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Need help understanding how to support depressed partner
My boyfriend of 1.5 years deals with chronic depression. Things have been especially bad for the past several weeks. When he goes through these bouts he insists he needs to "untangle" things alone. He isolates himself and becomes unresponsive. I have my own mental health issues I struggle with, but we deal with things in very different ways. Sometimes I feel like I'm failing him when I step aside and and let him cope with things, but when I try to step in and offer support or assistance I think he feels like I'm trying to "fix" him, or like he is letting me down or failing me in some way.

I don't even really know why I'm posting except to look for advice and/or support. I can't turn to him because he is using all of his energy to work through what he is dealing with, I don't feel like I can open up to our friends because I don't want to betray his trust by talking about personal issues that are really his to open up about.

I feel really isolated and alone with this. I also feel like a really selfish person because I struggle during these instance too... the distance he creates, the lack of affection, and feeling like everything I do and say is wrong and like nothing can reach him is so hard sometimes. It feels so personal even though I know this mental struggle has nothing to do with me.

For those of you who struggle with/have partners who deal with similar issues or cope in similar ways, what is the best advice you can give me on how to be a good and supportive partner and friend during these times? Is there anything that actually helps?
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1683709 tn?1370713201
Hi, it must be really difficult for you. When I get depressed my husband tries his best to look after things so I don't have to.  I would love it if he would spend time listening and talking with me, but he is the strong silent type, so I don't think that is a realistic expectation on my part.

So when I'm in my pit of despair, and having a shower is the overwhelming task of the day, he cooks me nutritious meals and does my laundry. I appreciate his help so much, but then I usually feel guilty for this extra help ( but that is the depression talking, not me). For me having clean clothes to wear and eating healthy food, does help me a lot.

If you want to talk, or even vent about how hard this is for you I understand. Good luck with everything, and remember to look after yourself first. Then you can be of service to others. It's like the safety demo on a plane, put on your oxygen mask first, then you can aid your loved ones.

Take care, Sue
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Thanjs sothank you so much for your encouragement. The oxygen mask analogy is especially relevant for me! Best of luck with your struggles as well.
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Those of us who suffer from depression and anxiety can really be a-holes a lot of the time.  We don't intend to, but it gets so frustrating.  Either you're tough enough and love him enough to deal with this, or you're not.  That's harsh, but I've had a lot of break-ups over the years and I've also been married a long time.  My wife lives mostly in her own world, so what's going on with me doesn't affect her as much as it might others and keeps us together -- so far.  But one thing that's true, you can't fix him, you can only encourage him to seek professional help if he isn't doing it.  As for you, it isn't personal, it's not him vs. you.  It's what depression is.    
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973741 tn?1342346373
I'm so sorry that this is a big part of your life.  What I'm about to say is maybe not going to be popular but . . .  you are still dating.  That is the time to really decide if your partner's ways and behaviors are what you want to live with forever.  He has a chronic mental health disorder and treatment and coping push you away.  This will not get better most likely over time . . .   this is his pattern.  If it ultimately leaves you unhappy and you have wide gaps of time that his depression influences his life and YOURS . . .  it can really be a burden to live with.  Picture it when you have kids and dad is depressed and the whole family lives under that cloud.  

I do not fault your boyfriend as this is how he has developed his way of dealing with it.  However, it IS hard to live with.  And you are in the stage of picking a life partner.  Maybe you would be happier ultimately with someone who does not have this life long struggle?  

As to your question, you will learn to sense when he is withdrawing.  You will likely develop your own coping mechanisms to deal with his withdrawing while you grow more and more resentful inside because of it.  So, the only way to really deal with this is to seek couple's counseling where YOU are heard about how his depression and the way he deals with it makes YOU feel.  good luck hon.  
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I appreciate the feedback from everyone. I didn't really come here to talk about leaving this relationship, however. I understand that this is going to be a persistent, difficult battle that many days I just have to step aside and watch, but we are both committed and bailing because he is struggling right now is not something I am even remotely considering. Thank you for your time and perspective.
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Patients. Maybe both of you should seek counseling separate then come together so they can equip you with the tools you need to help him and yourself. Let him know what ever it is he is going through tell him you are there for him and that he isn't doing it alone


I struggle with depression. It's hard waking up everyday hating everything even yourself. You're trapped inside your body forced to feel this unexplainable pain every minute of the day. Sometimes it goes but when it comes back it's stronger more intense harder to live with. All you can think about when you are in that state is how everyone would be happier with out you.

He could be feeling the same way and you're right when you try to help it makes them feel like you're letting them down I know it does me. Just being there telling them they aren't alone and when they are ready to talk you are ready to listen. Medication can help him he doesn't need to take it forever but it could be a simple chemical imbalance that needs to be corrected.
Have faith everything will be ok if you just be patient and just love him.
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Just to say, there are no known chemical imbalances that cause depression.  The cause is unknown.  Mediation helps to suppress the pain when therapy doesn't work, which it often doesn't.  But It is important to be accurate here.  If depression is caused by a chemical imbalance nobody knows what chemicals are out of balance.  At this point, for all science knows, it could be caused by almost anything.  The reason I think this is important is that if you believe you're doomed by a chemical imbalance when nobody knows if this is true or not, then you might develop beliefs that rule the rest of your life that might not apply.  For some, depression is chronic, episodic, and life-long.  For others, there's one bout and then it's gone forever.  For others, there's a trigger that can be worked on.  For others, it's caused by medication or chronic pain or even thyroid problems.  For most, there is hope if you find the right professionals who are willing to take the time to help.  For others, it is a lifetime problem nobody will take the time to help fix.  But so far at least there is no factual basis to believe it's caused by a chemical imbalance, though down the road they might find out it is.  Peace, all.  
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