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Can relationship return after serious depression


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My partner has had serious depression/anhedonia for about a year now. This is due, he thinks, to not having the same position at work that he did before and not making as much money, feeling worthless and not good enough because he can't get ahead on as much, monetarily- he is not broke, and makes a decent wage. 

We had an absolutely amazing relationship prior to this. Awesome communication, laughter, discussions and planning for future life, taking steps towards our future. Good sex life, he was super affectionate and very kind with his words. He was truly one of the most amazing, impressive, never stressed and always joking kind of people with serious responsibility- would never let himself or others down. We could takle anything serious together with respect and fairness.

It's been almost a year since we had sex. Made out. Since he slapped my butt or told me I look nice. He doesn't call me to talk when I'm away anymore. He doesn't text me anymore. He's going to counseling as of two months ago but I just keep feeling him go further into himself and away from me. Yet anytime I tell him the pain and confusion this is causing and that we might just need to take a break until we can just start over. He won't let me go, tells me he still loves me like he did, and that once he just makes enough money or get a second job doing what he was before, he will feel better.  But we aren't planning for a future anymore. Everything is just in limbo.

I know there's some serious self worth/money related issues he needs to work through. But this insane depression- I've never seen anything like this. I've never felt so alone surrounded by another person. I don’t know him anymore, no one does.

Is it possible for people to return to normal after feeling nothing for so long? I feel closer to acquaintances. And I'm about ready to give up, I've been in some dark places but not touching or connecting the person you are supposed to love most in a year- I can't understand.

 

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13 minutes ago, Manillar said:

My partner has had serious depression/anhedonia for about a year now. This is due, he thinks, to not having the same position at work.  We had an absolutely amazing relationship prior to this.  .It's been almost a year since we had sex. . He's going to counseling as of two months ago but I just keep feeling him go further into himself and away from me. But we aren't planning for a future anymore. Everything is just in limbo.

Sorry this is happening. How long have you been together? Do you live together? Do you both work? What do you mean by planning the future,? Marriage? Children? 

Has he been to a physician for an evaluation of his mental and physical health and gotten some tests done? You mentioned he's in therapy but his depression sounds quite severe.  Has he had these episodes before in his life,? 

Besides the work changes has anything else happened in the past year,?  Unfortunately you're in understandable pain from his withdrawal. However suggesting breaks is not going to snap him out of it 

If you really think he's changed so much that there is no future, intimacy or purpose and you're this miserable,  please reconsider the relationship altogether. Perhaps if you think there's hope, suggest couples counseling. 

 

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If he's truly depressed it's much worse than anyone can imagine. It's not just having a down day or feeling sad for a bit. It's profound, deep seeded despair beyond description. He can't snap out of it and you can't make him "lighten up". 

I have depression and have been in treatment for almost four years. I can't even fathom trying to be in a relationship anytime soon.

If he was being treated for cancer, something you could see, perhaps you would see it differently.

However, it's fair for you to feel you aren't up to being in a relationship with someone who's profoundly depressed. You count too, you know!

If you can't see yourself remaining with him while he attempts to deal with his medical condition (which it is) you are well within your rights to gently tell him you are stepping away from the relationship.

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41 minutes ago, Wiseman2 said:

Sorry this is happening. How long have you been together? Do you live together? Do you both work? What do you mean by planning the future,? Marriage? Children? 

Has he been to a physician for an evaluation of his mental and physical health and gotten some tests done? You mentioned he's in therapy but his depression sounds quite severe.  Has he had these episodes before in his life,? 

Besides the work changes has anything else happened in the past year,?  Unfortunately you're in understandable pain from his withdrawal. However suggesting breaks is not going to snap him out of it 

If you really think he's changed so much that there is no future, intimacy or purpose and you're this miserable,  please reconsider the relationship altogether. Perhaps if you think there's hope, suggest couples counseling. 

 

We have been together over 2 years. Nothing else has happened. No kids but were about to start a business in another country together and buy a property, which was basically both of our live dreams and goals combined.

He has still not been to the doctor to check thyroid, vitamin, hormones, and all standards. He said he's been in depressed spells for a few days or weeks. But he was an alcoholic and used that to cope, not gained actual life skills to work through things. The thing is, he was sober for over e year before this happened. He does not miss it and there are no other substances.

