I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder when I was seventeen.
Instinctually, I knew I was different. I knew the constant melancholy and sadness, the anger and anxiety were a part of something larger. I knew it wasn’t a phase. By the time I was twenty-two, I had tried various depression medications, and nothing worked. I thought therapy was bullshit, and I didn’t even give it a try. I just persevered.
But when you have depression, it’s not just you that it affects.
For years, depression dictated how I related to the world and to others. I was on a short fuse, and I was ready to blow. When I was twenty-seven, I decided to give medication another go. I went to the University of Washington’s student health services, and I was placed on medication.
At that point, I was suicidal. A new panic filled me; I had to get my depression under control. The medication worked wonders, but I still battled bouts of depression. This year impacted my recovery the most. The pandemic started, and I was fired from my job. My grades suffered, and I suffered. I stayed in bed for days at a time. I found no joy in the world around me.
Depression began taking a toll on my relationship.
My partner, who was stuck at home with me, saw first-hand how debilitating depression can be, and while he tried his best to comfort me, we were fighting all the time.
I resented him. His eagerness to explore the world and even just his ability to do the most menial tasks bothered me. Everything became an issue. We spent days at home in separate rooms. He would take care of the dog and cook all of our meals, but we never did anything together.
That’s when I realized that depression had the potential to ruin a 7-year relationship. And though I was in the throes of depression, I knew I had to do more.
Here’s how I saved myself and my relationship from depression.
1. I began seeing a therapist.
Therapy was never a consideration of mine. I held beliefs that it was hokey and that I could manage my depression on my own. The pandemic changed that. I had more time to consider my options, and I decided that seeing a therapist would help me work out my personal issues; the things I’d dumped on others, the stuff I tossed on my partner.
I began to see my therapist in June and it has helped tremendously. There are things we can’t begin to understand without a little professional help, like the underlying behaviors and experiences that shape who we are. Licensed therapists can help us discover the motivations behind our behavior and how to communicate with the world around us. Slowly, she reached out and pulled me above the waves I had been drowning in.
I saw a change in my everyday behavior — I wanted to do more. I wanted to go outside, bake, paint, and write. What’s more, I began communicating in a much more open way — and I started talking to my partner again.
2. I began communicating my needs.
I have never been a good communicator. Typically, I let people walk all over me. I let others decide what is best. And I avoided conflict as much as possible. This left me feeling suffocated. I felt like I belonged to others and didn’t get to have my needs.
Seeing a therapist changed that for me. She taught me how to communicate openly without fear. There is always the possibility that people will not agree with your needs, but you have to try. Personally, I never tried.
So I started talking openly with my partner about my depression and what it led me to do. I spoke to him about the sadness and anger I felt. I spoke to him about the resentment that I harbored for a long time. And I asked him for sensitivity and help. He was patient and kind. He listened to everything I said, and when he didn’t understand something, he asked. We were enjoying each other again.
3. I asked for help.
On the days where everything felt like too much, I asked for help. It was little things I needed help with — getting out of bed and having food. I needed a push to exercise or socialize. My partner stood by me through all of it. He was an absolute angel. Whenever I needed him, he was right there waiting for me.
4. I set boundaries.
Something that I was lacking was personal boundaries. Though I was communicating in other ways, I was still sad when it came to dealing with others. I felt that I wasn’t allowed to do what I wanted or speak my mind, so I created a personal bill of rights with my therapist. For example, we wrote, “I have the right to ask for what I want” and “I have the right to express all of my feelings.” As I discovered, boundaries are healthy and can change your relationships with others for the better.
I created respectful and caring relationships with those in my inner circle, including my partner. By clearly telling him what my boundaries were and encouraging him to create his own, our relationship grew, and we cultivated compassion that we had been missing.
5. I went outdoors.
Depression makes everything seem ten times harder, especially participating in activities. I was used to lying in bed or sitting on the couch. I never did anything. That changed. I allowed my partner to encourage and help me get active.
We began going on long, long walks. We’d walk for miles, talking all the while. We were close again — best friends again. Walks gave way to visits with our friends, which gave way to other outdoor activities.
We began camping, something I’d never done. I was excited to do it too. Sitting out in nature with two of our closest pals, I felt a peace I had never known. The conversations, campfire, and trees made me feel alive in a way I hadn’t experienced in years. It was what I needed to get out of my rut. Nowadays, I am happier.
While I still struggle, I have the tools necessary to fight.
My relationship with my partner was on the brink of failure, now we’re stronger than ever.
If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text “HELLO” to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.