Darla here! Your in-house therapist is back answering your relationship and queer life inquiries. Thank you so much for sending in your questions and I hope everybody had a queer festive season.
Today, I would like to share with you a question I got from a young queer that touches upon a very prevalent subject in our community - depression. With statistics of lifetime prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder ranging as high as 71.4% in queer folks, compared to 38.2% in heterosexuals, we are bound to talk about it at some point. So strap yourselves in for a slap of reality.
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I’m a 23 year-old queer woman who has been in a monogamous relationship with a queer man for the past year. He is everything to me, but recently it seems like he has developed a tendency to do things that hurt me unintentionally. He seems to forget plans; is always late; has stopped reaching out to me; will say offensive things without realizing it; suddenly he needs more time for himself; and has difficulty making plans. All of these are things that have been part of his personality since I met him, but suddenly it seems like they’ve intensified to the point that I can’t handle them anymore. He says that he loves me but when I ask him to apologize he is unwilling to do so and blames it on his depression. The things is, he has never appeared depressed to me since I’ve met him and he is still his regular happy self from what I can tell so that sounds like bullshit. Is he selfish? What should I do?
- Vicariously Depressed and in love
Dear Vicariously Depressed and in love:
I’m sorry you have found yourself in that situation, but there seems to be something very obvious happening here. I don’t know your boyfriend, but if you say that he has depression then I’m assuming he has a diagnosis. When we think of depression, we unusually think of moody people and dark clouds of melancholy. We think of empty shells incapable of feeling fun because that is what depression looks like at its worst, but that’s not the only part. Many people living with depression manage to keep its “dark” symptoms at bay, sometimes with treatment or great coping mechanisms, but unfortunately many of its minor less-destructive traits still poke through.
Some of these symptoms include bad time management (being late); memory loss (inability to keep plans/losing stuff); irritability (snarkiness); inexplicable headaches; irregular eating and sleeping patterns; and a lack of sense of humor, energy, concentation or romance. Because depression also makes life overwhelming, people living with it often times need more self-care than the average person, resulting in needing more alone time, or not reaching out to loved ones. Because these behaviors are not viewed as totally destructive and sometimes come off as “quirky”, we learn to think about them as character traits rather than symptoms, and just like any other symptoms they can wax or wane. However, do know that while these behaviors often times push people away, they are necessary for the person to maintain their stability and not spiral down a black hole. Additionally, many people with depression learn to not beat themselves over these behaviors which sadly results in a lack of guilt, which is perceived as selfishness, which further pushes people away.
So the question is, what do you do now? If your boyfriend’s symptoms seem to be escalating to the point they are dysfunctional, it might be a sign that a full depressive episode is coming – something that is inevitable if you date someone with the diagnosis. Do know that is not your job to take care of him, as you should always take care of your mental health first, but if you say that you love him there are plenty of things you can do. Help your boyfriend get into therapy, and if you can do the same go for it. If psychiatry is an option help him do so as well. Join a support group where both of you can attend. Seek education. Rely on friends, family, and community, and don’t let him go through this alone. And most importantly, talk openly. There is no shame in having a mental condition, and remember that everybody is worthy of love. Be there, unconditionally while taking care of yourself. It is not permanent.
Best of Luck!
Darla is the pseudonym of an Atlanta-based queer licensed therapist. Please send us your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send us messages anonymously through send-email.org.