Strategies for living with a Depressed Loved One
Strategies for living with a Depressed Loved One
Living with a depressed family member is full of challenges; some people feel cheated by the changes in their loved one’s actions and attitudes, others feel heartbroken and many become emotionally disconnected, eventually fracturing the relationship. As a relationship and crisis counsellor, I’ve helped many couples and individuals whose lives were impacted by depression… and I’ve witnessed many clients recover from depression.
What are the signs of a depressed spouse or family member?
These sentiments are common. While the contributing factors in depression vary from person to person, the way depression appears ‘from the outside’ is strikingly similar.
How does it feel to have depression?
In most cases, unresolved grief and loss is at the core of depression. For men, it is often a loss of a relative or friend, job loss, or loss of a healthy status in the primary relationship. For women, it is often a loss of a child, miscarriage, feeling trapped in the primary relationship, or not following their passions. For children, it is often the loss of autonomy; feeling as though they are powerless, and have little choices in life, combined with negative thinking and emotional overwhelm. For everyone, depression can lead to a feeling of no hope, which is a major contributing factor in suicidal thinking.
The depressed person lives in the shadows of self-condemnation, anger and frustration. As they over-focus on their defeats and weaknesses, causing their self-esteem to plummet, they compare themselves with others unfavorably – adding more bricks to the wall of isolation around them. This anger at life eventually points inwards, and prior goals seem unattainable. They often become pressured by most obligations, leaving them feeling ‘stuck’, struggling to make decisions, and fearful of the future. Many people with depression also suffer anxiety as well.
What are some of the side effects of depression?
All these habitual negative, repetitive thoughts create an avalanche of sad emotions, impacting the body. As depression sets in, restless sleep, reduced sex drive, appetite changes, aches and pains, and fatigue, are common place. Feeling numb and disassociated from life, it is common to hear a depressed person say, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’ and ‘I don’t know what I want.’ The motivation is greatly impacted, leading to a greater sense of hopelessness, and self-dislike.
Strategies for living with a Depressed Loved One spouse or family member?
I have a tool in my 2nd book, Are You Listening? Life is Talking to You, that I encourage you to use, called The Crisis/ Life Balance Wheel.
Ask yourself the following questions about your loved one (related to 8 vital areas):
2. Self Esteem (Do they have strong self-esteem?)
3. Past Grief and Loss (Are they frequently emotional over a past loss or physical or emotional trauma?)
4. Emotions (Are their emotions mostly positive or negative?)
5. Brain Chemistry (Are they eating well and exercising at least 3 times weekly to improve brain neurotransmitters?)
6. Support Networks (Do they have friends they regularly socialize with?)
7. Passions (Are they regularly enjoying passions/hobbies?)
8. Lifestyle/Career (Do they enjoy their daily activities and are they suffering any financial stress?).
When using this Crisis/Life Balance Wheel for assessment, I ask the client to give me a Coping/Not Coping, response, which I translate to tick or a cross. (In my book, I offer strategies for these eight vital areas). When working with depression, It’s all about firstly identifying, then strengthening, areas where a person is not coping well.
What are the signs of suicidal thinking?
How medicine and therapy can help?
So, does depression cause the imbalance in these neurotransmitters, which has a negative impact on the person’s life OR does the life imbalance cause the imbalance in the neurotransmitters, which causes the depression? It is very much like the chicken and the egg – which came first?
Your doctor can assist with antidepressant medication, which often works well in improving the balance of neurotransmitters. However, we need to work on two levels:
1. Keep these brain chemistry levels correct.
2. Equip the depressed loved one with strategies for better coping with their relationships and life.
Many of my hundreds of counselling sessions have involved a client with depression. When you know what to look for, what to avoid, and how to help yourself, you can make a huge change in your own, and your loved one’s life. If your loved one has depression, they are drowning…so give them a life line by being supporting, loving, and empathetic, and guide them to get help.
Keep talking, keep listening and keep the connection strong between you and your loved one. Now that you know more about what your loved one is going through, and that depression is an illness, not a choice, this should help you remain empathetic. With therapeutic strategies, lots of love, hope, and support, you should be able to help your loved one improve their life balance, so they can become connected to you, and life, again… which is the direct opposite of depression.
Phoebe Hutchison, is the author of Are You Listening? Life Is Talking to You and Honeymooners Forever: Twelve Step Marriage Survival Guide. She has worked extensively as a qualified counsellor with couples and clients in crisis in Victoria, Australia, and is excited to share her strategies with a wider audience.
