|Depression & Intimacy
Dear Dr. Ava
Q & A, Single Women
by Dr. Ava Cadell
Depression & Intimacy
Question: I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression about five years ago. It comes and goes, but has become progressively worse over the past year. Currently, I am dating a guy that has been with me for three years and he wants me to move in with him and has even talked about marriage, but I’m afraid to commit because he’ll see just how out of control my depression really is. Whenever I’m with him, I put on a happy face and I really do love him. He’s so good to me and genuinely cares for me but sometimes I wonder if I deserve such a fantastic guy. I don’t want to disappoint him and I often think that he deserves someone better than me. People who don't struggle with depression just don't understand what it's like and I have told him that I do get depressed sometimes. He holds me, strokes my hair and tells me that everything is going to be alright. At moments like that I feel happier but it doesn’t last for very long. I’ve seen counselors in the past and I am taking antidepressants daily. I eat well and sleep well but I wake up feeling really sorry for myself. Do you have any statistics on how common depression really is and what is your advice for helping a relationship when you suffer from depression? I really appreciate your time and look forward to reading your response because it means so much to me that I can communicate with someone about my feelings.
You are not alone; over 20 million Americans suffer from depression. Because it affects the entire body mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually, it’s no wonder that someone suffering from depression can feel so isolated, even when they have a loving partner. Often deprived of sleep and drained of energy, their daily regiment is disrupted and the depression infiltrates all facets of their life including work, family, friends, and relationships. The sufferer may feel so withdrawn that they don’t even notice when their loved one is paying special attention to them. And that partner can suddenly feel helpless and unloved. Many depressed people do lose interest in sex while there are some who find that sex is the only thing that makes them feel better. If you or a loved one has depression, just know that it’s normal to feel and act unhappy.
Many things can trigger feelings of depression like pain, disappointment, grief, or worry. These negative thoughts create chemical changes that affect how the brain functions. A normally functioning brain is like a vast computer that controls everything from your heart, lungs, vision, movements, hearing, to your emotions. The brain is made up of innumerable neurons that send and receive messages (much like e-mail) to the rest of your body using brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are responsible for our emotional state and when the chemical messages are not delivered accurately between brain cells, the feelings of depression kicks in. Just like those lost e-mails, computer viruses, and other technical glitches, there are solutions to everything. Here are some for depression sufferers.
The fact that you have a loving, caring partner is a blessing. Now you just have to tell yourself that you do deserve to be loved and that life can only get better and better especially if you follow some of these tips.
Help yourself and your relationship even with depression
- Identify when and what triggers your depression and let your partner, family, or friends know so that they are prepared before it happens.
- Make a list of all the things that you are most grateful for and keep it close by so that you can look at it as a daily ritual.
- Get out of your home or office, even if it’s just for a short walk preferably with your partner or a friend. Go to support groups, the mall, out to eat, the movies, or anyplace where you can be socially active.
- Take care of yourself physically. Get up, bathe each day, and eat nutritious foods. Do not abuse your body by under eating or over eating.
- Make your heart sing by doing something that makes you laugh or smile. Watch a funny TV show or movie, play with a dog or cat, watch kids play at a playground, go to the zoo, listen to good music, or tickle your partner.
- Do not neglect intimacy, even if you don’t feel like having sex. If you are in a relationship, let your partner know how much you appreciate him or her. Hold, kiss and caress each other because your brain will release pleasure endorphins that will rapidly elevate your mood. If you’re unattached romantically, pleasuring yourself will give you the same flood of feel-good endorphins.
- Believe that your depression will be replaced with happiness and make a daily habit of visualizing yourself enjoying life again.
Give these tips to your partner so that he can help you
- Do encourage your partner to get all the professional help available.
- Offer supportive words, but do not show pity.
- Emphasize your partner’s good qualities, especially when he/she is feeling down.
- Help your partner stay active by taking them out socially and stay physically active by walking or exercising together.
- Listen and be as patient as if your partner was recovering from a surgery.
- Don’t despair or blame yourself for your partner’s depression. In fact take time to value and reward yourself for being such a loving and caring person.
- Believe that your partner’s depression will be replaced with happiness and visualize the two of you enjoying life again.
The best therapy for depression or any other serious illness is a good relationship and a loving, supportive partner. The good news is that there is help out there. For more information on depression go to www.depression.com and you can buy my 12 Steps To Everlasting Love
A 30-Day Plan of Action Workbook designed to help you to enhance your self-worth and take control of your own needs by focusing on your inner power.