The biggest question gay men dealing with depression face when they meet a new partner is when to tell their new guy that they suffer from the condition. This is, of course, a highly personal choice and depression is different for everyone.
You might fear being judged and rejected. But you will also have a gut feeling about the type of guy you are seeing – and how he will react. Do not ignore this. However, remember that most human beings are fundamentally decent, empathetic creatures. Unless, of course, you’re constantly attracted to Mr. Damn Right Wrong. But if you feel the relationship has a future, then you need to have a calm and honest conversation – and here’s what you should tackle…
So, contrary to all your predictions of catastrophe, he hasn’t walked away. He’s sitting next to you, supporting you and listening. Result! How you discuss your depression is important. In the first conversation, you are not obliged to go into any more detail than you feel comfortable with. If he’s a keeper, there will be plenty more opportunities to talk as and when issues dealing with depression come up. Do not panic!
But there may be some things you want to make clear from the outset. Firstly, depression is not you. It is a medical condition that you have. It can be treated. It does not dictate your character. This can’t be said too many times.
When people are depressed they lose interest in things: work, play and, yes, (unfortunately) sex. They lock themselves away, crucified by feelings of worthlessness and want to disappear. You need to gently let your partner know that these feelings are not who you are. They are merely symptoms of your condition – and they will, like everything, pass. Dealing with depression means recognising this and not beating yourself up about it.
Dealing with depression frequently means confronting feelings of complete failure. You will see everything in black and white terms. Balanced thinking vanishes. Everything appears to be doomed. The word here is “appears”. These are your perceptions; they are not reality.
And nor is it a reality that every man you meet will turn away from you because you suffer from depression. In your darkest periods, you may feel you have nothing to offer the world; that there is absolutely nothing desirable about you. No, you do not have to explain to a new partner that this is how you may feel in the future. But you do owe it to yourself to recognise that depression lies to you; it wants you to retreat from the world; it even – at its most merciless – wants to destroy you. Getting out there and meeting people – including through dating – means not only dealing with depression but defying it.
And what if you have a partner with depression? Here are three ways you can help them in dealing with depression – and help yourself:
One of the best ways you can help a partner with depression is to acquire knowledge. Become an expert. Read as much as you can about your partner’s condition. But, more importantly, talk to them about how they are feeling. However, be aware that they will shut down at times. Be receptive and non-judgemental. Do not take it as a personal slight.
As mentioned above, the way your partner is behaving is not who he is. All you’re seeing are the frequently devastating symptoms of his illness. Taking time to remember who your man really is and reflecting on the joyous times you’ve had together is one of the best ways of helping a partner with depression – because in doing so, you’re giving them their real identity back.
Never neglect your own needs in a relationship. You need to establish boundaries of what is and what is not acceptable. For example, no amount of mental anguish excuses physical abuse. Crucially, helping a partner with depression means preserving your own resources. Know when it’s time to be kind to yourself. Never forsake your own self-worth.
Have you dated a guy suffering from depression? Share how you supported one another in the comments below.
Images: Model Released @ Shutterstock
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