Compassion is the best way to approach a loving relationship with someone who is struggling with depression.
- Don’t take anyone’s mental illness as a personal offense: When we word it that way, it seems silly to think that someone’s mental illness could have anything to do with us. Yet we often lose sight of the fact that a mental illness like depression is a mental illness that manifests in many different ways through thoughts, actions, and behaviors. If someone we love is acting out or behaving in a way that may affect us personally, it still is not personal toward who we are or how they feel about us. It is essential for us to remove the ego from the equation in order to compassionately recognize that depression is part of their individual struggle and we cannot take it personally.
- Realize what is difficult for you isn’t difficult for them: Depression isn’t a difference of opinion. Depression is a mental illness someone is experiencing as part of their unique path of life. Everyone is on an individual journey with individual circumstances that make them who they are and make their journey what it uniquely is. Being on that journey means that what is difficult for them might not be difficult for you. Vice versa, what is difficult for you might not be difficult for them. There is no telling someone with depression to just stop being depressed. Likewise, there is no telling you to just stop having difficulty with something you have difficulty with. Respect their journey and their experience on it as you expect them to respect yours.
- Understand that you can’t understand all of depression: We use statements like “I understand that depression is hard” or “I understand you’re having a hard time”. Almost always we follow this statement with a negation through one simple word: but. “I understand that depression is hard, but…” Unless we have struggled with clinical, diagnosable depression ourselves we really can’t understand all of depression. Depression is a natural human experience in certain forms. Clinical depression is an entirely different experience we cannot fully understand unless we have fully lived with it. Instead of try to fit depression into our own image, appreciate and acknowledge the vastness of depression which you cannot comprehend.
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