Marriage advice Improve Communication, stop fighting, fall in love again, Save our marriage
Marriage advice Improve Communication
Just because you’re struggling in your marriage doesn’t mean you give up on it. Phoebe Hutchison tells you how you can bring back the spark in your relationship
- Identify the issues
- Set goals
- Implement strategies
Relationship issues can quickly become complicated, causing frustration through lack of insight. Many couples try, but feel as though they can’t ‘fix’ the relationship so they emotionally disconnect or, in some cases, separate. This crisis time, however, is ideal for a thorough assessment. If you need help, here’s how to put your relationship under the spotlight.
1 Identify the issues in your marriage:
2 Set goals:
3 Implement strategies:
The 30 minute rule
Treat your partner like a lover—not a spouse
Stop finding fault and start praising
Manage conflict better
Calm Down: Don’t have discussions when you are feeling infuriated and your blood is boiling. Wait until you cool down and schedule a meeting.
Before Sleep: Have this meeting before you go to sleep [as sleeping with inflamed emotions will only aggravate the situation].
No Distractions: Conduct this meeting in a quiet place with no distractions. You may use a writing pad as you both take turns in speaking and listening.
Compliment at Start /End: Use the ‘Positive Sandwich Technique’, first, befire you start. Ie. Open and end the conversation, with a nice compliment. This is usually conducted by the person who initiates the conversation / ‘mini meeting’.
Use ‘I’ statements: Discuss the issues in a direct manner. Use assertiveness techniques, by stating needs, wants and feelings from the “I” stance, such as: “I need…” “I want…” or “I feel…” Do not blame your spouse. For example, instead of saying: “You make me feel lonely” or “You’re always working,” you could say, “I feel lonely” or “I need quality time with you.” In family therapy, direct communication is the most effective… so become direct.
Take Turns: Use a business card, tea coaster, or small token to indicate that ONE person talks at a time, then take turns holding this, passing to your partner, to ensure listening skills are at your best. The person with the ‘token’ has the opportunity to speak, while the other listens.
Remain Calm: Keep the feeling neutral. Do not yell, swear, storm out or become aggressive. Only argue when calm, to avoid nasty words / aggression you may later regret.
The Aim: To have a win/win, but you may settle for compromise. Not all conversations/mini meetings will end with win/win. This is your chance for collaboration. First points are mentioned, then either party discusses their opinion, then a new goal is achieved after much brainstorming.
You may need a little extra help assessing your relationship from either a self-help book or a relationship counsellor, to help you identify areas for improvement, set your goals and learn new relationship strategies. Using simple strategies works best to keep your marriage growing. Transforming a relationship from unhappy to blissful is achieved one day at a time, one positive thought at a time, with one interaction at a time! Don’t give up on love. Relationships are hard work, but when you know what to work on, this ‘work’ will be a lot of fun!
Marriage counselling Inside a session, Save our marriage, Marriage book, Separated almost over.
Phoebe Hutchison Founder PLP
Author / Counsellor / Public Speaker
What are your issues?
Are you in safe?
What are your communication patterns?
We lookout for any of these ten patterns.
- The Competitive couple
- The Fight over Facts couple
- The Dominating versus the Submissive partner
- The Flip couple (He is emotionally needy, and she is logical/feeling smothered)
- The Emotionally Distant partner (one partner is only there in body, not mind)
- The Cat and Dog couple (Highly argumentative couple)
- Triangulation (Two people against one, such as parent and child against the other partner)
- The Grieving partner (who may either withdraw, or become frequently angered)
- One partner puts children first, other partner withdraws,
Or The Spontaneous versus The Highly Structured partner.
We establish who has resentment, and who would benefit with assertiveness training.
Often deep subconscious work, such as Brainspotting, works well in correcting long term ‘mental blocks’ such as avoiding conflict
How do you argue?
What was your childhood like?
What are your relationship goals?
We use Solution Focused Therapy to establish your goals for therapy. If we waved a magic wand over your relationship, and you woke tomorrow and your relationship was exactly as you want, how would it be, different to how it is today? What would the differences be? This forms your goal. When asked this question, many clients say, ‘To be happy.’ Others want ‘fireworks’, and say, ‘To have romance, dating, and to fall in love again.’ Many clients simply want, ‘Peace. To get along well’. Clear goals are vital to relationship success.
Why is homework so vital?
What do I promise?
Why are we so passionate about saving marriages? Phoebe saved her own failing marriage twenty years ago, and we have been saving marriages ever since. Thousands of relationships have been healed and transformed using the Honeymooners Forever Strategy, and there is no reason why yours should be any different.