This time of year can be especially difficult for those who are prone to Depression. Lately, I’ve noticed an influx of clients who are really depressed and struggling with the cold, dreary days we’ve been experiencing. Whether it’s Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or both—it can be hard to function when the days are so short and gray.
Have you ever heard of a depressed house? It’s a household that has one or more people who struggle with Depression. When even one person in a house struggles with Depression, it changes the whole dynamic of a house. So how can you help your household?
When You Are the Depressed Person
Depression can look very different from person to person. For some, it truly is the inability to get out of bed and function. For others, it can show as apathy and indifference to things they normally care about. Some people even function “normally” (go to work/school) but just feel off. Sometimes it is extreme rage and irritability.
If you are the depressed person, know that it can be hard for your loved ones to watch you struggle. They want to help, but they often don’t know how. So how can you help yourself?
Make sure you are seeking out professional help. Challenge yourself to battle the Depression symptoms (For example, if your Depression symptoms involve over-sleeping, force yourself to get out of bed and take a shower. You’ll be surprised to see that it does make you feel a bit better). Make sure you are using a sunlamp or exposing yourself to sunlight for 20 minutes a day. Exercise and eat healthy. Use positive coping skills.
When Your Partner is Depressed
When a wife is depressed, it can be hard on her husband. Men, by nature, are fixers. They want to fix their wives so they can go back to functioning normally. This inability to help can leave a husband feeling helpless and hopeless. A husband may offer suggestions and advice to his wife, but it may fall on depressed ears.
Wives crave connection from their husbands. When your husband is depressed, all connection goes out the window. They may seem indifferent towards you or even shut you out. Intimacy is no longer achieved in any area of the marriage. Wives may become bitter and full of resentment.
If your partner is depressed, they cannot meet your needs. They can’t even meet their own needs.
How can you help them? Offer support and encouragement. Ask them to do things that would be good for them (like go for a walk together). Encourage them to seek professional help, and go with them if they ask you to. Don’t push or try the “tough love” approach. Don’t shame them. Go to counseling to help process how this is impacting you. Do take care of yourself.
When Your Parent is Depressed
It’s hard to live with a parent who is depressed. It can be difficult to not take it personally when they are withdrawn or checked out. Please know that this isn’t about you and that your parent is doing the best they can do. Depression causes people to act and behave in ways that they normally wouldn’t. So, if you notice mom or dad sleeping more, crying, displaying more anger, showing more sadness, and isolating more, it probably is Depression.
The best thing you can do if your parent is depressed is to take care of you. Keep doing your homework, get your chores done, and make good choices. As a kid, it’s not your job to help fix them or to make them feel better. All you can do is to continue to love them as you normally would. Your parent needs to take the steps necessary to take care of themselves, and there are plenty of adults who can help support them along the way.
When Your Child is Depressed
As a parent, it can be really, really hard to watch your child battle Depression. It’s natural to want to fix things for our children and take their pain away. Unfortunately, this is one area where you can’t fix it. However, you can take steps to get your child the help they need.
I think it’s really important for me to say this: Your child’s Depression is not about you and/or your parenting. It’s just not. So many parents take it personally when their child is depressed, almost like they did something to cause it. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, which is very common in teenagers as they go through puberty and experience hormone changes. According to Psych Central, around 20% of teens experience Depression, but only 30% of those teens get the help that they need.
Love your child, and support them as they battle Depression. Encourage them to get outside, exercise, eat healthily, and utilize healthy coping mechanisms.
The best thing you can do is to get them the professional help that they need. Understand that their counseling time needs to be about them and what they are struggling with.
How to Change Your Household
Open the blinds and let sunlight into the house. Open the windows and doors and breathe in some fresh air. Make sure that you are cooking healthy meals (nutrition is so important to Depression recovery). Do the dishes or the laundry. De-clutter any space that makes you feel overwhelmed or anxious. Set a timer for 5 minutes and pick up as much as you can. As silly as it sounds, anytime you battle your Depression and accomplish something, it will temporarily make you feel a bit better.
Make Depression a topic that is okay to talk about in your family. The more taboo it is, the more we perpetuate the mental health stigma. Model to your family that it’s okay to reach out for help.
For more information about Depression, check out the following resources:
National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.
Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.