My boyfriend and I sat next to each other on the couch, both staring absently at whatever was on the TV. Neither of us was paying any attention. We lived with depression and today was one of those days for both of us. I sat thinking about the rock in my stomach and the all-consuming feeling of everything not being okay. I looked at him and the look of exhaustion and defeat on his face broke my heart. I stood up and went to the bedroom of our apartment, closing the door behind me. The moment the lock clicked I fell to the floor, sobbing as silently as I could into my hands. Normally we pride ourselves on our communication skills, but this was different. Depression was so isolating. I wanted to reach him and I wanted him to reach me, but neither of us knew how. So we suffered quietly and separately to avoid adding our own troubles to each other’s.
The distance was heartbreaking some days. I watched this person I love so much suffer next to me and had no idea how to reach him. I wondered if my own depression was to blame. Maybe I could get through to him if I wasn’t so preoccupied with my own bleak perspective. As a recovering doormat, I had been working so hard to make my own needs a priority. I just didn’t know what was right — to put my needs aside for the sake of being a good partner, or to do what I needed to do for myself and check in with him when I had the emotional energy to do so. I didn’t know how to be what we both needed.
“I’m just so fucking sad, dude.”
We finally had the first of many necessary conversations one day weeks later, when he asked me why I was crying. I cried most days, and usually I would tell him what was bothering me that day, specifically. But this time I really got into it. I told him that every day feels like fighting a losing battle. I told him about the constant weight of dread and defeat. I told him I felt lost because I honestly didn’t expect to live long enough to need a plan in life. I just let it all out. He listened. When I finished, he simply said, “I get it. I feel all that too.” I said that I know, that I could see it in him. We talked for three hours about our experiences and how we wanted to be comforted or have the other reach out. He told me that he often doesn’t want to talk about how he was feeling, but still would like for me to ask. I said that I do like to talk, but never feel better until after I have a giant, ugly cry. And most importantly, we began to plan for the times when our worst days would sync up.
We didn’t go over everything that day, but we opened a door that has allowed us to grow together in a way we couldn’t before. Now when it comes to our mental health, we work very hard to communicate clearly and as consistently as possible. We learn more about how each other copes every day. On my worst days he makes me dinner, runs me a bath and makes sure our home is calm and quiet. On his bad days I ask him to go to the park with me and play catch for a while. But honestly, the biggest thing we have learned is to just ask each other, “How are you doing?” every single day. It sounds so simple, but breaking down that wall and agreeing that it’s okay to not be okay was a huge step. Some days we are fine and say so, but on bad days it gives us the chance to talk about how we’re feeling before it swallows us whole.
I always preach pro-activity when it comes to mental health management, but it comes with an even bigger learning curve when it has to be a group effort. I wouldn’t say I’m thankful for my depression, but I do feel incredibly grateful to have a partner who is dedicated to taking both of our mental health seriously. Now we talk daily about how our brains are feeling. There are still times when our bad days align and we aren’t very available to each other, but now the support is implied and understood, no matter what kind of day it is.
Summer is a 23 year old freelance writer specializing in mental and physical health. She is in the process of building her own website to host a community dedicated to all kinds of wellness.