Can I Find Love If I’m Depressed?

Evan, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I like your dating advice because it’s been quantitative and specific (rather than vague and unclear like most others’). However there is one issue I’ve never seen addressed on this site (or any other for that matter).

Suppose you had treatment-resistant depression (or any chronic mental illness), assuming that you had been going the medication-and-therapy route for years to no avail, and that you were doing all you could to help yourself in your condition, but that you were just not able to function on the same level as a healthy person (i.e., too unstable to keep a job, on social assistance, disability status, etc.). Assume also that you had had this condition your entire adult life and did not expect to get better any time soon–unless there was a significant breakthrough in the field of antidepressants or therapy techniques. How would you go about dating or finding love?

How would you find a partner who would accept that you were not healthy and could not have a job or “contribute” to society, but could still love you for you? Or if your condition did not improve and you stayed that way your whole life, would you be expected to live a celibate/companion-less life? Are there any particular pitfalls in dating that depressed people are more susceptible to than healthy people?

You may wonder why I am not asking a therapist about this…This is because every therapist I’ve ever seen does not take my desire to date or find a partner seriously. Every time I raise this issue in the therapist’s office, it gets dismissed. I’ve never seen this issue addressed in a way that’s been helpful to me. The only response I’ve ever gotten was the clichéd “You need to be healthy to start a relationship. Work on yourself first.”

Essentially, I’m asking you “How does a depressed person find love in a society that believes that depressed people are not deserving of love?” Are depressed people deserving of love? Yes? No? Yes and no? I’m really interested in getting your opinion on this whole complex issue.

–Kristi

Dear Kristi,

I feel for you.

And not in some sort of vague, quasi-sympathetic way either. I had trouble with anxiety in my early 20’s and depression in my late 20’s, so I know what it’s like to attempt to function with that black cloud hanging over your head at all times.

My issue was largely situational – subconscious freak-outs about graduating college in 1994 and the shattered dreams of failing to become a Hollywood screenwriter in 2001. Once I got past the initial trauma and found my footing, the turbulence passed and I’ve been lucky enough to have smooth sailing ever since.

But I’ve never forgotten what it was like to have that demon inside me and not be able to conquer it. I remember watching “A Beautiful Mind” and the feeling of frustration at not being able to think my way out of my own depression. It’s too big. Too overwhelming. Too irrational. You can appreciate all the reasons you have to live and all the blessings in your life but still not feel good about it.

I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy.

This is just my long way of validating where you’re coming from: I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy.

At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone marry someone who is depressed.

This is not to say that depressed people are not as “deserving” of love as anyone else in the world. But love isn’t based on being “deserving”. Dating isn’t a meritocracy. And frankly, I don’t think anyone “deserves” love just like I don’t think everyone “deserves” to be a millionaire.

If I am to be objective, Kristi, we have to look at romance much in the way that we look at work. There are only so many amazing jobs out there and everyone is forced to make tradeoffs. Some will work for a ton of money doing something that they don’t like. Some will work at something that makes no money because they love it. Some will work in an office even though they hate commuting and being around people. Some will work from home, even though they are extroverts.

And, for whatever it’s worth, there are some people who, through no fault of their own, are unfortunate. They live in a town where all the factories have been shut down. They grew up in a broken family with no positive role models. They got caught up in their own rebellion and never went to college. They had kids too young and couldn’t give as much to their careers.

All of these people might be kind, deserving people, but they’re not going to end up with the dream job simply because they’re kind and as worthy of an amazing career as the next guy. If the next guy went to an Ivy League school, had his still-married parents pay for his grad school, and chose a career path that allowed him to capitalize on the tech boom, that guy is going to have a better job 99% of the time.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone “deserves” love just like I don’t think everyone “deserves” to be a millionaire.

And so it goes in love. Your curse is depression. Some have been cursed by being overweight. Some men are too short. Some are blind or deaf or paraplegic. Are all these people “deserving” of love? In terms of fairness, yes. In terms of reality, no.

It’s perfectly fair for you to not want to date a man who can’t walk if you can find a man who can walk. It’s perfectly fair for you to not want to date a man who is in financial disarray when you can find a man who is a stable homeowner. And it’s perfectly fair for a man to choose a partner who is not depressed over a partner who is depressed.

We can go on and on about how unfair life is, but, hey, I didn’t write the rules. Life is unfair.

