About to make a major life change, and I'm completely stuck.
April 15, 2010 8:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm supposed to move in with my long-distance boyfriend this summer, but I'm having serious second thoughts about moving, compounded by mental health issues. Help me handle this situation in the least horrible way possible.

I apologize in advance for how long this is.

Background: I've been with my boyfriend for a little over a year, and our relationship has been long-distance for most of that time. We've known each other for almost 4 years... met when we were both living in Philly during my Freshman year of college and quickly became best friends. I transferred to a university on the West Coast after my sophomore year, in order to be closer to my parents (my father was terminally ill, and has since passed away). I kept in touch with the best friend via phone/internet (in fact, I don't think we've gone more than two days without talking since we met) and in February of 2009, we both confessed that we had feelings for each other. We decided to date, and since then we've seen each other for weekend visits approximately once every 6 weeks, plus I went to stay with him in Philadelphia for a month last summer.

Our relationship is really great, aside from minor pitfalls that seem inevitable in LDRs. A few months ago, we decided that I should move back to PA after graduation. Well, I graduate next month, and I'm starting to realize how utterly unprepared I am for the move, and the huge changes that will come with it.

I've dealt with depression on and off for over a decade, and the past few months have been especially rough. The antidepressant that has kept me a reasonably happy and functioning member of society for the past five years (Paxil) has all but stopped working completely. I have absolutely no energy, and I've been experiencing fleeting suicidal ideation at least a couple of times a day. On days when I don't have class or some other engagement, I have trouble getting out of bed at all. Thankfully, I see a very capable therapist and and a psychiatric nurse practitioner whom I trust a lot, so I'm hopeful that I'll find a treatment or combination of treatments that will work a lot better.

Uprooting my entire life and moving back to Philly seems like a really troubling idea when I'm experiencing this kind of depression. I'd be leaving my entire support system behind... my mom, my sister, my friends, the aformentioned mental health professionals. Plus, I can't muster any enthusiasm for the move at all. It just feels like one more huge thing to worry about when the future in general seems pretty bleak. I don't know how much of my reluctance is rational, vs. how much of it is the depression talking.

I feel like whatever I decide to do, my boyfriend loses. I've thought about postponing the move until my mental health has stabilized, but he doesn't deserve to go through an indefinite period of doubt and waiting while I get my shit together. If I move in with him as planned, I don't think I'll be able to be the kind of partner one wants to embark on a shared life with (at least, not immediately). I've also considered breaking up with him and letting him go on to pursue a "sane" girl, although that would suck immensely for both of us.

While my SO is largely supportive of me and never unkind, he has never experienced depression, and he gets very frustrated when I can't just pull myself up by my bootstraps. So while he knows I've been feeling pretty shitty lately, I don't feel like I can be completely honest with him about it. He'd be simultaneously freaked out and annoyed if I mentioned that I've been having suicidal thoughts. And since I can't bring myself to tell him just how bad things are, I'm worried that he's just going to feel rejected if I suggest postponing my move.

I want to come up with a solution that allows me to take care of my health without being horribly unfair to my boyfriend, but I'm at a loss. Any ideas or words of wisdom would be appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You have to ultimately do what it right for you. If you feel that this means that you should stay where your family is, then that is probably what you should do, especially if you are feeling suicidal. Do be sure to tell your mental health team that you are having these thoughts if you haven't already, so they can be sure to help you with them.

A move can be an emotionally exhausting thing even for those who are not depressed. I can only imagine what it would be like to make such a major change while depressed.

If you can't be completely honest with your boyfriend, the relationship is already damaged. While breaking up with your boyfriend may suck initially for both of you, it won't be the end of the world. You won't have to be so focused on him and his feelings and you can focus on you. It's not selfish to take care of yourself. And he'll be able to move on if he wants to.

Invest in yourself and I'm sure it'll pay dividends.

Good luck.
posted by inturnaround at 8:24 AM on April 15, 2010


You are entitled to change your mind.

You're catastrophizing and really emphasizing to yourself how mean, unfair, wrong, annoying, you are being to your boyfriend. You're not. It's really not that bad. "Hang on until I get my shit together" is not ideal, but it's not that bad either. It's life. "I don't know if I want to move anymore", again, not ideal, but not that bad. I promise.

