Savage Love Letter of the Day: On Dating — And Dumping — Someone With Depression

Comments

1
Getting involved with a depressed person is just like getting involved with an addict. The aberrant behaviors and outcomes are predictable. A depressed person can drag another into unhealthy co-dependency. And a depressed person who seems unwilling to help themselves (not eating right, not "finding time" to exercise, basically contributing to their own spiral) will infuriate any non-depressed person sooner or later. Either break up or have enough sense to stay away from mentally unsound mates.
2
Noteably, Mr. Monster @1, a depressed person can also get better! Many do! And many of those can be very empathetic when the people they love get "mentally unsound."
3
Oh bullcrap. Plenty of people are "mentally unsound" but handle it in a way that works with their partner. It's not predictable unless you know the individual in question.
4
But it's also true that if a relationship does not work for you and will not change, get out. Staying as a 100% one-sided helper is not survivable as romance.

If somebody isn't in a position to give back what you need, stop being in a position to need it. Maybe another person can be a partner to them, maybe nobody can, but it's no kindness to keep hanging pretending you could get what you need.
5
I have been in this situation though the relationship was much longer and I was way more invested. I have also seen others go through this. In the end I think it comes down to if the depressed person actually wants to get better and also how much it is affecting your own mental health. I held on way too long believing that with my help and if I just did the right things my partner would get better. He lies about treatment and it simply got worse. The last year of our relationship I can only describe as psychological warfare. In the end I had my own mental breakdown as his depression became abuse. I had to leave and it was the best thing I ever did. It was also the hardest because I knew he still loves me and his actions were down to his illness. It took me a good year of my own life to work myself out of that hole. Now I guard my own mental health fiercely. The best advice I can give anyone who has a clinically depressed partner is to get therapy themselves. Look after yourself first as the say you cannot drink from an empty cup. Your partner will drain you if you don't find ways to fill yourself up outside your relationship. Your mental health comes first and then you can help your partner. If you find you're breaking and you need to leave there is no shame. Your partner's mental health is primarily their responsibility and nobody can fix them but themselves. There is also a fantastic book I would recommend reading called Depression Fallout. ... Good luck
6
Sounds like SAD did the right thing for both of them. I certainly agree with "And maybe this breakup will provide the jolt she needs to recalibrate her approach to her depression and really get better."
7
The problem with the term "mental illness" is that it implies recovery is possible. When people become ill they eventually get better (or die) but mental illness is a life-long condition. Most mental illnesses have treatment options, and there will be periods when an afflicted person seems normal, but the illness will never go away. They will never "get better". Now everyone becomes depressed from time to time, but Chronic Depression is a mental illness. I've watched friends struggle with it for more than a decade. Therapy, medication, exercise, and healthy eating are coping techniques, not cures. Don't go into a relationship with a mentally ill person thinking you can cure them. The LW sounds insufferable, like he hounded this woman for more than a year before giving up and patting himself on the back, meanwhile she probably feels terrible for not being able to fix her own brain disorder. You wouldn't do that to someone with Schizophrenia, don't do that to someone with Chronic Depression.
8
I have depression and so do a lot of my friends and relatives. I know people who have tried everything to recover from depression and nothing works. A lot of people. In fact I would say the rule is people don't get better, the exception is people getting better. The idea that you can get better if you just want it hard enough is both false and harmful. Like just about any illness, some people get better and some don't. There is no treatment which works for everyone. Exercise helps most people, but for people with chronic fatigue syndrome, it just makes them miserable. Prozac is often assumed to be a miracle drug but some studies say it only works half the time or not at all.

A lot of people are in the closet about depression and other mental illnesses. The expectation that you have to get better if you do all the right shit just drives people further into the closet. There is a risk this woman will create a false persona with her next boyfriend out of fear of rejection, and I hope that doesn't happen.

I do believe if LW can't accept that she may never get better, breaking up was the right decision. However maybe he should at least think about the possibility of accepting her as she is. He didn't mention being dragged into a spiral of misery with his partner, the only thing which was impacting his life as far as we know was her low libido. I'm sure we all know this can be worked around. If their relationship was otherwise good, maybe being with a depressed person isn't so bad.
9
There's a reason they tell you that in the event of a loss of cabin air pressure, put your own mask on first before helping others.
10
I was with someone for ten years who had depression, not just the blues but clinically depressed. It's part of the reason I divorced him. I suffered from depression too but not as bad as he did. Being in a relationship with a depressive person can cause abuse like trauma.
11
This guy sounds a lot like my ex. I was on a medication for a chronic illness that produced clinical depression as a side effect. He cheated on me, broke up with me, asked for me back (admitted an addiction to pornography featuring 12 yr old girls) and them cheated again before leaving me for a woman who desperately wants children so badly she's committing to him without knowing that tidbit. He claimed that he couldn't be in a relationship that was one sided where he was supporting me, but even now, off the meds and not depressed anymore, there really wasn't a single moment where he supported me. There are certainly moments where he acted to give himself an ego boost about what a good person he was, but it was never what I wanted nor what I needed. Obviously there are some other issues at play since he surprise secret lends itself to all sorts of self loathing and shame. I'm lucky that my depression was medically induced and transient but for most people that isn't the case. My ex before him was suicidal. As someone who was depressed in a relationship and someone who was in love with a depressed man previously, this guy shouldn't pat himself on the back and demand to be her friend because he couldn't hack it for the bad times. Dating a depressed person is hard. Dating is hard. Life is hard.
12
I cringe whenever I hear people say they spent a lot of energy doing this and that to make someone else do something. It’s never your job to cure or manage someone else’s illness, or deal with someone else’s problem. It’s your job, especially early in a relationship, to see what this person is like, understand how they handle adversity, and decide whether or not you can live with it. Don’t imagine that you’re going to make this person into who you want them to be. That’s not good for you or the person you’re supposedly trying to help.

There’s no one size fits all way to deal with depression. You can only decide if you want to take on the challenges a particular person presents (whether that’s depression or something else because every person has some issue that will be a challenge.) It sounds like, in the case, the LW wanted a girlfriend with different challenges than the ones she had, so he did the right thing to get out. Hopefully, next time, he’ll know to get out earlier, before he starts trying the fix what he sees as wrong.

