How can I support my boyfriend - who has depression/anxiety, is going through a rough time, and copes by needing space - while dealing with my own anxiety which manifests as being needy? HALP! Super snowflakey details within.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Here's the scoop: I'm a 26 year old female, diagnosed with anxiety, in a 3+ year relationship with a guy who I love. He's in his last year of his undergraduate degree, although is similar in age to me.
I recently promised him that I wouldn't pressure him to hang out until he finishes his course requirements for his undergraduate degree. Optimistically, this will take around 2 months. I did this for a few reasons:
- He has had a few personal crises through the last few months (family health issues) that have severely disrupted his studies and caused a lot of worry, quite understandably.
- With these issues came the emergence of a serious anxiety disorder (which, while signs have been there for some time, did not previously interfere with his ability to work), which necessitated an indeterminate extension of his undergrad work.
- While being outwardly gregarious, he's actually quite introverted. Especially when he's having anxiety issues, he draws inward and needs alone time to cope with "his weirdness" (his words, not mine) and sort through his problems. He doesn't share his concerns about his anxiety often; instead, he becomes "neglectful" (again, his words; although, I'm inclined to agree a bit here): he doesn't call, doesn't want to leave his work, but doesn't focus either and gets trapped in procrastination cycles, so he feels like he can't take the time off to spend time with me. He has told me that this happens because "he knows I'll be just there and these things are big and urgent, so he tends to focus on those". He assures me he doesn't forget, I just can't be a priority. Which I both understand and resent, if that makes sense.
- He's also recently started to take antidepressants, which have thrown his emotions through a loop. He had a bit of a low sex drive before, and has warned that it might be worse now (this has been a bit of an issue in the past between us, but isn't the big concern for me right now)
He has had a tendency, over the course of our dating, to leave our relationship on the back burner when he gets even remotely stressed. As it is right now, I hardly see him once a week and we live in the same city. I understand, however, that this issue is bigger than me and our previous issues, and I want more than anything for him to get through his work and get better emotionally. I also saw that my badgering him to spend time when he is so stressed was exacerbating his anxiety and not helping, which is why I initiated the hiatus. I let him know that I would love to see him whenever he feels like he can afford a break, and am always there to talk over his concerns/help him with his work/make him dinner or give him a massage. But I won't ask him to hang out, he can let me know when he is free. We still talk every day on the phone.
But! Now I'm not sure if this was the right choice. I struggle with my anxiety too, and my pattern is to seek reassurance through him. I often characterize myself as being "needy" (which may or may not be appropriate); I want to enjoy life with him, and for me that necessitates seeing him a lot more than I do right now. Our current frequency of hanging out is really difficult on me. I have a busy life aside from him - friends, activities, and my own introverted habits - but I still hurt that I can't see him more. And while this is a temporary scenario (when he gets done his courses, he can hang out more!) I sometimes get thrown into my own anxiety loops, where I worry about a long term future in which this is my reality forever (and, since his anxiety won't be "cured" after his courses, this isn't that far-fetched). I'm working hard on improving my self esteem and breaking down my anxiety through CBT (with a therapist), but it's slow going and I'm not sure how I can tough out this next bit of time.
I want so badly to be a good, supportive rock for him during this period, but I'm finding it so hard to constantly be playing second or third fiddle to everything else. Then I feel guilty and childish about wanting more attention, since he has actual issues and it seems petty to bring up these comparatively insignificant concerns when he has a legit mental illness and intense levels of stress.
So, after that unfortunately long winded opening, my questions:
1) How can I best support my significant other through a mental illness? How have you, me-fites, helped your gals/guys during these periods, or how have you been helped?
2) How can I manage my anxiety during this period? Any reading materials, suggested activities, or specific advice is greatly appreciated.
Thanks everyone. Throw away e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org