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

Some words of encouragement

I want you to know that you’re worth something.

I want you to realize that, whatever problems you may be dealing with, you are never alone.

I want you to understand that people, even those you may not realize or talk to every day, are here for you.

I want you to know that whatever may have happened yesterday, last month, last year, last decade, doesn’t affect how wonderful you can make the future.

I want you to realize that you can overcome anything that comes your way, no matter who or what tells you otherwise, including your own mind.

need you to understand that there are good people in this world, around every corner, who won’t judge you, or abuse you, or put you in a place you have no desire to be in.

need you to understand that you are stronger than any self-deprecating thought that crosses your mind.

I want you to know that I know being strong isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

I want you to know that no outside opinion of you matters, only the light you view yourself in.

need you to know that people care. I need you to know that I care. He cares. She cares. They care.

I want you to know that there are people out there who, when they look at you, see the sun.

Stay strong.

– Ryan

Take care of yourself – first.

Growing up, a majority of us are taught to always put others before ourselves. This isn’t a bad thing – this mindset has the tendency to not only teach us compassion, but see it received firsthand. We’re told to treat others the way we want to be treated, and that our experiences with others will go towards shaping ourselves as individuals. In my opinion this is most certainly true – human beings are infinitely shaped by contact with other human beings (among many other things). The intent of putting others first is a great one, as it promotes compassion, acceptance, and patience. But is there a point where this becomes too much?

As crude as it may be to compare human beings to machines, hear me out for a moment: our bodies and minds are much like them. A machine for, let’s say, manufacturing, exists to manufacture goods. As such, it puts all of its energy into pumping out these products, as long as it receives some sort of energy from another source. Electricity, water, wind, etc. These pieces of metal, which are designed specifically to pour their energy into these tasks, still need that energy from somewhere. So, everything else aside, let’s say humans are “compassion machines.” Put aside your personal beliefs for a moment and pretend that humans are specifically meant to pour out compassion unto others. These “compassion machines” put every ounce of their energy into being kind to others, being selfless, being patient, and every other way of “being good” to others. However, if they don’t receive energy from elsewhere, as an actual machine does, it crashes and burns. It overheats, it smokes, it starts sleeping all day, it might start throwing back a few beers each night to help it forget…not only are humans much more complicated than machines, humans deal with their problems in many different ways than machines.

Being good to others is good. It’s great, it’s fantastic, it’s what we should all strive for each and every day we’re on this earth. But in order to do this effectively, we need to step back and realize that we aren’t some sort of “infinite-power” machine. We need rest and recuperation, we need to hit the power button at the end of the night. Plug in and recharge, however you feel it best to do that (it goes without saying that there are healthy and unhealthy ways of recharging, but that’s a different subject entirely).

Here’s the part that will make me sound selfish: make sure you’re happy before you start making sure others are happy. Again, I can’t stress enough how important I believe it is to be selfless and compassionate – but only where it’s reasonable. As admirable as it is to throw all of your energy into being good to others, if you don’t have any energy left to make sure you’re happy, it’s a lose-lose situation: you’re burnt out because you spend all your time on others’ wants and desires, and the people you’re trying so desperately to make happy often notice your weariness, and this could have the exact opposite effect of what you intended.

I’m not telling you to cut in line, eat the last cookie, or lie to your parents to get out of trouble. I’m not telling you to be selfish. I’m just telling you that you don’t always have to be selfless. We are all equals in this world – no one person deserves to feel more or less happy than another – and that includes you.

Being selfish is rude, hurtful, and discouraging, but always being selfless is simply unhealthy.

Stay strong

– Ryan

I hope you never understand, I hope you never forget

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to be physically crippled by your own mind.

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to wake up and not be able to get out of bed. Not because you physically can’t – your legs are working just fine. I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to not be able to move, simply because your own mind is preventing you from doing so. Glued to the bed, battling your own mind. Move your foot, take a step. Pick your head off the pillow. Get out of bed.

I don’t want you to understand what it feels like to nearly be overcome with anxiety just getting through your morning routine. I don’t want you to be filled with dread at the simple prospect of what the day might bring. Even if nothing has given any indication that the day ahead may bring bad things. The mere possibility that terrible things may happen can be enough to make you want to run and hide.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that everyone in the world has it better than you. You obviously have it better than so many people, but it doesn’t matter, at least not to your mind. You can’t even pull yourself out of bed in the morning, remember?

I don’t want you to understand the feeling of a hopeless future leading nowhere.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that the best place to spill your feelings is on a blog, because those people can’t see your face. They can’t judge a faceless writer, hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.

do want you to understand that it’s okay not to understand.

I do want you to understand that understanding isn’t necessary to support people, and love people, and have faith in people, even if those people don’t have faith in themselves.

I do want you to understand that nobody, mental health issues or not, can fix everything. I do want you to understand that nobody expects you to be able to, either.

I do want you to understand that everyone has their own stories and their own battles, regardless of whether they let other people actually see those things.

I do want you to understand that people shouldn’t expect to be loved by all, or worshiped, or the center of attention at all times. People just want to be accepted for who they are, not forced to change to suit society’s whims and expectations. In fact, I bet you already do understand that.

I don’t want you to understand my mind, just be content with that fact that you never will. I truly don’t want you to feel any of this for yourself. So just talk with me. Support me, if you can. Be there for me when I need you, and hell, even when I don’t need you to. I will do my best to be there for you. Protect me from my own mind, because ironically enough, that’s what I’m most afraid of.

I hope you find happiness to the best of your ability, and I hope that you wish the same for me. I hope you’re able to remember that you aren’t alone, you have people here for you, whether you realize it or not. I hope you understand that there are others who understand. I hope you understand that there are others who feel the same things you do, in good moments and in bad.

I hope you know that people care about you, and what happens to you, and your happiness. I hope you never forget that.

I hope you stay strong, regardless of what your own mind says to you, because you can overcome it.

  • Ryan

You’re good enough.

So my day is kind of crappy so far. My depression has decided to make itself front and center in my mind today, and I’m feeling it.

It’s trying to tell me that I’m not good enough. But I am. As are you.

So I’m taking a super short post to say just that – you’re good enough. Whether it’s another person or your own mind trying to tell you otherwise, the fact still stands that you’re deserving of happiness.

No matter what mistakes you made today, or yesterday, or last year, you’re deserving of contentment. Your life isn’t defined by the ‘whats’ or ‘whos,’ it’s defined by the ‘whys.’ Your intentions.

Even as I write this, my mind is screaming at me that I’m full of crap. But I know better. I’m worth something, and you’re worth a hell of a lot, too.

Stay strong.

  • 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

This too shall pass

The light truly is at the end of the tunnel, you just need to keep walking.

I don’t think I could live without my Spotify account. To say that music is a means of release for me would be a massive understatement – whether it’s listening to a song that describes exactly what I’m feeling, or listening to one that just says what I need to hear at that point in time, music is such a universal outlet. I don’t play any instruments or sing, but I know that many would agree with me saying just listening to music is therapy in itself.

For those who don’t know, Spotify is like a better version of iTunes where, instead of paying for each song individually, you pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited access to all music. Through my job, I get a free Spotify subscription, but even if I didn’t I’d be more than willing to pay the $7.99/month or so for it. Spotify even has a free subscription, where you can’t download songs, but you can listen to (I believe) anything as long as you have an internet connection.

But I digress – this isn’t an advertisement for Spotify. This is where I mean to go with this – Spotify has this thing called Discover Weekly where, based on the songs already in your library, it gives you a list of 30 songs each week that it thinks you might like. My music taste is super varied – I’ll listen to a great many things. As such, my Discover Weekly is quite a grab bag when it comes to genre. Once in a while, though, the program will come through and give me a gem. This happened last night as I was listening to the songs it gave me for this week.

The song was simply entitled “This Too Shall Pass,” by an artist I’d never heard of before, Sinclair. To be completely honest, it isn’t the type of song I’d normally listen to – a simple, almost quirky song (what I’d consider a Zooey Deschanel-type song), but this one hit me for whatever reason. I didn’t have a particularly bad day or anything yesterday, but my anxiety makes it so that each day has, to at least some degree, some form of worrying.