Speaking as someone who struggles with depression, I find it upsetting when people pushing to get over it. While I can see that it's probably well meant right now, at a low point, I interpret that as, "I’m worthless unless I’m 'better.'" So, for me personally, this LW’s behavior would do more harm than good. I can’t speak for everyone with depression, though. Dan quotes someone with a different perspective than mine. Like I said, there’s no one way of dealing with it that works for everyone.
13
This man spent a year trying to control another person and when she didn’t behave at his expectations he left her. He tried to manipulate her diet, her exercise, had her take psychotropic medications (serious side effects), made her go to counseling and STILL it wasn’t enough for him.

The first step for getting my life together was telling all these dudes that thought theywere trying to help me to screw off. (In most cases they were not even trying to help me, they were trying to heal some broken thing from childhood). I had to start informing people when they questioned my poor coping skills that I was going to be a mess if I wanted to be, for as long as I pleased. I wasn’t going to start taking medication and working out just because they didn’t like me being the way I was.

Suddenly, when I started telling people to mind their own business and let me be a miracle occurred! The co-dependent jerks left my life, the manipulators lost interest, I began to have some self respect, and within two years the depression I struggled with since child hood has nearly gone away.

I’m not saying it was an easy couple years, finding myself, making mistakes, hurting, healing, sometimes crying for days on end. The only way out is through. Getting through a dark time is a messy experience. This woman was obviously not prepared to be in a relationship. He should have left her alone and not used her as a personal project.

14
I think you guys are being a bit tough on this LW. He obviously cared for this woman and yes physical exercise will help depression.
The mind is not some static thing, some solid thing.
Thruout the 20th century, a lot of work was done looking at psychosis specifically, and attempting to heal people who had it, without drugs. Drugs back then were horrendous, and mental institutions housed and abused a lot of people.
So many with hearts and minds started looking at how to change this ugly mess around mental illness. What is it? How does psychosis develop? Etc.
One man, Dr Bruno Bettelheim, set up a home/ school connected to the University of Chicago, this was late forties early fifties, I think. His work was revolutionary, very staff intensive. No drugs and he only worked with older children/ adolescents. He healed a lot of those children thru his methods, some of which were heavy handed. And he got discredited for this.
His work was still successful, his theories of the mind and how to help it heal, powerful. Just takes up too much time.
After him there were many many Drs and social therorists and therapists speaking on helping people heal, without drugs.
Bruno could do it because he had the resources and respect of a university behind him.
And the hospitals closed down, drugs became more sophisticated and here we are.
All that work forgotten, because western medicine and the companies associated with it, know drugs are easier and very profitable.
Depression is about thoughts, and thoughts can be changed. Thru meditation and group type activities, one can change how one thinks and hence the brain chemistry.
Buddhist monks have kept their minds positive and happy, thru years of imprisonment by the Chinese, they have such control of their own minds.
15
Ok, thoughts.

1) Do you date someone hoping to change who they are? Is that sane? (The expectation that she would get better???? Wow.).

2) For a lot of people, depression isn't fixable, it's a chronic disease that may or may not be able to be managed. This is no one's fault. It often takes years to find a med combo that works, and about 10% of people don't respond to meds at all (there are multiple other treatments and many on the horizon, all have risks, evidence based only please). For the most likely to be effective med there is a 1/12 chance that that specific med will help at all, there's a lot of roulette wheel to prescribing. Expecting things to be "better" in a year is irrational. I question the quality of their couples counselor if this guy wasn't educated on what the disease is actually like or his ability to listen to what he was being told. The whole solution focused approach (exercise! better food! go outside!) kills people, because it is fundamentally unrealistic and puts pressure on people to magic themselves out of chronic illness, or pretend that they have.

4) Loss of sex drive/function is typical both as a symptom and a result of meds and can often be managed but priority is to stabilize the patient. Doctors and depression itself do not prioritize the sexual needs of the partner. Patients often do which endangers them. This should have been covered in the couples counseling (I assume he also attended her regular shrink visits from time to time, as this is a useful thing to do).

5) In large part, his ignorance about the disease is unfixable. It is an experience outside anything people without mental illness can comprehend. Date within the disease if you can. My advice to this guy, who apparently wished to date more depressed people, is don't. He clearly isn't cut out to handle this no matter how tempted he is to try to "fix" people.

6) Why does he want to be her friend when he doesn't understand her and broke up with her because he couldn't form her into something he found acceptable and describes her as heartbroken? I mean, shit, stop trying to fix her dude. He's not being helpful w/ this.

7) If it was soul crushing for him, imagine how it is for her.

8) And of course relationships w/ depression can work. It sounds though, that they do not work for him, so the question is moot. 85% of the country doesn't have major depression, try them.

9) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/arts/…
16
"Expecting things to be "better" in a year is irrational."

Counselor should have mentioned that time between presentation of initial symptoms to actual diagnosis for a mood disorder can be 11+ years. So... one year, yeah. It's not even certain that depression was her actual problem.
17
"can be 11+ years"

Is 11+ years, on average.
18
@5 "In the end I think it comes down to if the depressed person actually wants to get better"

I guess? I mean, if they're trying and they don't get better, which was what was happening here, not the case. This was a mismatch and he really should have left much earlier. That's the main problem here, this idea that you can "fix" people or that it's a good idea to try.
19
@5 " In the end I had my own mental breakdown as his depression became abuse. " Can't pin this on the disease, sorry.

"The best advice I can give anyone who has a clinically depressed partner is to get therapy themselves."
Yeah, standard suggestion for all family members of patients. Plus family therapy sessions.

"If you find you're breaking and you need to leave there is no shame. "
Of course there isn't, as long as you know the person has access to care (this is not a precaution you need to take if they are abusive, get yourself out).

"nobody can fix them but themselves. "
Or there is no fix and they need to be w/ someone else or on their own. They'll be better off, so will you if this isn't something you can deal w/ (or in your case, of course, the instant it becomes abusive, which as I said is not the result of the disease for something like depression. If he was psychotic or delusional, ok, disease).

20
@6 ""And maybe this breakup will provide the jolt she needs to recalibrate her approach to her depression and really get better.""

Often this is a lifelong condition. Please be cautious about supporting statements that indicate that for people w/ this as a chronic disease they are responsible for curing their own incurable disease. Not safe.
21
@12 and @13, Thank you.

Everyone else, read you some Captain Awkward and catch up on a subject you may be a little less informed about than is ideal, considering how likely you are to run into it in a loved one or yourself, lifetime risk wise. The Black Dog comes for us all more surely than any physical disease.
22
@14 "Depression is about thoughts, and thoughts can be changed. "

No. It is not.
23
"soul crushing for him"

This is him blaming her for his emotional state, and you know what? No.
24
@6 ""And maybe this breakup will provide the jolt she needs to recalibrate her approach to her depression and really get better.""