I'm not expecting him to snap out of anything by me saying I need to take a break. I've been in abusive relationships and this sets off my PTSD, makes me feel ugly, disgusting, worthless. It's been a huge struggle for me but I have also grown and learned. And what I've learned is past my abandonment issues- this relationship isn't enough for me as it is. Unless it can be as it was- I'm out. So I'm already there, just seeing if there is any possible hope. My counselor told me he has to work through his current issue and that there aren't problems to counsel. If it isn't enough then leave because no guarantees. But she also doesn't know his history so who really knows what the future COULD hold.

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21 minutes ago, boltnrun said:

If he's truly depressed it's much worse than anyone can imagine. It's not just having a down day or feeling sad for a bit. It's profound, deep seeded despair beyond description. He can't snap out of it and you can't make him "lighten up". 

I have depression and have been in treatment for almost four years. I can't even fathom trying to be in a relationship anytime soon.

If he was being treated for cancer, something you could see, perhaps you would see it differently.

However, it's fair for you to feel you aren't up to being in a relationship with someone who's profoundly depressed. You count too, you know!

If you can't see yourself remaining with him while he attempts to deal with his medical condition (which it is) you are well within your rights to gently tell him you are stepping away from the relationship.

I've have and have had a myriad of issues- I don't feel I've ever been truly happy or unconflicted to the point I don't feel like vomiting every moment of my life of physical stress. I guess I'm just used to feelings like this. I don't know life without them, because the things he tells me I've felt forever. I hide it well and never knew this wasn't "normal".

But, it took YEARS of hard work. Pushing myself past the most uncomfortable things I could fathom. I had such bad anxiety as a kid I couldn't talk to people. Now I run a company, speak at events. And I still feel like garbage most days, but I make it work. I strive to be the best me I can, but I know that I can't submit to feeling worthless or numb. But man, I love life and every second of happiness I can get. And I won't ever let myself go- I won't allow myself to be worse than before.

So part of me is scared that this is the first time in his life he has to deal with real mental issues like this without drinking them away.

He doesn't really understand depression or anything like we've dealt with (hes explained this to me). He thinks it just goes away with time or making more money. And it could be a health issue. It could be that he doesn't excersize and his body is in need of movement. Or maybe money really matters more to him than he realizes. More than a family or relationship- more than something real that supports you and will always have your back.

 

At least you are honest about not being ready for a relationship. We didn't start dating until I had healed more from my divorce and I was ready. And if he is no longer ready, he needs to accept it and let me go until he is.

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20 minutes ago, Manillar said:

And if he is no longer ready, he needs to accept it and let me go until he is

He won't. Proof is:

1 hour ago, Manillar said:

He won't let me go, tells me he still loves me like he did, and that once he just makes enough money or get a second job doing what he was before, he will feel better.  But we aren't planning for a future anymore

It will be on you to pull the trigger when you want to break up. He won't do it. It could be for many reasons (he's too comfortable with you staying around knowing you're okay being taken for granted, and/or he genuinely thinks he is in it temporarily). If he keeps thinking it's temporary and won't seek any professional help, it'll be on you to decide what you deem is fair to yourself.

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His identity and sense of self worth seems to be tied to his job and how much money he makes. Without it, he's lost. Is there something in his past that could help explain why it's so important to him? 

Yes, it's possible for people to return to normal, whatever normal is. But it takes time and work, as you are already familiar with. He has to be the one to put in that work. It doesn't go away with time, its something you fight every day. Until he is ready to have that fight, it won't improve. You can care about him, love him, even try to convince him to take action. You can share your own struggles and what you've learned. But he's the only one that can change himself. 

It's up to you to decide what you are okay with, how much you can endure. It's fine to still care, to want to hold on and believe it can still work. But at a certain point you can't let his depression become your depression. You have to protect your own health. If he can't be the strong one and address his issues or let you go, then you have to be that strong one. As painful as it is, if you don't feel the same for him as you used to, then it's better for both of you not to prolong it. You can still care about him and be supportive, just not necessarily as a relationship.

1 hour ago, Manillar said:

More than a family or relationship- more than something real that supports you and will always have your back

I like the way you phrase that. Money, jobs, titles or status - those things are temporary. They are nice and help you get by day to day, but they aren't what really fulfills you. It's the love and support from those that care that matters most. I really hope he can see that.

