The Long and Winding Road – Loving Someone with Depression

The Long and Winding Road – Loving Someone with Depression
May 15, 2013 Lainie Liberti

I normally don’t write about my intimate life, because, well…. for one, it really hasn’t been a huge part of my experience since my son and I started traveling.  My focus for the last four years has been to experience life with my son, be present with him and for him and remain open to learning. And it’s been so much fun, so expanding for both of us and such an incredible gift.  Together,  Miro and I have found passions deep inside of us we did not know existed and have really enjoyed our lives,  on so many levels…

…but for me personally, I always feel like something is missing.

Today, I share with you a very personal post.   I wrote this for two reasons: 1.) to exorcize the incredible pain I am feeling right now and 2.) to help anyone who might be experiencing (or have had) a similar situation.

Being Single

I have written about the feelings surrounding being single on this blog before. I have also written about my deep longing to have a companion, to love and be loved and to be connected intimately.  It is something I long for and something I am just becoming comfortable saying out loud, without shame.

I’m socially outgoing and people have always been drawn to me. I always find great pleasure in talking to all kinds of people. And of course, I meet men too, as they pass in and out of our lives on the road. On some occasions, men have made it clear they have a desire to pursue more than just a “friendship” with me. Most of the time though, their intentions are really about  a “hook up”.

I’ve encountered the range of offers over the last four years. There have been young boys wanting me to be their momma-lover-cougar, Latino men wanting me to be their Madonna-whore, travelers who want me to be their country conquest, and even married men (and in one case, a married woman) who just wanted me for “a good time”.

Trust me, I’ve heard it all. 

But for me, these offers are not particularly appealing in the absence of an energetic visceral connection. I just smile, thank them and pass as I would in a game of cards.

I am wise enough to  know the difference between sex with love and sex without and I’m simply not interested in going down that path. More to the point, over the recent years I’ve to aligned with what I really DO want. So, when  the choice is presented  between a  “hook-up” with someone I don’t have a connection with or nothing at all, my preference is be to be alone.

Last August, I wrote an article called Independent. Woman. Wonder Mom. Super-Woman. Sometimes Lonely,. I was tapping into the inner desire for love, partnership and connection. But still, doubts surround me, convincing myself that being single was the price I had to pay for choosing a nomadic lifestyle.

A month after I wrote that post a man I was passively connected to for over a year, actively popped into my life. (For the sake of this post, let’s call him “Michael”.)

Michael and I were connected through an archeology group. We shared many common interests. But we were really  just acquaintances, without much interaction. Then, suddenly out of nowhere, a beautiful friendship started to blossom.

At first, it didn’t occur to me, that this man was anything other than a friend. In fact, for a month or so, I had no idea what he even looked like.

Miro was thrilled that finally I had someone to talk about archeology, ancient cultures, the stars, the universe, humanity and so many other things that interested me, so he that he didn’t have to. All the things I was interested in, Micheal was too. Micheal exposed me to new ideas like “The Electric Universe” and astrophysics, as his perspective was more scientifically based than mine.

I learned a lot from Micheal and our conversations were always deep and respectful. Eventually we started to share more about ourselves personally and our friendship became more profound.

Because of the time difference, we had to agree on  that the best time of our day for us to talk. We decided that after I had finished working around 6:00 was good, because his kids would be in bed then. It was  midnight his time but he didn’t seem to mind. For months, we’d come together to talk the same time. At first, it was just a couple of hours, but then it turned into 4-6 hour conversations since we always had something  to share with each other.  Unfortunately  Michael’s sleeping habits changed as a result but he didn’t seem to mind.

The Micheal I knew, was an incredibly thoughtful man, reflective and sensitive. However talking about his own feelings was a new challenge for him, as he explained. But he pushed through the discomfort and we always held space for each other.

Both Michael and I were born the same year. Although we grew up worlds apart, many of our life challenges were similar. However, we discovered we each took different paths and our lives couldn’t be more different. But we learned so much from each other as a result.

A little over two years ago, Michael experienced two life altering events. First, he lost a parent, then he had a physical accident that forced him to face his own mortality. Michael shared the emotions surrounding each of those experiences and how it caused him to reevaluate his life and other worldly perspectives. Michael spent two years in transition,  processing what he experienced, and when we met, he said he was just moving through the tail-end of that period.

“Wow”, I thought, “I am so grateful to be connecting with the man he is now, for so many reasons.”