And as someone who really tried the patience of some well-meaning people when I was depressed and anxious, I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to get too emotionally invested in me.

I was a cesspool of negativity, scattered thinking and helplessness. I was a shadow of my former and future self. I didn’t even like to be around myself – why would any woman enjoy being around me? Especially when she can choose to keep the company of another guy who wasn’t crying spontaneously every morning.

I’ve seen relationships torn apart by depression, generally where one partner tries to overlook the other partners’ significant issues. But those issues always come back to haunt the couple, the same way you’re still haunted by your own chronic mental health. If you can’t escape it, he can’t either. And that’s not a life that most people are going to voluntarily sign up for.

The best metaphor, I think, would be having an autistic child. I have a friend who has one and it’s incredibly emotionally draining on him. And while he’d never say he “regrets” having his son, I think if he were given a choice of autistic vs. not-autistic, he’d choose the latter. It would be hard to blame him.

So while I’m extremely sorry for the loneliness you feel, your therapists are ultimately right. Until you can get happy yourself, it would be very hard to contribute to a partner’s happiness.

It’s not that it’s impossible to find love when you’re depressed – I know of a handful of stories – and those relationships are no picnic – but objectively, there’s only a small percentage of men who are such selfless caretakers that they would choose a depressed partner over someone who doesn’t have serious mental health issues.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck and hope that you get the help you need to one day have the relationship you desire.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    my honest answer

    Evan, that was really well thought out and logical advice. Well done. I totally understand what you’re saying, and I’m really curious to hear if the letter writer will chime in with her thoughts.

  2. 2
    Stephanie Constantina

    This is a difficult one, Evan, as you acknowledge. If she can find love it must be at least possible that she may become less depressed as time moves on. Her depression is in a sense a negative attribute of her personality but she may have many positive attributes that her future partner will love her for. If she can find someone she loves and devote herself to making him happy then this may ‘distract’ her from her depression.

  3. 3
    Laura

    I was depressed for a very, very long time. Like cry all the time, can’t function kind of depression. I had very unhealthy relationships because you can’t find someone healthy if you aren’t. Your therapists are right. Work on yourself first. I took medicines for years and thought I would never get better, but I started going back to more natural remedies and I am a much healthier and happier person now. I’m not saying it’s a cure-all, but some things that greatly helped me were:
    -Exercise every day
    -Take B-12 and omega 3/6 supplements daily (they’ve done studies that have shown MANY depressed people are lacking in these nutrients).
    -A steady routine
    -Working on my spiritual self and helping other people (helping others has a powerful affect on making you feel good)
    Sometimes tiny tweaks in lifestyle can help a lot.

    1. 3.1
      justin

      Great advice! Thank you! I have also seen some benefits working on my nutrition. I find that my mental healthy is greatly linked to my intestinal health. Sauerkraut helps me a lot!

  4. 4
    Christina

    Excellent and thoughtful advice, Evan. I was married to a bipolar man for 12 years, and would never knowingly get into a relationship with someone who was clinically depressed ever again. However, while I was on that journey, I ran into a few couples in which both people were depressed. Amazingly, they seemed pretty happy together. Their explanation was that they understood each other and really didn’t have to worry about dragging the other one down. 

    It seemed strange to me at first, but when I thought about how difficult it was for me to truly understand a depressed spouse, it made sense that those who’ve had similar experiences can probably relate to each other a bit better.

    Have you considered a support group? Not as a place to look for dates, but it might give you an insight into what others in your situation are doing. Best of luck to you! 

  5. 5
    Sandy

    Evan, I applaud your honesty and willingness to be transparent about your own struggles with depression and anxiety. 

    I, too, have struggled with anxiety and there was a brief period, towards the end of my marriage, when I was having panic attacks. That was the darkest time for me. Those demons were definitely in my head, and it was scary until the medication kicked in.

    My episodes were also situational (trapped in a bad marriage? hello?). I was lucky.

    However, I lived with the depression of my father my whole life. I saw my mother struggle to be in a relationship with him. It was awful. They got divorced after 25 years of hell.

    My dad became dependent on shock treatments, and his life has turned around. He is happy for the first time in years. And it’s lasting for months…

    Because of my experience with my father, I don’t date anyone whose mental illness is untreated and/or unstable.

    Depression is a slippery slope. 

    By the same token, I have a heart and believe everyone deserves a fair shake at love. I would encourage this woman to do everything in her power to turn around the depression. As many other people wrote in, there are lots of alternative treatments besides talk therapy and meds.

