What’s It Like To Live With: A Partner With Depression
What It’s Like to Live With explores the stories of the loved ones living with and/or caring for people who see and experience every day a little differently.
My partner was diagnosed with depression five years ago, and we’ve been together 10 years. Since the diagnosis, no day has been the same. It has been challenging, yet fulfilling, because it’s shown me what I really am; it’s made me believe that I’m courageous, I have the ability to give without expecting anything in return, and that love is all about being selfless.
Often, people ask me, “Oh, but he’s not crying, or sitting in one corner at a party. He’s smiling and engaging in conversations — how can he be depressed?”
Initially, it used to make me angry, frustrated, and I used to cringe at people’s ignorance towards mental illnesses. But over time, I realized that it’s not really their fault — it’s the society we are living in that overlooks conditions like these.
Read more: Understanding Depression (With a Capital D)
My partner leads a normal life — he goes to work, attends parties, meets friends, watches movies, listens to music, goes for runs. But then, there are days that are just the opposite. He struggles to get out bed, but just can’t; he tries to distract himself, but every little thing is a trigger to send him into a downward spiral. And that’s when I know I have to skip work.
Fortunately, I’m a graphic designer with a firm that knows about my partner’s condition and is accommodating of it, so they let me take days off or work from home if there are urgent project deliveries. But there’s no way I’m leaving my partner alone, although he hasn’t ever been suicidal or spoken of it. Maybe my presence makes him feel comfortable, maybe it makes him feel that I’m intrusive. But my head tells me that I need to be with him, and hence, I don’t leave home.
Sometimes, there’ll be days when he’s low at work, or triggers set in in the middle of the day at work, so he’ll be careful enough to call me or let his colleagues know, so they’ll let me know, and I can come pick him up to take him home.
When he was first diagnosed with severe depression, my immediate thought was, is it because of me? Or will living with him make me depressed as well? Should I wait, or should I leave?
I sought a couple of counselling sessions myself and realized that I will be able to see him, and us, through this.
I’ve come a long way from telling him things like, “YOU need to snap out of it, distract YOURSELF, or look at the bright side.” Now it’s all about, “We’ll overcome this; let’s do this together. I understand what’s happening to you, and it’s completely all right, the way you feel.”
Yes, I’ve been angry about the disorder. There have been days when I’ve thought of him as too ungrateful and needy, feelings that my relationship needs are not met, frustrated by the lack of participation in chores at home, and feeling anxious about expressing my own feelings.
It took me some time to work on these. I had to come up with my own ways to dispel these feelings, so I joined dance classes, made it a point to watch at least one movie a week, expand my social circle and try to make him a part of it, but the choice is completely his. I try not to compromise on these unless there’s an emergency and he needs me to be home or around him.
However, the more difficult part is dealing with my parents. While his parents are very grateful that I’m with him to support him, my parents often worry about how it will affect me and how I may be ‘wasting’ my life. I’ve stopped bothering, I understand their concern, but I can’t be affected by it.
I’ve chosen to stay in this and I will for as long as I’m required.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Anubhuti Matta.