As our friendship grew, Michael and I  both “felt” a strong energetic connection between us. We realized we were each able to tap into the other’s world effortlessly and feel what the other was feeling.  It was a profound connection unlike any experience I had had before.  We were connected and every day it seemed to grow a little deeper.

And there was no doubt, I was falling in love with this man. And he, with me.

As the months past, we revealed much of ourselves to one another. Our friendship deepened and widened. Michael became my best friend. In each other, we found someone to trust, someone to reflect on the issues of the day, someone to talk about our frustrations  and someone to support one another.

Michael traveled to the jungle with us, spent New Year’s eve cuddled up together on the balcony, explored new archeological sites and shared many hot cups of tea on a cold night. Although our connection was virtual, we were a part of each other’s lives which continued for over a half of a year.

From my years of being single, I forgot how nice it was to have that kind of connection. This was exactly the partnership I so desired. And not a moment passed when I didn’t feel grateful he had entered my life.

love

Then, one day, he was here in Peru.

From the first second, we were like long-lost best-friends.  Without a moment of awkwardness, we fell into each other’s arms. We spent an incredible month loving each other, traversing the ancient ruins, getting lost in each other’s eyes, talking philosophy and simply laughing in harmony with one another. (And Miro liked him too!) It was a deep connection based on friendship. It was also a passionate romance. We were very much in love.

During Michael’s visit to Peru, we agreed to stay in the moment, experience each other without expectations and be present with whatever happened. That was easy. Each day we shared was special. But as quickly as one day arrived, it passed onto the next.

Our month together was over with a blink of an eye.  Tears fell from both of our eyes the day Michael returned to Europe.  But we both knew this was just a beginning to something very special.

Michael and I reflected upon our time together. We talked about our desire to explore deeper, and follow our love. We knew we needed to figure out what it would look like since our lives were radically different from one another.  But we both knew, we wanted to find a way.

Michael and I agreed to talk about the “future” after Miro and I returned to Cusco. But not until then.

Soon thereafter, Miro and I launched into our crazy 6 week of travels. Michael and I stayed connected, although with our travel schedule, it wasn’t easy. But we made it work somehow, even though Miro and I were moving around so much. However, halfway through our trip, something changed in Michael.

Without a single doubt, I could sense it.

Michael started to withdraw and his responses were not his usual connected self. Then his messages turned into a single lined response. Then they  stopped completely. After 8 months of intense connected communication, suddenly, it wasn’t there anymore.

Nothing.

The only explanation I received was a short note explaining that something happened outside of “us”, and that everything became “dark and gray” and he could do nothing but “shut down” to cope.

So I waited for him to “un-shut ” and come back into the light again.

Nothing.

Then another week.

Nothing.

I sent another message reminding him I was his friend, please do not shut me out! I pleaded,  “Please talk to me! Please let me support you!”

Nothing.

Then the tears came.

For two weeks, I cried every day. I tried to hide if from Miro, took long showers and sobbed. I applied and reapplied my make up multiple times a day, but nothing could hide the puffy redness of my eyes.

I felt the emptiness of his absence. Not just physical, but an energetic emptiness as well. He shut down and I could no longer feel him. I cycled through every emotion, including incredible anger, a feeling of rejection and searching within myself what was wrong with me.

I felt worthless, confused, bitter, and rejected. I felt incredible resentment towards Michael that he took away my best friend. I felt a deep anguish through missing him. And I felt immense loss.

I had no desire to interact with the outside world during that time on any level other than superficial niceties. The deep sorrow I felt was overwhelming. Then, I turned that feeling inward, and created my own sense of victimization. (Yuck!)

There was nothing I wanted more than to have Michael end the silence and tell me I was crazy for feeling the things I was feeling, that everything was ok.

Again, I waited.

Nothing.

Again, I cried.

Nothing.

Just more silence.

processing_depression

After a couple of weeks of internalizing the silence into something was wrong with me, I wrote one last email telling him how angry I was at him for rejecting me and IT WAS OVER!

Then, I continued to cry some more.

A few days later, this ended up in my facebook news feed. A friend had posted that it was a humorous look at depression. I clicked the page, thinking that maybe it would cheer me up, knock me out of my depression….

I read the words as more tears sprung from my eyes. But not tears of sadness this time.  Tears because I realized was, I was not depressed. I have never been, and it has never been part of my experience. Although the article was light hearted look at depression, it made me feel worse.

And then, I knew that Micheal was in a state of depression. And worse, I did not know what to do about it. I really didn’t know anything this disease, other than the harrowing experiences my friend shared on his blog about living in the darkness.

