Romantic relationships and Depression

It’s no secret that depression can negatively impact a great many relationships, and in my experience, romantic relationships can take a large brunt of the heat. Romantic relationships are built on mutual affection – “if you love and accept me for who I am, then I’ll do the same for you.” But what happens if, instead of not being able to accept your partner, you can’t accept yourself?

This goes without saying, but one of the biggest impacts that depression has on us psychologically is an overarching feeling of self-doubt. It makes us question whether or not we’re smart enough, or generous enough, or, quite simply good enough. As such, it only makes sense that these feelings find a way to interfere in relationships. Those suffering from depression tell themselves: “If I’m not [insert positive adjective here] enough, why should my partner spend any time with me?” Depression makes us question whether or not we’re actually deserving of a romantic relationship. If we can’t love and accept ourselves, how can we ask somebody else to love and accept us?

Then there’s the blow to communication. Ask any couples counselor and they’ll tell you that communication is one of the most important aspects in any relationship. However, communicate is one of the many things people with depression are least inclined to do. Generally, when people are in the depths of depression, the last thing they want to do is talk about it. Psychologically, there’s a plethora of reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is because they’re convinced nobody else will know how they feel. Despite the facts showing that more than 350 million people worldwide suffer from the illness, depression has the uncanny ability to make people believe that their problems and way of looking at things are theirs along to deal with.

As a result, depressive thoughts and emotions are a subject not often brought up, even between partners. This often causes the one in the relationship not suffering from depression to interpret this as keeping secrets, or feeling like they aren’t trusted. Obviously, trust is a major component in any relationship, so for one person to feel like they don’t have it can damage that relationship immensely.

Building off of that, this lack of communication can lead to unneeded drama. If one person in a relationship is not communicating with the other due to depression, the other may decide to take matters in to their own hands. Quite frankly, it’s hard to stay mature and level-headed when it seems your partner has no desire to communicate to you what they’re feeling.

If you’re dating or married to someone with depression, please don’t take any of these actions (or inactions) to heart. Understand that any lack of communication or presumptions is not out of spite for you, but instead a natural part of the mental illness that is clinical depression.

One of my favorite things to say is “understand that you will never fully understand.” Without trying to sound pompous, if you don’t have depression, you will never understand how someone with depression feels. Those who have depression know that fact, and only want for you to acknowledge it too. Even if they don’t show it, people are incredibly appreciative when you make an effort to try and “work with them,” even when you don’t completely understand the way their mind works.

Depression is hard enough on its own – adding another person to the mix can make it even trickier. But this isn’t a reason to avoid relationships. Having another support figure in life who not only loves you, but accepts you and makes an active effort to be compassionate and stick with you to the bitter end can do wonders for a mind suffering from depression. It isn’t easy, I know. But few things in life worth doing ever are.

Stay strong.

– Ryan

A quick thought…

Violence for its own sake is bad. Generally, leaders, be they of countries, federations, armies, etc., take steps to avoid violence against their own.

At what point in history did human society decide that the best way to counter violence is with violence? Fire with fire? If I punch you, your initial reaction may be to punch me back. Which in response causes me to hit you again, and the cycle repeats until there’s an all-out fistfight. If history and human nature has taught us anything, it’s that a violent act will often lead to a retaliation of violence.

Human society has been around for thousands of years. We’ve evolved, gotten smarter and wiser, so why haven’t a vast majority of us realized that violence in response to violence solves nothing? So many leaders are convinced that brute force is the answer to ending what plagues their people, and as such, they become so blinded that they don’t realize the problem lies more so in their own actions than those they are fighting against.

If I punch you, you should put up yours hands to defend yourself, absolutely. But instead of hitting back, figure out why I punched you. What caused it? How can we solve this problem without another punch to the face? With the least amount of collateral damage. Maybe you’re still a little sore (physically and mentally) from my punch, but we’re avoiding a lot of future soreness if we take a less physical approach to things. Right?

