You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.
I first read this quote while mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr, pasted on top of a picture of dark roses with a magnificently serpentine font. It seemed logical enough. How are you supposed to extend that reservoir of love if you can’t even take care of yourself? Except life really isn’t so simple; nobody is ever a complete project. There is always something you could change or improve about yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to be self-punitive. Just because you are depressed, why should you be prevented from engaging in meaningful relationships?
Depression can be an all-consuming illness. However, just because it attempts to devour every area of your life, doesn’t mean you should let it. First, it absorbs your happiness. Then, your motivation. What’s next? How much further down the rabbit hole will it lead you? Trying to find meaning and joy in life through a relationship is a reasonable and productive goal. You are not excluded from life’s pleasures due to your depression. You have every right to seek out love. You have every right to discover happiness.
While you don’t want to become dependent on a partner to provide you with relief from your depression, a relationship can teach you a lot about how to genuinely love yourself. A partner who recognizes your needs, values, and worth can provide a life-affirming boost to your spirit. On the flipside, a toxic or abusive relationship can deepen a state of depression and foster unhealthy attachments. Look out for red flags before investing your heart into a partnership.
A common emotional spectrum experienced by depressed people in relationships includes guilt, shame, and fear. You may feel guilty for burdening your partner with your illness, shameful for not feeling “happy” all the time, or fearful that your partner may leave you. It’s critical to recognize these distorted perceptions as an extension of your depression, rather than rooted in reality. Constantly questioning your partner’s motives, authenticity, or feelings could prove detrimental to your relationship by instilling doubt and uncertainty. When these worries pop up, try unpacking your emotions with a therapist, to help delineate between the rational and irrational concerns, before approaching your partner.
As you embark upon a relationship, be prepared for a windy road. Some days, depression may be all-consuming, preventing you from genuinely relishing the present moment with your partner. These days can be difficult, making you question the rationale of being in a relationship. When these doubts arise, remind yourself that everyone comes with their own set of baggage. Your partner chose you for a reason. And if someone can’t love you every step of the way, then they simply weren’t the one for you.
To debunk the aforementioned rumor, I’d like to formally announce that you definitely can love someone else when you have difficulty loving yourself. However, that doesn’t mean loving is easy. And it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you at the moment. But if you find yourself on the cusp of a budding relationship, and fear the inevitable implications of your depression, I say to dive right in. You’d never tell someone with a physical illness not to find love due to their disabilities; It’s the same for mental illness. You deserve to love and be loved, just like every other beating heart on the planet.
Written by: Brianna Rauchman