I have been with my partner for 8 years and I believe he is really struggling with his mental health. We had to put our dog down due to cancer 2 months ago, and since then I feel he has lost control. He quit his job without notice, and since then spends most of his time in bed, only to wake up for a few hours at night and repeat again. He says he feels hopeless and doesn't see the point in life. He feels he can't cope with the responsibilities of life. Looking back he has always been a very existential person, and has struggled with completing things such as university or holding down a job for more than one year. He has often cycled from periods of apparent happiness and vitality, only to crash after a few months and seclude himself. This is the worst episode I have ever seen.
He acknowledges that he may be depressed and should seek help. However, I feel this is all talk and no action. After years of this cycle, I am feeling I have nothing left in me. I am wondering if anyone has any advice on setting boundaries for myself and respecting his boundaries. I am a healthcare worker but I feel as if I am dealing with this terribly. On one hand, I understand it is not his choice to feel this way, but I am under significant financial pressure to support us both and be understanding of his low mood and irritability - all on top of the stress I deal with at the hospital. I have tried to step back and let him make his own decisions only to find each day he has remained in bed. He told me he has not booked to see the doctor yet as he doesn't feel like doing anything and doesn't trust himself to show up for the appointment. I am wondering if it would be appropriate to set up an appointment for him and take him to the doctor, or if this would be too disempowering or infantilising for him.
I want to be supportive but I feel helpless myself, and am wondering to what extent I am enabling him. Is it possible to enable someone with these patterns if it is not their choice to feel this way? Any other advice would be appreciated.
Thanks for your post and welcome to the BB forums. 🙂 I'm sorry to hear about what you and your partner are going through and thank you for posting such a great question.
As you have acknowledged, it is very financially, mentally and emotionally taxing to support someone who may be experiencing depression. I hope that you are keeping your own mental health in mind as well while you do this. Regarding your question about boundaries, I think this is a healthy thing to do when you are supporting both a friend, loved one or family member.
As you have fantastically done, you have encouraged your partner to seek professional support and given them the time and resources to do so. Outside of this, it is difficult to do much more as if the person requiring help is not actively seek it then they may not be able to gain as much from the professional assistance itself. Regarding enabling, that is another great topic and something I've struggled with myself. It's difficult to say but this may be something you need to chat with your own mental health clinician about as its a tricky space to navigate. That being said, I think your idea of taking your partner to the appointment and being present during the session with the GP is a great idea! It's something I encourage especially with young people and can make that first step a whole less daunting (especially if they struggle with motivation). I don't think you would be disempowering them but more so giving a gentle push. After that, it is your partner's decision to seek treatment or not. 🙂
Hope that helps,
I'm sorry to hear about your dog, it must not be easy for you to have that kind of loss and then having to support your partner through it as well.
One can only speculate why your partner hasn't seen his GP about his mental health, and there are a lot of reasons why that may be. I can't say whether it would be appropriate to book an appointment for him - on one hand, health services might not help him if he's not at the right step in the grieving process to seek help (though it sounds like he has admitted he needs help, which is a good first step). On the other one hand, people are more likely to attend health services if they have a caring, non-judgmental person to assist them with getting to the session. This all comes down to his personality factors, the kind of relationship you have, and the intention he has to seek help, and you probably know more about that than anyone in this forum.
If you think it would help, maybe sit down with him, have a frank, non-judgmental conversation, and perhaps help him book the appointment himself - and if that doesn't work, try having the conversation when he is in a clearer frame-of-mind.
Having strong social connections is the best thing for someone coming through an episode of grief, and it's likely that being in a stable relationship helps, even if your partner has trouble showing it. I wonder if one problem is that his process of healing is hindering your ability to move on from your dog's passing, especially with the stress you're under at work? Have you taken time to slow down and assess your own grief and feelings about the situation?
I concur with some of the other sentiments in this thread - sometimes a gentle push from someone who cares about us can be a really helpful step. Even if at first we aren't 100% comfortable, once we are on a more positive road we often look back and are grateful to those who supported us towards healing.
If you are up for it, maybe have a chat with them and offer to help some of the initial planning to get on their way. You could look online together for an available psych they are okay with seeing or book an app and drive them to the GP to start the conversation about a mental health care plan.
One of the biggest barriers for people who are struggling is the admin involved in getting to help. When we are drained of our energy and struggling to care for ourselves each day, pulling these parts together is really hard and sometimes when we hit the first snag we give up because it is too hard to think clearly and problem solve. So just some support to get them into their first session I think would do wonders, then I would take a back seat and focus on ensuring you yourself are well and okay.