Take care of yourself, stay with your support system, and make a new plan.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:27 AM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Agreed that it's almost impossible to explain depression other than by experience, but giving your boyfriend a shot at understanding your perspective so you can be more honest with him is -- provided he's a reasonable guy -- an easier task than you uprooting your life to move cross-country, yeah? Maybe you could find something to read together that would be helpful; off the top of my head, The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon is the best thing I've read about depression, but other commenters or your shrink might have better ideas.
posted by clavicle at 8:32 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


A few months ago, we decided that I should move back to PA after graduation. . . . I've dealt with depression on and off for over a decade, and the past few months have been especially rough.

These two things seem related. A few months ago "you" (collectively) decided you'd move back to PA; a few months ago, your depression got much worse.

You don't make it clear how "you" (collectively) made this decision, but I hope that the collective decision was, in fact, collective. It sounds much more likely that your SO wants you to move back, and you agreed that you'd do that. And it sounds like maybe you don't really want to move to PA, and that inner turmoil is what precipitated this latest bout of depression.

If you can, try thinking about the move in isolation from your depression. Do you want to move to PA? What are the good things about moving there? What are the bad things? What are you giving up by moving east? What are you gaining? Figure out all of that, if you can. If moving still seems like the right thing, plan to move -- but not yet. You have to get healthy first. And your SO needs to realize that. You have good mental health providers and a strong support system where you are. Moving away from all of that, while you are not stable, even if the move is the right thing for you do eventually, is bad news.

But it seems more likely to me that you really don't want to move. Not now, and maybe not ever. If, in the end, your relationship does not survive -- because you don't want to move out there, because he really can't understand your mental health issues -- at least you won't be in PA, with no support system.

Also, it's totally OK to end a relationship because you are not in the same place physically, emotionally, mentally. You don't "owe" your boyfriend something in return for him having been a good boyfriend, and you certainly don't owe him a move across the country away from your support system simply because he stayed with you during this time. He made that choice for himself and you are not responsible for making that choice "worth it" for him.
posted by devinemissk at 8:37 AM on April 15, 2010


I'm glad you have a supportive mental health team, but maybe your mental health itself isn't problem... The move is. For example, is anxiety about moving making you depressed, which makes you more anxious about moving? I would try to find out what is up with your increased depressive symptoms and sucidal ideation. Is it grief and loss? Not ready to move? Whatever it is, it sounds like the move should be secondary at this point to your MH concerns. I think putting it off until you're more stable is a wise idea. Why not have your BF come visit you out west for a time, or the two of you take a vacation, midway between you, in say, Chicago? Or go out to see him and try to spend more time together scouting jobs and looking at apartments or something. You're not "insane" and if your gut tells you now is not the time to move, then don't. Depression can distort a lot but your concerns seem pretty rational. Good luck.
posted by ShadePlant at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2010


It seems like right now you really need to be "selfish" (note: taking care of yourself is not selfish) and do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Let your boyfriend do what he needs to do to take care of himself -- whether that means waiting for you or breaking up.

It may help to point out that depression isn't just a mental state but an illness, and it's no more reasonable for him to expect you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps than it would be for him to expect a diabetic to cure themselves with willpower.
posted by bettafish at 8:41 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


starting to realize how utterly unprepared I am for the move, and the huge changes that will come with it.

Can you elaborate on this? Are there specific reasons you are having second thoughts? Are there actual problems you are worried about? Or is this a vague feeling of negativity-- which may be a manifestation of your depression.

Other posters are rightfully cautioning you to take of yourself and pay attention to your doubts about the move. Maybe your anxiety over the move is making your depression worse. But I think you should also think about the inverse- that your depression may be what's getting in the way of making this big life step that you might otherwise want. This also is a reason to talk to doctor about your mental state. If you're feeling suicidal, you really need to see someone.

If you can delay the move until you get help, you might find out that with some treatment, this move will become not a source of dread, but the beginning of your future.
posted by spaltavian at 8:52 AM on April 15, 2010


This one time, I was in a relationship that had started really strong, but was going a bit wobbly. Back when it was stronger, we'd made plans to move in together. As the move-in date drew nearer, she became more and more convinced it was going to be bad for her, psychologically. So she asked that we hold off on the move. We did hold off on moving in together, and eventually we broke up, and we were both tremendously sad.

But! Being tremendously sad is a thing that happens, and it is a thing we can all deal with as humans surrounded by those who love and support us. When I think of the kind of embittering two-animals-trapped-in-one-cave kind of living situation we would've gotten into if we'd moved in together despite her misgivings, I shudder. I applaud the girl I loved for having had the emotional maturity and bravery to do what was necessary for her (and ultimately, our) mental health.

