Although I do not have depression myself, my best friend and now girlfriend suffers from pretty serious depression as well as OCD. I have learned a lot from helping her to care for herself and caring for her, and I’d like to share some of that here. PLEASE NOTE: these strategies worked for her, but no two people are alike, and this has worked for me and OUR relationship.
#1. When loving someone with depression, you need to figure out how much you actually love and care about this person and how much you can give up for them.
This probably sounds really harsh, but you need to figure out your role in their life. (I am going to call my GF Avery just to make things easier.) Avery and I were first best friends in the same friend group, and every person in our “group” had different roles in her life. I am the ChiefProtector™ (sorry without humor this stuff is hard to talk about). Every night she’s been suicidal, every night she’s been drunk and in trouble, every time she’s self harmed or has just been self loathing in general, every time she’s cried, I’ve been there to talk her down, tell her that I love her, and go get her if she needs me too. HOWEVER: this is not easy for me all the time. Sometimes I get panic attacks because I’m terrified that she’ll do something to herself. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep. Sometimes my heart feels like it’s gonna fall out of my chest because her pain can hurt me.
But this role in her life is incredibly important and I love her so much. So for me, the little amounts of pain are completely worth it.
There are also people that are just there for her good moments, people who are just there for her when she’s drunk but not when she gets very bad, and those people are also important.
#2. Every time a person with depression does something that hurts you, you need to look at it from this perspective: are you hurt enough to make them feel guilty enough to add to their self hate?
I’m sure tons of people won’t agree to this, and say that it’ll foster abusive relationships, but not every friendship has to be an equal give and take because not everyone can handle taking on things from another person. If I told Avery every time something she did hurt me, she would’ve felt terrible about herself about things that I could handle by myself. I shielded her from some of my own hurt because she was already dealing with enough of her. This mainly fell into a couple of categories;
a. When I would cry because I was scared for her, I wouldn’t always tell her because when she makes me feel bad she feels worse.
b. When she would say something that scared me or made me mad, I wouldn’t tell her because I didn’t want her to change her words to make me feel better.
c. When a person with depression lashes out at you, try to be as understanding as possible. Try to establish what you did that hurt them without dumping out every possible way they’ve hurt you like we often tend to do.
#3. These sentences are your best friend:
a. I love you/we all love you/there are are people who love you and I’m one of them.
b. Your amazing, beautiful, deserving, smart, funny, and I care about you.
c. You do not deserve pain.
d. You are not worthless/you are worth so much.
Try to counter self hate with love and care, and never ever agree that a person is dumb, mean, rude, or unlovable.
#4: Be there. As much as possible.
I rarely go to sleep before 2am now because nights are hard for Avery, so I stay up talking with her. I wouldn’t go to bed early anyway, but the point is to be as available as possible because just having an ear to flesh out all of her problems or thoughts is incredibly valuable.
(#5 is mainly if your SO is depressed, but could apply to really close friends as well.)
#5: Depressed people love just as deeply as non depressed people, and fall in love just as hard.
I mentioned in #4 that I stay up late, however I now often have conversations with Avery about how much we both love each other. This sounds incredibly cheesy, but I’m being fully honest here. I have written her a ton of love poems, created Spotify playlists for her, and just generally been a cheesy lil POS, but that’s just because when you have been through so much with someone you love them in a deeper way because you have seen in their literal worst moments and cried for their survival.
#6: Love is powerful.
Loving someone, and just showing and telling them on the daily can change a lot. Your love is incredibly powerful. Loving someone unconditionally is incredibly powerful.
I hope these have helped.
Edit: In response to the person wondering about treatment:
Although she does take medication, talk therapy doesn’t work for her as it’s just not her cup of tea. This is just her personal situation, and the medication doesn’t solve everything. But of course treatment is important! I just wanted to highlight the role of loving and caring people in someone’s life. I have always encouraged her to take her medication as difficult as it can be sometimes, but my role is always to just be her friend/GF and not her doctor so I’m usually focused on that side of her life as opposed to the treatment part. Thanks for your question!