Also here you're blaming her for having a classic symptom of her own disease. Not cool.
25
@22, of course emotions/ feelings are involved. They come together, it would seem. A thought occurs then an emotion arises, or other way around. Thoughts have a big part in depression, recurrent negative thoughts about oneself or the world, etc, not sure why you would just say No, no.

26
Wow worst advice I have ever seen in this or in any advice column. A comedian, seriously? The spokesperson for all people with depression? Um fuck no. This has made me lose all trust and faith in your advice, I don’t think I will be able to trust anything you write again.

27
I don't think he sounds at all like he tried to control her but rather like he tried to be supportive and realized that he was more invested in her recovery than she was. Being more invested in your partner's recovery (from anything) than they are is a huge red flag and an excellent reason to consider leaving a relationship. It's perfectly okay to break up with someone for the simple reason that one no longer wishes to be with them but let's not underestimate how soul destroying it can be to be with a sick person who is ambivalent about their recovery.
28
I agree with those posters who say that depression is not like the flu. Those with it can manage it well, or badly, or not at all, but it's not going to go away. It therefore should be viewed by partners as a price of admission. If you were dating a wheelchair user, you would have to accept that that person isn't going to get up and walk and go out dancing with you, no matter how much you or they might want them to. Chronic mental health issues are more like that than many people realise. It sounds like SAD realised that he couldn't accept the price of admission of being with a depressed partner, and for his own mental health and happiness, he had to move on. That's ok. By definition a price of admission is something that a person can choose to accept or not. There is no point in both of them being miserable, and as Coffeepunk @10 (and I) discovered, depression is to some extent contagious. SAD's ex may find someone who is more capable of dealing with her depression, who won't have "the hope and expectation that she will get better." If SAD does meet someone else with depression, the first thing he will have to do is get rid of that hope and expectation, and accept them as is.
29
How pessimistic you are Fan, depression is just there and can never go away. Depends how long the depressive cycle has gone on. For a young person, before it becomes chronic and much more intractable, I believe it's possible to get beyond depression. People do get beyond depression, no one can get up out of a wheelchair and walk after their spinal cord is broken.
30
@5 "In the end I think it comes down to if the depressed person actually wants to get better"

Imagine saying that about someone with a different chronic, potentially fatal disease. "In the end I think it comes down to if the chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient actually wants to get better."

LW sounds like he wanted a project. He might want to get that figured out with a professional.
31
My first husband was severely depressed. It was one of the major reasons I left him because he refused to get help. I am very much caught between what 11, 12-13, with a bit of Nos many posts mixed in and with 5 too. Because in a weird way, they are ALL correct in my personal experience in this. I have my entire life fought the black dog too.

Lw did go into this with a real pushy, mr. fix it, attitude, and with the unrealistic expectation that he could snap her out of it in a year. A mild depression? Maybe. The black dog - severe depression? Or any of the other significant ones, like manic-depressive? No. That is not happening. These are life long conditions that must be managed.

And, honestly, who asked this guy to fix this girl so she in sufficient working level for HIM? First, that strikes me as a white-knight co-dependent which has, as 5 so clearly indicates, is actually really toxic. If someone is not god enough as is to date without tinkering with her insides, what is wrong with you LW that you wanted to date her? I was drawn to my first husband because *i* was very broken. Perhaps LW is fine, but he has now learned the only “truth” here, which I learned as well, change like this - and the desire to do so - only comes from the inside.

And yes, losing someone can be the impetus needed. When it became clear to my ex that I was leaving him, he did get the help I so desperately wanted him to do while married. I didn’t marry him as a fixer-upper like LW dated this girl. I was very young, very messed up, and didn’t understand what I was getting into. Much later into our marriage I tried to encourage him to visit someone and he refused.

And, like five relates, it was hell. He weaponized his depression into a method of control. He isolated me from friends, tried to prevent me from moving forward with my academic progress such as attending graduate school. He pressured me into high risk activities. Of course depressed people are not all @ssholes, but it sure can bring out the worst. Drowning people also can’t help you swim when you need it either. I left and have never regretted it, not for a moment. I was much healthier so I met someone healthier.

And so the METHODS? My attitude is “whatever works.” Meditation/cognitive behavioral theory is great. Meds are great. Exercise and careful eating is really important to me as well. But no one depression is alike (or mental illlness) so they shouldn’t be treated alike.

End answer? Yes I am glad LW broke up with the girlfriend. It seemed a bad relationship for BOTH.
32
@33 like many chronic diseases, it is a question of management.
33
There are people out there who like to take on people as fixerup projects, and there are depressed people who allow others to do this for them. Usually both parties end up unsatisfied. But then, as the discussion here shows, there are all sorts of ways to be depressed and all sorts of ways to be with a depressed person. I don't know what else Dan could have said to the LW given the info provided in the letter.

So since Dan mentioned a book and since a poster up above seemed surprised that a book could help someone understand depression, I thought it might be useful to recommend a comic strip that I think illustrates what depression is like better than anything else I've seen. It was sort of internet famous a few years back so if you've all seen it already, my apologies.

Pt One:
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/20…
Pt Two:
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/20…
34
This guy sounds like he took on a project not a relationship. No matter how good his intentions were, he shouldn't have been managing her that way. She's an adult. It's not surprising it didn't work out and It's good they broke up. That she let him do it doesn't actually make his actions any better. I hope he sticks to people he can accept without major 'refurbishment' in the future for the sake of everyone's happiness.
35
Lava @29: Why are you singling me out when the same point was made by several commenters (7, 8, 15, 20, 30, 31)? I'm not being pessimistic, I'm being realistic. If you get involved with someone who suffers from a mental illness, you shouldn't make the mistake this LW did of assuming that if she "does everything right" the condition will go away. Some do get lucky, yes. But they certainly don't get better as a result of well-meaning partners pushing them to get better. I found DJ KarenMarie's post @13 enlightening, and I suggest you read it a few more times. The point is that SAD seems to have done far more harm than good; if he could have just accepted that his girlfriend was someone who suffered from a chronic illness, and that she would have good days and bad days, and that it was OK for her to have bad days, he'd have experienced a lot less frustration and heartbreak.

