Is depression stopping me from prospering in relationships?

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To being, I have never clinically been diagnosed with depression. I have been told that I am codependent in relationships due to my lack of parenting as a child and a previous abusive relationship upon my turning 18.

As an adult, I find it easy to cut the ties in any relationship without feeling so much as a pang of guilt or remorse and I often move on to another serious relationship without batting an eye.

Recently, in the last 7 months, I left the man that I had been with for 4 years due to his unwillingness to get married or want children in the future, both of which were important to me. I had given him time to think it through and he still stuck to his guns. So I left the relationship. And felt nothing.

I pursued another relationship shortly after, with a married man (No, I did not know he was married) and when I found out, again I left. Feeling nothing. And now I am in a relationship with someone that I know is not good for me, and despite having strong feelings for him originally, I don't anymore. 

I feel nothing.

I have finally started to feel sadness for my previous long term relationship but in the way that he still has our puppy that we adopted together. Maybe its because he bought her as a way to say he was sorry for telling me to terminate my 7-week-4-day pregnancy. And our puppy was the only thing I had that loved me without conditions.

Additionally, I left home to joing the military and I don't miss anyone. I don't miss home. Or my family or friends. I've been to the middle east for 11 months and it didn't phase me. I never missed home, or believed I was in another country. Coming home didn't make me happy, or relieved.

I am hollow. All the time.

But I still feel the need to look after my juinor guys and ensure they are taken care of. It seems to be one part of me that is still human.

Could I be depressed, bipolar, manic depressive?

Someone, please. Anything to help me wrap my head around why I can uproot my life all the time and feel nothing.

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  • Posted

    Hi littlesailor,

     Feeling hollow inside is listed in the mental health manual as resulting from three conditions: depression, borderline personality, and addiction. 

    I don't think you are bipolar, you don't mention any periods of doing crazy things, not sleeping, euphoria. Although there are two kinds of bipolar, and I am not so familiar with them. 

    I think you are describing depression. I have depression, but maybe mine is severe and so it causes sleep disturbance, balance problems and severe feelings of melancholy. Maybe yours is a low grade version of the same thing. 

    I often think that when we experience abuse as children, it does two things: it forms our brain into certain patterns which are hardset. And it is kind of an indicator that our parents had a mental illness to some degree or another. The stress of child-rearing (which is HUGE stress) put them into survival mode, and they started hitting out at us. 

    I think if I were you, I would look for a counsellor, if the military provides such a thing, or if you can afford it on your own. I would put in a word of advice: counsellors, like doctors, come in all shapes and sizes, and you can't put your trust in them too easily (well, that was my mistake, maybe you are smarter than that anyway). Shop around. It's a lot of money.

    Second, I would consider going on a course of anti-depressants. If your depression started young, it is in your core brain, and while some things, exercise, good eating, some supplements, and mindfulness, meditation, can help, they might not be able to undo the damage done. 

    And I would think carefully about your urges to have a child. You want that to come from a healthy place. You said your puppy was the only one who had ever loved you unconditionally, and I bet that is true. I bet you felt real sorrow as a child from your lack of parenting. I really know that experience. But a child will not love you unconditionally. A child will give you a lot of stress. A child will make demands and be unreasonable, especially at certain ages. A child may hate you. You have to be in a good place to do parenting well, chemically balanced, and able to form healthy bonds with other people. I am not saying, don't do it, I am saying, find your own self first.  I liked the advice from a movie, can't remember the name, first take care of a plant, and if you do that okay for a year, move on to a pet. Then after a year, consider a relationship. 

    I think you must be a very strong person, with certain very healthy characteristics, to be able to deal with military life. I think you are not over-sensitive. I think you can do well, live life well. I think you are coming face to face with the real problem now, and you will be able to deal with it. So good on you. 

    I have lived with a more severe form of depression, and with medication and attention to how I live, I do enjoy life. Menopause is a big challenge!! I think you can find your way more easily. Love and balance are there to be had. Lots of respect to you littlesailor.

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  • Posted

    Hi Little Sailor,

    Your post rang a lot of bells with me. Abusive childhood, being in the military etc. I'm not totally like you, but then two human beings can never be the same. Unlike you, I often feel unbearably strong emotions of attachment to people (places and situations too). However, when things go pear-shaped - and they always do - I find I can switch them off from one day to the next and walk away as if nothing had ever happened. I've lived my whole life this way - I'm in my 70s now - and have come to accept it as normal for me. Growing old and observing the world around me has taught me there's no such thing as "normal" anyway. And at least people like us are never destroyed by regrets. While acknowledging that there are many things in my life I could have done differently - and better - I never dwell on them. I always think "if only" is the most futile expression in the English language. However, like you, I agonised over what I perceived as my abnormality when I was young.

    I was treated for depression in my early 20s, and heartily endorse what Jennifer says about therapists. I saw two appalling psychiatrists, trained in the old-school Freudian tradition, who made me much worse. It took me five years to claw myself out of the even deeper depression they sent me into. However, I would say that things have changed a lot in psychiatry in the last 50 years.

    I'm not sure what the military view of mental illness is these days. My only experience was a three-year short-service commission in the early 70s, and the ethos then was to keep mental health problems very much to yourself. However, that was during the paradoxically peaceful time of the Cold War, so I never saw anything remotely like action (and I was a nurse anyway). In these days, when practically everyone in our armed forces is likely to have been exposed to the stress of combat situations, I suspect this may have changed. But you'd know best.

    Help of a kind came 25 years ago, when by sheer serendipity I got involved in a research programme that was looking for adult "survivors" of autistic spectrum disorders who'd managed to adapt and live under cover, as it were. (Dr. Asperger published his paper in 1944 - the year of my birth - but no one took any notice of it till the 1980s.) I got a diagnosis of probable Asperger's syndrome, which didn't help in any practical way, but at least gave me a vocabulary for my strange attitude to the world, and the possibility of contacting others like me. Up till then I'd been convinced I was in a minority of one. After this I started the long process of growing into who I was.

    I'm not suggesting for a moment that you have an autistic spectrum disorder. And in any case, you can't get diagnosed on a forum, as I'm sure you realise. I'm just opening up the possibilities a bit.

    Another point where I'm in agreement with Jennifer is the urge for a child. This is built in to most women (and a lot of men too) and I suffered very badly from the "baby ache" as a young woman. In the mid-70s (my early 30s) and shortly after leaving the army, I fetched up in a country where single motherhood was much easier than it was at that time in the UK. This got me to thinking about having a baby, even though I'd worked out by that time that I was unlikely to be able to sustain a permanent relationship with a man. In the end I came to the same conclusions as Jennifer, and I'm glad about that now. I don't think I would have made a good parent anyway.

    Now, having passed my biblical three-score years and ten, and having managed so far to remain in rude health, I sometimes look back over my life and realise it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. And that doesn't worry me either, of course. However, in the last ten years I've started realising I need to do something to repay the Universe. Having failed to do everything I could for my mother during her long years of dementia (though I know I did more than many others in the same position) I now take care of a friend, only slightly older than myself, who has the same terrible condition. I also work as a volunteer on a crisis line, where my lack of emotion is actually an advantage. I never lose my cool when listening either to stories of terrible distress or to the inevitable torrents of abuse from mentally ill callers, and am always able to call on the techniques I learned during my training. The difficult calls are the very occasional ones from people just like myself, but who haven't yet figured out a modus operandi for coping with life. That's when the silent tears start - for them and for my younger self. I yearn to tell them everything I've just told you, to reassure them that it will be all right, but I have to stay within the confines of my role.

    I hope this doesn't sound too bleak. And in any case, it might well be that you'll be able to get the help I couldn't. But you shouldn't get hold of the idea that there's some kind of "cure" out there for the way you are. Therapy and anti-depressants are worth a try, as they might help (though they didn't help me) but you're always going to be you. Reading between the lines of your post, I can see that you're already well aware of that. At heart, you are a very strong woman and a survivor, in spite of - or maybe even because of - your weaknesses. It takes one to know one!

    I believe that whatever route you choose, you will eventually come through the tunnel and have a happy life, even if it's not the one you envisage now. Sometimes all that's needed to plant the seeds of change is to accept ourselves as we are, rather than always measuring ourselves against society's yardstick.

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  • Posted

    Little Sailor. 

    I came here by accident but by reading what you feel I couldn't help leaving a note.

    Of course you are depressed. Bipolar = manic depressive you would know if you are because it's like a roller coaster feeling of uncontrollable ups and downs.

    If you love the puppy go after it; if you feel the need to take care of the junior guy do it: they are you connection with your feelings.

    It seems to me that you've been traumatized and that your stuck in that process.

    There's no way out of that unless you engage in good Trauma Therapy. The best for thet purpose is DBT Dialectical behavior therapy. Most therapist are not prepared to deal with trauma. Stupid isn't it? Anyway, things are as they are and an unskilled therapist in dealing with trauma can make your worst rather thar better.

    Then you'd benefit from a support group - your problems are with relationships.

    I'm not sure you're codependent but let's consider that you are. There is the CODA - Codependents Anonymous 12 steps support groups (look it up) that you can attend for free. No one judges you, everyone is there for similar resons. 

    Some form of spiritual practice would also be good for you..

    It'll tame time and a lot of patience to unbottle everything out but it will happen eventually. 

    Take care.

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