Posted by fxckfeelings on December 15, 2015Share This Post
Depression can make everything in your life seem worthless, so it’s shouldn’t be surprising if your negative thoughts infect those closest to you and convince them that your relationship is worthless as well. In reality, of course, depression doesn’t change the good things you’ve accomplished, just your perception of them; they’re just a set of bad feelings that will pass, but if the people around you are as convinced of your depressive thoughts as you are, then perception becomes reality. If, however, you can select friends who are relatively immune to the infection of depressive thoughts and good at remembering what they like about you, even when you don’t like yourself, you’ll have a better chance of coming through a bad depressive bout without losing the stuff that makes life worthwhile.
Everything feels pointless, from waking up to eating. My partner left me because, during a period when we were apart, I kind of shut down all emotions and capability for affection and she thought I didn’t love her anymore. Later, I realized it was the same behavior that my mother would display when she got her manic-depressive episodes and had to leave me for a few months at a time. And I didn’t see what had happened to me with my partner until it was too late. I didn’t realize I even did it as a kid. Now I have this insane pain in my chest all the time and I don’t see where I am going further in life and why to even bother with it…on top of that I think I have some problems with letting people come close to me to create a strong bond, given my history. My goal is to make sure that I never go back to shutting down my emotions like this when I have to be apart from any future partner, and also, to let go of the partner who left me, because I still want us to try again, but she will not.
Everyone agrees that it’s pointless to blame yourself for the impact of depressive symptoms on your relationships, but it’s hard not to. Especially since depression makes you blame yourself for everything else that goes wrong; it tells you you’d have found a parking space if you were less ugly, or that terrorism is on the rise because you’re so stupid.
On the coin of self-obsession, narcissism is on one side and depression on the other (and it’s the side that always lands face down, in shit). So when a depression-driven emotional shutdown turns people off and drives them away, it feels like you destroyed your own life by indulging in a perverse, unhealthy impulse.
In actuality, a knowledgeable depressive may be able to refrain from telling his loved ones to get lost, but probably can’t fake enough smiling, small talk, or emotional sharing to keep a weak relationship going. In those instances, depression doesn’t destroy relationships, just accelerates the inevitable end. So stop blaming yourself for having an emotional shutdown when you’re depressed, even if it drives away someone you love.
It wouldn’t hurt to seek treatment, since it may help you reduce your symptoms, and cognitive therapy can help you refrain from devaluing yourself and others. You can also educate loved ones about your depression and help them understand that your withdrawal and irritability are not personal. What you can’t do, however, is control other people’s neediness or reactivity; even under the best of circumstances, some people won’t be able to tolerate you as a depressed partner.
So instead of setting yourself the impossible goal of not driving a loved one away, try to find a partner who can tolerate your depression, assuming you do your best to manage it, but creating a smart, specialized set of qualifications for whom you can date.
First, list the usual essential criteria for partnership, e.g., good character, reliability, similar values and life plans, etc. Then screen out those who are too sensitive to your moods, can’t do without your smile, and generally judge the health of the relationship based on the feelings of the people in it. Yes, it may feel good, initially, to have someone who’s so observant and cares so deeply about how you feel. In the long run, however, you’re better off with someone who’s not so quick to notice and doesn’t share your suffering.
Use your experience of depression to manage an emotional shutdown, but don’t expect to stop it entirely. Instead of blaming yourself for driving people away (and everything else bad in the universe), improve your screening and find a partner who can tolerate your depression, respects you for what you do with it, and doesn’t let a shutdown screw up your life together.
“I hate the way I get when I’m depressed and I can’t blame others for feeling the same way. I know, objectively, however, that I’m not a terrible person when I’m depressed and that I can find people who will value and tolerate a relationship with me in spite of my mood swings and shutdowns.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname