My girlfriend, with whom I’ve been living with for about a year now, has chronic depression, and is in the midst of the longest and most severe episode in the early two years I have known her. I am coping the best I can, but it’s agonizingly difficult, and I have few friends that I can confide in, and both if my closest suppirterd are out of state and not very available. I need as much support as I can get. Someone to talk to. Just to get my feelings sorted out do that I don’t take out my frustration on her, which I know I have done at tunes and always makes things ten times worse. Hope this place can help a bit. So for several weeks (or months, not sure) my girlfriend has spiraled downward, with constant, daily physical complaints, negativity about her job, about her looks, about her health, about..well, everything. I had a 20 year career in the mental health field, but when you are that close to it it's tough to deal with or be objective. She becomes distant, has flat affect, and although not suicidal, has expressed hopelessness, helplessness, and a complete lack of joy or purpose in her life. She is a brilliant woman, and has accomplished a lot in the past, but now feels old (I am 67, she is turning 65 next month) and has no enthusiasm for anything. I get very anxious, because her behavior and mood is so unpredictable, she has a tendency to be snippy without realizing it, or simply to be "not there," meaning it's almost as though I am invisible, because she is entirely self-absorbed in her dark mood, difficult thoughts, etc. She has had a lot of therapy in her life, due to being a recovering alcoholic (sober 25 years), and has a tremendous self-awareness at times, but when she is in the depths of depression it's like she can't do anything for herself, and certainly is unable to provide me with any normal affection, attention, etc. I have learned over time to be less demanding, and to restrain myself from exploding with frustration, but of course since I hold it in so long, invariably I become overwhelmed and try to talk to her about my feelings and observations--this makes things so much worse it actually causes a fight--about nothing! Now there are moments when we can connect and communicate, but these are not often and very difficult. She is obsessed that I will leave her--and to be truthful, it has crossed my mind many, many times. But I do love her and she loves me--I know she is not doing this on purpose or to be hurtful. I have read enough about depression to understand it intellectually and recognize the symptoms, but coping with it is another matter. I have made progress in taking better care of myself, concentrating on my new career as a full-time musician, which gives me a lot of pleasure. I am having some depressive symptoms myself, though, which have built up, and I feel tremendous sadness now, because I finally realize that the bubbly, flirty, and vivacious woman I fell in love with is not likely to be the same, or not for long periods, anyway. The new normal is a rather flatlined relationship, and I am trying to wrap my head around it and wonder if I can take it indefinitely. We are very different in the way we cope with emotions and problems, she avoids and looks to outside stimuli to "escape" or instruct her on how to deal, she avoids problems and hopes they will go away. I prefer to confront things directly--the absolute worst thing for her, it seems. Any hint that I am having some difficulty coping is usually met with guilt, anger, shame or defensiveness on her part--and I get it, that's just adding to her self-hatred and feelings of being out of control. Sorry for this long post, it's my first one, and I also plan to call a friend of mine and when I see my new doctor again in a couple of weeks I am going to look for a referral to a therapist so I can build some support. I have made many friends her since moving here a year ago, but they are all also acquaintences of hers, so I do not feel comfortable confiding in them and potentially embarassing her by exposing her difficulty to them. So that leaves me with this group, perhaps there is an in-person support group, but I doubt it--it's a small, resort town in Coastal N Carolina, a professional therapist, and my two long-distance old friends that I know would support me more if they were nearby or more available.
Thanks for letting me vent, I am going to keep reading the posts here and more material to get better able to cope, because there are days and moments lately when I feel so desperate I simply want to leave here and never come back. Hoping this is a somewhat normal reaction. While I try to keep in communication with her, I cannot pressure her, and of course I want to "fix" it, but I know I can't and shouldn't try. So my approach now is to be consistently caring, treat her with respect and affection, whether she receives it or gives it back or not, and simply learn to manage my own emotions better so I can make better daily decisions about how to live with this horrible illness.