    Best of luck. 

  6. 6
    Judy

    Saddened by the opinion, but also note that Evans response rings true. However what if you’re depressed because you can’t find love? Quite often people are genuinely happy within their lives but feel  saddened by the void of not sharing it with a special someone. How do you shake this? Do you just give up because you feel depressed and now see that the chances are even less to find someone.?

  7. 7
    Rene

    Evan, I had no idea how you were going to respond to this letter, but you did an awesome job.  As hard as it sounds for this woman, she must work on herself and truly believe that she can get better before she finds stable love.  If it takes 10 years, well, then it will take 10 years.  Think of it like a career ladder – – you wouldn’t dream of being CEO before you had put in some time and learned the ropes of the company.  It might take years before you get a highly-coveted position. The same thing goes for relationships.  Even without depression it can seem very hard to find someone that you are compatible with (and this process might drive someone to depression!).  So, with depression it might take a little longer, and the search might be harder, because you must be honest about what you can contribute to the relationship.  In the long term, though, it is better for you AND for the other person who is getting into the relationship with you.

  8. 8
    Ann

    Against the thread here, I think you can be a depressive and have a stable relationship. I also think you can be unattached and be happy. So either road is available to this woman, in my view. But it’s a tricky thing and she has to take charge of her own illness and decide for herself what is right each step of the way. External advice can only go so far when her situation is so unique.

    But EMK, you’re missing the obvious here. You turned it around, so you can serve as a positive example for her. True, you two have different, though similar, conditions. But if something worked for you, something may work for her, too.

    The greatest challenge offers us a chance to grab the greatest victory.

    1. 8.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Ann, you have a brilliant way of refuting things I didn’t say: “I think you can be a depressive and have a stable relationship. I also think you can be unattached and be happy….”

      I said that it would be very difficult to be depressed an in a relationship, but I allowed for exceptions. And, for the tenth time, I’ve never said you couldn’t be single and happy.

      Finally, this line… “if something worked for you, something may work for her, too,” rings false. Why?

      Because my depression was circumstantial and curable. The OP points out that hers is chronic and she wants to know if she can still find love if she’s STILL depressed. So what worked for me (getting a job, finding a new career), would be largely irrelevant if her issue is genetic or chemical or incurable. So given the fact that she can’t work and suffers from this malady, will any man still want to partner with her? The answer is that very few happy, well-adjusted men will choose a depressed partner and that her efforts are better spent on getting herself well than on finding love. That’s where the column came from.

  9. 9
    SnowdropExplodes

    @ EMK: In a recent piece, you said, “Love a man for who he is, don’t hate him for what he isn’t” but the analogy you’ve drawn in this piece seems to be saying the opposite (or at least, saying that people do the opposite).   Do you really believe that the ability to walk is going to trump “person I could spend the rest of my life with” if all the important things click?
    And so it is, I’ve found, with depression.   I have both suffered from depression (thankfully, I responded well to the SSRI medication I was prescribed, though I usually prefer to tough it out when episodes return) and dated a person who went through a severe down phase of bipolar while I was seeing her.   Was it hard work loving her during that time?   Of course!   But she was worth it because of who she was.   I know that I am hard work to be around when I am going through a depressive episode, too, but I also know that I cope well and that helps.
    @ Kristi: Julia A Fast wrote a great book, “Get It Done When You’re Depressed” with techniques for functioning when suffering from debilitating depression (it’s helped me, for sure).   It operates from the assumption that depression isn’t going to get better or go away, it’s a condition you have to figure out ways of living with – as one reviewer put it, “You’re suffering from depression, and in the mean time there’s some stuff you’d like to be getting on with”.   It can provide some guidelines to help dating when depressed as well – in your case, dating is one of those things you’d “like to be getting on with”.
    One way you can help yourself with this, I think, is by setting attainable targets.   I know that at one stage during my depression, the target I set was simply to make sure I was presentable whenever I left the home.   It seemed like a huge mountain to climb to do even that, but it was attainable, and I attained it (and it remains a target today, because I don’t want to slide back into depression).   There are things that need doing whether you feel like them or not, and you can add to those things the essentials for finding a good partner and do them whether you feel like it or not.   Put them into your daily routine, and keep doing them just because that’s what you do on a daily basis.   It’s sort of a “fake it till you make it” strategy, but it seems to work.
    Potential partners generally don’t want to be carrying the whole weight of another person’s issues along with their own (and even the most mentally healthy folks have some issues they deal with), so the best advice I can think of, both from my own experiences and stuff I’ve read, is just to show (don’t tell!) a partner that you’re determined to carry some of it yourself and do what you can to be functional.   That makes loving you that much more attractive, and shows that there is a person and not just an illness attached.

  10. 10
    Nicole

    @Ann, the letter writer isn’t depressed b/c she is unattached, which is what your comment suggests.

    She has severe depression which she mentions has not responded well to treatment OR medication.  This isn’t about challenges or positive thinking.

    She’s essentially asking Evan to contradict her psychiatrist’s/therapist’s advice that she should work on making herself healthy before seeking a relationship.

    For someone with severe mental illness, trying to build a new relationship with someone is a pretty tall order.  B/c on top of the challenges that a person faces trying to form a bond and a lasting relationship, there are the problems of the illness that someone will have to face with her everyday, with some days being okay and some days probably being extremely difficult.

    Stressful situations can exacerbate these conditions, and I’d imagine the tumult would be enough to make a lot of people give up and leave.

    Whether the severity of the illness is a result of lack of compliance or difficulty in finding a good combination of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, etc. having a relationship with someone like this will not be easy.

    The doctor’s advice (and Evan’s) is good b/c honestly, even if this person finds someone she wants as a keeper, not having her illness under control causes the chance that she’ll get left to skyrocket.  There is just no easy way to get someone invested enough to want to deal with all of that long term.  Why would anyone stick around when they can find a relationship that isn’t fraught with the same issues (just the “regular” ones).  

    I’ve never dated anyone with a mental illness but have had to end friendships with people b/c it can be so hard to deal with mood swings, manipulation, substance abuse/self-medication, and any number of issues that are esp. prevalent in this population.  If it is that hard trying to maintain a friendship in these circumstances, then a relationship and/or marriage will be even harder.

    Not to mention the fact that while wanting love and not having it may make her feel worse, finding a relationship will not make her BETTER. She does not have situational depression, which by the way, isn’t automatically cured when the situation that caused it is resolved.  The worst two stories that I know regarding people who had severe, lifelong depression who had successfully found love and marriage ended with the person with depression committing suicide.  One did it a month after her wedding.  Another did it after years of attempts, treatments, and medications, and her child (my classmate) found her after the attempt that succeeded.

    So I can say that after knowing those people I wouldn’t exactly want to sign up for any of that either, while I have so much sympathy for them.

    I also know people who suffer from severe depression who did find love and marriage but they did also find stability and coping skills and some measure of peace BEFORE they tried to involve anyone in their lives.  I think they have good futures b/c someone got to love them at their best, and that increases the likelihood that they’ll be willing to stick around should they ever hit those lows again.  And they have learned perhaps when they need space and how to minimize the impact of their illness on those around them, b/c they took the time and did the work.
     

  11. 11
    Lydia

    Excellent advice, Evan.  Glad you took the time to answer this.  

    I believe there is “someone for everyone” but when I look at my own shortcomings…ADHD, Fibromyalgia, Migraines, recurrent depression (situational), overweight…I know most men I would want (financially and mentally stable, fit, intelligent, well-educated in addition to just being “good men”) would likely be able to find someone with less issues than what I’ve got.

    I have lost weight and am working on losing more, but I don’t know if my looks and other positive traits  will ever outweigh the negatives I have little control over.  I have been thinking lately about what I’m finding and what I might find in men who are interested in me.  I have even been wondering if I could kiss a man if I knew he was wearing dentures!!!  I am in my 40’s and people my age don’t compare to the 23 year old I married all those years ago. I like people with all their hair and teeth and who are healthy mentally as well as physically.  Being with a mentally unhealthy person just makes my own mental health worse.

    It is different when you marry someone “perfect” who over time ages or develops illness, than when you’re trying to find yourself initially attracted to someone with so many problems.

    Yes, it is all about trade-offs.  None of us get exactly what we want all the time.  

    I hope she finds love if the seeks it, but I hope most of all that she finds an effective treatment and can enjoy a greater measure of health so she will enjoy life more, with or without a partner.

    This was an important letter to answer, and it was answered so well.

