AdviceHey, Bonita!

Is My Boo Thoughtless or Depressed?

Dear Bonita,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year. Lately he’s been depressed because of the pandemic and normal difficult life stuff. I’m struggling, too—it seems like a lot of people are right now. I’m trying to be there for him, but it’s not working out. Admittedly, I’ve been catering to him to make him feel better, and it’s making me resent him. 

To top it off, I went all-out for Valentine’s Day, and this dude showed up having put zero thought into anything for me. He didn’t stop at a gas station and grab me some flowers. He didn’t write Happy Valentine’s Day on an old birthday card. Seriously, nada. When I asked him what the deal was, he just shrugged and was like, “I can go get something now, I guess.” I’m not looking for the material aspect, just something to show that he thought about me. Seriously, it’s the thought that counts, but lately he has stopped trying altogether. It makes me feel stupid and bad about myself and naive. 

He says he doesn’t want to date anyone else, loves me, is sorry he’s disappointing, etc. Have I just coddled him to the point of helplessness while trying to be there for him? Is he just too depressed to function? (I think not, because he still handles the rest of his life seemingly OK.) Is this just a dude dropping off after a year ‘cause he’s not trying to impress me anymore? Should I just leave it be and hope he gets better and back to the previously legit boyfriend he was?

At The End Of My Rope

Hey there ATEOMR,

I’m not a mental health professional, but I do have a couple of my own diagnoses, one of which includes major depression. My personal experience tells me that your boyfriend is definitely displaying signs of depression, and I’m curious if he showed a more understated version of these signs before isolation began last year. And be careful with how you picture depression playing out in a personal life. You seem doubtful that he may be truly depressed because he’s managing “the rest of his life” just fine. Are you sure of that? I have full-time employment and I’ve been writing this column for five years, rarely ever missing a week. I keep my lights on and earn a livelihood, all while having major depression, and while I’m able to take care of my very basic human needs (food and shelter), I am also currently unable to find the passion to take up many of my lifelong hobbies. To put it simply, I’m tired, and I don’t want to. But I know that’s my depression talking and not a genuine lack of interest in these things. I’ve always loved exercise and writing fiction, but when my brain decides that nothing matters and all things are boring, my hobbies are the first things to go. Don’t look at your boyfriend’s GPA or his work schedule as evidence of a healthy mental state.

You seem pretty over it at this point, but I don’t think all hope is lost. Y’all know I’m not afraid to tell anyone to walk away from a crappy situation, but I think that there’s a chance that he could bounce back with proper support. You’re right, pretty much everyone is bummed right now, but therapists exist to help us during times like these.  Nudge him towards counseling, which is heavily subsidized in Athens and easy to do remotely. If you’re UGA students, then reach out to Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), and if you’re townies, I recommend starting with Family Counseling Services of Athens or the Center for Wellbeing. 

I don’t get the sense that he’s falling out of love with you, but that life is just hard to live through right now. A few weeks of therapy would help him to figure out what exactly is stuck in his craw, and it would also give you time to determine if this is really the end of your relationship or if your boo is just a depressed person whose mental condition is being triggered into actualization by current events.

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