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How do I help my boyfriend with his depression?

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  • #333653
    Jen
    Participant

    Hello,

    My boyfriend suffers from depression, he comes from childhood trauma, he takes medication and goes to therapy and he is a good boyfriend; very supportive and empathetic. It took us a long run to get there tho, because it was so hard for him to trust me, but now that he does, he thinks is too good to be true. And whenever he feels depressed, he says he doesn’t deserve me or finds reasons to think he can’t trust me. I know this all comes from his depression and I have been kind and patient but sometimes is a lot. I have taken my distance to stay safe and he respects that, he wants to do self-work on his own as well. Over the last couple of months, he had an experience with psychedelics thinking it would give him perspective and although the experience has been very positive, the aftermath has had him dealing with very intense depression. He tried to break up with me, saying he needed to deal with this alone… but eventually we spoke and decided to stay together. He continues taking medication and going to therapy, meditating, working out, eating well… he is taking care of himself. But the conversations have gotten so dark. There’s so much trauma that was being blocked and I have been listening to him and continue by his side, offering my opinion when he needs it and being supportive and kind. I encourage him to practice self-kindness and compassion and this helps a lot.

    However, last night he had an episode that looked schizophrenic to me. He started crying and was paralyzed, he couldn’t communicate and was acting very erratic. He then told me had smoked some week, which he does sometimes to go to sleep, I told him maybe he shouldn’t do weed anymore, since it probably caused this episode. But right now he is again feeling sorry, depressed and embarrassed for what happened and he is in a constant state of confusion and feeling lost.

    I want to know how to help him, without losing myself in the process, I take care of myself first and of course I love him and want to be there for him, but is there anything else I should be doing? or should I just continue doing what I am already doing and give it time.

    Any insight would help.

    Thank you for reading my post

    #333685
    tartaruga
    Participant

    I have to be very brief with my post here and will come back to you later,  but I think it’s worth mentioning right off the bat that I think you’re doing a good job so far. not a lot of people would be so understanding of his situation. I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that his symptoms at one point were truly schizophrenic if that’s any consolation. symptoms of depression can present in strange ways. I myself was diagnosed with mild OCD several years ago on  top of the major depressive disorder I’ve had all my life. it took two traumatic events I had in quick succession which triggered my obsessive thinking and it fried my brain. It took a few years of introspection, cognitive behavioral therapy and learning from Buddhist ideology to help me check my intrusive and irrational thoughts. I’ll  summarize for now by saying: “don’t give up hope, I think you’re on the right track!”

    #333687
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Jen:

    Welcome back. You shared about this man two years ago, January 2018 in your first thread. Sometimes returning members forget about previous threads posted long ago. If this is the case, or if you didn’t re-read your first thread recently, it can be very helpful for you to do so. It will give you insight about what happened in this relationship two years ago. You can read other members’  input back then.

    If you would like to re-read and maybe take notes based on that communication of Jan and March 2018, click on your screen names, then click “topics started” and you will access that old thread. I will be glad to communicate with you further on the matter of your relationship,  if you want to.

    anita

    #333709
    Simona Adina
    Participant

    Hi Jen

    My name is Simona. I am 51 years old.  From the age of 17 to 24 I suffered from a chemical depression that included bipolar and disassociated personality.

    After the birth of my first son my chemical depression dissipated a great deal and from 24 to about 31 I led for the most part a peaceful life –  raising my two sons as a stay home mom – and also attempting to run a Creative Photography business out of the House.

    I ran the business for about a year – but when I attempted to do location photography – gave up after a failed photo shoot for a prior client. I did not poses the self confidence to persevere.  Then when my younger son started school full time  I began feeling guilty for not working – but felt lost – did not know who or what I was about –   entered a new phase – where I questioned everything about my disassociated self, my purpose in life – and soon after became severely depressed once more – but this time with an existential type of depression – pushing me into an obsessive quest for answers.

    At the age of 45 I finally came to the end of my quest – figuring my purpose – and finally feeling whole and normal like everyone else who wasn’t struggling with mental illness and who appeared to be enjoying life.

     

    I am writing this brief simplistic background not to share my woes too – but to give you a sense of how long I’ve dealt with mental illness.