  12. 12
    Angie

    I think you should start by contributing an hour a day, if you can.  Force yourself 
    You wrote certain things as if they were a life sentence (ex: “too unstable to keep a job”). Well, can you force yourself to get a job (or do ANYTHING) and always give it your best?  Even if it’s only 15 hours a week?  Volunteering?  Exercise / art classes?

    I don’t think you should take the idea that being depressed and loveless as a lifelong sentence.  If you can get yourself to the point where you are able to function in society, even if you aren’t 100% of the time all the time, then I think dating is reasonable.  But you do need to get yourself to the point where you are always your best for other people.  Also, what you can ALWAYS control is your actions.  You may not be able to control the way you feel, but I’ve known depressed people to drop off the face of the earth and refuse to return calls, would threaten suicide or harm towards others, abuse substances, etc.  If you can consciously fight any natural urges to do these things (mind over matter), then I think you are moving in a direction that will allow you to be relationship-ready.  I do agree with the poster above that said maybe someone who also suffered from depression may relate better, as long as the two of you are positively focused, instead of bringing eachother down.

    I think you might be asking the wrong question.  It shouldn’t be “Are depressed people deserving of love?”.  It should be “Am I capable of 100% dedicating myself to and being good to another person, and 100% refusing to let the depression bring negativity into the relationship?” (If your answer is “They should just deal with it” then I agree that you need to “Work on yourself first” b/c no one should be in a relationship if they aren’t willing to give the best of themselves, and you ideally want to find a person who complements you and motivates you towards your best, not enables you to be at your worst).

  13. 13
    Margaret

    Kristi, take heart.  The advice you have been given here is spot-on, but please keep in mind that there are very many variables. I’d like to share a story with you.  My cousin (female) is 3 years older than me.  Never been pretty, almost homely, barely graduated high school.  ADD, depression, bulimia, alcoholism.  To top it off, she had breast cancer and a double mastectomy and still smokes. Not a good homemaker or cook.  Has held fast food jobs when she works. However, she is sweet, unpretentious, and a good Catholic.  Works for AA to help younger alcoholics.

    Her husband is a sweetheart, college-educated, has gotten better-looking as he has gotten older.  Devoted, stood by her through thick and thin.  They are best friends, he is wonderful to her family.  Their 2 girls have left the nest, and they have a great future. I would LOVE to find a man like him.

    I am just trying to say that  anything can happen.  We do not have control over everything in life.  All we can do is work hard to overcome our problems and issues, and the rest will have to fall where it may. Yo don’t know what the future holds, and you must love yourself no matter what.

  14. 14
    Zabrinah Shepherd

    I agree that this is a topic/issue that is rarely covered in this context. I also agree with the advice given. You cannot bring a partner happiness if you cannot make yourself happy. It goes right along with the philosophy that you cannot change the world or other people without changing yourself first!

    ~Zabrinah 

  15. 15
    Taryn Lutzer

    It is a selfish world we live in when we can’t be there for someone in need. Our dear depressed writer sounds like she has and continues to try everything she can to feel better, as of yet nothing has worked. However, that doesn’t mean that she has a lot to offer and that she isn’t deserving of being giving a chance. I applaud her for being honest, most arent. I also applaud her for taking responsibility as most do not. The man that is worthy and willing to take a risk will be lucky as kristy seems evolved in areas as most are not.

    Evan, I thought your response was poorly written and that you are responding as if life is black and white. Isn’t it possible that with love kristi can exceed all that she has already accomplished on her own?

  16. 16
    Ann

    EMK and Nicole: Depression, whether caused by situational or biological factors, is a mental illness–it isn’t about being happy or not happy, which is an emotional state, and a transient one at that.

    Because it is an illness and we aren’t doctors here, we don’t know whether the OP can be “cured” or not, and I doubt she does either. She put everything in question form, which would indicate to me that she herself doesn’t know how her illness will progress or what her health prospects are. All we know is that she is suffering from this illness now, she wants a relationship, and she doesn’t know if she can have one.

    I stand by my statement that there are men who are willing to have a sexual and/or companionate relationship with a depressive because many do. And being happy is not an emotional state that is required to have a relationship, judging from what we all see around us. Her therapists are advising her not to undertake this until she gets healthy (not nec happy), which would indicate that her therapists do believe that she can manage her illness to the point where a relationship is feasible.

    Also, EMK, you brought up marriage when you said that you wouldn’t recommend that a man marry a depressive. It’s a little off point–the OP never asked what anyone thought about her marriage prospects, she asked about finding love, and I was responding in that vein.  

