This series will answer people’s questions or worries, either that have been asked to me or I wanted to give my opinion on. Of course, these are just suggestions, and if the problem is severe, you should seek professional help or advice. This addition’s topic of Advice with Annelies: girlfriend’s depression.
This is a long one and there is a lot to approach, but you can read the whole question (from reddit) below.
Oh gosh, where to start? First of all, can I just say how great you’re doing at looking out for your girlfriend and that I’m so glad she can confide in you- especially when she doesn’t seem to have anyone else. It’s often easier to keep such thoughts to yourself, but you’re clearly a massive support for her.
“…she was unable to graduate on time this year because of her depression, which only made her parents angrier. Now she’s being pressured to find a full-time job when she is trying to improve her mental health first.”
It’s such an awful situation when parents don’t understand the severity of a mental health illness and acting in anger or disappointment definitely doesn’t help. As with the job, however, mental health does need to come first, and in the grand scheme of things, taking a year out will not hinder her future in any way, so I think that was the right move.
Regarding the job, is this a “to keep you occupied” reason or a “you need to earn some money reason?” If it’s the former, there are lots of other things she can do to keep her busy, especially as it may mean keeping her cognitively challenged and giving her goals and aims for the day. If it is the latter, then maybe it’d be a good compromise with the parents, to try and ease into part-time first and then full time later on. Alternatively, if there is angst about going into the world of work, perhaps, to help you both, you could research different methods of earning money. Depending on your location, there are many possible ideas such as participating in surveys, mystery shopping or ebay reselling etc.
“Long story short, I feel helpless. I don’t know what to do, if there’s anything I can do, to help her in this situation. I simply want to take her away from them but can’t afford to.”
By what you said, it definitely sounds like she could have depression, but taking medication should also be taken alongside therapy if this is possible. It is unfair for you to take the burden, speaking to a professional may really help her; especially concerning coping methods for being at home etc. In terms of what you should do next, it is difficult because I don’t know how much power you have/your age/your living situation.
If you live at home, is there a way for her to stay if she pays rent (maybe you could go halves?) or could you maybe rent out a very small place together? In the ideal situation, you would perhaps move in with each other so she can get away from the environment that is potentially the cause or trigger of her depression. However, I realise that this may not be possible, and visiting may not be often if you don’t drive etc. I’ve left some ideas on how to help in the next section.
“Are there any suggestions of what I could do to help other than being a shoulder to cry on? Should I confront her parents or just stay out of it?”
Personally, I would try and encourage her to seek professional help. If she has difficulty trusting adults as a result of her parents’ opinions and reactions to her mental health, try and reassure her that not everyone is like this and that they could genuinely help her. Another thing that could help, is with her mental and physical wellbeing. Especially if she can spend days in bed, try and encourage her to maybe take a walk occasionally and make sure she is eating correctly etc. Not only is it important for her to maintain her physical health, but exercise can also help give her a goal for the day and keep her busy, especially if she is not working.
I would not confront her parents about it, especially if they realise that she is in bed due to depression etc. but doesn’t take it seriously. She is still at home, and if unless you’re sure of how they’d react, you don’t know if it could potentially make the home environment even more awkward or tense for her.
I really hope this has helped and I wish you all the best! Hopefully, their understanding betters soon and that circumstances change for you both for the better!
The Frugal Frenchie