Partner has depression - not sure how to help or what to do!

My partner had a benign brain tumour removed last September. He was diagnosed a week before his op so it all happened very quickly. The tumour was successfully removed but he has been left disabled due to nerve damage in his right hand and foot. He had been recovering well and making the best of things but about 2 months ago he started to lose interest in everything. I managed to convince him to go to his GP, and he has an psychiatric appointment and the beginning of June. The GP has diagnosed depression and anxiety.

He will not talk to me about how he's feeling and if I try to question him he swears and shouts at me. He won't leave the house (occasionally I can convince him but it usually causes an argument). He won't do anything except sit in the living room and watch TV, he won't eat unless I prompt him. I can't even so much as hug him as he flinches if I touch him, and we can't have visitors as he doesn't want anyone in the house. I do appreciate that these are all symptoms of his illness and I am trying my best to be patient and understanding - but my biggest concern is that he has told me he wants to move out and live by himself. I don't know what to do - is this likely to be the depression talking so should I convince him to stay? Or should I just let him go? To be honest I don't know if he even has the motivation to move out!! It is starting to affect my mental health now aswell and I am going to my GP to see if I can get referred for counselling as I won't be able to support him if my own mental health is crumbling.

What I am looking for, is advice from carers and sufferers - I guess confirmation that we are not alone! How best can I support him if I can't interact with him? And as for him wanting to move out, I know that none of us can know what he's thinking, but is this possibly just part of the illness? If you're a sufferer have you felt like that before? Did you go through with it? If you're a carer, what would you do? Sit back and let him make up his own mind or would you coax him to stay until he feelas a bit better? I guess I'm scared he won't cope alone, but I don't suppose he's my prblem any more, if he moves out.

Thanks for any advice or reassurance that anyone can give me!

9 Replies

  • Hi,

    I am so sorry your boyfriend has had such a shock and is now disabled, it is hardly surprising he is depressed. However I would not think of him as having an illness - he needs to GRIEVE for the loss of what he was like before. Rather than being something wrong that is absolutely normal - what IS wrong is that rather than grieving he is trying to withdraw from the world. My guess is that he is frightened by the extent of the anger he feels as a result of the changes to his life and all they will mean for him. I think it may help him if you are able to express very clearly your understanding of how very hard it must be for him to have lost the kind of life he probably was anticipating before he became disabled, how it must be a huge adjustment for him. If you are able to understand that however much his anger is expressed towards you it is not actually ABOUT you and put that clearly into words each time he becomes angry then he might be enabled to think about what he is feeling. At the moment he is behaving irrationally, losing sight of the fact that he was previously happy with you (assuming he was...). It will also help him if you are able to share with him YOUR grief about the implications of his disability because at the moment he may be expressing anger that is yours as well. Becoming disabled is not a minor thing, it hits self-esteem and self-image but also has practical implications - if you are able to focus upon those and concentrate on thinking about them together them he may be able to begin to plan a very different life from the one he imagined previously. He needs you to be the one who IS able to think about a future TOGETHER that takes account of his disability - so long as you wonder about that he will continue to feel more depressed. I do realise what I am suggesting is asking a lot of you, but thinking in terms of a loss and grief enables it to remain a problem that you need to deal with together as you would any other loss that affected your relationship.


  • Hi Sue that is a brilliant thoughtful answer. Hope you

    Are well. I am sending you a message now.

    Kind regards


  • Thanks Hannah, that's a kind comment. x

  • Thanks for your lovely reply Sue. Yes, thinking in terms of it as grief makes sense. And it does make it feel easier to deal with (although in reality I know it won't be easy!). I do hope that once his psychiatric treatment starts, he'll get a chance to speak to someone about how he feels - someone impartial, as I appreciate that it isn't always easy to speak to people we're close to about things like this. I was planning going away for a couple of days next week and had planned to go myself, but he has now said he wants to go aswell, which is a huge breakthrough. I'm not sure how it will go but perhaps just being away from home and seeing what he's still capable of, will make a small difference. Thanks again for your advice x

  • Hello

    The first thing you need to consider is would an appointment with your GP would be a good idea, You need to take advice and possibly a specialist may need to got into your husbands mind. Generally when they removed the cancer did they not arrange a few sessions with a Psycologist (excuse spelling).