    – I experienced terrible agony, constantly wishing to die – but could not bring myself to commit suicide – was scarred, felt guilty

    – I hit my head against the wall – to feel physical pain – in order to feel alive

    – I stared at the ceiling for hours –

    – I had a disassociated personality – one shy awkward – the other dressing in  provocative apparel to  gain attention from men

    These are just a few things

    The Biggest Problem – I felt entirely Alone – Had no one to talk to – Because number 1 – I didn’t know what was going on with me – and # 2 No one cared to listen or even if they did – could ever understand what I was going through – therefore I was still alone  – BUT IN MY CASE MOSTLY BECAUSE – MY BOYFRIEND & PARENTS ( EASTERN EUROPEAN ) – JUST DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH ME – SO THEY PRETTY MUCH IGNORED MY PAIN

     

    Your Boyfriend is Lucky to have you:

    Now having said that – I’m also sure he’s feeling guilty having to put you through this pain with him – especially when he is under the spell of the depression

    Depression robs you of the person you are – One day you feel like you know who you are, you feel good about yourself, you know you posses good qualities – and  you feel worthy of the love you’re receiving AND THEN – when the depression hits – you don’t understand what your boyfriend or girlfriend can possibly see in you. You feel worthless.

    Within your mind ( as a depressed person) the misery you’re feeling within that moment – feels like it’ll always be there, like there will never be good times again – you can’t fall on your memories of the good times you’ve had  to help you through – because when you’re able to participate & somewhat enjoy an event – the thing is – within you always feel & know the depression will always come back and therefore  – you are robbed of your good times as well – which just adds fuel to the next episodes.

     

    So how to help your boyfriend:

    1. Listen – which you already do –

    2. Although you genuinely care about him and want to understand his pain – there’s NO WAY – for you to understand his pain unless you’ve gone through it – and I’m only saying this – to help you understand that it’s not understandable –

    So – not sure if you wrote this above but – when you talk to him – Don’t attempt to make it all better – to say anything that you think will help cheer him up – The best thing is to Just Be there with him in Silence – if he lets you – Just accept it and let him know that you accept the situation as it is and let him know you love him unconditionally – maybe that you understand that this is not him but his depression

    3. Encourage him to begin a journal – I journaled for 30 + years  because I had no one to talk to – and it was through Journaling that I was led to many transformations, AHA moments, growth, spirituality and ultimately wholeness.  I self- healed through journaling. ( There are many websites on the power of journaling)

     

    It was through the writing that I figured out where my disassociated personality stemmed from – (childhood -my mother left my sister & I behind for 4 years – I had what’s known as emotional abandonment disorder – which played havoc in so many aspects of my life – leading me to making poor decisions)

    It was through the writing that I brought my disassociated personalities together and many more changes.

    So instead of keeping it bottled in – and feeling misunderstood – he can let it all out on the page – everything and anything.

    Everyday – whether he feels good  or not – record both. Don’t misunderstand – it’s not an overnight cure. It’s a long process. Through continuous writing he will begin to self analyze and see patterns to his moods and he will begin to trust that inner voice within him that will begin to guide him – SO BASICALLY HE WILL NEED TO START BEING HIS OWN BEST FRIEND and eventually will begin getting AHA moments too which once he does will give him strength to make small changes.

     

    3. In conjunction to constant writing – I used exercise instead of medication to keep me going – (you said he does this already – so that’s good) I’m not telling him not to take medication – I just never found the right one -and got tired of not receiving the right medical treatment.

    You can bond with him further by – joining him in the exercise routines – you need to maintain your health too and exercise releases happy chemicals – I ran a lot – and lifted weights – I still do – or else feel unbalanced

     

    4. Also I read a lot of spiritual books – began listening to spiritual tapes whenever I went out on errands –

    read books by Wayne Dweyer and many others – filled notebooks full of tips

    5. See if he can figure out what excites him – what gives him pleasure the most – because even though he may not believe in himself or believe it may be worth perusing – it may be what’s calling him to do

     

    Even though while I was young I did not know who or what I wanted to do when I grew up ( even though I had a B.S degree in Hospitality Management  -then later in my 40’s another degree/ and masters in Elementary Education)   as I took notes, read different type of books – non fiction and such – I began to notice that I enjoyed studying anything literary – also enjoyed writing itself – enjoyed learning new words – actually had a weird love for words – and couldn’t understand why that was – but I began to analyze these likes of mine and went through a long doubting period  regarding my passion for writing and my abilities as a writer – and in the end concluded that this was what I was meant to do – what my purpose in this life time was. And when I finally accepted it – it felt like a weight got discarded from the pit of my stomach – a weight that constantly made me feel like life was meaningless – my existence felt meaningless.

