Dear Dr. Ryan,
I met a guy a couple months ago and we hit it off right from the word go so we began dating shortly after and it’s been nearly 10 months since. We’ve been crystal clear about everything and we’ve already opened up to each other about our past in general. He told me he has depression and should take meds for it but doesn’t want to, because he’s ashamed of his mental illness and claims that pills would only reaffirm the fact that he is “crazy”. He has been hopping from one therapist to another because he hasn’t found one that is suitable for his needs, according to him.
I completely understand depression is a huge deal and try to be as supportive and understanding as I can be. His problem won’t go away with whatever encouraging speech I can come up with, but sometimes I feel really helpless and I hate seeing him go through his depressive episodes. I’ve read a lot on the subject and tried to understand it. There are days when he sleeps a lot and is too tired to do anything, some others he acts all serious and has some pretty crazy mood swings that go from laughing and having a great time, to barely speaking any words in a not-so-nice kind of way that make me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I just don’t know what to expect.
I want to do stuff with him, just average couple stuff like going to the movies or going on a road trip but he feels tired most of the time and doesn’t want to do anything so I just stay home with him watching movies, which, don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate greatly but wish I could do more “normal” couple activities with him. I know I can’t save him, but now I feel a bit responsible. He has told me that I’m the best thing that has happened to him in many years and has found great support in me but sometimes I wish I’d have more of a normal relationship. I don’t want to break up with him and I sure as hell don’t want to put any sort of pressure on him because he’s got enough with depression. But I’ve also gotten to the point of thinking that I am putting his happiness before mine and I can’t stand the thought of not living my life to the fullest. He really is a great guy, I could really use some words of advice here. Thank you, xx.
Dear Depressed Relationship,
You sound understanding and supportive about the struggles that your boyfriend is going through. Depending on the person and the situation, depression can be periodic and brief (at least 2 weeks) or can be long-standing and chronic. He does appear to experience depressive symptoms including depressed mood, apathy, low energy, and difficulty getting away from home. So far he has been open with you about his mental health and you have been responsive to his needs. But this is also taking a toll on you and you are having concerns about where this could be headed for you.
One of the most common problems for someone struggling with a mental health disorder is often the negative consequences on their relationships. The symptoms of depression can be quite challenging to see someone close to you experience and can have reciprocal negative effects on you. It isn’t unfair to your boyfriend to consider your well-being and how these dynamics are affecting you, both in the short and long term.
Family and partner support can go a long way in helping someone seek treatment for depression. Part of that support is maintaining a balance between being understanding of difficult and down days while also holding them accountable for taking the actions necessary to improve their condition. That doesn’t mean that they won’t struggle at times with following through but your boyfriend’s tendency to stay isolated and inactive for days at a time isn’t helping him get better. While you have been willing to stay at home with him on a regular basis, at some point that may reinforce his depression and isolation. You can encourage him to take action but remind yourself that you “can’t save him.”
To truly improve he will need to be committed on a daily basis to taking healthy actions for his depression. This could include medications. The longer that he continues to struggle with depression with little success in therapy, the more that he should consider an antidepressant medication. While any medication can have side effects, the benefits of taking an SSRI often exceeds the risks. He should consider a consultation with a psychiatrist to learn more about his options.
This was originally published on DearHoopers.com