    Your husband has been through a great deal of trauma and that will be getting to him and possibly He will understand how much he has changed and lost.

    You say his attitude has changed towards you. His attitude could be that He is frightened to relate to you now as He feels not complete or lacking of emotions.

    All I can suggest is have words with the GP there are things they can do. You will need to go to the GP alone or with a family member and the GP will need to approach your husband to make things work. One problem you could have is if your man will not talk to the GP

    You may get some help with Mc Millan Nurses they may also advise. You may also get some help from Headway on Health unlocked

    Basically I am not a GP or Specialist so the main thing is talk with those who are in partnership with you and your husband. Your GP is the first port of call


  • Hi Bob, thanks so much for your help. In answer to your first question, when the tumour was removed (it was actually benign), he was not offered any psychological support, which on hindsight he definitely should have been, considering he was diagnosed and operated on within the space of such a short time. He never really had the chance to process what was happening to him so really it is no surprise that his mentail health is suffering now.

    He has been relatively accepting of the fact he is ill and has been willing to speak to the GP, which was a great relief off my mind. I am hoping once he has his psychiatric assessment, we will have a better idea of what is going on and how I can help him.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply x

  • Hello

    When Cancer has to be determined I understand the thoughts your husband must have had. Must have been very worrying for him The worry that He suffered was set against His own mortality.

    Granted the problem was not cancer, it was benign that will possibly not+ comfort him at this time as He has had that shock and worry and concern that next time it may be more problematic.

    Discuss with the GP and just be kind and firm with Him, He now needs to get on with his Life and enjoy his time ahead.

    The main problem you are seeing now is He feels the need for space and be able to put life into perspective. This can cause problems for you and I feel concern for the both of you on your future journey.

    Good Luck


  • Hi lonestarsky,

    I would be very concerned that your partner wants to move out so early on in recovery from brain surgery.I feel that emotional support is vital in these early stages. I realise that the situation is very difficult for you at the moment but if you can stay strong and hang on in there you may find that he opens up about his feelings and things improve.Will you be attending the psychology session with him ?

    As Rose quite rightly says, a sudden change in ability can leave a sense of grief for the old you.There is often a period of mourning for the loss of functions/employability/lifestyle that we once had followed later by acceptance,adaptation and creative thinking to find new ways of managing.

    I feel that the way to look at it is that although your partner is feeling lost,hopeless and useless right now things will improve.Remind him that he is still the same man that you fell in love with and you can work round the new problems together : )

    There is also the possibility that the surgery itself has created some chemical changes that could account for this,depending on the location of the tumour.Medication can be useful but time to heal can improve this too.

    There is life, good life to be had, after brain injury/disability.It takes time and patience to adjust : )

    Finally, as Bob says,Headway, the organisation that deals with all types of brain injury and its consequences for sufferers and carers, will be happy to help with your concerns.

    Remember to look after yourself too : )

    Kind regards, Angela x

  • Hi Angela, thanks so much for your reply.

    Yes, I am concerned about him wantng to move out aswell. On the one hand I don't feel I should stop him if thats what he thinks he wants, but at the same time he definitely needs support in his life, and if he's living alone at this stage, I don't know how he will manage and I fear it will only make him worse.

    I don't think I will be attending the session with him, mainly as he seems to want to deal with it himself (he wouldn't let me come to the GP with him although I spoke to the GP alone afterwards - obviously she couldn't tell me what was said but I did make my concerns about him known to her). I'm not sure if he feels he should deal with it alone or if he somehow wants to protect me from it but I don't want to push him.

    I did wonder about chemical changes due to surgery aswell. I guess this is something the psychiatric sessions might throw light on.

    It is still early days and I suppose I have reached the stage where I had comne to terms with what had happened and I thought he had too, but this has shown me that he still has a long way to go.

    Thanks again for your advice x

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