Since I’ve spent the past few years with my significant other (SO) in this stay-at-home COVID world, I have learned to read their emotions, feelings, and cues to a T. I know exactly when they are feeling happy, stressed, confused, annoyed, sad, tired, etc. I also know when something triggers them, but sometimes I don’t know exactly what it is.
“Are you mad at me?” This is the question I was constantly asking my SO before learning about their depression. I wasn’t trying to be selfish but it felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt like I was the trigger. I’m the type of person that likes to talk about a problem immediately before it spirals out of control. But every time I would get the same answer, “I’m not mad at you. Stop asking that.” This situation was happening more frequently than usual and would escalate into a fight with each additional time I asked (sometimes I couldn’t help but ask). I wanted to give our relationship the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe we are just spending too much time together (aka COVID-quarantining in a small one bedroom). But after much thought and observation, I noticed that there was something else going on. I reflected on the signs my SO was giving me and knew it was time to have a discussion with them.
Here are five of the biggest traits I noticed in my SO right before they were diagnosed with depression:
- They are irritable on a daily basis
I’m not talking about the “I didn’t get my coffee this morning” irritable. I’m talking about the kind that anything could trigger them and their anger spirals out of control immediately.
- They do not want to do anything
They are showing no signs of interest in any activity, no matter how hard you try to get them excited. They barely even (or not at all) get out of bed in the morning and get dressed.
- They are hopeless
They are negative about everything in their life and are unable to create future goals because “it doesn’t matter.”
- They cope in unhealthy ways
They have a coping mechanism that takes away the pain temporarily, which you may think is a good thing, but usually it isn’t healthy.
- They say comments that allude to them not wanting to be alive
They don’t say direct comments that allude to suicide, but rather things like, “What’s the point?” “Why does it even matter?” “I’m just surviving.” “No one understands.”
Mental health is incredibly important. There are things you can do to help, even if you are starting to feel hopeless.
- Give Them 3 Options: Talk, Distraction, or Space
There may be times where they don’t want to talk to anyone or do anything, but try asking if they want to: 1) Talk about how they’re feeling (without you giving your input), 2) Distraction (going to their favorite place), 3) Give them space (make sure to follow up with them in a timely manner).
- Surprise them with something they enjoy
If #1 doesn’t work, maybe try surprising them with something they’ve enjoyed in the past. Obviously, don’t force them to participate, but they may enjoy a surprise and the effort you put into it. Some examples include: movie night, a home cooked meal (or takeout), or even taking them out for a drive.
- Tell them you’re there for them
Let them know how much you care about their mental health/wellbeing and how you will be here when they need someone or want to talk about it.
- Get them help
If you are starting to feel hopeless and things don’t seem to be getting better, seek help. Try to compile and share resources in your area. You could even get in touch with a mental health specialist and present them with the option. Tell them you care and just want to help. Find your state’s mental health resources at https://nami.org/Home.
Mental health is a serious topic and must not be swept under the rug. If you, your SO, friend, parent, neighbor, etc. are showing signs of depression, be there for them, present them with useful resources, and take that extra step to help them get better. They will appreciate you more than you can imagine.
“There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.”