My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years has always had low-level depression, ever since high school really. But he is now at a point where he has to decide whether or not to leave graduate school -- he has never really enjoyed the field he went into, and now everything seems to be coming to a head and a decision has to be made. This had agravated his depression and anxiety considerably, to the point where we only have had a day or two go by in the past month without him having a serious breakdown. The fact that this is the month that we were moving into our new place together complicates things; it would otherwise be a happy time, but for him it is the worst experience he has ever had with his mental illnesses before.
I feel somewhat lonely even looking at this group because I feel as though many people on here have relationship problems already that are aggravated by depresison or, they wonder, even excused by it. But that's not the case here. My boyfriend has never wavered back and forth about whether he wants to be with me; he sometimes takes out his frustration out on me a bit but immediately apologizes and says he doesn't know why I am still with him; when he is well he is incredibly loving and makes me happier than I had ever experienced before in a romantic relationship. But right now he is drowning, drowning in the voices of the critics in his head that tell him he is not good enough, not hard working enough, not selfless enough, not strong enough, and it makes it impossible for him to move forward, or to have any hope.
Here are some things I have witnessed in the past month: my boyfriend holding his head as he screamed, repeatedly, with terrifying intensity for about 15 seconds, trying to drown out the voices of judgement in his head. I have held him why he sobbed uncontrollably several times; the latest was today when finally we drifted off to sleep holding each other after he had drained all his energy. I have seen him sigh, fidget, breath shallowly and groan while trying to do work, which triggers the anxiety attacks (thus making any hope of contiuing in the graduate program seem increasingly dim), I've watched him rock back and forth on the couch trying to calm himself, and maybe worse of all I've just seen him stare at the table and think about what a disgusting faliure he is, although he is absolutely the opposite. You can feel what he is feeling inside of him watching all this, and it breaks my heart and is really rather scary, in a horror movie about hell kind of way.
But there is very little I can do. He thanks me often for being supportive and has actually been more emotionally available to me than I would have guessed, but sometimes my words of comfort actually backfire and make him feel worse, and othertimes I don't say what he wants to hear and he seems to get upset with me for a moment about that. This is very confusing and we've talked about it and he understands, but there is not much to do about it, as he doesn't know himself what I should be doing or how I can best help him. And then of course my own feelings throw in a whole lot more complication. A lot of the times I can numb myself to everything, and just be the person who has to get him through the day and has to keep her head straight. But when things get bad I either feel like I am staring into his own misery, and then start to feel terrified and trapped myself because, well, imagine seeing a loved one of yours tortured while you are trapped in a cage right next to them, unable to help; that is what it is like. I mean, it's not just painful it is genuinely frightening, in a very dark kind of way. And the other emotion I get is frustration that makes me angry, not so much at him as the fact that this is happening to him and it is not his fault, and it is all so unfair - but sometimes at him as well, even though I know I should be directing it at him, I am so drained and frustrated I feel like I cannot hold in the frustration anymore. And then sometimes I remember how he is when he is well and the pain of how much I miss that man and wish he could feel that again wells up in me and I just cry.
The funny thing is that in the past month he every now and then does have a day where things clear up a bit; where he is able to do some work and he laughs with me again and has his usual good sense of humor. The problems in his life are never far from his mind but it doesn't take him over completey for that day. We've had a few days like that this week, but today the darkness came again and there was another crisis all over again. In moments like this I have this overwhelming feeling that I ought to be calling for help somehow; like if you saw a loved one having a heart attack, you would call 911 - well it is the same sensation but who do you call?, what kind of emergency help is available for mental illness which is so often misunderstood? I know there are crisis lines which might be good for me, but he is disillusioned with the idea that they would do any good. He's pretty experienced with what they would say, after all, he's been in and out of therapy for years. But I feel so lonely and helpless in moments like that, because I see someone I love so much, who feels like he is my family really, just drowning in agony and there is no one, nothing to cry out to.
One other thing, I might add, that makes him different from some men with depression is that he is not at all in denial. He is back in therapy and on a new drug, although he has tried so many over the years and nothing but Aderall really seemed to do the trick, and he went off of that because of the long term side-effects. Anyway he is very knowledgable about depression/anxiety issues, but nonetheless when he is in this dark place he says that he just cannot accpet that this is a disease -- it has to be a choice he is making, which means he is a worthless person who fails at everything if he is allowing this or choosing it. But of course he is not choosing it. But the depression is so convincing to him; and I and everyone else are powerless to get through. I'm just so scared. Scared about what is going to happen, scared about my boyfriend's chances for some degree of happiness in this life, scared of what I will have to go through as I watch him go through this over the next weeks and months, maybe years.