When living and coping with the dreadful effects of a loved one who has depression, especially at this current time where we are all living in one household for almost our whole day, without a break, it can put an enormous strain on our relationships and the toll it can take on the whole hosuehold can be devastating.
How we act and react around someone with depression can also be an important part of not only our everyday lives but also their recovery. Trying to strengthen family relationships, promote a genuine acceptance, understanding and co-operation within the household and everyone living within it can be a challenging task – especially for the person trying to facilitate it. I have listed below some suggestions and ideas to help cope with some of the challenges of living with someone who has depression or who may be at risk of developing it:
DO NOT PRETEND THINGS ARE FINE
The temptation maybe for some, is to pretend that everything is ok, to dismiss some of these signs or symptoms or at least to decide to keep an eye on them rather than act on them right away. The taboo that sadly still exists around talking about mental health can often come into play here. Some people worry that raising the subject of depression may be somehow intrusive, or that they do not know the right words to use. They may be concerned that they themselves do not fully understand mental illness and could somehow think they could make things worse if they say or do the wrong thing.
All of this is perfectly understandable. We still have a long way to go to challenge and break this stigma and it is therefore no surprise that many people are still not comfortable talking about mental health. However, I do think that being able to be open about it, however clumsily, is generally preferable to not saying anything at all.
CREATE A POSITIVE HOME ENVIRONMENT
This one is particularly important at this current time. Those living with or close to someone with depression may well be able to have a positive impact on their well-being. Creating an environment within their home which is conducive to a positive, emotional balance can be pivotal for the person suffering and the family as a whole. This is both about the ambience in the home, as well as the way people interact within it.
One effect of depression can be that people lose interest in their surroundings. They may lack the motivation to look after themselves and feel disconnected from the environment around them. Yet at the same time, they may struggle to get out, losing interest in activities they once enjoyed and instead spending long periods of time behind closed doors. While no one would claim that clearing the clutter around them or keeping the house clean will directly change their depression, not doing so could well contribute to their negative state of mind.
There are certainly benefits to having access to natural sunlight, so opening the curtains or moving a chair outside into the garden may be helpful as part of a wider treatment plan. Surrounding them with things they love could also have a positive impact. Framed photographs of happier times, candles scented with mood-boosting fragrances, blankets and throws that make them feel secure and comforted, and activities that may stimulate their interest, such as art materials, jigsaw puzzles or music, can also be helpful.
AVOID MAKING PERSONAL CRITICISM
The way in which you react to your loved one’s depression can have a big impact on them and how they feel. While their bleak mood and apparent lethargy may be frustrating as well as upsetting, showing exasperation or anger is unlikely to be helpful. It will not ‘jolt’ them out of their depression and instead could be likely to fuel even more feelings of guilt and or shame.
Try to detach yourself from the way they are acting and the effect that may have on their wider circle of family and friends. Instead remember it is part of their illness, and that the person you love and care for is still very much inside. Hopefully, by doing this, it will enable you, the carer, to connect with the sufferer, rather than become alienated from them.
The above are just a few examples that I hope can offer a form of positivity to your home environment, they have been taken from my book ‘Hope with Depression’, if you would like to find out more about helping a loved one with depression, the book is available from amazon and all major online retailers.
Stay safe, Stay Positive, Stay Home,