A good motto for people with mental health issues -- and most of us do have them, at least from time to time -- is it's OK to not be OK. SAD didn't accept his ex as she was. That's not "optimism," that's setting oneself -- and one's partner -- up for failure.
36
I'm kind of disappointed to see this SLOTD is a re-print of a letter from 2013, because I really think the response is far from entirely sound advice. I seem to be not alone in sensing that something smells bad about the LW's attitude. To be honest it seems a bit virtue-signally, a bit patronising, and a bit "why wouldn't she do what she was told and just snap out of it?" To be frank, the guy sounds like an asshole, and his ex-girlfriend is/was probably well rid of him.

As anybody who has dealt with even mild depression should know (and I'm surprised Rob Delaney didn't), that kind of "pull yourself together" attitude is really unhelpful. In fact it can often make a bad situation feel 1000 times worse. Yes, we need to help ourselves, and can't just wallow and expect things to get better, but 'snapping out of it' isn't something that happens. Some people are going to battle depression for the rest of their lives, regardless of whether they take the pills, do the exercise, and do nothing but eat kale and mung beans from here to eternity. Those things often just make the depression *manageable*, some of the time, if we're lucky.

@31 and @28 and @35 come much closer to recognising the complex reality of depression. It's a fight every day, and some days you lose, even when you do everything right. It may seem so easy to others that we should go to the gym and release some endorphines and make ourselves feel more positive. And yes, yes, yes, everybody with depression should do it, as I have done. But there are days when the thought of getting out of bed feels like the toughest thing in the world, literally an insurmountable barrier, and on those days expecting someone to just do the right thing is expecting too much. On those days we need the sympathy and support of someone who gets it, and will give us the space and time to recover.

The LW still does not/did not get that depression is not a choice. It is a disease. Some people get better, some people live with it and fight it every day of their lives, and the fight puts enormous demands on them. Some days we lose the fight, and with luck we make it to another day to fight again. I hope the LW's ex-girlfriend found someone with a better understanding of what living with depression means, and less of a belief in his ability to be a white knight simply by telling them what to do.
37
@11- Jesus H. Christ. You are equating the LW with your own ex (a lying, cheating pedophile who "never supported" you)? From the guy's letter he tried very hard to be supportive, and i don't see any evidence that he really did anything wrong. This is the most defamatory comment i have seen here in a while.
38
You know, maybe Rob Delaney is right, but I got a totally different impression from this letter. Getting her into counseling and depression sound great, but my read on the bit about encouraging her to eat healthy food, exercise every day, and practice GGG sex (with a frequency compatible with his libido one assumes) is a little different. It sounds like a Hell of a lot of nagging, pretty controlling, and probably a use of her depression to run every aspect of her life for her.

I mean how much would he have to be giving and game for his low libido girlfriend? And how much would be required of her? Yeah, I see some self-interest here.
39
DJKaren @13 FTW.

DVS, 37, please. He used her depression as a reason why his efforts to control every aspect of her life were some sort of demonstration of virtue. He probably sought out this "flawed" woman so he'd have an excuse to try to mold her to his will. He wanted her to eat well (less) and exercise more to help her get better (and so that she'd be more attractive to him), he wanted her to learn the joys of GGG sex for her health (and so that she'd fuck him in exactly the ways he likes to be fucked exactly when he wants to fuck).

Seriously, how to you read "I nagged my emotionally vulnerable low-libido girlfriend to be more GGG about sex because I wanted to help her because I'm such a saint, but she was totally ungrateful" and not see the forest of red flags?

Ask youself how much did he have to do to be GGG for his low-libido partner and how much do you think he was asking of her to satisfy his higher libido demands, keeping in mind that men are WAY more likely to have kinky non-vanilla desires than women.

The guy sounds like a controlling asshole who wanted to run every aspect of a woman's life.
40
DCP: I don't see that SAD was a controlling asshole, more a clueless Pollyanna who confused clinical depression with a mood that would pass. I think that SAD himself, having never experienced mental health issues, simply wanted to see the woman he loved happy -- wouldn't we all? -- but misjudged what it would take to achieve that. I don't think he's a bad guy, just a naive guy. And DVS @37, come on. No one is calling SAD a paedophile. There's nothing "defamatory" about someone sharing their own story.
41
@14 LavaGirl AFAIK the reasons Bettelheim got discredited were 1) he claimed academic titles he didn’t actually have 2) he made claims that didn’t hold up, like autism being caused by «refridgerator mothering»
42
If anyone here really wants to understand depression, I highly recommend watching Bojack Horseman. The first episode is awful, but overall it's one of the darkest and most insightful shows I've ever seen. It's the only show I've seen which is completely honest about the nature of sadness and depression. It made me understand things about myself I never understood before. Here is a clip from "Stupid Piece of Shit." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P4_E3Gh…
43
@41, Stranger Myself, He ran a school for twenty five years, and some of the psychotic young people he worked with did heal. Read his book "Home for the Heart".
His position on autism fitted with other theorists of the time. And yes, that theory has been discredited.
44
@36, yes I just noticed this letter is several years old. It is a dicey one to reprint.
45
If depressed people believe they can never live with it lifted, that is it then.
I've had long periods of depression in my life. I went to therapy for several years, which helped heal some issues around my father, not deep changes to my basic patterns of behaviour and thought. That came with Buddhism, very slowly, over many years of going to Teachibgs by a Tibetan Geshe (PhD level training). Training the mind is possible, away from negative repetive thoughts, to positive or neutral thoughts.
I wouldn't have got thru the death of my son if I hadn't been able to move my thoughts and feelings along. It's all chemical, our minds. Our thoughts are not solid, and depression isn't a disease, it's a mental affliction. And yes, it is totally debilitating. It's not psychosis though,
not a break from reality.

If this LW was such a jerk, why did his ex feel devastated when he left her. He may have been a bit gung-ho about it, mr shove along. His gf must have agreed to his help, they were together for over a year. He assumed the role of personal trainer, and being lovers got lost.
Personally a man like this would see the door if he came into my life.
46
*Teachings.
47
Lavagirl, nobody is saying depression can't be cured. We are just being realistic about the fact that often, It Doesn't Get Better. That's not the main point though, the point isn't that depression can't be cured. The point is you should accept people for who they are. I don't think LW is necessarily a bad person, but he has NO respect for the enormous difficulty of living with a mood disorder. There is a lot he needs to learn, and if he does learn his approach to "helping" will change. He will become more understanding and less judgey. He will set realistic goals, and still love and support her when she almost inevitably experiences a relapse. If he breaks up with her he will be sure to let her know it's not her fault because being depressed is not her fault. This will get better results than the "exercise every fucking day" approach.
48
Can’t figure out why this guy is the “spokesperson for all people with depression.” Depression is a super complex issue and if advice from a supportive partner informing us that a proper diet, regular exercise, and having the right attitude was the magic bullet, depression would be recognized as a lifestyle choice, not a mood disorder.

