Happy Valentine’s Day, loves! Whether you’re single or in a relationship, I hope you’re showing yourself and your favorite people some extra love today.
In honor of this love-centric holiday, I figured it was high time to write a piece that’s been on my mind for a long time. Loving someone who has any kind of mental illness can be tricky, especially if you’re not someone who’s ever struggled with it. For today, I’m going to focus on the most common mental illness: depression.
Every person is different, but here are my basic guidelines for showing love to a person with depression, whether it’s a special occasion like V-Day or any regular old day.
Ask them what they want. This one can be hard, especially in a new relationship, but it’s so important. Grand gestures are great, but for someone who’s depressed they can be really overwhelming. When you’re planning something for a holiday, a simple question a few weeks out like, “Hey, how do you feel about surprises?” can make a big difference. The second, equally important, part of this is to listen to them. If they tell you they don’t want to go out or exchange gifts, surprising them with reservations at a fancy restaurant and an extravagant gift runs the risk of making them feel worse.
Do something to make their life easier. If you love someone with depression and you know they hate cleaning the kitchen, surprise them with a sparkling clean kitchen. Run errands for them. Clean the cat litter. Take their car in for an oil change. If it’s a new relationship/friendship and you don’t feel comfortable doing those things just yet, offer to cook dinner and clean up afterwards, or offer to help them do something you know they don’t enjoy. This may not seem super romantic, but a clean litter box and a fridge full of groceries shows me how much you love me way better than a bouquet of flowers.
Keep their limitations in mind when making plans. I know for some people, dressing up and going out somewhere fancy can help pull them out of a depressive episode, but this doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes the stress of having to shower and compose yourself enough to go out in public can be overwhelming and awful. If you know your significant other or friend is going through a depressive episode, skip the surprise this year, and let them be a part of the planning. Find a way to celebrate that doesn’t take so much energy that it’s draining. Go see a movie, eat somewhere casual, or make a fancy meal at home.
Help them with self-care. Do something that you know will help their mental health, whether it’s something big like a professional massage, or small, like prepping their lunches for the week or filling their prescriptions. If they’ve made a self-care list, that makes it even easier. Help them get the needs done and throw in some of the extras. It might not seem big and romantic, but I promise it will make a huge difference.
Remind them that your love is unconditional, and follow through. Depression sneaks in and tells you that no one really loves you, that everyone who tells you they love you is lying, and that everyone you love would be better off without you. Combat those nasty thoughts by telling your friend/partner/loved one that you will always love them, rain or shine, good days and bad, laughing or curled up on the bathroom floor sobbing. Say it and mean it. When they do have a bad day, make good on those promises and keep on loving them as loud as you can.