I felt such compassion. 

Then, I found a way to move back into my heart, into my gentleness and accessed the incredible radiant love that kept me connected to myself and my power. Finally I understand, this wasn’t about me.

In my life, I have always identified with the role of the care taker. I took care of Miro’s dad when he was fighting cancer. I took care of him when he experienced panic attacks too. I took care of him many, many other occasions after we divorced and he experienced health issues. But the main difference was, he  provided feedback and I always knew what was happening.

But now, I was dealing with the silence…… 

And of course, I take care of Miro. Have been his primary caretaker for his whole life. This has been my greatest role, so natural to me, I think I was born to be his mother.

And with Miro, there is never silence…..

I’ve taken care of countless friends throughout my life. I have always been that go-to friend, the one who was always available to listen with compassion and offer support. That is who I always have been. And somehow,  intuitively, I always known what to do and step into my power while taking care of others.

Communication…

But with Michael, it was different. I was triggered. I internalized his silence and in my mind, I  created a story about what it meant. I became demanding through expressing my needs and expected a response.

I can only assume that didn’t work for him, because it resulted in nothing but more silence.

And not having any other option since Michael was about roughly 6,500 miles away,  I turned the blame towards myself.

The more I was learning about depression, the more frustrated I was becoming.

Depression is a powerful disease!

depression3

About depression

I realized that this probably wasn’t the first time  Michael  experienced this kind of cycle. Perhaps the two years of  “processing” he did as a result of  the life-changing events he experienced, was also a form of  depression.  And now, something triggered him and he was back there.

And I was learning, there is nothing I can do about it. 

I googled “loving someone with depression” and  I found this article called 5 Coping Strategies for loving someone experiencing depression. 

Here are five strategies for the person who loves someone with depression.

Guess what?  

I DID ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING WRONG!

Strategy #1: Do not take it personally

“Nothing that is expressed or takes place during your loved one’s depression is personal. When they reject you, and they will, IT IS NOT PERSONAL. Rejection has nothing to do with you. Isolation is an instinctive response to suffering and depression. Rejection can also be seen as an act of protection.”

Oh shit. I did just that. I told Micheal I felt as worthless as “a piece of shit on the bottom of his shoe”. I kid you not. I said those words and I took it very personally.

Strategy #2: Accept that you cannot make your loved one be “not depressed” or feel good

Oh my god, how could I deal with this one? It brings tears to my eyes. I am not sure how I can accept “there is nothing I can do”. I’m really at a loss here. I feel hopeless and  powerless.

Then there was:

Strategy #3: Perspective: Depression is in a relationship with the person you love, not the person you love

“Your loved one is not depressed. Depression is NOT who they are. Your loved one is experiencing depression. They are in a relationship with depression that has them captured or held hostage. Its a bad relationship. A relationship that isn’t easy to get out of. However, depression affects them and when they have the strength they can affect depression.”

For me, this is an act of acceptance. It makes it difficult along with #2 to realize, not only there is nothing I can do, that this “depression” has a hold on someone I love and while he is there, there is no room for me. The only thing I can do is take a deep breath, send him love and let go.

Strategy #4: Interpreting Rejection

“When your loved one is in a depression rejecting you and pushing you away as best they can. They’re not saying, ‘I need you and want more of you.’ It would be easy to allow their rejection to cause you to dive into a depression yourself and feel heart-broken.

And so this is where I have been. Through Michael’s depression, I feel rejected and am completely heart-broken.

Strategy #5: Your Own Self-Care

When your loved one is experiencing depression, it is not your responsibility to make them feel better. You can’t. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself.

And again, the tears fill my eyes.

I am learning, there is absolutely NOTHING I CAN DO other than declare,  “my door is open and you, Michael, are welcome to step through if you want to”.  I love someone who is fighting depression. Actually, I don’t even know if he’s fighting it, I just know he is in it. I have no judgement about who he is or why it’s encompassing him. I just know it’s a powerful disease and there’s nothing I can do about it. Depression is real and it’s dangerous.

I have lost my best friend to depression.

But I will never lose hope. 

I have so much love in my heart.  I can only hope it can transcends depression.

But I just don’t know if it’s possible.

——————–

 

Updated: Please read Part 2 of this post called: The Conclusion:  The End of the Road: Lies, Inauthenticity & Depression

29 Comments

  1. Mary 5 years ago

    Oh Lainie! All I can offer are virtual hugs! That was written so openly and beautiful! Thanks for sharing, I have no doubt this post will help many people!

