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Depressed Girlfriend

Aug 31, 1998

My girlfriend has been depressed for a long time. Although I love her, it's very hard to be with someone who is so depressed. I feel I can't go forward and make any changes in my life. I'd like to move, for instance, but worry that this would shake her up too much -- even though she claims that she, too, would like to move. So I don't know what I should do. In addition, I feel like my girlfriend is not thinking of us as a couple and how we can be happier together. She's just thinking of herself and she's quite miserable. She's unconcerned with how I'm doing or what would make our relationship better. And she's angry a lot of the time. I love her but it's so difficult to be the only one making an effort. If I move with her to another city it may be too stressful. I feel like anything I would do would set her over the edge. So one part of me says that I should just walk away -- but I can't help but think of what that would do to her. I can't figure out how to improve this situation. I feel completely stuck. Can you help guide me and let me know how I can proceed?

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You have shared a variety of stressful realities that are having a very negative impact on both of your lives. You should probably try to find a mental health professional in your city specializing in HIV care. What you are describing is, at least in part, that your partner does not experience relief and feels this is partly the fault of professionals who are not competent. This is a classic symptom of depression.

If the two of you believe that moving might be a good solution I want to strongly urge you to see a professional counselor skilled in working with couples dealing with HIV before you uproot your lives. It sounds like you are trying for a geographical solution to your very real problems. In my many years of clinical experience this very rarely works since people tend to bring their pre-existing problems along with them. Thus by having some sessions together as a couple to talk everything through it can help both of you to realistically assess the situation and see what kinds of options are open for you.

Please proceed cautiously about uprooting your lives. This could also have the potential to make everything worse and just increase the pressure on your relationship. While other cities have excellent HIV care, make sure that this is the kind of change both of you really want even if your partner were not so debilitated by depression.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

Living with a HIV + person (real risks)
Husband HIV+ - battling morality

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