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How Do I Deal With A Depressed Partner?

Dear Jen,

I am not sure what I am expecting by writing to you, but maybe just maybe you can help me out here. I have been with my partner for going on 12 years now and I love them very much. I cannot picture my life without them in it; but they have struggled this entire time with severe depression and anxiety. It’s incredibly scary because they have attempted suicide three times in the past 12 years. They have had other self-harming behaviors at different times, from alcohol abuse to cutting to pulling out their hair. I feel like I have given the entire last 12 years to them and I just don’t know if I have anything left to give. I am exhausted. Sometimes, I think about leaving, but then I feel guilty. Who will take care of them? Sometimes, I think I am the only reason they stay alive and that’s a lot of pressure! What can I do to better help my partner?



Dear JP,

Wow! I am so incredibly sorry that you have both been dealing with all of that for so long! I hope it goes without saying that your partner should, at the very least, be seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. While I am, generally, not an advocate of medication for mild depression or anxiety, in this case, it might be one of the nest courses of action. Or even, as pervasive as it seems to be, something even more like ECT. These are options better discussed with a psychiatrist.

As for the question on how you can help your partner. I know this is going to sound cliché, but you absolutely MUST be taking care of yourself! Have you considered therapy for you?! What you have gone and are going through is considered a trauma. And I would imagine that you probably have some PTSD symptomology surrounding the times your partner has attempted suicide and self-harmed. You cannot be their savior. They have to find their own will to live and survive. You can be there for them and love them and support them, but you can’t save them.

You stated that you feel you have given your life to them over the past 12 years and this concerns me. You need to cultivate a life of your own. You need your own hobbies and your own time away from the house (aside from work, work doesn’t count). You have to live for you, as well…same as them. And I know this is easier said than done, but try not to feel guilty when you do find yourself having fun when they are hurting. When you do find yourself considering leaving them. You are human and you are allowed to have your own set of fears and anxieties. It’s the old adage of you can’t take care of someone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself (see airplane inserts – put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others). I hope that you both get the help and support that you are going to continue to need as you work through and learn to cope with the depression and anxiety and heal from the traumas created.



*Disclaimer: this is not meant to act as or replace therapy in any way. Questions sent in may be edited for de-identification purposes, length, and/or grammatic coherency.

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