When people leave a relationship with a person living with depression they like to rationalize it by debasing their ex-partner. It’s way better for their self esteem to believe they did everything right and their partner simply wouldn’t step up to the challenges the relationship presented.
49
There is a reason depression is more common/acute during the winter months. There is a direct correlation between depression and reduced sun light. In general, depressed people do not get adequate sunlight. While not causal, it is a contributing factor. The potential for depression may never go away (unless there are external/environmental factors that can be eliminated) active depression can be managed to the point where it doesn't control your life. There is no magic bullet. Possibly the most important factor is to have a support network in place to share the emotional toll. The letter sounds like SAD was trying to be the sole source of support. What he experienced is caretaker burn out.
50
@49 Where did you read about the rest of this woman’s support network? Letter Writer didn’t include that info.

Perhaps you’re speaking generally of people with depression and your belief that depression is a personality problem rather than a legitimate health issue. It’s a common, mistaken assumption that I feel this whole column has made.
51
@45. I'm glad that Buddhism worked for you. What you describe sounds an awful lot like cognitive behaviour therapy... Training the brain away from destructive habits. That's great.

But I don't agree with you when you say "and depression isn't a disease, it's a mental affliction". A mental affliction sounds like a disease to me. Depression is a disease, and some people can recover, and some have to learn to live with and manage it. Some die from it. Yes, of course it is not a matter of giving in to the disease and saying we are powerless to do anything. There's lots we can do. But many of us also have to recognize that it is part of who we are. Well-meaning persons trying to order us out of it really do not help, and really do not get it.

I think there's good evidence to suspect the LW did not fully understand the nature of his girlfriend's depression, and did not handle it as well as he could. It's a shame that wasn't mentioned in the response.

52
fred2, you can change how your mind works, that's all I'm saying. If depressed people believe they can never recover, then that's what they believe. I've suffered depression, I'm just putting forward other ways of looking at it, besides the I can never get better one.
53
Love is the main requisite, always. And this LW did offer this woman that, and he found he couldn't offer any more.
54
I have been depressed, suicidal. For years at a time. I got better. By making improvements. Improvements can be helpful. People can get better. I don't know the LW, he might be a narcissistic controlling manipulator, but he could very well be a well-intentioned person trying to help someone he cared about. I don't know the partner, should could be trying to get help, she could be more deeply disturbed than he thought, she could be looking for someone to tell her it's fine to be dysfunctional. We don't know. None of the things he suggested are bad. The whole "staying friends" thing, though, is overrated and unnecessary (as well as difficult). It really can be just as draining as being in the relationship.
55
OTF @ 50 The woman did not have a support network. That was my point. SAD apparently tried to do it all by himself. Didn't she have family, friends, coworkers, etc. to provide her with support.
56
OTH @ 50 I was speaking generically about the importance of having a support regardless of the source of depression. Depression can be a personality disorder, it can be the result of a traumatic experience (rape for instance), it can be part of the grieving process, it can be caused by hormonal imbalance, it can be caused by screwed up brain chemistry, it can be caused by injury or disease (of the brain or other parts of the body), it can be caused by job loss, it can be caused by the inability to work or the inability to find a job, post partum depression (although that may be a subset of hormonal imbalance), it can be genetic.
57
OTH @ 50 This not hypothetical. I have experienced it directly, been a caregiver of people with it, and witnessed it resulting from every example given previously. Depression can be a fate worse than death.
58
Sorry OTF, a mental lapse on my part
59
You left out aging and loneliness, @56.
60
When SAD first began his campaign to help his girlfriend, when he first began with the healthy meals, the urges towards counseling and medication, he couldn't know if he'd be successful. It was possible that the'd be saying: I tried all these things, and finally this worked. It took time, but I'm glad we both put in the effort because this is the greatest relationship, and we're both very happy. It's possible that she'd be saying: I'm so glad my wonderful husband didn't give up on me. Without him I'd be dead. We need more people in the world who are loving, caring, dedicated .

That it turned out otherwise is something SAD couldn't have known from the start. No wonder he's sad. I'd be sad if someone I loved got terminal cancer. I'd feel mixed guilt that I couldn't do more to save my loved-one's life. The thing I'd tell SAD is this: Feel sad for your own sake. Feel sad because a relationship you really wanted to work didn't work, couldn't work. Feel sad the way you would if anyone you loved rejected you or the way you would if anyone you loved died. Don't feel sad for her sake. She's no better or worse than before she met you. That's not your fault. She feels devastated, but everything makes her feel devastated. You did all the right things. Now move on.
61
@25 We know this. And no. It's not thoughts first. This is easily testable.
62
@27 He didn't say she wasn't trying. She was trying a lot (except, apparently, to give him enough sex when she was super fucking sad). He said she wasn't getting better. Because that's not necc something that can happen. For many people it's chronic.

"ambivalent about their recovery" C'mon. People get after depressives all the time for "not trying hard enough". She was doing the equivalent of Olympic training for a non-depressed person in terms of personal effort if this was the regimen she was following.
63
@25 con't - if it helps any, we make decisions roughly 7 seconds before we know we do, if it's the conceptual part that's difficult here.
64
@28 "It therefore should be viewed by partners as a price of admission."

Yes, thank you.
65
@38 " It sounds like a Hell of a lot of nagging, pretty controlling, and probably a use of her depression to run every aspect of her life for her."

Yeah, and the relationship being contingent on her getting better. Which, not subtle, and no way she wasn't aware of that.
66
@29 "How pessimistic you are Fan, depression is just there and can never go away. Depends how long the depressive cycle has gone on."

Lava, honestly, what is this based on?
67
@31 Agree w/ what you've said here, although I really need to continue to make the distinction between abusive behavior and mental illness. People who are mentally ill (like yourself) are far more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators, and it sounds you, like another poster, weren't in a bad situation because your spouse was depressed (I mean, so were you, so probably you don't reject other people for just being depressed or think you are abusive by default because you are depressed), but because they were abusers. It's a separate problem and it's very important to draw that clear bright line between them. Stigma is damaging enough as it is without adding to it.
68
@33 EmmaLiz, yes, thank you, useful links for those who have not personally experienced it at a clinical level and need to understand.