    But once I discovered and accepted my purpose – all other activities I never enjoyed before suddenly looked brighter and worth joining. All the never-ending, overburdening responsibilities of life became manageable and even enjoyable because I began to enjoy the challenge.

     

    So discovering One’s Purpose is a BIG BIG  answer to solve. Some are born knowing (lucky them) others – like I did have to struggle to find it – and sadly many go to their graves feeling unfulfilled, having never found theirs.

     

    My purpose is to get out my 4 Volume Memoir – which chronicles my journey – in order to help people like your boyfriend.

    Volume I. Out of My Head – A Girl’s Journey through Bipolar Depression & Disassociated Personality (In editing Process currently)

    6. Not sure how old your boyfriend is – but unfortunately the age from 15 – 24 – is very difficult to go through all on it’s own but add in childhood trauma and it’s just too much

    So even though he may not believe it – maybe present him with real life stories of people who have gone through similar things and who have come out of it successfully – I PROMISE THERE IS A WAY OUT OF THE DARK TUNNEL –

    It’ll always be an UP and DOWN Battle –  But if he’s aware of that – and aware that if he does the work – he can and will heal – then when he enters another episode – he may be able to view it less from a victim’s perspective and more from a conqueror type attitude. Again it’s a process.

    While I’m sure he’s learned his lesson about psychedelics – (which I understand why he did it- as I too, even though I was scarred to try pot -knowing it messes with my head  – tried it on several occasions to gain insight into why I was the way I was – which at times helped – but it only helped me because as I was going through the high and visions – I wrote them down as I was experiencing them and then later was able to go back and learn things about myself which helped my progression towards healing)  he may want to slow down until he becomes more stable.

    7. EDUCATE YOURSELF AND ENCOURAGE HIM TO LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT DISFUNCTIONS – SEE IF HE CAN PINPOINT HIS SYMPTOMS.

    WITH KNOWLEDGE THERE”S POWER

    I’m not a therapist and don’t pretend to know how to fully heal him – I can only share with you what I went through BUT

    Since you mentioned childhood Trauma – that is something he needs to visit – whether through a therapist or by himself – because once he identifies what it is that’s happened to him – he can be with it for a while – examine it, and understand it – and finally through this process – naturally discard it – it organically stops eating at him.

     

    With me – through the questioning, digging and what not I figured out that the reason I dressed up in a provocative way to get attention was because I felt invisible, trapped within my head – and that was one way of feeling like I was real and existing.

    As a young child I was a loner. I remember images of myself as a young child often playing alone, watching other kids having fun and wishing I could be with them. And when my mother left –  no one bothered explaining to me that one day I’ll see her once more – so in my young mind I must have felt like she abandoned me. Images of me crying nightly remained in my head for  a long time. She escaped to America during the Communist Era – brought us 4 years later – and my father was imprisoned for a foiled escape plan. Also my grandmother brought me to my dad’s trial – and images of my father with chains around his feet and hands have been seared into my young mind as well

     

    So all these factors contributed to my psychological break down which started surfacing from 17 on. And if you research many of these psychological dysfunctions – you will find that that’s when they surface – from around 17 to 25.

     

    I never ever though I’d ever get better – but I did – I figured it out- and so can your boyfriend.

     

    You are right to take time for yourself  to keep yourself balanced – because if you don’t you won’t have anything to give him or yourself.

     

    So number 1 keep yourself healthy first – you don’t want to end up resenting him and that’s the last thing he wants.

    Take Care

    Remember and Remind him to be patient with yourself and himself – It SUCKS to be mentally ill – but it’s not his fault and therefore it’s ok that he hasn’t figured it all out and it’s ok that he can’t be what he probably thinks  that everybody wants him to be- “normal and healthy like everybody else – those that seem to have no problems in facing a new day  – IT”S OK -NO GUILT SHOULD BE ABSORBED – but of course I’m sure he does – but just gently let him know that it’s OK.

     

    I hope this helped somewhat. If you need to talk further. I’m here.

     

    Simona  Adina

    #333917
    Jen
    Participant

    @Tartaruga, Thanks! I think is helpful when I hear from other people struggling with something similar. Thanks!

