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Living with depressed partner

(21 Posts)
Oscarlucinda Mon 25-Jun-18 14:04:37

Hi there, I'm posting because I had a meltdown at work today in front of my boss and I'm absolutely mortified (had no idea I was going to cry and when the tears started, I couldn't stop myself). It's made me realize that perhaps I'm not coping very well.

I think my partner has depression. A GP hasn't confirmed it but he has many of the symptoms of low level depression and anxiety. I think he's always had it but I've missed the signs. Perhaps because my mum has always had depression so I normalized it. I didn't find out about my mum until well into my adult years when I found a prescription for anti-depressants (and then discovered that my mum has always refused meds or any other treatment). Things with my partner only really got worse with the arrival of our first child 7 years ago. It's been a subtle decline but a definite decline and change in his moods and behaviour.

I'm just so drained and beyond exhausted by it. His negativity, his being irritated by everything, being unable to see the positive or good in anything, his lack of drive and motivation, his anger and also loss of libido (no sex for 4 years now). I get depressed just thinking about the life I have ahead of me if things don't change.

Some days he will say he thinks he has depression. Yet he won't seek help for it. It's taken a year for me to convince him to see a GP who have referred him to counselling to see if he has depression. But he's not taken any action to make an appointment to see someone. He keeps making excuses. I get that if you have depression, this is often the case. Other days, he will say it's not depression. That he's a nice guy with a short fuse and lack of patience. But it's more than that I feel but he can't see it. We are in an endless cycle of fights caused by his moods and negativity, followed by him apologising and promising to do something about. He's tried meditation but it didn't work because he only did it a few times but didn't really commit to it. I've encouraged him to exercise but he finds it hard to make the effort. I encourage him to see friends and socialize and he has a good time but comes home depressed the next day thinking of all the social life he no longer has (his friends are in their mid 40s but none have kids by choice) rather than appreciating what a great night he's had and the blessings of his current life. I get that this is probably the depression but its SO draining and exhausting hearing him complain so much and being negative about everything. When, from an my perspective and an outsider's perspective, he has an amazing life. I'm also exhausted because I spend so much time apologizing when I feel I've done nothing wrong. He has general low self-esteem (but won't admit it) and anything I say is taken as criticism. I feel like I'm stuck in this endless cycle and it's so depressing. I would describe myself as a positive person so sometimes I wonder how I ended up with such a negative person. I've been keeping things running since the kids were born but now I'm just exhausted. I'm mortified about what happened at work today in front of my boss. He has no idea why I burst into uncontrollable tears and think it's something to do with me not being able to cope with my workload although I have said it's something going on in my personal life.

The kids are getting old and I worry that they are being affected or that they will pick up some of their father's negativity or inability to emotionally regulate. I also feel guilty when they are at the end of his irritability. My partner doesn't have anyone to talk to. He does have friends but whilst I think some of them would really surprise him in how supportive they would be, he's not really a talker (so it is hard for him to open up), he's not very self-aware or introspective, and I think he's embarrassed to say anything to his friends. I totally get that. What it means though is that they see a really funny, laid back guy (which he is when he isn't depressed) whereas I see the negative, angry person.

I don't know what to do . I can't talk about this with anyone because his family aren't supportive in this way (and I don't speak the same language as them anyway) and my parents would not be supportive (as they didn't approve of me being with him in the first place and their attitude is that I made my bed, I should lie in it). I can't tell his friends as that would not be right and I don't want my friends to judge him. On the outside, people always think we have such a great relationship or set up and they really have very little idea what's going on behind closed doors.

I have been coping so far by doing everything. I feel like a single parent. I have a stressful and demanding career, I run the house, manage the school runs, deal with life's admin etc. I let him sleep, I encourage him to socialise and go out. I do what I can so that he has nothing to be depressed about . But he is. He tells me he loves me but that I am also the cause of his depression because I am having a go at him constantly (which I often am these days), so then I start to wonder whether we should separate if i really am the cause. I have suggested this and would be OK to cope on my own but then I feel guilty about leaving him. I am the breadwinner and he financially relies on me (also part of the issue as he feels emasculated even though I have told him countless times that I don't care what he earns, that all i need is a supportive and loving partner and father).

We do often talk about separating but he seems reluctant to leave. Because he loves the kids so much (and me) and doesn't really want to leave. At the same time, I don't think he gets how difficult and draining it is to live with him. Until now, I have never let my personal life stray into my professional life but today it has. And I've not been able to stop crying at work today. Which has never happened before.

