Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Partner depressed? Anyone have any words of wisdom?

(42 Posts)
camrywagon Tue 18-Jun-13 09:26:24

I really don't know where else to turn to for advice. I'm fairly sure my DP is suffering from depression and could really do with some advice or words from those more experienced.

To give a full-ish picture he's been unhappy on a day to day basis for around 2 months, lacks motivation to get up, isn't sleeping well during the night and struggling to get up. He's a full time student but is really neglecting his studies.

I've tried to talk to him about it but he gets so defensive and feels like he's being attacked. We just don't seem to be able to talk without it becoming an argument and I feel like I'm walking on egg shells. He's studying in a field that deals with depression but can't seem to apply his understanding to himself.

I live abroad and have no one I feel close enough to talk to. I want to help him but I don't know how and feel more and more resentful towards the relationship.

Any advice would be greatly received.

expatinscotland Tue 18-Jun-13 09:28:16

Depression is not a carte blanche to treat people like shit. You can't save anyone, either.

Why are you together?.

Walking on eggshells is code to my mind for saying "living in fear".

You cannot act as a rescuer or a saviour in a relationship. Neither approach works.

You cannot help someone who ultimately does not want to be helped. You are too close to the situation to be of any real benefit to him, he does not want your help.

camrywagon Tue 18-Jun-13 09:40:52

That thought was niggling round in my head at 2 this morning - I am trying to understand how he's feeling but I'm not teflon coated and the way he is being is hurting me a lot.

I don't fully understand depression (hence this desperation plea for advice). Conceptually I understand it and have had family members suffer from it but I don't seem to be able to actually be able to do anything productive to help. I know in my head I can't save him but don't feel able to let someone I love 'drown'. What if he can't save himself?

camrywagon Tue 18-Jun-13 09:43:41

Also, I don't know if he is depressed or something else..lazy? hiding something? I really don't mean to offend anyone and I know depression is a terrible and very real thing. I guess that's why I'm trying to get advice - if I pull him up for being lazy and he is depressed am I making things worse?

camrywagon Tue 18-Jun-13 09:53:24

I am living in 'fear' - of making it worse.

We're together because I love him and I want to support him through this, if possible.

I completely get the idea of not being able to help someone who doesn't want your help. He's never wanted anyone's help and it's only in the last 5 years or so he's started asking for it when he needs it, but even then only when desperate.

Thank you for replying - I've never really posted but have taken a lot from here just lurking in the past and decided to bite the bullet tonight as I'm truly at the end of me tether.

expatinscotland Tue 18-Jun-13 10:13:45

Camry, you are flogging a dead horse here.

Dahlen Tue 18-Jun-13 10:25:50

How long have you been together?

IME depression tends to manifest itself very much as an extreme of the person's underlying personality. While most people who suffer tend to experience loss of motivation, sleep disturbance, unhappiness, etc., the way in which they treat someone is simply exaggerated, NOT changed.

IF this a newish relationship, I wouldn't hang on in there. If you're a much more established couple, the biggest favour you can do your DP is kickstart him into tackling his problem head on by telling him you'll leave unless he starts to take steps to deal with the problem; that you'll support him every step of the way but you won't tolerate standing by and watching him throw his own life down the toilet, yours too, while making no effort to prevent that happening.

MonParapluie Tue 18-Jun-13 10:45:33

I really feel for you and can identify with you. My DP is suffering depression for a year now, he is also studying and was struggling to get things done, sleeping badly etc and it deteriorated from manageable symptoms to a much more horrible situation. I too wanted to help him, and help motivate him, but was worried that trying to be too 'forceful' in pulling him up for lazyness would make things worse.

I can only tell you my experience and what helped me to help him. Some of these might sound obvious but there we go.

Helpful things
Getting fresh air and exercise, even if just going for a short walk after work, going swimming.
Getting into a routing and sticking to it
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every night
Reduce alcohol consumption (alcohol is a depressant)
Listen to him if and when he wants to talk about how he is feeling, and be gentle

Unhelpful things
Trying to be too forceful or getting angry at him when he isn't getting things done - just made him feel more like a failure
Telling him to get over it or snap out of it

This has truly been one of the hardest years of my life with DP depression. One of the hardest things has been that when he is in a very bad phase, he hardly wants to look at or touch me, won't cuddle me, doesn't interact etc. I have found it very hard to remember that this is a symptom of depression and he isn't acting that way because he hates me, it's not really him, IYSWIM. He over reacts to very small things in a way that is totally out of character for him.

He has now been on antidepressants for 3 months and the difference is incredible. This is turning in to a bit of an essay so I will stop now but please don't give up, I understand that you want to help him not just give up on him because you love him, because I feel that way too.

MonParapluie Tue 18-Jun-13 10:46:29

*getting in to a routine

Look at this if you can without any emotion, what would you be saying to a friend in this situation.

