My girlfriend suffers from suicidal depression
Hello, I am reaching out here because my girlfriend is struggling with suicidal depression and I need advice on how to proceed in our relationship.
Some background: this is my first relationship, we met in college, and have been together for five years. I found out early on that she suffers from this condition and it has continually persisted.
Her depression comes in periodic waves. There are times when she feels (for lack of a better term) normal though she is often in a state of severe anxiety and hopelessness. Lately her depression is induced by stress from her work though that is not always the cause.
In the worst case, she can become suicidal. She has come close to taking her life before and was hospitalized once before I met her. She enters this state due to severe anxiety or sometimes from a perception that she is a burden on those around her and that they would be better off with her not in their life. I try to console her by showing that I and many other people in her life love her and would trade anything to not lose her… but this doesn’t seem to help. She also often physically hurts herself to distract herself from the mental pain.
This overall situation has been a heavy burden on me, especially because I am the only one she opens up to or even knows the extent / severity of her current condition. She doesn’t discuss it with her family because she doesn’t want to be a burden on them. I try to convince her to open up to them in order to have a broader support system but to no avail. She also forbids me from reaching out for medical help for fear of being hospitalized again and not being able to recover from this with respect to her career. She has begun speaking with an online therapist for two months but I get a sense that a strong trust hasn’t formed there yet.
Of course this situation has put a strain on our relationship. Sex and physical affection have become rare. I am also afraid that me taking care of her is impacting the way I perceive her. At times I feel as if I am taking on more of a role of a guardian and it becomes difficult to balance this role with being a romantic partner.
I am at a crossroads now. Given the current strain on the relationship and the future it entails for me, I am wondering if it is best for me in the long run to break up with her (indeed she even tells me this when she is in her depressed state). Not to mention, there will likely be difficulties in the future with respect to having kids (Would she be in a stable condition to raise children? Could she handle pregnancy?). But at the same time, even if I were to bring myself to break up with her (which is hard because I do love her), how would that impact her? She is fragile enough as it is now and dependent on me, I can’t imagine what losing her love and best friend would do to her. What if that were the straw that broke the camel’s back? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself…
Thank you for reading this rather long post. I would really appreciate advice on what is best for us both. Can she overcome this and be safe? What is the best course of action?
I've been where your girlfriend is. She (hopefully) will benefit from therapy. She will get out of therapy what she puts into it. Do you know if she really IS participating? (Because I had a depressed room mate who *said* she was going, left the apartment every Tuesday morning for her appointment, and actually stopped after two sessions). Yes, it can be overcome. Though I still have bouts of depression, it's rather well controlled with medication now. Is she taking medication?
You are absolutely correct in your perception that you shouldn't be her guardian *and* her romantic partner. And you're right, too, that she's not a candidate for marriage or parenthood in this condition. If that's your plan for the future, you have to consider the person she is today, and not 'potential.' What's her take on having children? Yes, no, maybe? Because if you're SURE you want them, and she doesn't or isn't sure, depression or no you're not a match. You would have to break up eventually, and the sooner the better.
Do you know the number / name of her therapist? Here's the only thing I've got: Get in touch with the therapist and tell him/her of your concerns, including the prospect of breaking up with her. The therapist can't tell you anything about your girlfriend or her treatment, but at least the therapist won't be blindsided when she tells him/her what's happened.
In the end, you can't save her. Overcoming depression is something she has to work on for herself.
Talk to her and see how much she wants to help herself and what she will do. this talk might will help you decide if you stay or go.
It’s not going to work (or a good idea) if you’re the only person who is supporting her, and what if something happened to you? She needs a support network around her , friends or family members, a counsellor who she trusts. For you and your mental health (which is just as important) she would really needs to think about this and you.
It’s already taking its toll on you and it’s been five years and you’re already looking ahead to the future and wondering she’s going to be able to cope. It’s not going to be a nice life for either of you if there is no change.
this is a sad but unsurprisingly common situation and now being talked about more openly. Has your partner had a diagnosis ? BPD borderline personality disorder can cause all the flags you are witnessing and its heartbreaking; my daughter has this and is now medicated and 95% of the time is fine and bubbly and holding on to a responsible job. She had to be driven to obtaining the diagnosis though and since then things have improved tremendously for her. Try getting hold of Jerold J. Kreisman's book "Talking to a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder", it helped us as those around my daughter to identify skills for communication and boundaries and emotions. The sufferer needs medication but those around the sufferer need expert guidance in what to do look for and cope with.
I hope you can make progress and you understand its NOT YOU its a condition that is causing this.
Anonimo, could you not consider remaining her supportive friend and Constant (since by the sounds of it, that's the only thing she's for too long shared with you), but whereby you stick to the confines of that less intensive role, giving yourself adequate distance and room to get yourself an ACTUAL girlfriend (albeit you don't mention this bit)?
If she IS BPD (although, even then, she clearly has family with intimacy issues that need exploring) then pathological-sized Fear of Abandonment will feature (albeit a depressive can develop that as well). What I'm saying is, I appreciate your concern at how she might react to the bad news.
It MAY be that you unwittingly over-embraced the role of Rescuer, initially, from there, sliding too imperceptibly into Enabler, in which case, purely demoting thus distancing yourself like this, as she gets used to it, may spur her into starting to do more for herself.
An alternative (to give you time to calm down in order to surer of such an impactful decision on you BOTH, and recoup your energy) is you say you fear imminent burn-out and, giving her the total sense of security via a reassuring reunion/resumption date so that she won't spend the whole time panicking and defeating the entire object - inform her that you need a 2-week Time-Out to re-charge your batteries. The sense of security will more likely produce said spurring. Because, due to the impressive duration you've managed already, thereby telling me you DO find it satisfying (on a more a manageable level) - I suspect that taking REGULAR CARER BREAKS not having occurred to you could be why you've become so ground-down (for you).
Just another couple of options and considerations for you.
I also thoroughly recommend you start her on a 'course' of High Strength (1-2000mg/day) Omega DHA/EPA Oil Capsules (free of trace metals...try Healthspan's online site as I believe they ship internationally). In clinical trials, the level and rate of improvement for those suffering suicidal depression, PMT, post-partum depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, injury, joint pain, skin and hair conditions, etc., etc. ETC., were so astonishing and rapid (which they always are for me whenever I need them, hence I bang on about them) that the trial was empathically stopped as soon as possible so that the control group (who'd been fed placebos) could be put out of their misery too. Their 'brew' won awards because of it.
I find pairing it with Vit D moves it up a level.
Also, she needs to be needed. It's the difference between jumping or not.
Has she got a pet?