How to Take Care of Yourself When Your Partner Suffers From Depression

"Self-care" sounds like something we should all be putting on our to-do lists, right? But it's easy to struggle to figure out how exactly it fits into the daily grind. Still, if you have a partner who is suffering from depression, learning how to practice self-care is what could actually help your relationship and your emotional well-being.

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Being the partner of someone who struggles with depression -- or anxiety or both -- is a big job. You've got to try to be emotionally strong for your partner, all the while getting minimal support in return. 

Much like with the airline plastic oxygen mask, you've got to secure yourself before you can assist anyone else. It's the same idea for caring for yourself when your partner is depressed or anxious. You're no good to them or anyone else until you make sure you're going to be all right too.

That said, one woman's self-care can easily become another's chore. The trick about self-care is taking a long, hard look at your own needs and figuring out a way to address those, according to relationship expert Carla Marie Greco Manly, PhD.

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"Truly beneficial self-care is a highly individual matter," she says. "In essence, good self-care involves determining a person's unique needs and then instituting a regimen that offers gentle support."

Get that? Gentle support. Not the aggressive, manic, "this is the time I've scheduled to care for myself so I better hurry up and get that done so I can move onto my next chore" stuff.

And be honest with yourself about what your needs actually are.

For instance, your friend's ultimate self-care secret might be her daily yoga class.

But maybe farting through a downward dog sounds terrible to you. You might want nothing more than a long, hot bath in the evenings for some peace and quiet. Or maybe you just need someone to listen to you for a change.

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Then, seek out more support, go for a walk with a friend who's willing to listen, or commit to therapy sessions on your own. Go to church, kick some butt at the gym, watch trashy TV, whatever your little heart desires.

Oh, and your needs are going to change, so be open to finding new ways to care for yourself. Self-care should be a pleasure and offer you something essential.

"A truly important aspect of self-care is learning to craft and tailor the menu of self-care options to ensure good follow-through," Manly advises.

It might sound funny or even completely self-indulgent at first to spend so much time thinking about yourself. That's how you know it's working.

See, a depressed or anxious partner likely takes up most of the relationship bandwidth. But you, as the "well" spouse, can't give your entire life over to the illness. Building some time in that's just for you is one way of staying in the fight.

Now, go take care of yourself.

 

Image via mimma/Flickr

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