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Coping with Partner's Depression
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Coping with Partner's Depression

This post is not directly about me but about my long term partner of twelve years. He is a candidate in graduate school in his tenth year. He has been a “good” and successful student in most of his career and has won awards as a teaching assistant. Everything seems to have been gone well for him except that in the past few years his progress has been slow and unsatisfactory. He has been depressed, tried to commit suicide but failed, went for counseling for a few months and then stopped since it eventually did not help him much. His Dr. recommended that he took medicines for his depression but he and his elder sister decided against it. This was about four years ago. He would go into fits of rage and during those occasions get violent and abusive. On a few occasions he hit me too. I stood by him thinking that as a friend and his partner I should be by his side during his hour of crisis. It was the worst time for me emotionally, physically and spiritually. I thought we fared well during that crisis and came out of it well until now.

Although he started graduate school three years before me, I finished much earlier than him and secured a postdoc position in a top rung school in my field last year. He moved with me since we wanted to be together. This school has one of the best programs in his field too and scholars who are stellar in the profession. So the move should not have restricted him in any way as far as research resources (library facilities for instance) were concerned. He was suppose to defend in April this year but he is far from finishing and is back to slipping into depression. He has stopped discussing with me about his progress and most of our conversations regarding his work leads to violent quarrel. These days he has started accusing me as the cause of his lack of progress; apparently living with me makes him lose focus from his work. This worried me because I hope to be married to him after his defense and if living with me de-focuses him from his writing, how can we live together as a married couple? Little things that we loved to do together have now become a bane for him. His committee has started to become annoyed with him and he may not get any more funding to register for next term (and he doesn’t have 5K to register for defense). Last night after an argument when he accused me of his lack of academic performance I left home, spent the night outside and slept in a public park bench; he did not come to search for me.

I came to know through another common friend that he is currently consulting a psychiatrist for procrastination. I wonder if it is safe for me to be with a man who needs psychiatric help for writing a dissertation. I mean if you cannot handle writing a dissertation how will you handle bigger and more stressful problems in life? Is he a person who will have issues of mental health later in life? His family has no idea of his condition, should I let them know? I think they should know whats happening with him and his health even if they don't know how he's been treating me.  

I want to be his support and help him in every way possible so that he finishes his dissertation. Honestly he is too talented to be lost to frustration and depression. How can I help him? I know given what happened last night I should not go back to him but I cannot tear myself away from him. I love him too much and cannot bear the idea of separation after twelve years of togetherness. His frustrations have started to affect my work and progress now. Sometimes I feel like my head will explode from this stress. I feel crushed and inferior about myself due to his shouting. Has anyone of you been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?


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He has shown you what he is like, you should believe him.

Why would you spend your life with someone who is emotionally abusing you, get help for yourself.

I wish you the best.
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I think it would be a good idea to alert his family of his emotional problems.  
From your description it sounds like he needs psychiatric help and he can benefit from medications that are available.  Anxiety/depression are medical conditions that do respond with treatment.  Help and support from his family can be a great benefit but sometimes loved ones go into a 'denial mode'...fearing to admit to any type of 'mental' or emotional illness and prefer to instead disregard them to the patients great harm.  
It doesn't sound like the treatment he's receiving is doing much good.   He may only get a limited benefit from treatment if he refuses medication.
If he's harming you then you have no recourse but to go off on your own until he shows improvement.  Insist that he get good treatment and follow the Phsychiatrists treatment plan to a 'T' otherwise you're out the door.  Sometimes people just have to really hit bottom and  bounce a few times before they start to 'see the light'.   Take care.
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