Mental Health Issues: Support For Families Community
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Avatar universal

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?
2 Responses
Avatar universal
Good Afternoon,

My husband struggles with depression sometimes, and I have learned over our last 13 yrs together. Men are very different then women. Most men tend to want space when they are going through something while we need to talk about what we are going through to work through it. It is hard to understand not to take them needing space personal, but we need to honor what their needs are. With my husband I do give him space but i let him know I am there if he needs me.

My husband has learned that his issues are mine as well and do affect me so he reassures me that he loves me and that he just needs space. Giving him that time to vent and think sometimes is all you can do. For your own sanity find someone that you can talk to and that will be supportive of you and your situation. My husband use to get real upset when I discussed our personal matters with my mom. But recently he realizes my mom doesnt get involved she is there to let me vent and think things through myself, since he cant be when he is going through his depression. Make sure whoever you speak to wont get involved but will be there as support.

I am not sure if this will help you but this is what helps us and we have been together 13 yrs now. Good Luck, and I will be praying for ya.
Avatar universal
I am so sorry that you guys are going through this.  I'd like to offer my perspective having had depression for the last 40 something years.  

I hope I can make this sound useful for you.  As I mentioned, I have battled depression most of my life.  like your boyfriend, I chose to isolate myself.  That is apparently very common for men to do.  We don't talk about our problems because, well, men aren't supposed to do that.  

Men are supposed to be big and strong and know how to handle our business.  For me, not handling my business is how I handled my business and it worked up to the point it didn't work.  When I finally reached out for help, I had inadvertently turned my world completely upside down.  My marriage was headed south, my relationship with my children was suffering and they all wanted to help me so much... but I couldn't tell them what was wrong with me.  So I watched my wife and kids struggle.  Being around me was difficult.  They didn't know what kind of a mood I would be in.  (There was no abuse, thankfully, but I didn't have the ability to pay them all the attention they deserved.)

I struggled for so long trying to appear normal that I accepted feeling old, tired, weak, useless, helpless and profoundly sad.  I was a "buzz kill' and I knew it.  In order to not bring anyone else around me down, isolation seemed best.

Yeah, some days were better than others but when you're dealing with chronic depression, that gray cloud is always right there.  At any given time, it could break loose on you.  Then you quit enjoying all of the things you used to enjoy.  For me, I quit wanting to be around friends.  I didn't want to hunt, fish, go camping, play softball.  Depression became a self imposed prison.  I got comfortable feeling uncomfortable all of the time and if I felt bad, I figured it beat feeling miserable.

I finally reached out for help when I hit rock bottom.  I had nowhere else to go.  I had to do something and for me that mean swallowing some pride and going to speak to a therapist.  As it turned out, I ended up seeing a couple of therapists.  

Like you, my wife wanted to help so bad.  So bad.  I was so screwed up that I didn't even have the words to describe what was wrong with me, so breaking the ice with a therapist for myself, then couples therapy worked wonders.

I remember speaking with my therapist for my uptake interview.  I remember dreading to say all of the **** that I was going to have to say in order to get the help I needed, but I knew it was all going to have to come out.  So, I cracked open the flood gates and I mean, it all started to spill out.  Everything I had bottled up just exploded.  My therapist said, "Sometimes life gets in the way of living."

She validated how I felt.  She seemed to understand everything I was going through, but it took about 8 weeks to really make a difference.  Meeting after meeting, I would have to go through the whole story and it was almost to the point where I told her, "For Christ's sake... you know everything, now fix it."

She looked at me and said, "You are holding on to a lot of anger that you never got to properly deal with.  Its too much to hold on to.  What are you getting out of holding on to this anger?" Without even thinking, I said "nothing' and I could feel the weight come off of my shoulders.  I started getting better at that point.  i started to understand what was bothering me, why it was bothering me and what I needed to do to get better.  I am a work in progress and I guess its been 9 years or so since I started to get back on the right side of things.  Yeah, I still have some bad days but I now know how to better understand things and how to better deal with them.  Most importantly, I learned that I gave far too many things more attention than they needed.  I hope you (he) has the ability to reach out for help.  I'd be glad to talk to him here.  I'm no doctor and I will not give medical advice but I can empathize with him and will be able to relate on some basis.  

For you I suggest just being there.  maybe see a therapist on your own or encourage him to go with you.  Couples therapy was equally as important to my getting better as was my individual therapy.

Best to you both.
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