The depressed helping the depressed
November 5, 2011 1:25 PM   Subscribe

If you are mildly depressed, anxious, and stressed out, how or can you help someone going through a major depressive episode without hurting yourself in the process?

I have been dating someone for a few months. We are both in out late 30s. I knew it was a bad time for me so I've maintained a distance and let him know that. He has fallen for me completely. Now, he is going through a major depressive episode. I care about him and want to be there for him but I feel pulled to the brink some days myself.

I feel emotionally and physically strained constantly and have had times over the last few days that I just burst into tears. I'm going to start therapy soon.

I care about him a lot and see a long-term potential for us and although I want to be there for him, I don't know if I can deal with it right now. He basically broke up with me because he said I shouldn't have to deal with his depression right now. And to be honest, he is intense so sometimes even before the depression, being around him made me more stressed out.

I worry that ending our relationship will hurt his recovery (the feelings he says he has for me are very deep).

Should I let it go despite the potential and fallout for his health or should I try to be there for him and risk impact on my own health?

I am interested in ways I could be there for him while protecting myself.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't.

You send him to people like this.

Don't bear his troubles on your own.
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:41 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Blah. Meant to make a link. My apologies. Here.
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:42 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If he broke up with you, respect that and move on. One of the most frustrating things when you're depressed is people not trusting your motivations and decisions. It doesn't matter if you think this is worse for him or not. He made the decision. If you want to be his friend through this, I think that's something you'll have to think about and navigate carefully.
posted by sweetkid at 1:44 PM on November 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Unfortunately it is impossible for you to help under these circumstances. You need to focus on yourself 100%.
posted by facetious at 2:08 PM on November 5, 2011

I believe that there are situations where one depressed person can help another, and ways to give that help without harming yourself.

And yet I still agree with the answerers above that your situation is not one of those. Your ex's emotional health is not your problem. That has nothing to do with the fact that y'all are depressed, and everything to do with the fact that he's your ex.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:57 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's time to learn how to set healthy boundaries, especially between you and your ex. This is something we all need to be able to do, in order to keep our lives healthy.
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:47 PM on November 5, 2011

Your biggest responsibility here is for your own mental health - if you don't guard that then you'll be in no position to offer any help to him or anyone else in your life, whether you want to or not...

A degree of self centred focus can be a powerful weapon against depression. It sounds like both of you could benefit from some time only having to deal with one headful of junk to straighten out.

Good luck with your ongoing recovery.
posted by protorp at 5:01 PM on November 5, 2011

I knew it was a bad time for me so I've maintained a distance and let him know that.


He basically broke up with me because he said I shouldn't have to deal with his depression right now.

If i were to guess what was happening, I'd say that you actually broke up with him, but since you were too timid to say it explicitly, he did. And now you feel guilty, so you want to make sure he's "OK" so that you're not responsible for him still being unhappy.

You should let it go, and cut off all contact for at least 6 months, but probably 2-3 years.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:33 PM on November 5, 2011

I agree with everyone else here. Having lived part of my life with depression and part without, having been married, single, and in several relationships, I can tell you that your own depression is enough to cripple you all by itself and that's what it will do if you give it a support system of a Significant Other who's also depressed. The best thing you can do for yourself is to find someone to attach yourself to who is confident and strong and reliable, someone you can rely on to be steady and stable - you'll get strength from that person, not more weakness, and over a course of time you'll become a strong, healthy person yourself.

I wish you the very best - but, again, avoid other depressed people unless you wish to be depressed all your life.
posted by aryma at 1:23 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Leave him be. He's right - you shouldn't have to deal with his depression. The flip side is that he shouldn't have to deal with yours, either. It seems like neither of you can be there for the other without sacrificing your well-being, so, don't. At this point I wouldn't even try to be friends because if his feeling are as deep as he/you say, the necessary boundaries are sure to be breached time and again and the results will probably propel both of you backward. Good luck.
posted by sm1tten at 10:26 AM on November 6, 2011

I'm wary of someone for whom falling in love is not an, at least temporary, ticket above his depression. Deep love in love tends to lift us out of our ordinary perspective, makes us realize the truth in Thoreau's statement that the only cure for love is to love more. If he's laying all his stuff on you I'm inclined to think he's fallen in dependence.
posted by R2WeTwo at 3:00 PM on November 10, 2011

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