    @Anita, I did actually re-read my previous post. Our relationship has evolved so much that it’s just in a different place right now. At the time, his depression wasn’t letting him commit, now I understand a lot of that. Now that we are in a committed relationship I have realized his depression always finds the way in, if it’s not one thing is the next one and the next one. I have heard from people that sometimes depression is the third person in the relationship, sometimes that’s how it feels and at least now, we talk openly about it and we both acknowledge this exists. I think that what I am dealing right now is the same but different, because I do want to help, but I want to help doing the right thing, and this can get so frustrating that sometimes I get exhausted and I just want to know how to be here for me, for him and for our relationship. After reading my previous post I realized the depression was there as well, just that I wasn’t that aware of it as I am now.

    @Simona Adina Thank you!  I want to thank you for your story and for opening up. As I read what you wrote, is almost like listening to my bf talk to me, so I know that he is not alone in what he experiences. You are right, sometimes he doesn’t understand why I am with him and he keeps asking me, I just tell him that he is the most wonderful person I know, because is true. He is usually very thankful, but sometimes he goes back at saying “you deserve better than this”

    I know I cannot understand what he is going through and sometimes we talk about that, I can’t help to sometimes feel frustrated and say things like ” but look how well are you doing” or “everything will be alright”, I have a hard time sitting there just listening to his pain and not being able to do anything, it breaks my heart. I have tho, lately, since I read about about helping a loved one with depression, I sit there and just listen and tell him is okay and that I am there for him and that he can tell me anything and listen without judgement. I call it our “judgment free space” and he feels more encouraged to speak. But sometimes I feel that not being understood frustrates him as well. He has even wondered if he should date someone who comes also from a broken family (only when he is depressed). He journals and of course is his private thing so I don’t know what he writes about, but he tells me it helps him. Thanks for all your advise, since he has been in therapy and reading books he usually keeps himself busy and goes to the gym and plays his music. all of that makes him feel better, but the internal dialogue stays the same, I wish he could learn how to be more kind with himself. The depression has been here for around 20 years already and he feels like is not getting any better. However,  I have known him for 3 years and for the last year and a half I have since a huge improvement in his life. Thanks again, I am going to continue listening to him and being present.

     

    #333937
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Jen:

    January two years ago, you wrote: “He thought I was holding back anger”- I think he is holding back anger.

    January this year, you wrote: “whenever he feels depressed, he says he doesn’t deserve me or finds reasons to think he can’t trust me”-

    – I will edit this sentence so to suggest a possibility: whenever he feels angry  he says he doesn’t deserve me or finds reasons to think he can’t trust me.

    From personal experience, depression is a sort of exhaustion from feeling either fear and/ or anger too intensely and/ or for too long. Fear and anger are closely associated. We feel threatened, next we feel fear (motivating us to run away) and often we feel anger (motivating us to fight). Flight or Fight are ways to protect oneself from a perceived threat.

    So, when he feels intensified fearful and angry, he tells you that he doesn’t deserve you, hoping perhaps that you will leave him alone, or he points to not trusting you, hoping perhaps to anger you and cause you to.. leave him alone.

    Clearly, fear and anger is not all that he feels about you, but he feels too much fear and anger.

    In the aftermath of him experiencing with psychedelics, “has had him dealing with very intense depression. He tried to break up with me”- he felt angry at you and he  did what people who feel anger at their partners do- break up.

    What I am saying is that depression is not a singular issue, not a pure emotion, it is a condition made of repressed fear, anger, shame, and such. His anger is most likely at his parents/ people in his family of origin projected into you.

    Recently at nigh, “he had an episode that looked schizophrenic to me. He started crying and was paralyzed, he couldn’t communicate and was acting very erratic”- part of his behavior was genuine, he really did feel distressed, but part of it, I think, was him performing, trying to scare you away, so that.. you leave him alone.

    He is conflicted, he wants you in his life and he wants you out of his life, at the same time, is my guess, therefore his “constant state of confusion and feeling lost”, and “if it’s not one thing is the next one and the next one”.

    “I want to help, but I want to help doing the right thing”- how about bringing up to him the issue of his anger at you and his efforts to end the relationship by discouraging you and scaring you?

    I suspect it will be scary to bring this up, to open a communication about his anger at you, fearing that it will lead to a breakup, something you clearly fear. But it may lead to a breakthrough, not a br4eakup. Without a breakthrough you may be forever stuck in a state of limbo, neither here (reliable, solid commitment), nor there (breakup).

    anita

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