I just don't know what to do. He's promised to seek therapy and counseling. Part of the issue here is that he's self-employed. So to attend a session, he'd have to turn down clients and work. And partly the reason why his 'depression' seems to have got worse recently is that work (which has been doing so well) has started to quieten down recently, so he doesn't want to turn down clients to attend therapy.

Namechange128 Mon 25-Jun-18 14:17:26

He sounds a lot like my dh in the 2 years before he finally had a breakdown and went on medication. It's really hard, especially when all the weight of daily life falls on you. For my DH it took a near me finally giving him the ultimatum that we could not continue living together as things were, with the kids and I ending up virtually living our own separate lives from him to avoid his perpetual gloominess and irritability. Medication improved things within weeks though it's been no magic bullet, the side effects can be intense and some work better than others, but it can improve daily life while.cbt can address unhelpful thinking patterns.

My DH is also self employed and needed to go part time through all this, while I returned to full time. It has been really tough but things can improve.

Something I wish I'd sought earlier was more support for me - it's not a load that you can easily bear alone. Talk to a counsellor, maybe to his family too, so they can support him as well. As it was, I think I felt a lot of sadness and anger at taking on all of this, but never got to express it because of his fragility, that really negatively affected our relationship so wish I'd addressed it earlier.

Hugs and best of luck

Wolfiefan Mon 25-Jun-18 14:21:05

You're not responsible for his mental health. Are you sure he actually went to his GP. They can and do diagnose depression. You don't have to go to counselling to see if you have it.
Ultimately if he won't get help and you don't want to live like this then you have no choice about what to do.

Caselgarcia Mon 25-Jun-18 14:32:49

I wonder whether you carrying the burden of supporting the family financially and emotionally is maybe not helping him get better? Does he feel inadequate because you are doing the ' heavy lifting'.
It sounds like you are holding it all together and are afraid of letting anyone know you need help. Don't allow him to wallow in his negativity, give him responsibity for certain tasks because you can't do it all.
I think if people are busy, have purpose in their lives they become more positive.

Arum51 Mon 25-Jun-18 14:55:47

Okay. Firstly, there is a difference between "having a mental illness" and "being an arse". You can be both at the same time. While you are not responsible for things that are a result of your illness, you are totally responsible for being an arse. Your husband sounds as if he is depressed, but he also sounds like he's being an arse. Secondly, having a mental illness means taking responsibility for yourself and your treatment. This can be very difficult - one of the first things you can lose is 'insight', ie the ability to recognise how ill you are - but you have to try. Unless you are experiencing psychosis, this responsibility is yours alone. Others can support, but you have to take control.

I have bipolar disorder, started getting ill in my teens. Full on, rapid cycling, psychosis at both ends of the scale, disassociation level bipolar. Not the nice, Stephen Fry kind. Despite always taking my meds, and having had loads of therapy over the years, my condition is so severe that I can sometimes get 'breakthroughs', still getting ill despite doing all the right things. I'll straight up tell you that I am a fucking nightmare to live with when depressed. My family say it's much harder to cope with than the psychosis, because it's so much more difficult to pick apart. The slide down is slower, so it happens gradually, and the symptoms themselves are difficult to read. As this has been happening for decades, everyone is much more confident about identifying symptom clusters and then standing up to me. They have to stand up to me, because I have lost insight, and either think I'm fine, or that it's just a blip, or that it's them being horrible and controlling to me (the paranoia is strong in this one grin ).

You're much earlier on the road here - you have no treatment/crisis plan, no access to higher-tier services, no advance directives. So all you can do is stand up to him. This is for his benefit, apart from anyone else's. Depression is terrifyingly awful. He feels scared, out of control, and dead inside. All the pointing out how much he has to be 'happy' about just sounds hollow and meaningless. It sounds like you are the one who is a bit mad, and on occasions can sound actively offensive.