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2 hours ago, Manillar said:

 were about to start a business in another country together and buy a property,  he was an alcoholic and used that to cope,. he was sober for over e year before this happened.  this relationship isn't enough for me as it is. Unless it can be as it was- I'm out. 

Unfortunately he seems to resist medical treatment and he has obviously has  a history of previous mental health issues self medicated with alcohol. A huge red flag.

He also keeps mentioning money and needing 2 jobs so it's unclear how in board he is with this future plan. Or if it was just pipedreams talking in the novelty of the relationship. 

Sadly you're correct that it could persist, be chronic and relapsing, especially since he won't get treated. He is to high risk too to pin your future in. He's already making you miserable and lonely. And that's half the relationship so far. 

Perhaps what you saw in the beginning was just the high of a new relationship because what you're seeing now seems to be who he really is. Maybe he also seemed appealing at the time in comparison to your difficult divorce. 

Please trust your instincts and listen to your therapist. Although you wish the halcyon days would return, it's much too risky to be with someone unstable no less start a business and buy property together. 

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4 hours ago, Manillar said:

It's been almost a year since we had sex. Made out. Since he slapped my butt or told me I look nice.

He hasnt had sex with you in a year. At that point that is no longer even a relationship as far as passion part goes. His depression or not, he checked out from you long time ago as a partner. And there is nothing to return to even if he somehow fixes his issues. 

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If he has not been to a doctor and won't go, then you have a big choice to make. Counselling was an important step but a counsellor can only do so much and they are not doctors. It seems he needs more medical attention than he is willing to admit. 

It's not up to him to let you go - it's up to you to see yourself out if you are unhappy. 

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 Time to circle back and give him an ultimatum...you won't step back into a relationship with him until he gets onto a regular routine of therapy and medication for his clinical depression. He needs to fix himself. No hand holding here, he needs to put on his big boy pants on and take responsibility AND accountability for his illness. 

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As a person suffering from severe mental illness I would not respond well to an ultimatum or to being told to put on my "big girl pants". It would make me feel even worse, like being depressed is my fault (would you say the same thing if your partner was diagnosed with cancer?)  I've had well meaning people make jokes in an attempt to get me to "lighten up", and I've had people tell me that others have it worse. Or tell me "What do YOU have to be depressed about??"  None of that motivated me to seek help. I had to decide that on my own. 

Now, with the new information you provided about him self medicating with alcohol, I do think expressing concern about  that is not out of line. 

I would personally respond better to something like "I'm concerned about you. I've seen you drink as a way to deal with stress and I feel that's not healthy. I do care about you but I'm struggling with seeing you not doing well. It's affecting me in a negative way. I think stepping away to allow you a chance to get healthy is what's best for me." 

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He is willing to go but keeps forgetting. He doesn't mind a gentle reminder or suggestions for new to try but at a point, it's not fair to me and a disservice to him.

I know I would be the one to have to walk away, I guess I'm not ready. But I'm here now, getting more clarity and perhaps I can begin the process of accepting and preparing. I'm allowing one more month to see steps forward and improvement, otherwise I'll have to make that choice.

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49 minutes ago, boltnrun said:

As a person suffering from severe mental illness I would not respond well to an ultimatum or to being told to put on my "big girl pants". It would make me feel even worse, like being depressed is my fault (would you say the same thing if your partner was diagnosed with cancer?)  I've had well meaning people make jokes in an attempt to get me to "lighten up", and I've had people tell me that others have it worse. Or tell me "What do YOU have to be depressed about??"  None of that motivated me to seek help. I had to decide that on my own. 

Now, with the new information you provided about him self medicating with alcohol, I do think expressing concern about  that is not out of line. 

I would personally respond better to something like "I'm concerned about you. I've seen you drink as a way to deal with stress and I feel that's not healthy. I do care about you but I'm struggling with seeing you not doing well. It's affecting me in a negative way. I think stepping away to allow you a chance to get healthy is what's best for me." 

I'm not giving him an ultimatum. I know depression isn't something you can just get over in an instant just because something is said. And I know how fragile it can be so I've been gentle and patient.

I am not concerned he will drink and neither is he. That was in the past. I'm an ex alcoholic too, so it hard to just see everyone RED FLAG! that aspect like no one can ever maintain sobriety. I have, he has, and it is not a current factor. But the affects I'm sure are.

