A while ago I asked my Instagram followers if there was anything they wanted to see here on Blue Jay of Happiness. One of the ideas that came through was ‘how to deal with anxiety and depression in relationships’, something I’d had in the back of my mind to write about.
I took this as the sign to get on and write it, but realised in order to do this, I would need Dan’s input. I’ve touched on Dan’s mental health before on Instagram, but never really here. He has depression and anxiety, and is currently having counselling and taking medication.
While these are certainly helping, they’re illnesses he has to navigate daily and of course, they have an impact on our relationship. My anxiety also plays a role. While I would say it affects me less, there are definitely days when I need Dan to hold me up.
Things can get tricky when we’re both struggling at the same time and I would be lying if I said we never got frustrated with each other.
But after the frustration and occasional snapping at each other comes the communication. We get to the root of the frustration, pulling it up to examine and then throwing it over our shoulders so we can plant something new – understanding.
Because that’s the key ingredient here. Understanding why we sometimes behave the way we do and understanding how our mental health affects us is so important. It doesn’t make everything better, but it helps.
I thought it might be helpful for you to hear Dan’s side of things in terms of mental health and our relationship, so I asked him a few questions.
What do you find most difficult about anxiety/depression when it comes to our relationship?
When I allow my thoughts, feelings and mood to affect the time I spend with you. Whether I get a bit snappy at times or I don’t speak up enough to let you know that I’m feeling overwhelmed.
It’s very easy for me to put guilt, shame and worry on myself because of how I may have affected your feelings or your day because of my actions which just leads to my thoughts spiralling into panic and self-hate. It hurts because I know that speaking up, sharing and showing you love will help, but in those hardest moments I feel paralysed.
One of the things that hurts the most is that in moments of high anxiety and depression it becomes difficult to get myself out of it, so I can’t give you love and support at times when you need it. As someone who cares about you very deeply, I only ever want to help and not hurt.
Paying attention to my body. Usually my body feels it before my mind has quite clocked on to what’s happening, whether that’s the start of an anxiety attack or having a particularly down day.
Talking things out helps too, letting you know that I’m having a bad day or feeling on edge to help you understand where I’m at. Spending time in my own space, explaining that I need to lay down for a little while. For me listening to music and being creative are my comfort zones as I feel like I can express myself and have my emotions met on that level also.
There is a time and place for alone time as well – it gives me room to recharge my batteries when my head feels too overwhelmed to fully explain how I feel.
Sometimes when I feel a little lighter, I’ll get a little gift for you, just to let you know that I’m thinking of you and that I love you. It may only be a small bar of chocolate (although, I know you love chocolate), it’s the little things.
Is there anything I do that helps?
Taking the time to listen to me and understand what I’m feeling. Showing me love and care, giving me a hug, letting me know that I’m safe and cared for.
Physical contact really helps a lot as it just gives me that little comfort barrier, letting me know that things are okay.
Letting me know when I’ve done something or said something that has upset you. It can be easy to get caught up in my thoughts and feelings to the point where I don’t even realise that I’ve been quite snappy. When I hear it, it lets me know where your feelings are and it enables me to understand you too. This leads to us both understanding each other a bit more also.
You’re great at getting things planned in like date nights and movies or finding a series on Netflix for us to enjoy together. These little things help take me out of my head a little and allow us to enjoy something together. It also gives me things to look forward to when I find it difficult to do things for myself.
What advice would you give to someone struggling with anxiety/depression in terms of relationships?
Be honest, open and vulnerable with your partner. Give them time to understand what you’re going through and take time to explain to them how you’re feeling and what might be the cause of those feelings.
Even if you don’t know how to express it yet, try your best to explain in any means that you can, even if it means finding external things that help explain, like articles, songs or even a movie. While your thoughts and feelings are buzzing, they might be able to make a bit of sense of it.
If things feel too much, take a step out, explain that you need a breather or need a bit of space to collect your feelings, there’s no shame and harm in that – especially if it can help you explain.
If you’ve upset your partner, take the time to listen to them, their feelings are valid too, as are yours completely. Hearing each other on an equal level will allow you both to be heard within the relationship.
Sometimes you’ll fight or snap at each other, that’s only natural, just know that it’s okay and that you are not the worst human being. Actually, you are so far from it. Being able to accept and share how you’re truly feeling is one of the most brave and vulnerable things you could do in a relationship and could lead to you feeling closer because of it.
Spend time with each other, set up date nights (or evenings if it’s too hard doing full days) – anything to enable you and your partner to feel closer in hard times.
Can we all take a second to appreciate how damn wise Dan is? I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to be with him.
And if I could give any parting advice to any readers in a relationship with someone suffering from depression and anxiety, it would be to do all that you can to understand what they need from you.
One of the best things I’ve done in our relationship was to ask Dan what he needs from me when he’s overwhelmed. His answer? A hug. There I was, trying to talk him into a calmer state of mind, when all he needed was a hug.
And finally – remember that you cannot make them better. You can support them, be there for them and love them, but ultimately mental health is an inside job. Please don’t take their low mood to be a reflection of you or your relationship.
I hope this was useful and if you have any other questions on the topic, please feel free to leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you. Mental health can be a mutha fucker, but if you keep talking, keep listening and keep trying, it’ll get better.
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