Insist on another appointment with the GP. Insist on going with him. Then have a calm discussion with him. Make it clear that you are not attacking him, but his illness is dominating your lives, and is causing problems that, once he's better, he may regret for the rest of his life. Ask direct questions, focusing on the last 3-6 months, don't drag up the distant past. "In the past few months, what has your sleep pattern been like?", that kind of thing. Ask about sleep, his experience of joy (ie does he still want to do the things he used to like, and do they still make him happy), his ability to interact socially with others, his appetite and drinking, is he struggling to do basic tasks, eg use the stove to cook, how is his personal hygiene, dressing etc. Is his concentration shot? Is he absorbing verbal or written info as well as he used to? How is his driving, his ability to anticipate what others are doing, or to recognise hazards in time? The loss of sex drive is a biggie. Go through his life with a fine tooth comb. Also, ask the big one, calmly and without judgement: "Have you had any thoughts of harming yourself?" If the answer is yes, what does that look like? Does he have a plan? Is he getting intrusive thoughts? How often is this happening? Can he identify any triggers? Write things down beforehand, so you don't forget things. Make a clear list of his symptoms (I can help you put some of it into 'mental-health-speak', if you need me to). Be firm with the GP. Not to scare you, but your husband has a lot of risk factors for suicide here - his gender, age, perceived loss of status, relationship difficulties, etc. The GP should take this very seriously, and if it looks like s/he isn't, make a massive bloody fuss.

In the meantime, you need to look after yourself. From what you've written, there is a possibility that you are sliding into depression yourself. The bursting into tears at work thing isn't a great sign. Although it may seem like it, as I've been concentrating on the mh stuff here, you are not an afterthought. Please have a google, and look at some of the things that help with low level/incipient depression, and start to do positive things for yourself.

You could also google Hyperbole and a Half, Depression Part 2 (about him), and possibly Depression Part 1 (maybe about you?). They're an easy read, and a very, very good description of depression, what it feels like, and how other people can (and can't) help.

Sorry this is so long, but i hope you find it helpful! I'm a bit of an "expert by experience" grin and can go on sometimes!

Oscarlucinda Mon 25-Jun-18 15:18:37

Thanks for the responses so far.

Namechange128, you make a good point about seeking support for myself. I think my breakdown in front of my boss today indicates that I'm not coping as well as I imagine and certainly I do feel a lot of resentment towards him (which isn't healthy) which isn't helping things. I'm going to make an appointment to see a counsellor for me. I hadn't thought I would need one before but I now I see that I do (and perhaps it will help me help him).

Wolfiefan, he did go as I was with him when he went to pick up the referral letter. It's taken him a few weeks to get round to booking an appointment. I have said the same thing to him. That if he won't seek help, I can't stay for the sake of my own sanity and for the kids. I just don't know at what point I throw in the towel though.

Caselgarcia, totally agree with what you say. We tried that. I've had to learn to not care if things aren't done my way as long as he does them and to appreciate him doing stuff and also giving him responsibility. We have definitely tried this and it didn't go well. Things would either be left undone for days or weeks on end (even with reminders) or until I've had no choice but to do it myself. Or I feel I need to step in to avoid the kids suffering (e.g. he'll forget to pack the kids PE kit or packed lunch or he won't get round to booking holiday camp then we don't have childcare). Or he gets stressed because he says he doesn't like the responsibility and puts it back on me. I am probably too hard on him these days as I tried supporting the gentle way and now we're on tough love as I'm fed up, which he says is causing him to have panic attacks. I do agree with you - I think it would be good if he had more purpose in his life. I've tried to encourage him to think about what hobbies he wants to pursue and to think about what he wants from life or what specifically is making him unhappy and we can see if we can change it. But he doesn't have any hobbies and he says nothing makes him unhappy in life - he says he knows he has so many blessings in his life but that he can't see it or recognize it on a day to day basis. Sorry, not sure if that makes sense.

Oscarlucinda Mon 25-Jun-18 15:19:01

No idea why some of my response is in strikethrough above.

Wolfiefan Mon 25-Jun-18 15:25:40

He has blessings it can't see it? Yep I know how that feels.
Pushing won't help. You can't make him get better. He needs to take charge of his own health.

DBoo Mon 25-Jun-18 15:26:34

I have no suggestions but my dp has severe health anxiety and i sympathise. Its like living with a ticking timebomb and it so hard to be around. I ended up in tears at work last week after one of his flare ups. I'm really sorry you are goimg through this.

Lovelylovelyllamas Mon 25-Jun-18 15:29:29

I'm so sorry you're going through this. As the sometimes depressed partner, I know the strain it puts on a relationship. Do check out Hyperbole and a Half as per Arum51 - it's amazingly helpful and the Simple Dog is very cheering.

@Arum51 That's amazingly insightful. Thank you.

Oscarlucinda Mon 25-Jun-18 16:12:11

Thanks everyone. I feel so much better knowing I'm not alone and that others have gone through this (both sides). I've just made an appointment to see a therapist for myself so I can talk to someone professionally about this and to manage my own well being. It's terrifying (for me) to think I could be sliding into mild depression myself.