  17. 17
    Nicole

    @Taryn,
    What exactly has the letter writer achieved on her own…she mentions being too unstable to hold a job and her mental health is fragile, not responding to medication, and not expected to get better any time soon.

    Sorry, but love does not cure or improve neurochemical imbalances.  And a mental illness that isn’t responding to medication means that the impact that the stresses that a new relationship could cause and the reactions to said stresses will be severe to say the least.

    Your comment makes about as much sense as telling a person with terminal cancer that love will cure her.  In both cases, it will not, and it makes things VERY hard on the person who attempts to be in a relationship with her.  It is just too much for someone who isn’t already in love with you to stick around for.   

    The letter writer has  LOT of work ahead of her in order to find some stability in her life, and the amount of time she needs to put in and the things that she needs to do can’t really be mitigated by engaging in a relationship.   

  18. 18
    nathan

    I just wrote a post on my blog that seems to go along with what Evan and some others have written here.  http://21centuryrelationships.blogspot.com/2011/12/are-you-depressed-because-you-cant-find.html
     
    However, something about all this doesn’t sit well with me. First off, I might suggest to Kristi, if she hasn’t already, to consider alternative therapies for depression. Here’s a good website with some options. http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/alternative-therapies-depression
     
    Beyond that, though, I think there has to be some wiggle room on this. Because not everyone is going to be happy and/or healthy at the time they meet their significant other, and conditions do change during a lifetime – sometimes unexpectedly in either positive or negative directions. Some of you seem fixated on results here, when the reality is that it sounds like Kristi has been making the effort for some time now.
     
    It seems to me that Kristi could conceivably continue to work on herself, and also attempt to date, but with the caveat that she’s honest with those she goes out with. I agree with Ann that there are probably good men out there who would be interested in having a relationship with Kristi. She may have to face more rejection than the average person, though, so it’s probably important that she consider if she’s able to handle that right now or not.

  19. 19
    helene

    I work as a physician in an area of social deprivation, and a substantial number of my patients suffer from chronic depression, cannot envisage ever being able to hold down a job etc..etc.. Many of these folks are in relationships.A large number, in fact. Are their partners people I would date myself? Well, probably not… but that really doesn’t matter. Ther point is, yes, depressed people do form relationships, sometimes with others who are depressed, or who have some other “handicap” of their own. It is true, as Evan says, that as you are depressed you may not be in a position to contribute as much to another person’s happiness as other people, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to contribute at all. The partners of my depressed patients seem to accept their life together and their role as part partner/part carer in a pretty philosophical manner. “Misery loves company” as they say, and I would not be surprised if a number of romantic relationships blossom at depression support groups.

    Yes, in an ideal world you would “work on yourself” and get better before seeking love. Yes, as Evan says, you are not going to be able to date a gorgeous high-flying rich guy… but then few of us are, depressed or not! Like everyone else, there are men out there who will date you – like everyone else, its a question of whether you are willing to open up and date those who are interested in you.  Chronically depressed people do date and form relationships of some sort or another, I see it every day. Good luck…

  20. 21
    Nicole

    @Ann, you are incorrect in assuming my background.  I’m not a practicing physician but I went to medical school so I do understand the basics behind mental illness.  So maybe you don’t know anything about psychiatry but I actually did have to learn these things in school, so I know more than a layperson but clearly much less than a trained shrink.

    The letter writer can find a relationship, but having a good relationship with a good partner that lasts is another thing entirely.

    She has discussed her difficulties in managing her illness, and that’s not something anyone is inferring here.  Her own DOCTOR has told her to work on herself more, precisely b/c of the challenges and risks involved. She did to his advice what you and a lot of people do with the advice given here…she twisted it into hyperbole that she had no right to date and didn’t “deserve” love.  No one said that, and the advice given to her is responsible and fair b/c what she is asking will be very, very hard to find, and even harder for her to keep B/C of her hard to manage and out of control illness.

    She can do what she wants, but she wrote here looking for validation and that wasn’t given to her b/c frankly it would be the wrong thing to do.

    Hopefully she won’t wind up in a situation that pushes her off the cliff, so to speak.   