@42 Good link too, thank you. Watching Bojack in general to understand it is a good idea. The intro is a great explanation of what dissociation/depersonalization is for those who need a visual (I don't know that well people experience it outside of a life or death crisis). And this, of course:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMfZyfD4…

This shiny shit where you tell people to think happy thoughts or exercise and eat well and you'll magically get better? Save it for your friends w/ cancer. They'll tell you to shove it for exactly the same reasons.
69
@39 Add to that that people w/ mental illness attract abusers, who are looking for someone to hurt who will think they deserve it and won't leave. But yeah, this guy does not sound like a prize.

For those who want to see what actual support of a mentally ill significant other looks like is well advised to watch Lady Dynamite. Plus it's great.
70
"If depressed people believe they can never live with it lifted, that is it then."

Yes and no. Learning to manage it is a massive learning process, takes many years, and is entirely independent of medication efficacy or not. A good talk shrink helps, but just living and time do it too. Looking into what's going on w/ the Hearing Voices network and advances in methodology for treatment of schizophrenia gives a lot of hope to those w/ other intractable mental illnesses who might be having difficulty w/ current treatments. Do everything you can to help yourself now of course, but we are so early in understanding of the brain and in developing treatments on anything other than superstition that there's a lot of scope for improvement and we will see that in our lifetimes.

One of the most harmful things you can do as a mentally ill person is live w/ family or anyone else who has unreasonable expectations/excessive emotional investment in you returning to health. It doubles the suicide rate. You are better off alone or w/ people who never knew you well, who won't expect you to be anyone other than who you are now.
71
Useful listening for those who suffer:

https://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia…
72
@70 - also, a lot of the damage and a lot of the death is due to stigma. The lie that people can just will themselves out of it by positive thinking and healthy living kills. The reason why this answer was acceptable in 2013 and is not now is because in that short amount of time we've seen shifts in stigma. Not everyone has caught up, but they will eventually. That alone will improve quality of life for mentally ill people massively.
73
@54 "he could very well be a well-intentioned person trying to help someone he cared about"

The problem w/ the letter is more the tone and the highly unrealistic expectations even after professional education on the subject than the content. I mean, can you imagine dating this guy? The pressure!
74
@55 "The woman did not have a support network. That was my point. SAD apparently tried to do it all by himself. Didn't she have family, friends, coworkers, etc. to provide her with support."

Many people don't, it's the nature of the disease (add that it's pretty genetic, so...). Doesn't mean you can't improve, doesn't mean you can't build one out of shrinks, doctors and groups, and doesn't mean it was SAD's job to become the willfully clueless best bf ever in the entire world.
75
@59 "You left out aging and loneliness, @56."

Unless you are talking about situational depression, which this wasn't, you are correct there is significant brain damage from aging that can cause the kind of depression we are talking about.

Loneliness is not depression. Insulting to compare the two.
76
@45 "If this LW was such a jerk, why did his ex feel devastated when he left her."

Because she was jumping through every goddamn hoop, did everything he wanted her to do worked extremely hard and he ditched because she couldn't do the impossible (and which he almost certainly was told was impossible), and as someone w/ a mood disorder there's really no emotional state you can have that isn't devastated or uncontrollably numb?
77
"If depressed people believe they can never live with it lifted, that is it then."

Another thought on this - believing you can get better does jack shit for almost any disease you care to name. They shoot the right chemicals in your ass, you get lucky, it'll cure you whether you think it will or not. Telling people with a disease one of the symptoms of which is an inability to engage in optimism that they need to believe they can get better before they get better puts an irrational barrier in front of their ability to get and continue care no one needs.
78
Honest question - those of you commenting who have no personal experience w/ depression (i.e. have had it yourself) - do you go onto other discussions about physical illnesses and tell people to cheerlead/jog their way out of it? Illnesses w/ a decent kill rate? Or is it just mental illness specifically?
79
@45 - He also dragged it out for over a year, when from his comments it was probably pretty clear he couldn't handle it a couple months in. And then the second bout. And the third. He had a lot of chances to minimize damage.
80
This seems to be a case to apply Dan's wisdom that one must be in good working order to date. Whether SAD could have handled the situation better is not really the point. This woman was not in a condition to participate in a healthy relationship.
Which is not to say that people with depression can't do so - I suffer from depression myself, which I mostly manage with exercise and nutrition, but have a prescription for an SSRI if I need it. I started my relationship (now marriage) while I was in a good place, and certainly don't expect my husband to manage my condition for me. SAD's girlfriend may be too profoundly depressed to take the actions that will help (that is the ugly twist of this illness) but it's doubtful a new-ish boyfriend could chivvy her into taking them, either.

I see this letter was from a few years ago; I hope both are doing better now.
81
LavaGirl @ 59 It wasn't intended to be a complete list (obviously there are more). I was responding to OTF @ 50 comment that I didn't believe depression was a genuine health issue. I have seen it from both sides and know it to be a real and serious health issue.
82
I have refractory major depression, and have suffered debilitating episodes for 32 years. I also have fairly severe anxiety and a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (which is about to be changed to C-PTSD). To top it all off, I'm disabled by chronic back pain, and can't work. My depression and anxiety fluctuate from day to day, but have been present for about 90% of the last decade.

You'd think that I'd be radioactive when it comes to dating, but you'd be wrong. I have 2 partners, both long-term and serious, and I appear to be headed for a third (I'm polyamorous). All of them met me within the last 5 years. I was completely honest with them about both my physical and mental health problems, and that it is unlikely that I'll ever be cured. They proceeded to get involved with me anyway. To be fair, they all have their own physical and mental health problems, so they understand living with these things. They are all able to work, however (I'm so jealous).

At low points, I've asked both my partners why on earth they're with me. Both said similar things: a) You're a beautiful person, b) You're extremely honest about your health issues, so I knew exactly what I was getting into, c) I understand at least some of what you're going through from my own experience, d) You support me when I'm ill or having a difficult time, e) You're actively working on getting as healthy as possible and learning better ways to cope with your conditions (various therapies; large variety of meds; a lot of reading, listening, and thinking on the subjects of mental health, coping mechanisms, and emotional intelligence; healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise as much as possible; and sources of support other than my partners f) You are extremely honest and very communicative about what's going on with you, g) You know that your health is your problem, not mine. You ask for help if you need it (although not often enough), but you don't get angry or try to guilt me if I can't be there for you sometimes. If I'm having a hard time dealing with something when you ask for help, I can say so and you seek help elsewhere and give me space. When there are communication problems we've set up systems to help, and you use them (I sometimes can't communicate at all when v. depressed, so if they start to worry, they text me with, "Starting to worry. Send X if managing, A if not ok". I can usually manage to type one letter to reassure them or ask for more help).