I do like how you put that so if I do end up stepping away, I will make sure it is handled in such a way that he understands it is from a place of care and it doesn't come off as an attack or make him feel worse. I certainly care for him and wish him to be happy regardless of our relationship.

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26 minutes ago, Manillar said:

He is willing to go but keeps forgetting. He doesn't mind a gentle reminder or suggestions for new to try but at a point, it's not fair to me and a disservice to him.

I know I would be the one to have to walk away, I guess I'm not ready. But I'm here now, getting more clarity and perhaps I can begin the process of accepting and preparing. I'm allowing one more month to see steps forward and improvement, otherwise I'll have to make that choice.

He's not "forgetting"  - and if so he is intentionally "forgetting".  I'm glad you have an internal deadline for yourself.  Good luck.

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I agree, he's not "forgetting" to seek help. He's either hoping it goes away by itself or he's hoping YOU forget about it. Which is not realistic. Burying one's head in the sand is not an effective method to treat medical conditions.

If he CHOOSES to continue to refuse (yes, refuse) treatment you are well within your rights to also choose to step away. As I said before, you count too. 

BTW, while I have a hard time believing anyone would willingly choose to be mentally ill, sometimes the core issues are so disturbing they would rather they remain buried. My depression and anxiety were deeply rooted in my horrific childhood. Digging into those memories isn't fun. But neither is being mentally ill.

I keep using the analogy of cancer. Treatment for cancer is no picnic but when the alternative is no longer being alive people make the hard choices. 

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3 minutes ago, TeeDee said:

Maybe, but unlikely.  It's hard to come back from depression.   If you are both willing to try it's possible but I would not say it's probable.  

So it's like a stroke in that sense, that can permanently change and alter your brain and personality? This was really my question. I have always been able to come back to myself after working through such times and end up happier than ever with new skills and strength. But, everyone is different. 

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6 minutes ago, Manillar said:

So it's like a stroke in that sense, that can permanently change and alter your brain and personality? This was really my question. I have always been able to come back to myself after working through such times and end up happier than ever with new skills and strength. But, everyone is different. 

My dad was bipolar or suffering from depresssion for at least 65 years.  My mom was married to him for 62 years.  For much of that time he complied with therapy and medication.  Never abused alcohol or drugs.  My mom was his hero.  I wouldn't recommend that sort of relationship to anyone.  It was a really hard environment to grow up in.  My mom is 89 and thoroughly enjoying life and her freedom since he passed away 7 years ago.  She loved him very much and was extremely committed to him.  He had a good heart, he meant well and he struggled so.  He had a successful career for over 50 years.  But my mom was his hero and my mom helped keep him compliant with meds and therapy.  It was so very hard on her.

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1 hour ago, boltnrun said:

I agree, he's not "forgetting" to seek help. He's either hoping it goes away by itself or he's hoping YOU forget about it. Which is not realistic. Burying one's head in the sand is not an effective method to treat medical conditions.

If he CHOOSES to continue to refuse (yes, refuse) treatment you are well within your rights to also choose to step away. As I said before, you count too. 

BTW, while I have a hard time believing anyone would willingly choose to be mentally ill, sometimes the core issues are so disturbing they would rather they remain buried. My depression and anxiety were deeply rooted in my horrific childhood. Digging into those memories isn't fun. But neither is being mentally ill.

I keep using the analogy of cancer. Treatment for cancer is no picnic but when the alternative is no longer being alive people make the hard choices. 

Well, that really adds perspective and Especially since his therapist also told him to go to a doctor- I suggested it first and hoped him hearing it from a medical professional would make it more legit. It makes me feel really worthless, since it's so easy to do. Hard to not take things personally at this point.

Yeah, he doesn't seem cancer miserable, like there's still much deeper into this hole he can fall, and it won't be until he feels like his life depends on it that pushes himself to do the things he needs to do. I'm at the point where my life depends on getting counseling and extra excerize in order to try and shut my brain off and not think about this constantly and try to solve problems I can't. 

Maybe there's something hidden, but in this case I think the root is a cultural importance of work and money instilled in childhood rather than actual childhood trauma. He's more saying it's too hard to get up and do things because he doesn't feel motivated, sleepy, and nothing makes him happy rather than saying it's mentally hard to work through it. It's lack of feelings.

Maybe losing me would open his eyes and catalyst his efforts to return to a normal life. Or not, and in which case I can't stick around to find out. Maybe that's the best thing for both of us. 

