Depression can be a very lonely illness and your relationships are a key part of how you cope with your depression. You need friends for support. Not just good weather friends but friends who can support you when you’re down. If one of these friends is also depressed it is not necessarily a bad thing. You can understand each other and perhaps be there on each other’s bad days (but not if you’re having a bad time at the same time). However, you need to be conscious when choosing sexual partners that your depression will have altered you as a person. It is likely that the person you get together with when depressed will not be the person you want to be with when you are better. When you are depressed you are a different person – you may not even know who you really are – but your partner will be with the person you are at that time. Also, depression alters your view of the world and therefore your view of other people, so your view of your partner will not be the same when you are better.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t start a relationship when depressed. On the contrary, it could be the best thing for you. It may provide the stability you need to start working through your problems and you may be able to talk to your partner about things you can’t discuss with anyone else. Your partner may be the only person you can relax around and start to feel yourself again. Issues may arise that hadn’t before and wouldn’t have come up if you weren’t in a relationship. On the other hand, you may find that you keep up the pretence of being the person you think you ought to be. There is also the possibility that the relationship could fail before you are ready – perhaps due to your depression. This will make you worse. Either way, the stability may give you the space to start seeing things differently and the confidence to start seeking therapy.
However, what I strongly advise is do not start a relationship with someone who is also depressed. I am not a doctor but I do have experience of depression and there are two likely outcomes of this sort of relationship. Firstly, one of you will get better, you will split and the other will get worse. The reason is this: if you are simply friends with another depressed person you can help each other and if one of you gets better you can still be there to help the other one with your understanding and advice. However, if you are in a relationship with another depressed person and one of you gets better and you split up then the other person will have suffered the end of their relationship plus the loss of their friendship and support. By all means be friends with other depressed people, we all need friends when we’re depressed, but wait until you have both recovered before you think about starting a sexual partnership.
Depression is a difficult illness to really get rid of. Once you have had it there is always the possibility of a recurrence. If you have recovered from your depression but are still in a relationship with someone who is depressed it is very difficult to stay recovered. Also, you may find that you want to get out of the relationship but feel trapped because you know that the other person will get worse. The stress of this may send you back into depression. This is the second outcome – you will both remain depressed.
There are two remaining possible outcomes – the first is that you will both get better and stay together. I believe this is highly unlikely but not impossible. You will both be different people when you are better, with different views and personalities from when you first got together. You may still like each other but want different things. It would be great if you both manage to help each other through depression and out the other side but the normal stresses and strains of a relationship make this unlikely.
The other outcome is that one of you will get better and you will stay together. I think this is the least likely to happen. If you recover from depression and live with someone who is depressed you are not likely to be really happy. You may still remember the feelings and understand but there may be an element of “I got through it so you should be able to as well.” We all know that’s unreasonable as part of depression is the feeling that you just can’t try any more but don’t people always say ex-smokers are the worst critics of smokers?
Bear in mind that a long-term partnership is not necessarily a bad thing when you are depressed but please think about the consequences of getting together with another depressed person. Try to help each other and be there for each other but keep enough distance between you so that you help each other and not bring each other down. In other words, stay friends and don’t live with each other, at least, not until you know who you really are.