Of course, I've had almost 2 decades of therapy, on and off, and have learned from my mistakes and bad experiences. My emotional intelligence is pretty high now. I choose partners who are kind, knowledgeable, and loving these days, instead of distant, manipulative, controlling, and/or abusive, as I used to. I've worked hard to develop boundaries. I've cut a couple of important but extremely damaging people (including my father) from my life. Getting to a healthier (but not yet healthy) place has cost demanded an enormous amount of work, time, and money, but it's worth it.

People with active mental illnesses can have relationships, and those relationships can be very good, despite the mental health problems.
83
@78, if the depressed person has a brain tumour, then No, no, I wouldn't comment on such a question.
Most human beings get depressed, most western ones anyway. I've seen docos on Indian families living in slums and what looks like twenty people to a dwelling, and there in the morning is a smiling, cleanly dressed girl heading off to school.
My twenty six yr old son has just come home from six months of crewing on film sets. Twelve hour days, and suddenly he stops. It's Christmas, and feelings come up. He has fallen in a deep depression about his life. He's been to his GP, started on low does meds. Goes for a walk each morning, then a little bag punching and push ups. Gets himself to the ocean. Lost his appetite a bit, otherwise eats well.
He is depressed thru it all. And we talk, or he moans and says all this self put down stuff, and feels anxious and more negative words come out and more groans. Yesterday, he cried.
I'm staying close with him, or one of his brothers is. And it's like a mind battle, because as soon as one person talks about all the bad things in their life, everybody starts to notice their own less than fame and riches story.
I'm this young man's mother. I know his story. I know at thirteen his eldest brother died suddenly and his adolescent years were darkened. I know I was surely so engrossed with my own grief, I couldn't be there for him and his siblings better. I know the other shit that went down over the years, for this kid of mine.
And, as I read it, he repressed a lot of it, until now. He's managed to create a career for himself thru his application and honest work, now he says he doesn't want to do any of it.
My role, as I feel it , is to point out to him how these negative thoughts are on repeat. His self image record just repeats. I guess in his head, and now, with his family, thru his mouth.
I remind him when anxiety hits, to breathe and focus the mind on the breathe. Breathe In, Breathe Out.
He's heading down to see his father in early January, who he's been estranged from for several years. Issues there, big ones.
In the past this kid, who is a stocky hairy build, would come home doing the alpha male routine, until a few arguments later he toned it down.
This time, he tried it on for a day, I put my foot down faster than before.. this is an anger free and boss free zone, we negotiate.. and then he suddenly became very vulnerable and started sharing his sadness, his depression, his anxiety.
This man is twenty six years old, I'm not going to let him believe he can't heal his hurt, his trauma. Because I believe one can. The mind is a powerful tool, and each of us can master it. Or at least believe we are the mistress/master/other of our own mind.
Thoughts are the culprit here, along with emotions. We can't directly change an emotion, because who knows where it originates from.
The mind, thoughts, those we can learn to control.

84
@83 No personal experience then, ok.

Perhaps this is a reading comprehension/language problem. My cat had gastric reflux, she wouldn't eat, on her chart it said "anorexic". My cat did not have anorexia. Pepcid AC does not fix anorexia. Suggesting it does would be extremely harmful.
You can have the symptoms of depression and not be mentally ill. If your symptoms are situational (living with an abuser, lonely, etc.) you can fix the situation and your symptoms will ease/magically go away. You aren't mentally ill, you're reacting appropriately. Your shitty emotional state is not pathological, it's correct. You are normal.
What is described in this letter is actual mental illness. Telling people jogging and grilled chicken will help it is like saying mouthwash and toothpaste cure oral cancer (and more harmful, because depressed people will believe you).

"Why don't you just change your situation and your depression will go away?"

Are you fucking nuts?

I wouldn't get mad if people's well meaning "helpful" bullshit wasn't the sharpest of knives. It absolutely kills people.

Note how unimaginable depression is to those who have had it situationally, the closest you can get w/o being mentally ill (half of suicides aren't mentally ill, as an example). People are highly motivated to lie to themselves that there is some way to fix it. And often that's a lie. It can be managed. It almost always can be improved. But fix? No. And it's cruel to imply it.

And of course it could be forever for your son. You know your genetics better than I do. But you also describe it as being situational. So... hmmv. Don't put your despair on your son though, if you can. Not his job to carry you. Insisting he has control he doesn't because you need to believe it is harmful. Following every link everyone gave you is helpful. Andy Richter on the Wonderful World of Depression interview is good. Bojack as a whole is good. Lady Dynamite is hope incarnate. But fundamentally it's important to realize you will never understand.

Can't control emotions though, nature of the beast. Just because he's depressed doesn't mean he can't have a meaningful life.

Andy Richter viral thread, important:

http://time.com/5029929/andy-richter-on-…

85
Lava, I agree with a lot of what you say, but let's not romanticize about Indians in slums, ok? The truth is that in major cities, they are frequently dealing with horrific abuse, poverty, exploitation and urban violence, not to mention bearing the brunt of environmental catastrophe (the air in the those cities is deadly unfiltered, the structures can't handle flooding nor earthquakes), and all the shit that goes along with western poverty slums minus the guns is present there as well. If you ask people if they are happy and/or depressed, they'll tell you they're happy to be alive and happy to do their duty and happy to enjoy moments of community/beauty/family b/c it would be an affront to say otherwise AND because they've never had a moment to themselves alone (literally) to reflect on alternatives or their own conditions beyond the immediate. It's true that Western autonomy and individualism and self-absorption contributes to what we call clinical depression, but it's the framework in which we understand misery that is different, not the fact of misery itself. I get so fucking sick of westerners going on about happy poor Indians- ah yes, the noble savage, the romantic peasant. Bullshit. And I've learned a hell of a lot from Buddhism too and typically agree with what you say about reprogramming the mind, but Tibetan Buddhism is extremely superstitious, backwards and hierarchical in structure, and in its most extreme form, it's quite oppressive. So we can take the good and bad lessons from any religion- there's nothing superior about Eastern ones in terms of mental health.
86
Just have to add also that anyone talking about smiling poverty stricken people on the subcontinent probably hasn't been paying much attention to the epidemic of farmer suicides there nor the rise in suicides in urban slums nor the rampant alcoholism, etc. Depression is not a Western thing.
87
True EmmaLiz, it was just a memory that came to me, and it surprised me, given how they lived.
88
No. This is not a depression contest, depression is depression. It can begin situationally and never leave the person. A woman I know who also lost her young adult daughter, twenty years ago, is still mourning her.
I didn't ever say fix. None of us can fix the damage done to our psyche, we can heal it is what I said.
My son will evolve thru his pain as he does, and as he lived for four yrs as a kid on a Buddhist community, I don't say anything to him he hasn't heard or been influenced by.
The mind is trainable. How one thinks, is not you. We attach to these thoughts and then feelings arise and they feed each other.
This boy of mine has so much going for him. He's young, white, healthy, kind, promising career, good looking.. so not sure how it's situational. He Is feeling his damage and it is making him depressed.
An aspect of healing, as I know it, is to acknowledge this damage, share the pain with family, friend, therapist. To feel it, think the thoughts, yet don't attach to them. Insights then come.
You don't even listen to these options no, your mind won't even let the ideas in.


