Above & Beyond

Understanding Depression

Recently my boyfriend of nearly four years decided to end our relationship completely out of the blue. I have known he has been depressed for about 6 months and kept asking him to go to the doctors because I was concerned about his health and wellbeing. Things between us were going really well, we had spoken about our future together and were looking to buy a house together. Then, on Sunday he just ended it all. He said he couldn't put me through this and that I deserved better. He said he needed to sort out his head and hope that one day I would understand why he had to do this. I was wanting to understand why? Has anyone else been in this position? Why has he pushed away the person that loves him the most when all I wanted to do was support him? I can't stop thinking about what I have done wrong. I feel lost because I had planned my entire life with him.

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Dear VCM,

I'm sorry to hear about what happened. Of course no one ever knows what's going on in the minds of others, and I have no idea what your boyfriend is going through or if he's truly depressed, but I'll try to explain a few things about depression in case this is what's been happening with him. Depression is not simply a diagnosis of an illness, it is a state of being. It may grow inside a person gradually with little oddities and signs here and there, or descend upon a person all at once in a flash, like a terrifying foreign entity invading the body and mind. The most important thing to remember is that being depressed is not a choice (as so many well-meaning self-help gurus and spiritual advisors seem to imply). One of the major terrible aspects of depression is that it takes over a person - the sufferer feels entirely alone and isolated in what they're experiencing, even if they know that other people suffer from depression, and even if they know that other people care about them. The person who is suffering with depression feels like they are on a solitary, terrifying journey that absolutely no one else can imagine or understand. Depression is a self-perpetuating phenomena that feeds upon itself - it takes away any and all concepts of a future that doesn't include it, it causes self-disapproval, it eliminates energy, it leads the sufferer to alienate himself from others - all of these things cause the depressed person to sink deeper into depression. It can be excruciating just to get through each minute. While your bf may WISH to be able to follow through with the plans you've both made, inside he probably feels incapable, isolated, alone, and different from most people. He most probably can't imagine that he'll ever feel any better - that is a major symptom of depression. Your support is helpful, but may be causing (self-inflicted) pressure as well; he may be feeling incapable of actually ever being happy, therefore, how can he risk continuing on with you when he believes you'll eventually and inevitably be affected by his seemingly unrelenting unhappiness. He is trying to 1. give you the opportunity for the happiness you seek which he doesn't think he's capable of providing; 2. figure out what in the world has happened to him and if it's ever going to end; 3. not lie to you or himself; 4. The future isn't his top priority at this time, as he must struggle to survive every minute, every hour, day by day.

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