Don't move to Philly. Stay with your support system. You need to get your mind back on track, and to do that, you need a psychological safety net to catch you when you fall. It is untenable to make one single person -- your boyfriend -- into that safety net, which he would be if you move to Philly. Your reluctance is wholly, completely rational. In the strongest possible terms, I recommend that you not move.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Don't move right now; it's highly important to have a support system when you're dealing with depression. I know there are other factors, but that's the most important one right now - if you're already depressed and you suddenly lose the support you have, it's going to get a lot worse.
posted by biochemist at 9:31 AM on April 15, 2010


While my SO is largely supportive of me and never unkind, he has never experienced depression, and he gets very frustrated when I can't just pull myself up by my bootstraps.

I've been that SO. I've gotten better since, or so I like to think.

At this point, you need to do what is best for your care. You won't be doing your SO any favors by not taking the best care of yourself first. Your gut is telling you something (and I don't mean your depression as a symptom of reluctance about the move; I mean your impulse to cancel the move, and to ask about it here). You should listen.
posted by stevis23 at 9:42 AM on April 15, 2010


Sounds like, what with your depression and everything, you are ready for a change in your life. I say move.
posted by eas98 at 11:25 AM on April 15, 2010


He'd be simultaneously freaked out and annoyed if I mentioned that I've been having suicidal thoughts. And since I can't bring myself to tell him just how bad things are, I'm worried that he's just going to feel rejected if I suggest postponing my move.

You should not move across the country to be with someone you feel uncomfortable confiding in. You should not move across the country to be with someone who gets "annoyed" with you for manifesting symptoms of a serious illness.

Before you make this decision, you need to tell your boyfriend everything you've told us. You need to tell him about the extent of your illness, and about your fears, and about what you're going to need from him. It's only fair that he know what he's getting himself into. Then, you need to listen to his response and talk with him about it. If he doesn't feel able to be supportive, or if you're not comfortable with his response, don't move. But most importantly, if you can't bring yourself to let him know what's going on in the first place, definitely don't move. That's not fair or healthy for either of you.
posted by decathecting at 11:55 AM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Last year I played the role of your boyfriend in a very similar situation. To my knowledge there was no suicidal thoughts but the rest of it is pretty spot on.

I cannot tell you enough how much I would have preferred that my then girlfriend had been honest with me that she was not ready/capable of making the move. To be honest with me about how she was feeling and what she was dealing with. Just to talk to me openly about what she wanted and needed.

While I loved having her here/near for the four months that it lasted after she relocated it was hardly worth the heart break that ensued while things went sideways. Her downward spiral was scary to watch and it left such an amazing scar on both of us.

I'm still dealing with the aftermath. She's back on the east coast and is still trying to rebuild her life. On the upside she has her family/friends and support system there to help her.

Don't move. Be honest. Give him the opportunity to amaze you with understanding.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:25 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


He'd be simultaneously freaked out and annoyed if I mentioned that I've been having suicidal thoughts. And since I can't bring myself to tell him just how bad things are, I'm worried that he's just going to feel rejected if I suggest postponing my move.

I want to come up with a solution that allows me to take care of my health without being horribly unfair to my boyfriend, but I'm at a loss.


Okay, look, if you are right that if you told him you were feeling suicidal he'd be "annoyed," then he probably isn't a good partner for you (and absolutely definitely not the right person to be your main support system in a new city.) But regardless of whether you're right or wrong about his reaction, if you're not able to be emotionally open enough with him to share something of this importance about yourself, then I don't think you're emotionally ready to be living together at all, let alone uprooting your life to live together (which would create a stressful and intense situation for both of you to navigate, even without the depression-related issues.)

I know you're scared to talk with him about this. But if you're really concerned about being fair to him (and to yourself and your relationship), I think you need to try to work up the courage to be honest and open about yourself and how you're feeling, and give him the chance to respond-- rather than making decisions based on your assumptions about how he'll react-- and you'll both learn something about each other and your relationship and you can go forward from there.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 5:09 PM on April 15, 2010


I've been in practically this situation. I moved. It was the wrong decision. YMMV but losing my support system of my family & friends was the worst possible decision for me. I was not being treated for depression at that time, but if I had been, losing my medical help team would probably have made moving even worse. I tried to find a new therapist when I moved--it took months.

If you move, get appointments with a psychiatrist and a therapist BEFORE you move.
posted by saveyoursanity at 6:21 PM on April 15, 2010


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