You love him yes, but that is not a reason to stay if you are walking on eggshells. You cannot love him better and you could well make things worse for you if you stay. Your self worth and esteem is taking a right old battering here at his hands; that damage is long lasting. Also I am dubious about him really asking for help for the last 5 years; what has really changed now?.

Unless he wants to help his own self and this does not include him either being defensive and shouting you down, then you are truly flogging a dead horse. How much of this also is down to him actually being an arse and using depression as an excuse to mistreat you?.

I would read up on co-dependency as you could well be showing co-dependency tendencies here with regards to him. Those in itself are damaging.

What if he cannot save himself?. Its up to him, its his life, not yours to change. You were not put here to rescue and or save someone who ultimately may not want to be rescued and or saved. Again, you are too close to be of any real use to him, besides which he does not want your help.

An ultimatum to shape up or ship out can only be issued once; repeated ultimatums lose all their power.

MonParapluie Tue 18-Jun-13 10:47:52

Also, personally I would never, ever threaten to leave him when he was at his most vulnerable.

Dahlen Tue 18-Jun-13 10:53:35

I never gave up on my friend who was sectioned either (I was living with her at the time), but all the help, support, cajoling, motivation and kindness in the world had achieved nothing. It had the direct opposite effect in fact - it infantilised her and took away any responsibility she felt toward herself.

Don't get me wrong - I would never advocate telling someone who has depression to "pull yourself together or I'm off". It's always worth trying support first because for many people that's all they need. However, when it doesn't work, sometimes a tougher approach is needed to cut through the fog.

The OP's DP won't even make it to the Dr's for ADs as long as he's in denial about his depression and taking it out on the OP.

camrywagon Tue 18-Jun-13 11:01:48

Thank you for your replies

Dahlen - we've been together 3 years and are engaged to be married next year. I don't know if a 'kickstart' is what he needs to hear but i'm tempted sometimes. Then I think how I would feel if the situation were reversed.

MonParapluie - thank you for your response. The advice does sound 'obvious' but isn't at all when you actually think about applying it to your own situation (IYSWIM?) - really helpful, especially the going to bed at the same time. I often go earlier as I'm up at 6:30 and will get up in the night to find him watching some tv at 3 - he just loses track of time so no wonder he's fucked the next day.

I really associate with the lack of interaction - when he's 'normal' he's incredibly tactile, interested and loving - more so and more naturally than anyone I've ever known. At the moment it's like a shutter is down. So out of character and I can see how 'lost' he is in himself.

This turned into its own essay - really helpful just writing things down and getting others' experience/advice.

Do you really want to get married to this man?. I would look into postponing any wedding plans as things stand currently.

Assuming that he is depressed, what medical help has he sought for his depression?. I ask only as you have not mentioned anything medically based. Or has he solely leaned on you throughout?. I would be extremely concerned if he has only leant on you as if you are somehow responsible for his overall wellbeing. I still do not like the facts that you feel you are walking on eggshells nor his overtly defensive behaviour when you do try and talk to him.

gertrudestein Tue 18-Jun-13 12:14:50

As well as MonParapluie's excellent advice, I'd add trying to acknowledge that there is a problem, and that you can tackle it together. This doesn't mean that everything in your relationship has to be about solving the problem, but just to acknowledge that how you each act affects the other.

This series of books is actually rather wonderful, and helped my partner and me talk about depression:
http://matthewjohnstone.com.au/courses/i-had-a-black-dog/
http://matthewjohnstone.com.au/courses/living-with-a-black-dog/

Depression is definitely a very selfish illness - I say this as someone who suffers from it myself, and who has looked after my DH when he had a long period of depression. You certainly need to take time to look after yourself and remember your own needs, but I find the 'LTB' knee-jerk reactions on here a little unfeeling.

Depression is an illness that is just as much of a terrifying, confusing and unexpected state for the person going through it as it is for the people watching him or her. It is not their 'underlying personality' coming through - in fact, for me the turning point came when I read a book about clinical depression and realised that all the things I had been thinking and feeling were actually totally predictable symptoms. This made me realise that I had an illness, rather than that I was just a bad person with no hope in my life.

The Mind website is quite useful for this
http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/7980_understanding_depression?gclid=CIOfkaW87bcCFQTMtAod2iwArA

There is also some advice on there for friends and family of people who are depressed, OP. Good luck.

harrap Tue 18-Jun-13 12:52:30

Hello, just wanted to say I feel for you. My partner suffers from depression. I've been with him a long time. When he's not depressed he's lovely, when he is depressed he is a different person.

I posted a couple of months ago in mental health asking, like you, for some insight into depression.

Someone recommended a book called "Noonday Demon" and I've started reading it and can recommend it too.

In my experience there is really nothing you can do for him, be kind and make it clear you believe he needs help but cajoling, placating, getting upset, getting angry, nagging, even trying to have a rational conversation won't help and will just use up your own energy. You must just do everything you can to protect yourself from also becoming depressed.

