When I got into my first long-term relationship, I was convinced of the notion that two people who loved each other could work through anything. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My boyfriend’s depression was too much for me to handle and I still feel a bit guilty about it.
He told me about his depression at the perfect time. I had no idea for the first few months we were seeing each other. I’d walk out of our dates thinking, “This was perfection.” By the time he told me, I was already his girlfriend and it felt too late to walk away. I also didn’t know what in all his depression entailed, especially since he didn’t actually seem depressed or even slightly down. Without hesitation, I told him it didn’t matter and that I was there for him—and I really meant it.
He’d been formally diagnosed with depression and anxiety and sought treatment in college. Apparently, it had gotten so bad during his junior semester in college that he stopped going to class, stopped turning in assignments, and slowly but surely started pulling away from college life. They made him repeat the semester since he had been partying and sleeping constantly and couldn’t get himself to commit to school. He went to speak to a counselor and realized he felt paralyzed by the pressure and so he shut down.
I became his crutch. The longer we dated, the more comfortable we became with each other. He’d tell me all of his issues with his parents, his friends, and his problems at school. I was there for everything and vice versa. At first, I loved it when he came to me. I felt like we were bonding in a way other people weren’t. He claimed that I could lift him out of a funk and I loved the special status I had in his life. I didn’t realize at first how dependent on me he’d become.
His depression re-escalated soon after. He started school again, and the anxiety to perform well and prove to his friends and family that he wasn’t a failure took over again. He began to withdraw and sleep through the day. We had a long-distance relationship and I’d go through entire days without hearing from him. I’d become concerned about his whereabouts and worry that he was being unfaithful when he wasn’t getting in touch. It turns out that he was sleeping through his classes, his therapy session, and everything else.
He couldn’t pull himself out of bed. He would sleep for 17 hours a day and then stay up through much of the night. Towards the worst of it, I’d be unable to reach him all day until about dinner time, when he finally woke up. From there, I had to coax him to get out of bed, to leave his room, to socialize. I’d try to convince him to go to class the next day and try to motivate him to encourage him to do well in school. It was incredibly draining.
The pressure on me became hard to deal with. He would say things like, “You’re the reason I got out of bed today.” It was meant to be sweet, I’m sure, but it felt suffocating. I wasn’t qualified to help him with his issues. He leaned on me too much when he should have been receiving professional help. It felt burdensome to manage my own life and his, and we lost all the things that make a relationship healthy.
I wanted to leave but I felt guilty. It wasn’t just that his moods were affecting me, it’s that our relationship was unsatisfying. I wasn’t getting what I needed but I felt guilty about leaving him. Was it bad that I couldn’t handle his problems? If you love someone, shouldn’t you be OK with it? How could I leave someone who wasn’t at fault for the cards he was dealt?
It made me question my outlook on love. I began to wonder whether love really was enough. I loved him but the relationship wasn’t fulfilling. It wasn’t a two-way partnership. I wanted out, but did that mean that love doesn’t move mountains? I realized a relationship needs more than love to survive. It takes both parties to put in work, and sometimes the workload is heavier than normal.
The relationship ended and I’ve never felt more relieved. Then I felt guilty for feeling relieved. Part of me wondered whether I wasn’t a good person because I wasn’t able to deal with his depression. However, I also think getting him proper professional help was necessary, and that takes time and space. He really wasn’t in a position to be in a healthy relationship.
I had to put my own happiness first. The relationship was draining me emotionally and I no longer wanted to work it out. I think that’s OK, and I’m finally realizing that it doesn’t make me weak or selfish. We’re all not cut out for dealing with such intense situations and I have to choose my battles. I do think there’s someone out there for him and I still think love moves mountains—it’s just that both parties have to be willing to do it. In this case, I had to put my own happiness and well-being first.
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