  21. 22
    Ann

    Nicole@24: I didn’t know anything about your background, though by your own admission you are not a doctor or a therapist and therefore are not licensed to advise psychiatric patients. So I stand by my statement that we here are not doctors (though it seems that Helene is). That said, I, too, have studied psychiatry and psychology, though, like you, I have never practiced.

    I do know that it is considered unethical for any psychoanalyst to tell a patient explicitly what to do in relationship unless that patient is in danger or presenting a danger to another. 

    If she wants a consensual sexual or companionate relationship, as she states, and she can find one, which many people agree she can, and she isn’t in any danger to herself or others, why shouldn’t she go for it? Who are we to tell her otherwise?

  22. 23
    Goldie

    Here’s what confuses me. I will admit that I am a layperson who had very limited, brief experience with mild, situational depression. Basically for a few weeks I didn’t want to eat, do anything, or talk to anyone. I went through the motions because I need to run a family and pay the bills. I admit that it was probably an extremely mild case compared to what actual clinical depression must feel like.
     
    So what I don’t understand here is, why the desire to be in a relationship in the first place? A relationship is a lot of work. It places demands on one’s time and energy and involves taking care of another person (and juggling him with all other people you may already have in your life). It’s fun, but at the same time, it is work, kind of like having a pet, or a kid. As they say, be careful what you wish for?
     
    Then again, there are many different ways a committed relationship can work, and some of those may work for the letter writer. In my case, as soon as I recognized what I was going through, I told people that I was already dating that I was not up for anything serious until I felt better. A few of them wished me luck and moved on, others stuck around for sort of semi-casual dating, which actually did make me feel better, like spending time with good friends. It was very low-pressure, low-commitment type of thing that worked for me when I was under my black cloud. Anything serious would’ve probably worn me out at that time.

  23. 24
    Nicole

    @Ann, I’m not going to bother to explain to you the manner in which doctors are educated, and I already pointed out that I’d have learned more than you but less than someone who trained as a psychiatrist…even a licensed doctor isn’t going to know much more beyond the basics that I learned unless he or she completed a residency, but whatever.

    The person who told her to get herself together was, in fact, her doctor.  So who are YOU to tell her that her doctor is wrong?

    But your comments show that you like to misinterpret people’s words so there really isn’t any point in trying to explain any further. 

  24. 25
    Ruby

    I’ve been in a relationship with a person with this kind of depressive mental illness. We weren’t involved for very long (although we’d been friends for a few years first), as he simply couldn’t handle a relationship at that time. People with that kind of depression struggle just to get out of bed, have thoughts of suicide,etc. Even on medication, they can go through periods where the medication doesn’t work so well, depending on what else is happening in their life. Or they are feeling better, and decide to decrease or go off their meds, and the depression hits even worse. The fellow I dated wasn’t a bad person, but he was extremely self-involved and not very stable, and not someone I’d wish as a long-term partner, although he eventually did get married. Certainly, he was higher functioning than Kristi, could work, and wasn’t on disability.

    But as Helene said, Kristi might be able to form a relationship with someone else who is facing challenges of their own, so it’s not out of the question. 

  25. 26
    Saint Stephen

    No! No! No! I vote for working on her condition first before plunging into the dating world. I can’t even believe that some commenters on here would advise otherwise.
     
    Telling a clinically depressed person to actively engage in the dating sphere is one of the terrible advise I’ll ever hear, knowing that the dating world is a “battlefield” which could eventually leave even the most emotionally healthy and mentally stable people- jaded and depressed.
     
    Seriously, i really don’t think Kristi- given her present condition- is fortified enough to survive the casualties that abounds aplenty in the dating world, and a few rejection here and there would leave her contemplating suicide. Don’t even get me started on men who use women as cum dumps, a few encounters with such men and her quest for love might just have a tragic end.
    To me Kristi”s safety matters more than finding love.

  26. 27
    Cristy

    I’ve never posted on your website before, EMK however, after reading this post, I’ve felt compelled to!
     
