Dear Sambag: Help with Depressed Boyfriend
My boyfriend has been extremely depressed lately and I just don’t know what to do? He’s in this rut where everything right now and I just feel so bad for him. I was in a similar situation years ago and (of course I don’t understand) I see where he’s coming from. I want to help him in every way possible but I also remember being so annoyed when people tried to help me.
He means so much to me and seeing him like this is killing me. It’s like the spark in him is gone. He’s even posted a few vague things on FB saying how when times are hard you have to try and look at the bright things in life, AND HE NEVER POST STUFF LIKE THAT TO THE PUBLIC. He’s usually very private.
When we’re together he seems happy, but so did I when I was in a similar situation. The other day he told me that he was thinking of going to a therapist about everything and I said if he wanted to talk and he changed the subject.
I know that’s a clear indication that he doesn’t want to talk, however, i feel terrible just watching him go down this rabbit hole. I just want him to know that I’m here for him without being the annoying cliché person who says “you can tell me anything.”
I’m genuinely concerned about him. It just seems to becoming worse and worse every day. Please give me some damn advice!
Sounds like your boyfriend struggles with depression, here is my advice:
1. Encourage healthy habits but don’t push too hard (eg: “do you want to go to the gym with me?” Not – “you need to work out and not sit around. Why didn’t you go to the gym yesterday?’). Some things that help me feel less depressed: getting half an hour of sunlight a day, being social with friends at least once a week even if I don’t feel like it, getting out of the apartment even if it’s just a coffee shop / restaurant, gym, eating healthily. Activity is the enemy of depression.
2. Encourage him to engage in things he already likes. Is he a hiking fan but hasn’t been doing it lately? Try setting up a hike for a Saturday. Or maybe it’s cooking or drawing.
3. Keep your drinking with him moderate, and try to avoid events centered around alcohol. Having more than a few drinks in a day or for more than a few days a week exacerbates depression. By a drink I mean a beer / glass of wine, not a large Martini which would count as 2 or 3.
4. If you think he’s dangerously depressed (ie considering self harm / suicide) then really try to get him to go to a professional therapist. Serious clinical depression is no joke and can be truly life threatening. If it’s less severe depression, therapy / meds can help but aren’t as critical.
5. When he is clearly feeling depressed, give him some space. One of the most draining things during depression is feeling like you have to pretend to be happy / energetic for other people. This is why many of us socially isolate during depressive episodes. Let him know he doesn’t have to fake it with you if he is feeling down. Let him know it’s OK to be ‘unfun’ around you, not once in words, but over and over again with actions. If he doesn’t feel like talking much one day, that’s OK. If he needs to just be on his own and not be around people for a weekend, that’s also OK. It takes a lot of work to have a relationship in which a depressed person feels like it’s OK to just feel bad or be numb around another person, but the more you can make him feel you aren’t expecting more (in the moment) even when he’s not being funny / engaging / energetic the more he will feel safe around you even when he’s not doing well.
But I’ll stop there and let our readers weigh in. Please share your advice in the Comments below.