89
And you denigrate this LWs love and effort, no, as if it was of no use to this woman. A good year plus of being loved and encouraged to look at herself, how is that not a kind gesture? He wanted to stay friends with her, his care for her still intact.
She wasn't able to find her way thru at that time but it may have shown her the tools for continuing on her own.
90
@49, That's seasonal depression, happens to some degree to most people, you can fix it with a light fixture. Different thing.
91
And that podcast is "The Hilarious World of Depression" (The Mental Illness Happy Hour is also popular). He and Ana Marie Cox have a pair of talks that include "Families are a bag of triggers" (it's not about bashing family, title is just an Amy Mann quote) on her podcast "With Friends Like These". I think it might explain the bridge I think a lot of people here are trying to get others to cross in terms of understanding. It also might be important for Lava specifically because it's two successful mentally ill people talking, which might be something you need to hear right now.

https://crooked.com/podcast/families-bag…

92
"I've had long periods of depression in my life. I went to therapy for several years, which helped heal some issues around my father, not deep changes to my basic patterns of behaviour and thought."

Lava - question - do you see here how your depressive symptoms were the result of trauma and were resolved once you worked on them? Situational. And how that's different than what we're talking about?
93
@88 It is not. See: genetics. Grief =/= depression. Inappropriate catastrophic grief after 20 years that is endangering her life, prevents her from daily activities like eating, bathing, working, etc? Yeah, ok, depression.
94
"This boy of mine has so much going for him. He's young, white, healthy, kind, promising career, good looking.. so not sure how it's situational. He Is feeling his damage and it is making him depressed. "

Ok, so that makes it far more likely to be chronic depression (and certainly, that's what's being described in the letter). There is a fundamental difference in type, it's not about a contest (notice I have not said which is worse or not, or deserves more care, or somehow grants anyone w/ chronic depression to comment w/ authority on situational depression, which no one is doing) just that you can't fix mental illness. You can treat it. You can't make it go away, any more than you can make ADD go away, or as someone mentioned above, schizophrenia. It's the same thing. There is merit in approaching it as chronic until it proves it's not, because if you go all out on the we have to cure this or the people who love you suffer, not only is that not fair it's dangerous.

There's also no point in beating yourself up about having passed this trait down to him. You didn't know, it was transitory for you, and it's not anyone's fault he's more easily triggered into an episode. If it helps to be optimistic, think about it like epilepsy. That's a pretty good model for the majority of depression out there. We're just new at brain science and our equipment to visualize the brain is pretty crude at this point. Also gene hack. So there's a lot of potential out there.

The current take on diagnosis is there are likely several hundred different diseases that can be classed under the current symptom cluster of depression, including stealth viral illnesses, chunks of missing brain or brain that didn't grow in properly, different neuroreceptor density concentrations or mutations, all sorts of different electrical/chemical problems, and hell, urinary tract infections. That doesn't mean they're all the same in how you would treat them or in terms of prognosis. If you are crushingly sad or numb and there's no reason and it doesn't matter what your life circumstances are it just takes you down anyway, yeah, it's depression and probably chronic. If you are very lucky (clean family history, massive trigger to first episode, first episode late in life for onset (i.e. in thirties or later), your odds are better, you might get away with only one episode. Early intervention is good if you can get it.
95
@89 "And you denigrate this LWs love and effort, no, as if it was of no use to this woman. A good year plus of being loved and encouraged to look at herself, how is that not a kind gesture? "

It's not.
96
@80 "This woman was not in a condition to participate in a healthy relationship."

With this guy, who could not tolerate depression even in short bouts (multiple episodes in a year). We don't have any information about her faults other than that when depressed her sex drive is impaired, which isn't abuse, neglectful, manipulative, etc. Someone like yourself would probably be fine for her to be w/, because you get it and wouldn't leave her if she didn't get better in a year. Your expectations would be reasonable and you wouldn't ignore information you had gotten from medical professionals about realistic prognosis.

"certainly don't expect my husband to manage my condition for me." There was no indication she did want him to, he just said he did and it sounds like he took over.

For those w/ chronic depression for whom jogging and medication don't completely resolve their depression, what's your line for when they are acceptable to date? Is there a problem when you are in good shape and your partner signs up for long term commitments when they have no idea what your illness looks like (and you have no idea if they can handle it)?
97
@82 Thank you. This idea that people w/ depression or mental illness are inherently unfit to be in relationships unless their illness is "acceptable" is some harmful bullshit from the judgy ignorant.

"People with active mental illnesses can have relationships, and those relationships can be very good, despite the mental health problems.People with active mental illnesses can have relationships, and those relationships can be very good, despite the mental health problems."

Right. I'm sure you've found that people seek you out because of it (and not to abuse you, but because the mentally ill are good people. See: Carrie Fisher). The idea that you have to be somehow at an acceptable level of sane before anyone can love you, or experience any benefit from loving you is a load of (self-)stigmatic crap. Mentally ill people aren't vampires.
98
I think what Dan means when he says you have to be in good working order is that you aren't a human monster. If you are, you know, fix that. But the problem there is human monstering, not mental illness and they are not, despite apparently popular opinion, synonymous - even if severe.
99
Ideally wouldn't you want to be in the worst shape of your life when you meet someone? Because then you know they like you as you are and aren't going to bail if things get bad, and they know what they signed up for and aren't surprised or harmed later on.
100
@86 "Depression is not a Western thing."

Nope, cross cultural and throughout time, which also means it isn't about modes of thought but about biology. Schizophrenia isn't a problem in a culture which accepts it as normal though, which is very interesting.