Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I’m concerned my boyfriend is backing away because of my depression.
I have depression, and my boyfriend and I have been dating for a year now. He has said before that my depression worries him because of his last girlfriend, who had depression. She didn't do anything about it and treated him badly.
I have, at times, mistreated him due to letting my depression (and the anger it has caused) take over.
He has addressed it with me, and I see where he is coming from. I needed to hear it so I could adjust how I react and behave when I feel it gets the best of me. I have been seeing a therapist for the last two months, and I have made huge improvements.
I still have bad days, especially when life events stress me out, that are again mine to take care of. Things like that fuel my depression, and I have an initial moment of breakdown before I calm and come up with a way to fix it.
I would like to talk to him about it, so I am not only talking to my therapist. I am scared to do so because I am afraid he will shut down on me or think I am taking it out on him or even expecting him to fix it for me.
I know that all my problems are mine to fix.
All I have ever wanted from him was support, comfort, and knowing he is there for me.
But I don't know how to approach this with him. Please help.
You Might Also Like: When Your Addiction And Depression Are In A Codependent Relationship
I understand both your position and your boyfriend’s.
For many years, my mental health issues went mostly unchecked. My coping mechanisms—drugs, cheating, spending money, pushing people away—were toxic and destructive. Even as I began to undo my years of crappy learned behavior, I struggled.
It’s an awful feeling to know that you’re acting out—sabotaging, misdirecting your anger and sadness—but incapable of stopping yourself. I remember that feeling well.
I am happy to read that you have been seeing a therapist and working on your mental health. Our mental health is not our fault, but it is our responsibility. And you are taking care of yourself in significant ways, not just for your relationship, but, more importantly, for your happiness and stability.
One thing that gives me pause here—you mentioned that you wanted to be able to speak to your boyfriend about what you’re struggling with so that you’re not only talking to your therapist. I think you need to get clear with yourself about your expectations.
While you should certainly feel like you can speak with your partner about what’s going on in your life, don’t make your boyfriend your therapist.
Your therapist is there to process and work through your mental health issues with you. I think that it puts undue pressure on a relationship to expect our significant other to take on that role. Again, you shouldn’t hide what’s going on with you, but leave the heavy lifting to your therapist.
I also find that my husband and I are both happier (and I am more satisfied) when I turn to my friends with the day to day problems. So if you’re looking for that extra support, lean on your friends rather than your romantic partner.
I hope that you understand that I am not suggesting your partner be left out of what’s happening in your life, or that you shouldn’t want or need love and support. But, from my experience, my relationship suffers when I look to my partner for answers that I need to figure out on my own, or with friends or a therapist.
You have no control over his reactions or how he responds to your depression, but you do have control over how you take charge of your mental health.
That’s important to remember. Will he back away because of your depression? I can’t answer that. If he does, it is not your fault; it’s not within your control. What is in your controller the actions you take to care for yourself. And that’s just what you’re doing. Recognize that. It’s a big deal, a positive one. Share your wins with your boyfriend. Let him know what’s working.
What’s awesome is that all the positive changes in your behavior will be evident. Might you still have bad days, backslides? Yes. Don’t beat yourself up over those moments, but continue to use the new tools you’re learning to regulate your emotions and move forward. That positive change in behavior is the best thing for all of your relationships, including this one.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Golden Yellow Topaz, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo