A few disclaimers: I am not a mental health expert. This article is strictly based on my personal experience. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, I have listed resources at the end of this article that could be beneficial. Also, it is never okay to disclose someone else's mental illness without their consent. My partner has read and consented to this article before it was published.
Two and a half years ago I met the love of my life. And two and a half years ago I met his depression. Andrew had been very upfront with me from the beginning about his mental illness which he had been struggling with for long before we had even met. I knew I was interested in pursuing a relationship with him even though I didn't fully understand his depression. But other the years I've educated myself and try to help Andrew in any and every way that I can. Although I'm not an expert and still honestly not the best in calming him down in stressful situations, I'd like to think that I've improved since we first met and there's a lot that I have learned, and honestly still learning, that I'd like to share.
1.You can't fix it or make it go away.
One of my biggest struggles especially in the beginning was understanding that Andrew's mental illness has absolutely nothing to do with me. I thought that maybe if I just loved him a little more or gave him more of my attention or tried to find the root of the issue, then his depression would somehow just go away. I'm here to tell you that's not how that works. Looking back, when I was thinking that I wasn't educated on how to approach the topic with Andrew so I just never brought up how I could support and help him. I love Andrew with every fiber of my being and with every cell in my body. Loving him more wouldn't have made his depression go away.
2. You can't sacrifice your mental health for your partner's/friend's/family member's mental health.
Drowning people can't help drowning people. And it's hard. It's hard to know where that line is of wanting so desperately to help your loved one and knowing when it'll start to become too much for you. Your loved one won't be able to tell you where that line is. You have to figure it out yourself.
3. Don't take it personally.
This one seems simple but if you're in a romantic relationship it's hard not to take some things personally. It's hard to not feel a tiny bit disappointed when their smile isn't as big as yours in your new Instagram picture. Sometimes they may not want to cuddle with you or be touched. There could be days when they don't feel like talking and answer your novel of a text with one-word answers. And it is really hard not to take those things personally. In the beginning, I was so worried and anxious I had said or did something wrong and he was upset with me, but it was just because he didn't feel like talking.
4. Be a supporter, not a fixer.
This is one I'm still working on. It's hard to see someone you love so much hurting and it's even harder knowing that you can't take that away or fix the situation. But, that it isn't your job to fix one-word. It's your job to be the support system. To cheer them on from the sidelines not to band-aid their issues. To take them to a therapist not be their therapist. You have to learn when to take a step back and realize that you are not equipped to handle this on your own.
Relationships are already tricky sometimes. Throw in a mental illness, long distance, and college and that makes it even more tricky. Being in a relationship with someone takes patience, understanding, education and healthy boundaries. Although I'm not an expert and honestly still trying to educate myself more, I hope my perspective helps whoever is out there reading this.
Mental Health Resources:
Emergency Medical Services 911
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 (1-800-273-8255)
National Alliance on Mental Health (1-800-950-6264)
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline (1-877-726-4727)