Dear Neil: My relationship with my husband has recently gone downhill. I have been depressed for a long time, and just haven’t had the energy to give to him; I haven’t been attentive, sexual, enthusiastic, happy or fun. I would like our relationship to improve, but I don’t know what to do. Can you help?
Down In Ontario
Dear Down: Depression is tough on strong relationships and threatens the foundation of weaker ones. Getting through the day tends to use up all of the depressed person’s energy, making it difficult to feel desire or joy. Therefore, depression sufferers don’t have much energy left for intimate relationships.
Depression is a common and disabling disease that affects millions of people each year. People who suffer from depression often struggle with feelings of helplessness, guilt, sadness and worthlessness, and normal everyday activities such as sleeping, eating and concentrating are often impaired.
It is common among depressed people to have difficulty in communicating, problem solving and working through problems in their relationships. In addition, they are likely to experience decreased libido.
Even one of the treatments for depression—antidepressants—have adverse sexual side effects in a majority of the people who use them, causing decreased libido, erectile dysfunction and difficulty in achieving orgasm. Spouses or intimate partners can also become the target of a depressed person’s helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety and anger, and can even be blamed for the depression.
However, depression is a treatable illness, and you can readily get help for it. So pick yourself up by your bootstraps, get off your inertia and helplessness and go get help—and get assistance for your marriage as well. Probably you’re not going to just spontaneously feel better. You have to actively help yourself to feel better.
Dear Neil: When I read your recent column how a lack of self-esteem sabotages love, I saw myself. I am forty, never married and I feel completely unlovable. Although I am successful in my work, I am sad, lonely and depressed. I don’t know why anyone would really and sincerely love me. Can you advise me on how I can help myself.?
Dear Feeling Unlovable: You have to focus on what you like, admire and respect about yourself, rather than looking at all the negative traits you think you have.
What’s good about you? Try focusing on your positive traits, the good things about you, what you’ve achieved or accomplished, how you’ve overcome adversity and pain, how and when you have been proud of yourself.
In addition, what are you grateful or thankful for? What are the blessings, gifts, talents, skills and likeable qualities you have? Where in your life have you conducted yourself with honor and integrity? When have you risen to the occasion, helped other people out, done the right thing? What traits that you possess do you admire and respect when you see them in others?
If you focus on what is good in your life, what you have, what you’re grateful for, you’ll feel good about your life. If you focus on what is bad, on what you don’t have, on what is wrong in your life, you’ll feel badly about yourself.
Choose to focus on what is good about you and what you like about yourself. That is the first step to loving yourself, and it is necessary before you’re going to feel lovable to someone else.