  2. What a journey…filled with love, friendship, trust, exploring, connecting…but I’m very, very sure this journey has a beautiful end or rather a fresh new beginning with your friend who seems to me like nothing else but your soul mate. So beautifully written, my friend. I could feel the pain in every word that you wrote. My heartfelt wishes for you and for your friend too.

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Thank you for your words Rashmie. Regardless of what happens, your words are comforting.

  3. natasha 5 years ago

    Dear Lainie
    This was a powerful blog post. It is my first time that I have come to you blog. You are a very strong woman. It takes great internal courage to realize what you have written about. Of course you will feel rejected and anger etc. It is part of being human. I have lived through depression myself and know what Michael is going through. However I chose not to fall victim to this illness and embarked on a different route to help me stay out of depression. I refused meds (and I am a doctor) and I won. Michael needs to find his own way. You can try to be there for him but even if he kept his communication, you still would not have channelled him out of that state of mind. So well done in recognizing your limitations and knowing that this is not about you. You are a very strong woman. 🙂

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Natasha, you sound like a very strong woman yourself. I hope Michael does find his way. He’s since acknowledged this is what he is going through but is still in the depth of it. My limitations are very humbling, but it still doesn’t soften the pain.

  4. Wonderfully emotional post, Lainie. I grew up with a parent who suffered from depression, and have been in relationships where depression became an un-conquerable obstacle as well. It’s the worst feeling, loving someone so deeply and not being able to help them. I’m glad it hasn’t taken you down, or made you give up hope. You deserve love.

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words Bret. I do deserve love. I appreciate the reminder.

  5. Shara 5 years ago

    Dear Friend, There are so many words to describe how incredibly brave, strong and honest you are!! Your expression made me cry, I felt movement while reading your emotions once you returned back to Peru…. and let’s not forget about the FABULOUS pic of you!! Love that one! 🙂 This “relationship” has occurred to teach you something, part of that having love in your heart! (which we all know you have a lot!) I look forward to your personal journey through this time, because as you grow from Michael’s “relationship” you will find out more about your inner self!
    Peace * Love *

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Shara, it definitely is teaching me so much about my limits. I am feeing so much gratitude for your words.

  6. Shara 5 years ago

    There are so many words to describe how incredibly brave, strong and honest you are!! Your expression made me cry, I felt movement while reading your emotions once you returned back to Peru…. and let’s not forget about the FABULOUS pic of you!! Love that one! 🙂 This “relationship” has occurred to teach you something, part of that having love in your heart! (which we all know you have a lot!) I look forward to your personal journey through this time, because as you grow from Michael’s “relationship” you will find out more about your inner self!
    Peace * Love *

  7. Dayamonay 5 years ago

    Thank you for this post. You rarely get to read about the other person when you read about depression. This article can actually be helpful to both parties Ina relationship.

    On another note, I truly hope it all works out. Don’t give up hope on him. Make sure he knows that you still love him because he may feel ashamed at how he treated you.

    I am sure he loves you, but he is in a difficult patch right now. You all will make it through this.

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Thank you for your words. He knows how I feel, and your suspicions are correct. He does have shame for the pain he’s caused me, but he still finds himself deep in his own darkness. There’s not much I can do but send love and be still. Very difficult situation to be in.

  8. Sweet Lainie, my heart goes out to you! I don’t have particular words of wisdom to offer at the moment, but just want to let you know I’m here for you. I’m a good listener. 🙂 And I’m sending lots of healing positive energies your way.
    Much love,
    Nikki

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Thank you Nikki! Your support and positive energies means the world to me. Much love & gratitude your way!

  9. Liz 5 years ago

    Very powerful… how you peg that sometimes to have power we have to know that we have none. Best of luck, and I hope you hear back!

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Thank you Liz. I do feel powerless and I have no other choice than to be ok with that.

  10. Katelynn 5 years ago

    Lainie,

    I’m new to your blog and the nomadic lifestyle. But I’m so glad I found you at this point in your journey. Depression has been a part of my story and I’m so grateful to have read an honest, insightful post about it. Your post was eye-opening because I saw how a person not experiencing depression feels when the depressed person distances himself (in this case) from others. Being depressed is dark, dreary, lonely, and hopeless and I realized it causes much of the same symptoms in the rejected person. Although you are not depressed, you are still feeling emotions similar to a depressed person. My heart is filled with sadness over the reality of you giving your life and heart to someone and then receiving, right now, nothing in return. Cheerful words seem cheap in this situation, but I believe hope is much more powerful and can change people. Right now, hope may not be a part of your thoughts or vocabulary. You may even bristle at hearing me mention it, but hope endures when we allow ourselves to live in expectation of good. I hope that you continue to hope for a fulfilling relationship :). Tears and sadness remain for a night (and that night may stretch out for awhile), but joy (I hope) comes in the morning.

