This tendency naturally affected my social relationships, but it had the biggest impact on my romantic relationships. After losing my dad so young, I grew terrified that anyone important in my life would suddenly be snatched away from me. So I feared getting too close to a significant other. I didn’t want to be caught unawares; I tried not to let myself be too vulnerable. That way, I could protect myself from getting hurt again — at least, that’s what I thought.
When I started dating my current partner, our relationship progressed naturally. We bonded over the things that make any relationship solid: common interests, aspirations, and a shared sense of humor. But once it started to get serious, I got scared; it was as if my depression was crowding him out.
After he asked me to make our relationship official and I told him about my depression, he just said, "That’s okay."
"No," I said. "You don’t understand. I can be really high maintenance. I can be really difficult to deal with sometimes."
He told me someone close to him had been battling depression, too, and that he knew a little bit about what to expect. I felt nervous, but I said yes. I was so smitten with him; he was the most genuine, caring, and patient guy I’d ever met. But even as we did all the cute things couples do — telling our parents, changing our Facebook statuses — my uneasiness lingered.
Thankfully, at that point, I had made enough progress to start noticing when I was going into depressive moods. I would let him know when I didn’t feel great, and he would be there. Sometimes, I needed to talk, and he would listen as I cried; other times, I just needed him to hold me as we sat in complete silence.
Then there were the times when that dark, familiar mood would hit, and I didn’t want to speak to anyone. I would sit alone as my depressive thoughts spiraled out of control, not doing anything to stop them or bothering to call anyone for support. Small arguments or conversations with my partner blew up for no reason. Once, we went to a concert, and I got lost in the crowd behind him as he went to say goodbye to a friend; I was furious with him. I would often get jealous, not telling him what I was mad about until I was deep into my depressive mood. At these times, toxic thoughts would race through my mind: He’ll probably just leave one day. He probably doesn’t love me as much as I love him. He’ll find someone else. I’m not destined to be happy. But when it worked, his comfort was like a crutch for me; it wasn’t fixing the real problem, but it sometimes helped me get through those debilitating, unproductive thoughts.
Despite how supportive he was, depression was always a third wheel in our relationship. It showed up to our dates unannounced. It wedged itself between us in restaurant booths, whispering anxious thoughts into my ear, encouraging me to overanalyze every single thing that happened during an otherwise fun night. It lingered at each anniversary celebration, stopping by to remind me not to get too happy.
Every time we disagreed, depression would be there to tell me our argument either meant I was destined to be unhappy or that something was wrong with me. Those negative affirmations only made me sink deeper into the abyss. Often, I wouldn’t even have the energy to explain what was wrong; I would just turn away from my partner and let the thoughts take over.