When you live with someone and they’re sad and not talking I guess it’s natural to think it’s your fault. But if the person is sad to the point that they’re not talking, not acting like they usually do, are withdrawn, sleeping a lot, maybe crying for no reason that you can see, it’s most likely not you. It’s probably something or many things in the person’s life that are crushing them. Their depression is not your fault.
Just like they say on the airlines, “Put your own mask on first.” You have to take care of yourself before you can help the person who is sad. There is a helpful page here from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that might give you some ideas on relating to a depressed person. The highlights:
- Try to be as supportive, understanding and patient as possible.
- Speak in a calm, quiet voice.
- Stay focused on one subject at a time. It may be difficult for your relative to concentrate.
- If the person is quiet and withdrawn, break the ice with neutral, non-threatening statements, such as “It seems a bit warm in here.”
- Be patient and wait. It may take a while for your loved one to respond.
- Your ability to listen is a valuable resource to your relative or friend. Depression causes people to talk at length about how bad they feel, yet they may not be ready to discuss solutions to their problems. Listening and letting the person know, in a neutral manner, that you have heard what he or she has said, is a valuable and supportive contribution. You do not have to offer immediate solutions.
- If your relative or friend is irritable, you probably need to slow down, lower your expectations and use a very neutral approach. Neutral comments about the weather, what you are making for dinner or other routine subjects are the safest way to develop a dialogue. Listen for opportunities to acknowledge or add to your relative’s responses. At these times, conversations about important decisions or issues are unlikely to be productive. You may need to plan to discuss important issues at a later date.
- Whenever someone suffers from a serious illness, it is natural for family members to feel worried and stressed. In an effort to spend time comforting or helping their loved ones, family members may give up their own activities….Preserve your interests outside of the family and apart from your ill relative.
Beyond this I don’t know what else is helpful. If I figure it out I’ll be sure to post something. Sometimes when a person is depressed they feel awfully guilty about disturbing the lives of the people around them, which only contributes to their sense of worthlessness, causing them to further isolate themselves so as not to disturb others even more which leads to sadness over loneliness and rejection — which makes them feel even more worthless, etc etc etc. I don’t know that a fitness class or even a housekeeper can help at this stage. Maybe a counsellor?