Arum51, super helpful and really insightful. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I am going to check out those sites and read up. One thing I haven't done enough of is reading around this. I can see that I need to arm myself with more knowledge so I can better tackle this with him. To be honest, I didn't consider going to the GP with him as I didn't think he'd want me there (so he could be more transparent) but I will suggest this. I did see his referral letter and it seems that he has underplayed a lot of what he is going through.

I am also going to follow up on the advice you've given in your post above. I do always tell him that I'm not attacking him and I always remind him that I've always had his back and always will regardless whether we stay together or separate. But, yes, I guess its hard not to feel attacked if you are depressed. And I can see now that it's easy for me to point out his blessings and tell him to be happy if he has a mental illness. I'm not sure if this is relevant but before I met him, I know that he was a regular user of marijuana for many, many years. Not a heavy user but definitely regular and I sometimes wonder if this has had an effect on his mental health as he's got older. He did stop when I was pregnant with our first but by then he would have been smoking a joint or two daily for the last decade at least. I don't think he mentioned this to his GP.

Again, thanks everyone for your kind words, advice and support.

Arum51 Mon 25-Jun-18 22:11:55

@Oscarlucinda (great name, btw, loved that book!)

Glad you found some of it useful. As to the weed... the only possible 'causative' correlation between weed use and mh is heavy use before the age of 15, and schizophrenia. Otherwise, it's called 'self medication'. People who have mh problems are significantly more likely to smoke/use drugs/misuse alcohol. It's a way of trying to stabilise yourself, which doesn't work. From what you've said your husband has been self medicating for a long time. Of people who are going to have chronic mh problems, 50% of us are symptomatic before the age of 14. The rest are mainly on board by 24. It sounds as if your husband has been ill long before he met you.

Meeting you, his relationship, getting married etc, that may well have been enough to make him 'plateau'. For the first time in a long time, he felt human. But as time went on, he's descended again. He loves you. He wants to be a good dad. He wants his company to be really successful. But it's not working. He feels like shit. He's felt like shit for ages. It's all going more and more wrong, and he can't fix it. He's thrashing around, in pain and impotence, and everything is sliding away from him. You are considering leaving. His kids can't cope. His company is failing. Everything that has held him together is snapping apart, and it's heading towards its inevitable conclusion.

He's going under. This is not your fault, or, ultimately, your problem. But you are clear you love him, so I'm telling you. It's very much up to you how far this has gone. He was ill long before he met you (the whole "you make me depressed" thing is totally him being an arse). Unless he's prepared to step up, then he will continue being ill, and you have no idea how this will impact on the kids. Both my daughters have significant mh issues, one bipolar, the other schizophrenia. I have NO idea if that's a result of their upbringing, or the genetic shitstorm I gifted them with. You don't want to be sitting in CAMHS in 5 years, thinking "well I totally wish I'd left him earlier". So think this through carefully.

You say you love him, soyou could give it a go. He's lost insight, so he's defensive, and convinced everyone is out to get him. His problems have almost certainly impacted on his work, which is why it's dried up. Difficulty communicating, retaining/processing information, sequencing tasks etc will have fucked him over. He can't tell you this, because it's emasculating. He can't tell the GP the truth, because it's emasculating. Everything is building together to make it more and more shit.

He's scared. Everyone/thing is out to get him. So try the 'trust' thing. To actually listen to you, or anyone else who is trying to help, he is going to have to choke down his own reactions. Everyone hates him. Everyone thinks he's a joke. You all find him wanting. If only you'd all fuck off and leave him, he could sort it all out. You need to smash through this if you are going to help.

You need to trust me. You need to trust that I love you. You need to trust that this family is worth something. I know it must feel like everyone is against you, but trust me, me and the kids need you. No matter how much of a bitch you've told yourself i am, I have done enough over the years to show you that you can trust me. Choke it down. Listen to me. I love you. Let's get out of this.

If it doesn't work, then ultimately, for your kid's sake, you need to get out.

Summerscorcherisjustsummer Tue 26-Jun-18 13:02:20


Great Post thank you. And do you help someone with depression?
Trust me we will get out of this but how. How does one know if it is them or not?

