Hi all – I’m Haley and I’m a new blogger for Healthy Minds Canada. I guess I should briefly introduce myself to you all before you read a number of my articles over the next couple of months, so here it goes. I’m a lot of things: 28, a Toronto resident, lover of dodgeball, skiing, and climbing. A young professional in market research, new puppy owner, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and a very lucky guy’s girlfriend!
What I wasn’t, for the first 26-or-so years of my life, was clinically depressed. Throughout my blog series, much of my story will come out, the basics of which mirror many other accounts of, “A millennial and young professional encounters depression – a burgeoning life with a great job, family, and friends, but ‘something just wasn’t right'”. While my story might be interesting in it’s own right, I want to spend this post talking about a lesser-talked about aspect of depression: the ‘significant other challenge’. Mores specifically, my partner’s experience(s) with my diagnosis.
Over the course of my struggles – the diagnosis, medication switches, and, most importantly, the behaviours, emotions and attitudes that led to the original diagnosis – my boyfriend of 3.5 years (who knew me before I became a mental health statistic) has stood by my side and experienced many highs and lows. Like many partners in his situation, he was suddenly thrown into uncharted relationship territory. As a result, it required a tremendous amount of compassion and research on his part. Learning to not only cope, but protect his self interests, while living with a partner suffering from mental illness was extremely challenging for him – given that he was/is a young professional with a busy work life, family obligations and challenges of his own.
Impact on partners is a huge challenge of depression that is often overlooked. As the patient, I wish I could be more than a casual observer to his struggles and, more specifically, the challenges that are bestowed upon him because of my depressive mood swings. But often times that, like many other basic tasks, is too overwhelming for me. My boyfriend often remarks that at the end of the day, when he’s had a bad day at work, it’s difficult for him to come home to a partner that generally doesn’t have the emotional capacity to comfort and help him through it. He spends his entire social life trying to mitigate my unhappiness and depression, and on the off chance he needs some support, I am often unable to be there for him. Worse, I sometimes even pile on. As he often explains, it can be pretty draining having to be the one to keep things going. He often feels just as tired as me but doesn’t have the option of curling up in bed or lying on the couch all day.
In order to handle the various challenges he faces as my partner, he plays sports and has many hobbies of his own to turn to (chess, poker and board games just to name a few). His hobbies allow him to let off steam. He constantly reminds himself that in order to take care of me, he also needs to take care of himself. And, to the best of his ability, he tries to remember that this (both the depression itself and whatever smaller issue has occurred as a result) isn’t his fault. This last point is a challenge for him, but through his coping mechanisms, he is able to better remember this when needed.
This leads me to one final thought: Depression pushes its way between partners when it shows up. Maybe only one person is diagnosed, but depression leaves its mark on both people. To my partner, I’m so appreciative of the endless love and support you provide me. To every other partner out their battling what my partner is, remember you aren’t alone. Hobbies and talking about your experiences are important resources to utilize.