I had always assumed that I was naturally just a low-energy person who needed a lot of rest. Motivation was hard to come by, and even basic, everyday tasks like wiping down the bathroom sink, doing a load of laundry, or cooking a simple meal often felt overwhelming.
Eventually, I started suspecting that my lethargy might actually be a sign of depression. But I resisted seeing a therapist because I was terrified that my mental illness would define me if I put a name to it. So when I met Paul* when I was 21, I tried to keep my suspected depression under wraps. At first, the rush of being in a new relationship made it pretty easy to hide my symptoms. But as time went on, it got harder and harder to put on a happy face.
The façade really started to crumble once we moved in together six months into our relationship. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I had zero interest in doing everyday things together like going out to eat, taking walks, or going to the gym.
I knew I was boring to be around and Paul was starting to feel alone, but I was still scared to tell him that I might be depressed. I knew he wouldn’t break up with me over it, but I worried that he might see me as a burden or think that I was making up excuses for being lazy.
“I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, I was falling behind on work, and I started crying over trivial things.”
Then things started getting really bad. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, I was falling behind on work, and I started crying over trivial things like spilling a glass of water. One day we got into a fight because I hadn’t left the house in nearly a week. I finally broke down and said, “I think I’m really sick.”
I told Paul about my suspected depression—and that trying to hide my symptoms was mostly my attempt at convincing myself that nothing was wrong. Paul wanted to support me however he could. But he said that in order for our relationship to work, I had to get help. He made the phone calls for me and got me in to see a psychiatrist, which I was so grateful for. At that point, I don’t think I would’ve had the emotional strength to do it on my own. Knowing I wasn’t alone in this battle made all the difference.
“I began to realize that having depression is nothing to be ashamed of.”
My psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression and put me on medication. Paul would help me stay on track and remember to take my meds and even offered to come with me to my appointments. As the mental fog cleared, basic day-to-day functioning started to get easier.
I began to make some important realizations, like the fact that having depression is nothing to be ashamed of. This gave me the strength to tell my friends and family about my condition and start building a support network. None of that would have happened without Paul by my side.
Life wasn’t suddenly perfect, of course. There were still times when leaving the house would start to feel tough. But Paul would recognize that as a symptom of my depression and try to help me out of it. If I resisted, he’d give me some tough love by telling me, “Nope, sorry, you need to get out of the house today,” and push me to spend time with friends or get some exercise.
This might not work for everyone, but Paul knew that social interaction and working out were both crucial for my mental health. Ultimately, these nudges were reminders that he believed in me—and they helped me believe in myself.
Paul and I broke up when I was 23 for reasons unrelated to my depression, but opening up to him was the catalyst for getting my condition under control. Now, at 26, I still have rough days sometimes, but my depression is so much better than it was. I love my job as a managing editor for a Brazilian jiu-jitsu website, and I even have the energy to do freelance writing on the side.
“Telling my current partner about my depression was as easy as telling him my middle name.”
Best of all? I know that having a mental illness doesn’t define me as a person, and I’m able to be open about my condition. Telling my current partner about my depression was as easy as telling him my middle name. And when he asks what he can do to help, I can give him concrete answers instead of just shrugging my shoulders.
Talking about my depression for the first time wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. If you’re struggling with the same problem, find a time to sit down with your partner or a close friend or relative to share what you’re going through. Communicating is crucial for the health of any relationship—but more importantly, it just might be the thing you need to jumpstart your healing process.
*Not his real name
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