Arum51 Tue 26-Jun-18 16:23:00


Depression is bloody awful, but it's treatable. Meds, therapy and lifestyle changes, mainly. What the OP is describing sounds like a long term problem, so there's no magic wand. Medication kicks in within a few weeks. That starts to lift the fog, and it then becomes possible to do the real work involved. CBT is usually pretty helpful**, but with depression this entrenched, it's going to take more than a few sessions. CBT involves looking at your life, and them making plans. What are the symptoms of becoming unwell? How do you recognise them? Are there certain symptoms, or clusters of symptoms, that are more of a red flag than others? When you recognise the symptoms, what are you going to do to help head things off at the pass? Are there any triggers you can identify? Can you avoid them? If not, what can you do to support yourself in those situations? It's unpicking how things have been in the past, in order to have a robust plan for the future. It's incredibly helpful, but again, it's not a magic wand. It can't protect you all the time. So what do you need from others in terms of support? Who are these others, and are they willing/able to give that support? All this will also look at your lifestyle, and how you are supporting yourself with eating, drinking, socialising etc.

It's not a quick process, and the person involved needs to be willing/able to engage. It's their choice.

Not sure what you meant by "How does one know if it is them or not?"

* It's very important to note that if the issues involve sexual assault, particularly in childhood, *CBT is contraindicated and can, in worst case scenarios, be experienced as abusive itself.

Mary1935 Tue 26-Jun-18 16:50:15

Hi OP is he just presenting this way with you or do others see it. I'm concerned he maybe emotionally abusive.
What is HE doing to address anything? Nothing by what you have written.
Does he work? If so how is he coping?
I'm curious what others make of him.
It sounds really hard work - there are lots of people anxious or depressed who do not act in this way.
He's not being a good role model for his children.
Look after yourself.

ArnoldBee Tue 26-Jun-18 17:00:17

I read Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield which was a turning point for me. I now live my life with the kids and know that hubby will join us if he can. Just to make life a little harder for us he also has diabetes, an interactive thyroid, a heart condition and untreatable high blood pressure which all have the same effects as depression all rolled into one bundle of joy however he can also just be an arse!

ZeroBlondelle Tue 26-Jun-18 18:03:03

This is so close to my experience, OP, although my boyfriend and I have no children (we have talked about it, but I don't want to bring children into the horrible atmosphere in our flat). I have no idea what to do. The man I love has been replaced by an angry stranger who shouts at me because I refuse to believe he's "fucking over as a person".

MoreProsecco Tue 26-Jun-18 21:35:29

My partner has depression too, and I can relate to the angry, disengaged man you find yourself living with.

I have done 2 episodes of depression with him and I'm not sure I have it in me to do a 3rd. It's draining, exhausting & involves so much self-sacrifice & responsibility that it's almost unbearable.

I decided that I wasn't going under with him; so I haven't been able to provide a great deal of emotional support to him. Instead, I have concentrated on myself & the kids - our needs are the priority.

He eventually saw a GP, when he wasn't performing at work due to depression (which he was mortified about) & has had CBT, psychotherapy & AD's.

I gave serious thought to leaving & had a bit of counselling on my own. It was a bit enlightening to discover I have co-dependant traits - this might be an area you might want to examine for yourself.

OP, it might need an ultimatum on your part, or making a GP appointment with him. But please look after yourself & try to prioritise your needs too.

Bollocksitshappenedagain Tue 26-Jun-18 21:51:29

I have just separated from my husband. He has alcohol issues but also depression. I am the main earner but also did all the household admin etc. Some many comments in your post ring bells - he cannot take any negative comments, takes it as a personal map criticism and goes into a mood. Takes anti d's but does nothing else to positively manage his mental health - doesn't exercise, eats crap etc etc. Cannot handle any stress at all

He would spend much of the time separate from the family just sitting in another room. He moved out 4 weeks ago and it's hard to explain how much 'lighter' I feel.

My dd seem fairly indifferent when he comes round which is sad but I think a reflection of his 'isolation' from family life.
Indifferent when he comes round and I think

Arum51 Tue 26-Jun-18 22:51:33

As I've repeatedly stated, depression is fucking awful.

But a family is a family. Everyone, even the kids, needs to play their part in order to keep it going.

If you have someone who is having a massive impact on everyone else, but who refuses to deal with that, then you need to take the kids and leave. You may love him, and he you, but you have little people who need to see 'health' modelled to them.

Summerscorcherisjustsummer Wed 27-Jun-18 09:40:32


So helpful I am going through a bit of the same although DH is more discreet. Which is great as in no huge impact on house but also worrying as if he is going under but we dont know we could have a nasty shock one day.

When say " how do you know its not me"

I mean when I asked DH is it ME, HE says no, but I;, not sure I believe him because he took a long time to say no, anyway....great post again very helpful thank you.

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