Woe Is Me! “I’m Depressed and My Girlfriend Taunts Me About My Behavior”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I’ve been mostly depressed and rarely normal over the past year. This means I mostly want to be left alone, even when my girlfriend talks to me. But, she’s started taunting me about this behavior, and I don’t know how to react. How do I deal with this?”
— Leave Me Alone
KB: Yeah, it’s been a year. 2020 has tested even the most resilient and mentally healthy people. On the surface, your question makes your girlfriend sound very callous and insensitive, because no one should ever be taunting anyone for mental health issues. However, without more context, it’s hard to know whether she’s aware that you’re depressed. Does she know you’ve been going through a really hard time? Or are you bottling it up and assuming she’ll figure it out?
It’s important to remember that sometimes we think people can read our moods, feelings, and needs, but the truth is that they can’t. If you have needs, it’s important to be transparent and clear. For now, let’s assume your girlfriend isn’t totally awful, and let’s assume the most likely explanation: that she has not understood why you go silent in the middle of a conversation or lose your train of thought. Maybe she thinks she is affectionately ribbing you for being absent sometimes. The only way you can find out is to be clear and honest with her, and see if that changes anything. If it doesn’t, you have a choice to make.
DR: Hello there! Depression is so debilitating, and I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. I do understand the need to be left alone in your space — so that you can conserve some energy, and give yourself a chance to process, and maybe, even heal. A person who cares for you, will probably try to understand that, and accommodate it in their expectations. So, naturally, my question here is: Have you explained the state of your mind to her? Have you communicated what’s been up, and why you need more space? If she’s either in the dark about your depression, or doesn’t understand your struggles, it is not difficult to imagine that she may suddenly be feeling you’re pushing her away, or losing interest in her, or that you find her existence/behavior annoying, or that you simply don’t care about her enough — the spectrum is wide and long, my friend. And, these could be the reasons why she’s resorted to taunting you passive-aggressively.
I think it’s really important that the two of you sit down and have a conversation about what you need from her (space, understanding, kindness, and whatever else it is that you want) and why, while giving her a chance to voice what’s been bothering her too — provided, of course, that you haven’t given that a shot already. Constant clear, honest communication is always a good solution, and also a great way to establish bonds of trust.
AS: I’m sure what you’re going through isn’t easy. When you say ‘taunt,’ I imagine something vicious and spiteful — is that what you meant? If she ridicules your problems, and shows no support even after you’ve explained the situation to her, then she obviously can’t be good for your mental health. In that case, it would be time to seriously reconsider the relationship.
On the other hand, it’s worth asking – is she being hurtful because her efforts go unappreciated and she feels shut-out? I’m not justifying that behavior, but this is a complex situation and we need to remember that even for caregivers/significant others, being there for someone when they are going through mental health issues can take its toll. Have you explained what’s going on with you to her? Or have you told her about your needs? I think another important thing to ask is – are you trying, in any small way that you can, to help yourself? I know this is easier said than done, but I think that if we ask/expect someone else to support us, we owe it to them to put in the effort to support ourselves. I believe you just have to think through some of these questions, and you’ll have the answer you need.
LG: It’s like you’re going through a tough time — hugs! And I’m sure the bizarre and isolating events of the world over the past six or so months hasn’t helped. First, let’s focus on you before we get to Girlfriend because you are the person who matters most here: It sounds like you’re not feeling like yourself, which is a scary and sad place to be. Have you thought about contacting a therapist or psychologist? Therapy might help you to gradually feel more normal and happier. Or, a therapist/psychologist could refer you to a psychiatrist who might recommend medication that can help you to gradually feel more normal and happier. Either way, it’s worth reaching out to a mental health professional. Many are doing consults over WhatsApp video now, so you won’t even have to go out.
Okay, time to talk about Girlfriend: The first question is – have you explained how you’re feeling to her? Have you explained that you’re not feeling normal and have been unhappy for a while? She might misinterpret your desire to be alone as a lack of care for her, and if so, her taunts might be coming from a hurt place. An honest conversation might be able to clear the air — explain how you’ve been feeling, and how that has prompted your reactions to her. If you have told her, and she’s been supportive over the past year until recently (the taunts sound like they’ve started recently?) then maybe she’s a little burnt out and it’s slipping out in cruel remarks. It can be difficult to be the mental and emotional crutch for someone, even someone you love — it often means holding back your own mental and emotional needs in order to support your loved one, which can lead to resentment. This is where seeking therapy might help you both — the objective support of a professional could (a) ease the load on your girlfriend, allowing her to feel less burdened, and (b) provide more insightful help to you. But finally, if you’ve explained how you’re feeling to her, and she’s just not getting it or not caring — ditch her. When you feel low, you don’t need anyone in your life making you feel lower. Hope the sun comes out soon for you, cupcake.
RD: Hi friend, person-struggling-with-depression-and-not-being-able-to-get-out-of-bed-on-most-days here. I have a question — do you want to be left alone because you don’t feel comfortable being mopey, un-energetic around your partner? If so, then that can be solved with communication. She may be taunting you because she has certain expectations that aren’t being met, and it may be upon you to adjust them for her. I went through a similar thing personally, in which I constantly felt inadequately interesting or energetic around my partner, which made me want to shut down. But when we tried to find a space in which both of us could exist, oftentimes in silence and companionship, where I was not being asked to say or do much (because I had no energy), turned out it was quite nice. Maybe sit down with her and talk through what she needs and what you need? It’ll take effort, but hopefully, it’ll only need to happen once.
RP: Sorry to hear about the rough year that you’ve been having. Before we get to your girlfriend, I just want to say I hope you are generally seeking out the help you need! It’s totally okay to be alone when you want to but a therapist or other trained professional can help you work through the causes and coping strategies you need to get through this.
On your girlfriend, this very well could be a coping strategy for her, but it’s really important that you are telling her what you need right now in general and from her. Communication and empathy is always what makes a relationship work.
You can set how much you want to be alone and how much you want to talk or be “talked to.” Her talking when you don’t want it may be the concern that she’s showing. You may want to allow her into your headspace to ask the questions that she wants about how to help you or even better tell her what you need to hear from her (do you want her to check in on you every so often, or ask specifics on how you are doing, or do you not want to hear that?). And then you also let her know how much alone time you need. A supportive partner will respect those limits and only infringe when they want to make sure you are ok. If you can briefly set the tone for what you need, that will allow someone to support you.