Dating a depressed person can be a challenge in and of itself, but being on the other end of the spectrum as the person suffering from depression can be even more so. People tend to stigmatize what they don’t understand, and unfortunately, widespread education on mental illness and how it affects people isn’t always readily available. Here are six tips for dating when you’re the one suffering from depression.
- Make Mental Health Your Priority
If you’re suffering from a mental health condition like depression, your number one priority should be your own mental health. This may mean no dating at all. Sometimes, you just don’t have the mental energy or resources to give yourself to someone else. A fulfilling relationship requires a lot of work, trust, and emotional effort. If you’re battling depression, this may not even be possible for you.
That’s not to say don’t ever date if you’re depressed; we’re simply saying that your mental health should come even before the relationship. For example, if you’re suffering from a depressive episode and you were supposed to have a date that same night, focus on making through your episode instead of going on the date. Your mental health will have a major impact on your entire life, not just your relationships. Put mental health first.
- Don’t Use Your Significant Other as a Crutch
Sometimes, those suffering from depression or other mental health conditions end up using their significant other as a “crutch” of sorts; where they feel like they couldn’t do anything without their boyfriend or girlfriend. This type of behavior not only creates an unhealthy dependency that can explode into further depression or exacerbation of mental illness in the event of a breakup, but it can also put extra weight on the significant other. While you should expect some level of support from your partner, they certainly can’t be expected to dedicate all of their time and effort to helping you get better.
This can be difficult to avoid in some cases, especially with a very supportive partner. That’s why it’s so important to set boundaries early on in the relationship. Communicate with your partner when you’ll like need support, and when you can usually manage on your own. If your partner contacts a counselor or other mental health professional on your behalf, don’t see it as a breach of trust; they just want to help.
- Keep People Informed About Symptoms and What to Expect
Open communication includes explaining your symptoms to your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you know that you tend to get angry and lash out at times, let them know at the beginning of the relationship. This can be a frightening encounter for someone who’s unfamiliar with the symptom, so you’ll want them to know early on what they should expect in terms of behavior.
- Seek Help if You Are Thinking About Self-Harm
Self-harm and suicide are both, unfortunately, on the rise in the United States. Although depression is not the only cause of both of these harmful practices, it’s certainly a leading cause. There are plenty of misconceptions about suicide, but one thing is for certain; the death of a loved one by suicide is destructive, painful, and often leaves a wake of misunderstanding and unanswered questions that loved ones struggle to cope with.
If you’re thinking about suicide or self-harm, it’s important not only for your own safety, but also for the sake of your significant other and your family to seek out professional help.
- Let People Know Beforehand
If you’re dating with depression, this should be something that you tell a potential boyfriend or girlfriend before you start to get serious. Hiding your illness or downplaying its severity is not only being dishonest (which isn’t a great start to a relationship) but it can also be frightening for your new friend when symptoms begin to arise.
Be honest about your illness. If you’re seeking treatment and undergoing a recovery process, let them know this as well. Let’s be honest here; if you tell a potential boyfriend or girlfriend about your illness with complete transparency, and they’re not interested in you any longer, they probably weren’t right for you anyway.
- Understand They May Not Understand
One of the hardest facts to come to terms with when you’re dating with depression is that some people may simply not understand your illness or what it entails. Depression can be a challenging thing to cope with, even if you’re not the one afflicted by it. If you’ve ever tried to reason with a person suffering from depression and considering suicide, you’ll know exactly how emotionally taxing it can be.
There’s a lot of stigma with a condition like depression, and, unfortunately, not everyone has access to or even the desire for education on the subject. Understand that some people may simply not understand and won’t want to seek out a relationship with you, and that’s ok. The right person for your situation will be caring, compassionate, supportive, and most of all, empathetic to your situation. Dating someone who doesn’t understand your condition can only mean potential conflict later on. It’s better to avoid such individuals if they’re unopen to learning more about depression and mental health.
Dating can be tough, even without the addition of mental illness to the mix; but it’s not impossible. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the right person for you will take time to understand your illness and your symptoms.