I’m not really sure what prompted this thought, honestly. The U.S. is pretty divided right now, between what approach we take to solve our problems. I hope we see that force isn’t always the answer.

  • Ryan

Compassion, not just kindness

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.”

Far too often, true compassion is overlooked as just being simple kindness. There’s nothing wrong with being kind, of course. All acts of compassion are kind, however, not all acts of kindness are compassionate. It’s the societal norm to be kind to others. If you walk into a grocery store and be a jerk to the person in front of you in line, people are going to give you dirty looks. Being rude or ignorant is, in most cases, considered socially unacceptable. Nearly everyone is considered to have a certain amount of decency towards others, even if it means going through the motions. This often means empty gestures. Yes, that person won’t get angry with the grocery store patron in front of them that’s taking forever to pay, but mostly because society would look at that with a figurative scowl.

I don’t want to imply that all acts of kindness come from social necessity, that certainly isn’t the case. There are absolutely people who are kind in public not because of any norm forced upon them, but because they genuinely want to be kind. They realize that patience will get them farther than initiating conflict ever will. But I’d be lying if I said that I believe that’s most people.

If there’s any one thing that my experiences with depression have shown me in force, it’s that people often see what I consider to be my “realist” attitude as pessimistic. I’ve said many times before that I believe in the inherent good in all people. I do. But inherent is the key word for me. While everybody has the potential for infinite caring, it seems that so few people, well, act on that. So, if people have the potential for unconditional love, why is it so uncommon? There’s probably a long list of reasons why: for fear of it being seen as weak and vulnerable, because the feeling may not be reciprocated… but my guess is that the most common reason why is because it’s simply easier to be indifferent to it all.
We can still perform these empty acts of kindness without much sacrifice on our part, but true compassion requires looking outside of our own self more often than not. Why sacrifice our own time, putting our emotions aside for the sake to help others with theirs? It seems like such a predatory mindset – kill or be killed. Look after yourself and your own emotions, or supposedly risk your mental well-being to help someone else maybe feel a bit better. From that viewpoint, the answer as to which seems better is obvious. How, then, is compassion worth it?

To understand that, it’s important that we understand what compassion actually is. To have compassion for something, be it a person, group, or cause, is to care about it on a deeper level. It’s easy to be kind to people we see in passing. To have compassion for them is a different thing entirely. While kindness is just that, kindness, compassion is fostering understanding for one’s situation, considering everything affecting it. Compassion is attempting to understand where one is coming from, be it good, bad, or somewhere in between, and caring for them anyway. Compassion is understanding that you will never be able to fully understand anyone else, nor they you, but loving and accepting them for who they are and what they have to offer anyway. Compassion and acceptance go hand-in-hand – if you cannot accept someone, then it’s impossible to understand and sympathize with them.

The word ‘compassion’ has its roots in Latin. The root of the word, compati, literally means to “suffer with.” While I don’t believe that having compassion for something means you must suffer with it, it shows that true compassion is opening yourself up to the plight of others, whether you have a stake in the situation or not. Human society, and even more than that, human understanding, is built on the foundation of togetherness. This means different things to different people, but I believe cooperation and understanding for others is key. Humans can’t live alone. You can stick a person in the middle of nowhere for years and years, alone, and they may find a way to survive. But emotionally, they will be broken. Cut someone off from any possible chance of compassion, and everything they have dealt with and everything they will deal with is theirs and theirs alone. Compassion allows them to share the burden with others, strengthening relationships and fostering understanding. How many fewer wars would be fought it compassion was shown to enemies instead of no mercy? Instead of the “kill or be killed” mindset?

This may seem like an incredibly naïve mindset. I’m not advocating for pacifism, but I do believe that rudeness, mocking, hatred, and violence should never be the first go-to for a lack of understanding. If we put compassion ahead of everything else, how many fewer people would feel the need to end their own life? To turn to drugs or alcohol? To violence?

