don’t need to go out – sometimes we veg at home – it’s the time investment and being present with one another that matters most)
  • Massage each other (OK, sometimes the massage is a 2 minute shoulder massage in passing but any length of time is wonderful) – our favorite is trading foot massages facing each other on the couch
  • Pick up something from the grocery store that we didn’t put on the list but know the other likes – for Kevin, it’s Sour Patch Kids or bleu cheese, for me, it’s La Croix or gummy cherries
  • Kevin has my meds reminder on his phone as a backup in case I forget or miss my reminder alarm – he sends me reminder texts if we’re not together when it goes off
  • I refill or top off his water bottle if I see he’s running low

What are some things you and your partner do to stay connected?

***

Side note: I watched a video on The Mighty today that does a pretty good job of illustrating the experience of a depressive mind; the dizzying and self-deprecating internal world of a person with depression. (It looks like it’s not share-able. You can watch it below my most recent story about depression posted on The Mighty. I didn’t set up a plug for myself, I swear.) Share it with your partner, if you need. Reaching out means reaching out for resources, too. The internet is rife with stuff.