The last time my DP had a depressive episode was absolutely horrific for me-if I could have left I would have but my circumstances were such that I just couldn't.

He completely shut down and withdrew.

Things are so much better now- we are not quite back to "normal" (and our normal is very good) but we are getting there. He finally accepted he has a problem and has been seeing a therapist and is desperate not to lose me. I too want to make things work and I think they will, but I have come to really understand that I am in a relationship with someone who is susceptible to mental illness and I am quite vigilant and I am not going to go through what I went through with him again.

Everybody and every relationship is different so I couldn't possibly advise you on whether to stay or not, but do take care of yourself.

harrap Tue 18-Jun-13 12:57:20

Also want to add that I agree with Gertrude that I don't think depression has a great deal to do with someone's underlying personality.

It's not an excuse for bad behaviour but is an explanation. You are not obliged to stay with someone if they are treating you badly whatever the reason but it does help to realised it really is the depression talking not something they personally have against you.

madas Tue 18-Jun-13 16:34:23

Hi cam.

I am 6 months down the line from being diagnosed with depression. It took me a year to realise there was a problem even after loads of hints from my wife and other people. After being able to talk to people about it i concluded the reason why it took so long was the fear of being thought of as a crank for want of a better word. My advice And my wifes. Is dont let his deffensiveness put you of from talking and maybe do it away from your normal suroundings, perhaps somewhere he feels comfortable. Direct him to the many sites out there.

janesnowdon1 Tue 18-Jun-13 19:13:05

You need to get him to see a doctor and get some help. Offer to go with him or imply you both need to see the dr to talk about problems in the relationship - I know just how easy this is to say but tough to accomplish. No one wants to admit they have a mental health problem and worry about having it on their record but the depression acn sometimes last for years otherwise

I have found the books by Anne Sheffield useful (also a website and message board) as they are written to help the carer of the depressed person understand and cope with the illness. www.amazon.co.uk/How-Survive-When-Theyre-Depressed/dp/0609804154/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371579041&sr=8-1&keywords=anne+sheffield

www.amazon.co.uk/Depression-Fallout-Anne-Sheffield/dp/0060009349/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1371579041&sr=8-2&keywords=anne+sheffield

Good luck - I too know how heartbreaking it can be

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 18-Jun-13 21:09:37

I used to work in mental health and it took me ages to realise I was depressed. It was a real relief when a doctor told me that I was.

I find attitudes to depression in men on MN to be dismissive (I am a woman) - assumptions of abusiveness are sometimes made. My father also suffers from depression and I know that the self hatred and weakness you feel when you are the throes of it can make it very hard to acknowledge. I think this can be especially the case in men.

What can you do?

Tell him you think he is depressed and that you would like him to see a doctor

Protect yourself and give yourself the permission to moan about him and have support for yourself

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 18-Jun-13 21:14:28

I would add that, for me ( young at the time) i had quite a lot invested in the idea of myself as being better than other people at coping and being a helper not a victim. This made it hard for me to acknowldge being ill myself. It's an immature and arrogant view of what being a mental health professional is, but I wonder if that makes it hard for him to see what is going on.

cestlavielife Tue 18-Jun-13 21:29:53

True clinical depression is an illness which needs treatment from a professional. You can't treat him unless you are a professional.
Get him to a doctor. March him there, Or have him talk to his tutor uni nurse etc.

Make it an ultimatum to go to a doctor. Or get a private doctor to come to him. Dont argue tell him again and again that he needs to see a doctor and you can go with him.

Dont marry til he undergoing treatment.

Don't have a baby til you know the diagnosis and know what treatment works for him,

If he can get insight nto his depression then you might be ok.
If he won't, then nothing you can do for him.

TimeofChange Tue 18-Jun-13 21:36:56

All good advice here.
I would like to add:
No caffeine for at least five hours before bedtime.
No alcohol.
No cannabis.
No high energy drinks including coca cola.
No chocolate or sugary foods in the evening.

He cannot get up in the morning because he is staying up half the night.

Slambang Tue 18-Jun-13 21:38:02

My dh has depression and I'm a bit shocked that people recommend you ltb after only 2 months of depressed behaviour. Bloody hell, would you leave someone if they had a horrible rash for 2 months or a broken leg? hmm

But he must do something about himself. It really does sound very much like depression and I know exactly what you mean about walking on eggshells. Dh's depression manifested itself as irritability, stress and viewing everything (including me) in the most negative light. I finally made an ultimatum - doctor or I go. He went to the GP was diagnosed with serious depression, put on Citalopram and it transformed him ( and me). He'd previously been one of those people who swore he would never take 'happy pills.'

I've got my dh back. Our marriage is on track after a seriously dodgy year or too.

BUT If I had known what living with a depressive would be like before I fell in love with dh and had dcs with him, I might have thought twice about the whole thing...

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now