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14 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

My dad was bipolar or suffering from depresssion for at least 65 years.  My mom was married to him for 62 years.  For much of that time he complied with therapy and medication.  Never abused alcohol or drugs.  My mom was his hero.  I wouldn't recommend that sort of relationship to anyone.  It was a really hard environment to grow up in.  My mom is 89 and thoroughly enjoying life and her freedom since he passed away 7 years ago.  She loved him very much and was extremely committed to him.  He had a good heart, he meant well and he struggled so.  He had a successful career for over 50 years.  But my mom was his hero and my mom helped keep him compliant with meds and therapy.  It was so very hard on her.

Yeah I guess that's why I'm wondering if people can return after anhedonic depression like this. Especially if they don't have a history of mental illness. He said it was only for a few days in the past just a few times.

I've got trauma I need to finish working though. Too many responsibilities regarding my work. I cannot take care of anyone else physically or mentally 24/7, it needs to be an equal partnership. Your mother is a saint. Everyone deserves to be loved and cared for but that would kill my soul.

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My first psychologist told me something that I remember to this day and she said it over 15 years ago. She asked me who the most important person in my life is and I immediately said "my child!" And she said no, it's me. She asked "If your health is suffering, how are you going to take care of your child?" And I realized she was right.

Sure, maybe everyone "deserves to be loved", but if he won't take care of himself how is he supposed to be a good partner to anyone?

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2 hours ago, Manillar said:

. He said it was only for a few days in the past just a few times.

 I cannot take care of anyone else physically or mentally 24/7,  Everyone deserves to be loved and cared for but that would kill my soul.

He does have a history of mental illness as well as substance misuse. You're right that you can't put your life on hold and be miserable trying to fix and change him. 

Please try to reframe things a bit so you can reflect and make decisions without guilt.

For example half the relationship is this struggle and loneliness. It's very possible that what you saw in the beginning was more of a mirage in the novelty and excitement of a new relationship and what you're seeing now is who he really is. 

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19 hours ago, Manillar said:

Is it possible for people to return to normal after feeling nothing for so long?

Not very likely without treatment and the effort to work it.

Depressed people are typically (and often admittedly) not relationship material. Your partner has not pursued diagnosis and treatment, and to be frank, you're seeking hope for a dice roll. Your partner would need to willingly act on his own behalf to pursue treatment and work it, and nobody here can predict whether he'll ever do that, or the outcome if he did. But his belief that this condition will lift once he receives the right income isn't realistic. He could have taken on a second job within this year if dollars were the real thing, but frankly, depressed people rarely have the energy to work beyond survival. So he's promising a fantasy, even while he's missing every appointment he's scheduled to seek help.

Your key phrase above is "so long". People can experience a situational (or temporary) depression, such as grief over a death or a job or a pet--whatever the cause. That emotional grief can be severe and debilitating, and this can alter a person's brain and hormonal chemistry during this time. Some people seek treatment to rebalance their chemistry as they heal emotionally, some others are able to self-treat through exercise, diet, social support or other tools. Yet there are those who don't seek treatment, or who are chemically resistant to treatment, or who may have already had a predisposition to chronic depression that was not known prior to it being enlivened by a situation, or even by a spontaneous onset of depressive symptoms without a known cause.

A real problem comes with the length of time one's chemistry is imbalanced. Chronic depression can be a condition that is genetic, but it can also come from a situational depression that does not lift and remains untreated.

In other words, depression isn't all about emotions. Yes, emotions can impact depression or they can be caused by depression, but emotions are only one facet of a much larger dis-ease.

My heart goes out to you.

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1 hour ago, Wiseman2 said:

He does have a history of mental illness as well as substance misuse. You're right that you can't put your life on hold and be miserable trying to fix and change him. 

Please try to reframe things a bit so you can reflect and make decisions without guilt.

For example half the relationship is this struggle and loneliness. It's very possible that what you saw in the beginning was more of a mirage in the novelty and excitement of a new relationship and what you're seeing now is who he really is. 

I don't know that it was just novelty, we've had that talk. The timing wasn't right. Nothing was gradual when it broke- it happened when the original job was lost. Me aside, he isn't the same with friends or family either. This isn't him, or at least who he was his entire life until now. It's his whole life that's suffering, not just ours.

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