I have been dating a wonderful man who unfortunately suffers from clinical depression. He just recently wrote me a letter telling me to forget about him, and I’m devastated. I love him so much. I know that he is seeking help from a therapist, and he is on meds. I don’t know what to do, but to let him go. Is that the best thing? We had so much love, hopes, and dreams. Does being in a relationship hinder his recovery? I wonder if there is any hope for us to get back together. Is this a normal action for a person lost deeply into depression, and what is the best thing for me to do for him?

A: I worry when a depressed person starts to cut him or herself off from love. Relationships don’t hinder recovery. Positive relationships often are part of the “cure.” I’d want to know if he honestly doesn’t see the relationship as the right one for him or if it is yet another expression of his depression. I hope his therapist knows about what he’s done and is talking with him about it.

In cases like this, when someone is seriously depressed and perhaps at risk, I actually encourage you to call his therapist to tell her about the letter. Please understand that the therapist can’t give you information and can’t even confirm that your boyfriend is a client of hers. That violates confidentiality. But the therapist can listen to your concerns. She will probably tell you that if she had such a patient she would tell him that she got a call from you. She can’t keep secrets from him or she jeopardizes his trust in her. But any information you can give her about his life outside the consulting room gives her a more complete picture of who he is and gives her more to work on with him.

Only you know whether you can manage being part of his life at this point. He probably shouldn’t be left alone but you can ‘t be expected to pull him out of his depression or to be committed to him despite repeated rejection. I’m really glad he has a therapist who can take that role. I hope he is letting family and other friends stay in touch and that he stays in treatment.

You have feelings too. I’m sure this is very, very hard. Please also get some support for yourself while you go through this difficult time.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie