Dealing with an SO with mental issues - how to say "Sorry, I can't support you right now"?

A significant other of mine is going through some fairly serious mental issues. It seems like depression, but it could be something else; I’m not a mental health professional. In any case, this person has a very limited support structure, has trouble with their family, and I’m basically the main person they talk to or spend time with. And they are seriously suffering, and I don’t know what to do. After a week of getting nothing but this “woe is me, everything sucks, my family hates me” stuff, I… can’t handle it. I can’t listen to it any more.

I know there’s probably something bad going on here, and I know saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t deal with your depression right now” isn’t going to make things better. But what can I do? I can’t be a constant sounding board for non-stop “woe is me”, especially when connected with self-harm. I’m not a therapist, and this has started making me miserable to boot. It’s not helped by the fact that I’ve only known them for a month, and this has only kicked in last week. I miss the version of this person I knew last month, before this started happening seemingly apropos of nothing, but telling that to someone with depression is a really, really, really shitty thing to do. I just don’t really know how to handle the situation. And no, “dump them” is not a good solution. I’ve given them the best advice I can - “seek professional help”, but I can’t really do more than that. :frowning: What’s a nice way to say, “Sorry, I can’t deal with you right now”?

Do you want to be in a relationship with this person? Because its perfectly fine if you say you don’t; It’s probably the smart thing to do. If you don’t want to be there, just walk away. But if you do want that person to be an important part of your life, you can’t just be there for them when it’s convenient for you. There are no half-measures in relationships.

Being in a relationship with someone with depression is tough - trust me, I know. But the only thing you can do is commit. If you’re there for them, be there for them. If you’re not, fuck off.

It feels similarly shitty to, now that they’ve opened up to me, dump them for it. “Thanks for opening up and baring your problems to me, but I don’t want to be with someone who is a mopey sadsack all the time. Sorry.” :frowning: I want to be in a relationship with this person, otherwise I would have dumped them. Hence why I’m asking for advice on how best to manage this. Related advice would be good too, I guess, like how better to manage these things.

Well, that’s inconvenient.

Bogged down in drama in the first month? Feeling an obligation to her already? Good luck with that.

Look at it this way: say you were in a relationship with someone, and they were hit by a bus. Would you say, “So sorry, but I don’t like hospitals; how about you give me a call when you’re all better and we can have sex?”. Same thing.

Mental illness is not the person, it’s something that happens to a person. It’s something that’s imposed on them against their will.

Since you do want a relationship, you may try redirecting.

“I’m sorry things are so bad right now, but I’m also not the best person to help you. Is there someone else we could call (therapist, doctor, pastor, work-provided services, whatever)?”

It’s not that you don’t want to help, it’s that you can’t. But maybe you can help your SO find someone who’s better qualified for it. Nobody would blame you for saying “sorry, I really can’t move all your furniture by myself, let’s call some movers”. Or well, maybe some people would, but they’d be jerks :stuck_out_tongue:

Is this the same girl you’ve been dating for a while? If so, you’ve been dealing with her issues from the beginning. What has changed recently that you’re no longer as tolerant?

If it is depression, these things come in waves. There are good weeks and bad weeks.

Different girl.

@Nava: it’s good advice, and I’ve been trying to do that. It hasn’t worked very well.

@Alessan: I realize that, but I can’t spend every day at the hospital. Is there a good way to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t handle this conversation right now” without making it seem like it’s her fault, or making her feel worse?

I have something like this going on with somebody, and no great wisdom to impart except for this: take care of yourself first. You are not responsible for her problems and you cannot fix everything.

“I love spending time with you, and I want to help, but it’s hard for me sometimes to handle all of this and I want to do the right thing.” Something like that.

I think you have to set your boundaries where you are comfortable with them being and then if she dumps you, don’t fight it or panic or try to negotiate. This isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about discovering if the sort of support she needs and the sort of support you are able to give–long term–are compatible. If they aren’t and she knows it enough to leave, let her go so she can find someone who is more compatible with her.

And she may well perceive you having boundaries to what you are willing and able to offer as you being an asshole. If she does, you need to fight the impulse to prove that you aren’t an asshole by shifting those boundaries.

Since you obviously cannot cope with this ordeal, get your SO to a mental health professional who should be able to diagnose and perhaps help this person.

I went through something similar with my SO 25 years ago and the diagnosis was a bi-polar condition that was successfully treated.

Very true; I was asking because based on his posting history he’s been supporting her through all kinds of ups and downs for years. It was curious to me that he’d suddenly had enough.

Since this is a different girl, may I posit that your subconscious realizes that you’re setting yourself up for a repeat of your last relationship, and it’s in flight mode? Nava and Manda Jo have it spot-on; boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. “I am sorry for what you are going through; I think these thoughts/feelings are best discussed with your therapist so they can give you the guidance you need.”

Is this situational depression (something terrible’s happened to them and they’re still working through it) or mental illness depression which won’t get better without proper professional assistance?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “Look, I care about you but you need professional help which I’m not qualified to give you. I will gladly help you seek out that help and support you to get it, but I’m not equipped to deal with your issues alone.”

One important thing, does this person want to get help? Or does she just want someone to listen to her complaints?

Have you suggested therapy? Your reply to Nava tells me you have. What was her response? “Oh, that won’t work because blah, blah,… tried it before, all doctors are crooks, I’m a Scientologist…blah, blah, blah…”. Then does she go right back to telling you for hours on end why her life sucks?

If so, she doesn’t want help. She want to wallow in her misery, and she wants you to praise her for having the strength and bravery to keep going when she has the worst problems anybody ever had, ever. And she’s completely right about everything, you must agree.

And you’ve only known this person a month? Let me tell you, I had to quietly drop my best friend of twenty years because she became like this.

It’s your decision, but you can’t help her if she doesn’t want help.

As for not wanting to talk, just say you can’t right now.

My wife and I split up over this very thing. I was clinically depressed. She didn’t want to deal with it, so she left. I don’t hold it against her. I still consider her a fine person. Better you leave than hang around with a martyr’s air of suffering. Your SO feels low enough without feeling guilty over the effects of hir disorder on you.

If you are inclined to stay with her, you and she need to have a serious talk (perhaps not now but when she’s not at her lowest point), a talk about how the two of you will handle it when she’s like this. You need to set some self-preservative terms — a reasonable amount of “alone time” or other form of reprieve from being immersed in her darkness; but you also need to give her some kind of baseline commitment to not withdraw yourself completely from her when she’s like this.

Well, those are my type of terms because I’m extrapolating from myself, you two need to have your own conversation and your own terms. But something like that.

Say you were in a relationship with someone, and they were hit by a bus. Then they refused to go to the hospital to get treatment, but sat around the house and complained about how injured they were, and expected you to do everything for them because they were injured. You know they’re not going to get better until they see a doctor, but they refuse to, and instead just want you to spend huge amounts of energy doing stuff for them, while they do nothing to get better. That’s much closer to what the OP is dealing with.

Did the OP say anything about them refusing psychiatric treatment?

If the “best advice” is seek professional help, that implies that they are not seeking professional help at this time. If someone had a broken arm and had gone to the doctor to get it set, you wouldn’t say that your advice was for them to go to a doctor because it would be silly to advise them to do what they already did.