    I have a diagnosis of Depression, and I believe it’s both situational and well, internal. I’ve been taking medication, and also reading a couple of self-help books have helped me along the way. However, for the last 3-4 years or so, it’s been a STRUGGLE because I’ve went to seen so many doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. that I can’t believe that I’m finally at a point where I’m at.
    I’m STILL depressed, where I have depressive thoughts, negative feelings, however I’m very thankful to find a way to accept them and just try to “ignore them.” It sounds easy, but it’s taken me 4 years, lots of heardbreak to get to a point where it feels a bit stable.
    It’s really hard to HEAR that EMK believes that people won’t really date depressed people, but even when I think about it, I don’t really want to date someone who right off the bat told me, “Hey, I’m depressed just to let you know.” Unfortunately, it’s a stigma, and even as open as I am, I still would like to try to date someone remotely healthy.
    I’ve had my share of people who were verbally abusive but had no “diagnoses,” although I really think they could have diagnosed with depression, too. I studied Psychology, so I have had experience and knowledge in this field. The people I dated were unhealthy, and EMK should really emphasize it more that if  you’re unhealthy, you will NATURALLY attract unhealthy people. Given Kristi’s situation is much severe than most people here (even I was diagnosed with SEVERE DEPRESSION, however I am working, funcitoning w/ daily life, just t he relationshilp part is very lacking), it’s very  hard for us to sit here and judge her when we really do NOT know her situation that well.
    As for EMK’s post, I’m a bit disappointed at his lack of compassion, although he did express his empathy during the beginning. I just expected more from him but I guess he’s just giving his “tough love,” in a way of how a man would think from the beginning.
    I’ll tell you this, however, it’s best to keep some things to yourself in the beginning, however if you think you CAN manage your depression, go out and try to have fun in the dating world. In a way, everybody’s a little bit messed up, so I don’t think depressed people should hinder themselves just because of this  “disability” or this “shortcoming,.” There are lots of people with their shortcomings, “i.e., baldness, shortness, hairy arms, etc.” or whatever it may be, however, the key is to be acceptable of yourself and have a “WTF” attitude (I know, I know, but it’s true) and that YOU ARE contributing to this world!
     
    When you think like that, have confidence, you REALLY can come up with a solution, it may not be a solution that you wanted in the first place, but it will be a WORKABLE solution for you. I hope that EMK will understand this disorder more and give more compassion to the reader and other readers like myself out there. Thanks however for touching on this controversial subject.

    1. 27.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Cristy, I’m not sure how I could have been more compassionate, apart from giving her false validation about her dating prospects that I really don’t believe. Is that “tough love”? I don’t think there’s anything predictably tough about it, no more than it’s “tough love” to tell me that I’m never going to have a career like Oprah Winfrey. It’s just, you know, honest. Add in that I spent considerable time talking about my own low-level depression and how difficult it was for me to function and for anyone to date me, and it’s unclear to me what I should have told the OP that would have been better advice.

  27. 28
    Casey

    Totally agree with Saint Stephen…Dating itself can put you into situational depression after a few bad experiences and this girl can’t even hold as job!!!…Really, you would advise her to date???

  28. 29
    Ruby

    Cristy # 30

     <<In a way, everybody’s a little bit messed up, so I don’t think depressed people should hinder themselves just because of this  “disability” or this “shortcoming,.” There are lots of people with their shortcomings, “i.e., baldness, shortness, hairy arms, etc.” or whatever it may be, >>

    I don’t think you can compare someone who has severe depressive mental illness with baldness or hairy arms, sorry. Mental illness isn’t a “disability” in quotation marks, it’s a disability, period. If Kristi is too unstable to keep a job, and is on disability and public aid, dating is going to be very tough. But as I said, she may be able to find someone in similar straights who would be more accepting. 

  29. 30
    nathan

    You know, I tend to agree with those of you taking the tough love stance here, but feel that there has to be some wiggle room in the discussion. Telling someone who has spent years working on themselves that they should just keep on doing that, and not at all considering dating, until some unquantifiable results come about, is basically saying “you’re screwed” to someone. I completely agree that someone in Kristi’s position will have a difficult time dating, and it might not work for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, someone like her should have no illusions about how meeting someone might suddenly “cure” her, because that’s just nonsense.
     
    But some of you are talking about Kristi like she’s little better than a child, when in fact she’s a grown woman who clearly has her shit together enough to send in a thoughtful letter asking legitimate questions to Evan’s blog. Perhaps some of you think – she wrote a letter, so what? But I’ve seen hundreds of letters sent into dating blogs, and thousands of comments made on dating blogs – and many of them lack the awareness Kristi expresses here about her current situation.
     
    Given that, and the fact that we also don’t know her dating history and/or how long she actually worked with any of these therapists she mention, to me it makes sense to leave the door open a crack in whatever advice being given. To recognize that while the odds might be stacked against her, she’s not a hopeless case, based on what we currently know.

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