*This post was originally published Februrary, 3, 2016.
In England one in four people will suffer from a mental illness in any given year, and depression is one of those illnesses. It can leave people feeling debilitated and consumed in despair and those living with a sufferer lost and confused – though we rarely hear their stories. Here I reveal my own experience with depression and chat with my partner Tom about its effects on him.
I have suffered with depression and other mental illnesses for the past 13 years. Through my experience I have learnt how to self-manage with tools for wellness and a good routine. There are times where I find myself once again consumed by my depression, at those moments I am unpredictable and often hostile. Switching between hysterical crying and angry outbursts to days of silence and nothingness, it is safe to say I am not always an easy person to live with.
Communication is a big problem for those who suffer with depression and those around them. Mental illness can often feel like the elephant in the room with everyone too scared to discuss it. This needs to change – we need to learn to talk to one another openly and freely in order to combat mental health and the stigma that comes with it. To mark #TimeToTalkDay this February, 3, 2016, I decided to follow this advice and ask my partner Tom on how my illness affects him.
We sit down, cup of tea in hand, both with a tentative look in our eyes, both nervous about how the other will react. I’m the talkative one, the one who wears my heart on my sleeve. Tom isn’t. He’s quiet and keeps his emotions and feelings tightly locked up. It takes time to find out the source of his worries or feelings and even then he doesn’t like discussing them.
Because of this my emotions often take centre stage whilst he quietly sinks into the shadows. That sounds incredibly selfish, but it isn’t purposefully done. As a depressive I can find myself suffering huge amounts of self-doubt and feeling like a failure when this happens I know my depression can have a negative effect on my partner.
So what does it feel like for him?
“I know when you’ve had a particularly stressed or emotional day,” he says. “This can often trigger a low mood, so I find myself being extra positive and lenient. I try to be really happy and even let you have your own way more.
“I don’t want to say the wrong thing and make things worse for you. But it sometimes means I can’t be honest with how I feel or what frame of mind I am in.
“We are sarcastic to one another all the time and happily tease one another, but if you have arrived home upset or annoyed I sometimes find myself walking on egg-shells not knowing how you’ll react to what I say. It’s frustrating. It’s hard to discuss my own feelings and worries because my focus is on helping you, so my emotions get put on the back burner. I think we are both too scared to upset the other which can affect our communication.
“I wouldn’t say your depression has a direct effect on my mental health but at times it can be hard. If I’ve had a rubbish day and I just want to come home and tell you all about it, but you’re also suffering a low episode, then I find myself having to pick you up before I can just relax and reflect on my day, which can be stressful and cause tension.
“It is hardest when you are at your lowest, your self-loathing in those moments is hard to combat. It’s difficult to witness you destruct whilst I do my best to help you. Initially I would feel guilty thinking I was making you unhappy, but I know that isn’t true. Your mental illness isn’t you and as much as we have bad times we also have amazing ones.
“I have never felt obligated to stay, or even wanted to run away. I have stayed because I want to.”
*Article first published here.