The song itself doesn’t mention anxiety in any form, but it doesn’t have to. As the title suggests, the song basically sets the scene for someone in an unspecified bad situation worrying about what comes next. The chorus is simply: “I don’t know when, but I do know that, this too shall pass.”

Obvious? Yeah, probably. Nothing, whether it be good or bad, lasts forever. But I know I speak for many when I say that it’s easier to forget that than many others might think. In the heat of a situation which spikes anxiety, many of us quite simply don’t care that “this too shall pass” in time, we just want to be out of the anxiety-inducing situation ASAP. It’s easy to talk about patience and not panicking when we aren’t in a situation that requires patience or calm. It’s a hell of a lot harder to reassure ourselves in the heat of the moment, though.

It’s quite often difficult to see that light at the end of the tunnel. All we care about then is that we’re in the dark, alone with our harmful thoughts, and for many of us that is simply terrifying. For those of us suffering from it, anxiety loves to make us picture the worst situation possible – in the present or future. Even if you “make it through” this, what’s to say that I won’t bring it up again in your head? With anxiety, it feels like we’re never entirely free from these thoughts, even on our best days. The gnawing bite of anxiety threatens to sneak up on us at anytime, anywhere.

So how exactly do we combat this type of thinking? For me, anxiety is, I genuinely feel, the hardest thing to deal with. As someone who suffers from both anxiety and depression, I’d snap them away in a heartbeat if I could. But, if I could only choose one to vanquish, it’d be anxiety, every time. Yeah, depression is bad. Really bad. Low self-esteem and a sense of overarching worthlessness is terrible. But I still have my good days, where I can push my depression aside and focus on the silver linings in my life. Anxiety though….it’s always there. Even in the most inane, illogical situations my anxiety will find a way to worm into my head and make me think of things I never thought possible. To an outsider, how I come up with these worries must seem as random as grabbing names out of a hat – hell, for all I know they basically are. But the fact of the matter is I do worry about these inane things. I can tell myself that my worries are completely unfounded over and over and over again, but it still doesn’t help me stop worrying about them.

I’m not a hateful person. I was taught growing up to never use the word hate unless I truly meant hate, and to this day I still very rarely use the word, outwardly or internally. But it’s safe to say that I have never come so close to hating something as I do my anxiety. I despise it. Some days I just want to bang my fists against the wall, asking why I can’t just have one damn day where my anxiety doesn’t crawl around in my head. I’ve accepted the fact that I have anxiety and I always will, but still. For me, it doesn’t make it any easier.

If I could list some definitive methods here for pushing anxiety aside on a daily basis I would. I’ve taken medication for anxiety, gone to therapy, tried multiple outlets to release my worries…and these things helped. Truly, they did. But I’m not going to lie to you or myself by saying that these made my anxious thoughts disappear. However weak they may have been, they were still there. As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous posts, I cannot stress how important I believe it is to find an outlet to begin to release these fears. I guarantee you, there is something out there that will trump that anxiety, because in the end, your mind knows that it needs to concentrate on something good, as opposed to all the bad. For me, that “thing” is nature. Just going for a 30 minute walk in the woods does wonders for combatting my anxiety. The trees and dirt and streams don’t care about my stress at work or my anxiety over some presentation I have to make, and that’s strangely comforting to me.

I may be calling the kettle black here, but if you suffer from anxiety and haven’t found that outlet quite yet, the best thing you can do whilst looking for it is remember: this too shall pass. Yes, I did say earlier that it doesn’t help cure my anxiety – nothing likely will. But if you’re struggling like I am, trying to find that something to hold on to that, in the end, remember everything will be okay. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help, therapists or otherwise. Music truly is therapy in itself – turn on a good tune. Take a day for yourself.

I know that anxiety is running rampant this time of year, being in the midst of the holidays. I feel it too, believe me. But I’ll pull through. You’ll pull through. This too shall pass. Stay strong.

  • Ryan