Letting ourselves be open to others doesn’t mean rejecting ourselves, though. By seeing what others go through, we can become better equipped to deal with our own ups and downs. To reiterate what I said before: “Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” Humans can survive alone. But to truly live, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…we need someone who has compassion for us. But how can we morally ask for compassion if we aren’t willing to give it ourselves?

So many problems in the world, past and present, are attributed to a lack of understanding. Compassion surpasses understanding – it allows for unconditional caring even when we don’t understand everything. But, understanding or no, it promotes cooperation. Again, I’m not saying we should all be pacifists. As morbid as it may sound, as long as humanity exists, violence will accompany us. But it certainly doesn’t have to be something we so readily turn to when understanding evades us. On a larger scale, like when it comes to entire nations, it’s obviously much, much tougher. But it’s possible. It has to be, if we start individually and build it up. For it to affect things larger than us, it first has to affect us. It needs to become a way of life, living compassionately. It would take years, I know. Years and years. But so do most things worth fighting for.

Understanding surpasses ignorance. Compassion surpasses simple kindness. And all of those things surpass violence due to lack of understanding. Compassion first. Everything else afterwards.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

Understanding people with depression and/or anxiety

Interacting with a person with depression and/or anxiety can be a large beast to tackle. A lack of understanding for what some people go through is common in our society. Hopefully this post can help a bit.

For people who have no history or experiences with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, understanding how to approach individuals with these ways of thinking can be difficult. For some who grew up in a family where depression and anxiety have been passed down for a few generations, it can be easier. Having people around you, whether they be family or friends, who know and can relate to how your mind works can be a great support. However, not everyone has this luxury.

What about people who have no idea how depression affects the mind? People who don’t understand why people suffering from anxiety worry about seemingly the most miniscule things? Although it may not seem like a big deal, interacting with sufferers of these mental illnesses in a way that doesn’t escalate their feelings of depression or anxiety can make the receiver’s life a whole lot easier.

So how can those of us who have mental health issues help those who don’t? The logical first step would be to simply say that our minds don’t work the same way yours do on a daily basis. With no desire on our part, our minds can turn the tiniest molehill into a mountain, without any “logical” explanation. Whether that be beating ourselves up mentally for something that happened three years ago or worrying about something that, frankly, probably doesn’t need to really be worried about, our minds will make it so we do. I cannot stress enough that this is from no choice of our own. 9/10ths of it is simply brain chemistry. If you’re interested, it’s incredibly easy to find articles and pictures online of the differences between a “normal” brain and a brain with mental illnesses affecting it. So, from the science-y side of things, the chemicals in our brains are all out of whack. Whoops.

On a more personal level, we know we’re this way. We know we shouldn’t worry about Thing A. or beat ourselves up for Thing B. But we do it anyway. I’m certain I speak for nearly all of us suffering from these mental illnesses when I say: if we could snap our fingers and make this affliction evaporate into thin air, we’d do it. But alas, is life ever that simple? (Spoiler alert: no). We’re aware that all logic tells us not to dwell on these inane things, but we do anyway.

I could give you a list of advice for dealing with sufferers of these illnesses, but I won’t do that. There are some fantastic bloggers on here that have created comprehensive, thought-out lists on that subject, and I’ve no wish to usurp them. I’d just like to add my two cents to the conversation.

The best, and I mean best thing anyone can do for someone like me is make an effort to understand where they’re coming from. I know you aren’t going to get all of the anatomy and psyiology behind it – nobody should expect you to. Just remember that sometimes, even when it’s the most inconvienient time, our minds will take everything out of proportion. Whether it’s worrying, panicking, crying, reclusiveness…it’s all fair game.

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: understand that you’ll never be able to fully understand us. Hell, sometimes we don’t fully understand us. But we begin to recover when we understand that not everything can be whittled down to logic and brain chemistry, and we only ask that you do the same. If we somehow get on your last nerve with our actions or words, I apologize for all of us. Trying to attribute everything a depression/anxiety-riddled mind does to logic is a lost cause. We’re imperfect, we know that. But so is everyone. Accept us for our odd tendencies, and we’ll accept you for yours.

– Ryan