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Katelynn,
      You really do understand. It feels so bad to be rejected, but compounded with hopelessness and being powerless is a tripple blow. It just is. All I can do is remain still and centered and in my heart. Thank you again for your powerful words and your compassion.

  11. Catherine Forest 5 years ago

    I am deeply moved by your words, Lainie. I am that depressed person that is hard to reach and love. The one who struggles so much, but needs love so bad to get out of the dark hole at times… I have been there and hope to never have to return. I have a wonderful partner who has stayed by my side (and 3 little girls!)… but I have seen my Dad suffer so much from that terrible disease and I have witnessed many of his relationships pay the price of it.

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Catherine, thank you so much for sharing your experiences too. I am realizing that for once, I can’t do anything about it. I have so much compassion and have such a hard time watching anyone suffer. I am so filled with joy to read you have a wonderful partner who is there by your side. You are so blessed. Sending you lots of hugs too!

  12. Ruth Q 5 years ago

    Lainie,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have a similar experience with a man I deeply care about, who is also on the other side of globe and dealing with depression from losing his child two years ago. I have experienced all those feelings you described after he moved overseas. The anger, the self-doubt, the bitterness, and sadness. It took several months for me to realize that we all have the responsiblity for our own happiness. I, as his friend, will be there for him whenever he needs help. In order to have compassion for others sufferings, I need to be compassionate for myself first.

    By the way, you and your journey with Miro has been a great inspiration for me since I found your blog six months ago. I am a single mom and raising a 12 year old all by myself. Traveling and writing have always been my dream and passion. I’m slowly getting myself ready for that leap of faith one day, hopefully my son will be on board with me too.

    Thanks again.
    Ruth

    • Author
      Lainie Liberti 5 years ago

      Thank you Ruth for sharing your story too. Letting it known that I am there with compassion is all I can do. I’ve moved through the feelings of rejection, but for me, letting go of the dream that Michael and I could be together someday is the hardest part. I feel real pain in that shift of reality.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about providing inspiration. We are honored to be a part of your life that way. Keep us posted and do let me know if there’s anyway I can support you.

  13. KC 4 years ago

    Hi Lainie,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are so brave for sharing.

    I too, am currently deeply in love with someone who suffers. It’s been exhausting for me and literally consumes my mind and my heart. I try to do everything I can just to get him to smile…and it works very temporarily, but he stares into space again. I’m a positive person who loves to love and never gives up, that’s all I can do for now, but it does take a toll on me….

    I think you are a strong, incredible woman. Thank you for being an inspiration. I’m so glad I came across your blog.

    Much love and respect,

  14. Julie 4 years ago

    Dear Lainie,
    You have just described my own situation almost exactly. I even googled that exact phrase and read that list you posted just a few minutes before reading your blog. I have experienced pain in this situation like no other, and it gives me some peace to hear your story. Thank you for sharing it.

  15. Kirsten 4 years ago

    This post clearly defines the difficulties of a relationship with someone with depression. People with depression push everyone away, so how can you help them? How can you NOT take it personally? You have articulated something I have struggled to think through… and I still don’t know what the solution is. It’s almost as if depression is a contagious disease, because it destroys relationships, leaving everyone more isolated than before. It is good to know you still have contact with this man, and your background support may be more beneficial than a demanding day-to-day relationship.
    All the best in your journey, and I look forward to reading more of your adventures.

  16. Scott Hartman 4 years ago

    We cannot save people, only love them.

    Stellar post. Regarding a subject that is too often locked behind a closed door. I too come from a family with “the gene.” Four siblings, and it touches each of us, in it’s way. Me included. One, terribly.

    It is the Classic Mind-F–k (keepin’ it clean!) to react, to knee-jerk it back to ourselves, to our Self. A good lesson here, with this man, in becoming aware of that. A good lesson, even beyond this particular incident, of what we can and can’t do. It can be heartbreaking, to reach, and not be able to touch . . .

    The Best we can do, I believe, is to Be There. Present. Aware. Open hearted. Sounds like you’ve got that, in spades.

    Walk on . . .

We love hearing from you, leave a reply below!