If the phrase ‘depressed on Valentine’s Day’ conjures up an image of a single person in your mind, it’s worth remembering that whilst this might sometimes be the case, mental health issues can affect anyone. Not only is this assumption a little jarring to the many people who are happily single but it also ignores everyone who is suffering, or watching their partner suffer, with depression on a day which isn’t exactly sympathetic to couples who can’t play up to the mushy Valentines stereotype whether they’d like to or not. The person who is ‘depressed on Valentine’s Day’ might not be who you’d expect because couples don’t get a ‘day off’ mental health issues.
I was 25 the first time a Feb 14th rolled around when I was actually seeing someone and although I’ve yet to celebrate it or receive a V-Day card to validate my existence (*rolls eyes*) I’ve always been fairly positive towards the whole thing. Couples who’ve been together for twenty years have a reminder to say ‘I Love You’ and an excuse to pay for a babysitter? Sounds pretty good to me. I’m always content with seeing a bit more love in the world even if personally I’m not bothered by either pink balloons or those ‘alternative’ anti-Valentines cards where people can both partake in the day AND feel above it because they’ve found a card with the word ‘fart’ on it – though if that’s what love means to you, go for it and enjoy your day, fart jokes and all! As long as people don’t feel pressured either to celebrate when they’d rather stay in OR alternatively feel pressured to stay in in protest when they’d secretly rather be as cheesy AF, they should go for it right? And for those feeling inclined to post how wonderful relationships are all over social media? Maybe this is where my Line is; don’t kick people when they’re already down – haven’t you heard that people can get very low at this time of year? Note the use of the words ‘very low’ and not ‘depressed’.
‘Looks like I’ll be home alone on February 14th this year – how depressing.’ You know the drill; despite the fact that many contest Valentine’s Day was only invented so that Hallmark can sell cards, often a complaint lauded with such vigour you would expect Hallmark to be culling all kittens which haven’t yet found a mate, declaring sadness on V-Day is a free for all and sometimes by the very same people who try to advocate it’s irrelevancy. As couples attempt to navigate their way through restaurant bookings, guilty admissions of coupledom to their single colleagues and figuring out if their SO really meant it when they said restocking the loo roll was more romantic than red roses, for those without these annual dilemmas the word Depressed is thrown about like nobody’s business. It’s understandable that people feel down and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Sadly this will sometimes be an accurate diagnosis and it can be an awful day to aggravate symptoms, but if the use of the above word isn’t strictly true then consider remembering that those suffering with depression often feel incredibly isolated and alone, no matter who they’re with.
While the majority of couples might be celebrating, if you are coping with depression within a relationship Valentines might be a harsh reminder of the struggles you face. There is some good news; studies show that having the support of a partner can be really helpful to people living with depression so even if you feel helpless, your presence is probably doing much more good than you think. Of course depression affects everyone differently and I’m sure many people in this position will celebrating anyway or simply don’t care, but for others the pressure of V-Day might be better off avoided even if deep down you’re a heart-shaped chocolate enthusiast. If your partner is having a bad day and you would have secretly rather celebrated, are you allowed to admit feeling lonely too? How can you ask for advice or even admit feeling glum to your colleagues when Being Single will trump nearly every form of relationship struggle on V-Day? (Recently I casually mentioned that the 14th didn’t really factor into my long-distance circumstances and single friends practically queued up to tell me how lucky I was. Perhaps I am, but if this happened to you after mentioning you’re not celebrating due to depression that might be a little harder to stomach.)
After a quick google of ‘partner depression valentines day’ I was unable to find any variation of these words which didn’t throw up hundreds of articles giving single people advice on how to avoid feeling depressed on V-Day. Wanting to help a partner with a mental health issue on Valentine’s Day? Nah, seemingly no one cares. Finally I did stumble across this wonderful little article on Time To Change which offers a lovely outlook on relationships and mental health so if you are in this position it’s definitely worth a read.
With advice hard to find, what do you do when the one you love is down on the day of love? How do explain to your partner that buying cards is too stressful when you can barely focus on your job? Honestly I’ve tried to research this just now and I’ve come up with very little so please, please speak to a professional if you’re struggling. And in the meantime speak to your partner, because everyone knows that good communication (even if that means hiding under the covers together or holding hands when times are tough) is a bigger act of love than any manner of heart-shaped chocolate fart balloon.
If you are suffering from depression:
BE HONEST. It can be hard enough to focus on your partner as it is when you have depression, so if cards and gifts are too much pressure ask in advance if you can treat it like a normal day. Your partner loves you and will appreciate that they know what to expect.
DO SPEAK TO YOUR GP. Your partner will always want to love and support you but they can’t offer you the same support that a professional can.
BELIEVE YOUR PARTNER LOVES YOU. And they love you a hell of a lot more than Valentines. The whole day is pretty insignificant to the fact that you are getting through a mental health issue together.
If your partner is suffering from depression:
DON’T TRY AND BE THEIR THERAPIST: Do encourage them to speak to their GP or another relevant professional if they haven’t already.
IF YOU’RE A VDAY ENTHUSIAST: Consider celebrating the night with friends? You can do all the gooey things with your bestie, cards and all, without putting any pressure on your partner. Consider celebrating on a different day (Galentine’s Day anyone?!) so you can snuggle with your partner on V-day, but do give yourself permission to join in celebrations even if your partner isn’t up to it.
REMEMBER: The biggest act of love for your partner is the support you give them everyday.
If you’re single:
THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE YOU’RE HAPPILY SINGLE so I’m not going to patronise you by pretending you need advice on getting through the day!
IF YOU ARE FEELING LOW then Valentines can suck. Do be careful when using words like ‘depression’ when referring to not having a partner because on a day filled with heart-shaped candy and young couples practically floating off rooftops holding pink balloons, couples dealing with depression are also reminded of the struggles they face. It might be hard not to feel worse off but everybody’s sadness is valid. (Including yours, of course, so do make arrangements with a friend or buy extra ice cream and have a long bath, whatever takes the edge off.)
IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED. Do reach out for support, whether that means speaking to your GP, calling a helpline or asking a close friend to come and watch Netflix with you under the covers. There are more people out there who want to listen than you realise.
If this resonated with you at all, an expert can give much better advice!Here is a list of MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINES where you can speak to someone who is actually trained to speak to you about a variety of mental health issues.