It’s the end of my first week as Vada Magazine’s resident Agony Uncle, and what a week it’s been!
I was commissioned to write an account of my experiences living with depression, ‘Grab the Big Black Dog by Its Balls’, for a national magazine.
I also had my first appointment with my new behavioural psychologist, had an interview for a job I’d really like, and met up with my friend and tattooist (@RoxyVelvet on Instagram) to work some more on my pirate-themed sleeve she’s designed for me. We tattooed into the wee small hours of the morning whilst setting the world to rights.
I bought some books on getting into Buddhism for me, and some birthday presents for the fiancé. He turns 27 on 26 April and is mourning entering his late 20s – although, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to empathise with this when I am about to turn 30 in a mere six weeks.
What has got me through my over 40-hour week of customer service slavery are the amazing responses I have had from you lovely lot. I’ve been racking my brain for how I can best help you. Your bravery deserves the very best I have to offer.
So let’s go!
Here are the first two responses I have received from two very brave readers. Luke and Ian, what follows is my advice for you both. Take as much or as little as you’d like from this. I only hope it helps.
I’m not going to lie, however: I wrote these responses whilst face down on the bed as Roxy inked me up, plunging her needles into my elbow. You were my happy place and my distraction through all this. I thank you …
Has he lost interest in me?
My name is Luke and I’m 22 years old and I am having a problem with my boyfriend. We have been together for four years now and I am not sure he finds me attractive anymore.
He is 25, and I was only 18 when we first met. We have been pretty much inseparable since we made it official and we live together now. Thing is we have stopped really doing things together since he started working at a new job. There are also a few gay guys he works with who he is spending some time with now. I met them once – they are all very attractive and practically live at the gym.
I don’t want to lose him but I don’t know if he has lost interest in me completely.
What should I do?
Thank you so much for writing in – that can’t have been easy. From what you’ve said, I’m guessing that you haven’t actually spoken to your boyfriend about how you are feeling and the concerns you have regarding his attraction to you?
As hard as it may be, discussing the way you are feeling with your boyfriend is the best way to move forward. Dwelling on things is toxic and often the situations we create in our heads are much worse than the reality. I always think it best to address things head on.
You don’t need to turn it into an argument or put him on the spot, just tell him you’ve been having some concerns lately and explain that you need some reassurance from him. The best relationships are based on communication and honesty.
If you don’t feel you can do this face-to-face, maybe write it all down in an email or a letter (retro, I know). Writing it down gives you the chance to take the time to think about what you really want to say.
Sometimes when these things are actually voiced you can put the other person on the back foot, causing them to become defensive, and then things descend into a tit-for-tat argument, where neither party actually gets to say how they are really feeling.
You say you’ve been together for four years and that you met when you were 18. You say you don’t want to lose him, but you don’t actually mention how you feel about him. Do you still feel about him like you did in the beginning?
It’s also important to note that during their late teens and early 20s many people change and grow rather quickly – perhaps you’ve just grown apart. And though that’s sad, it’s completely natural. Maybe you’re both scared to admit it for fear of hurting each other and ending a comfortable companionship.
If that’s not the case then it seems like you’ve both been neglecting each other and I would suggest some serious couple time. Maybe you could suggest a date night once a week, or once a fortnight, just the two of you. It’s easy for the spark to fall it of a relationship if you don’t stoke those fires to keep them burning.
That being said it’s not a bad thing to have some time apart and spend it with other friends. I know I go mad if I don’t have some me time.
I would be careful about turning these new gym bunny work mates of his into your enemies. You could come across as jealous and needy, and though that is human, you are probably projecting other insecurities onto them and giving them a power they don’t actually have.
Why don’t you ask your boyfriend if you can hang out with them all? They could be great guys who could become your friends too. If he says no, then that’s a perfect way to open up a channel to discuss how you’re feeling.
Whatever happens you are still young and have such an amazing journey ahead of you.
I’m not sure how to break out of it
I have been dealing with a bad bout of depression recently and I am not sure how to break out of it.
I have had to move back home with my parents recently since I was made redundant. My parents are fine with me being gay but it’s hard to maintain my lifestyle and social circle since they live far from where I used to live. This has had me getting pretty depressed and I am not sure how to get myself together again while I’m living here.
What should I do?
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been in a bad place at the moment. Believe me, I know how you feel and it is very hard to live with, but it might also make you a stronger person.
It seems that you have admitted your depression to yourself and that is great. That first step can often be the hardest.
You don’t mention if you have been clinically diagnosed with depression, or not. If not, I would suggest visiting your doctor. They will be able to offer you a variety of different options to help you with your depression including medication and various different types of therapy. They can help you select the treatments that suit you.
Being diagnosed with depression is often a massive relief as it can be a first step in addressing your own wellbeing needs. If you have previously been diagnosed then I would still suggest visiting your doctor. Your prescription may need looking at if it is no longer working as effectively or you may want to consider other therapies.
Being made redundant sucks – there are no two ways about it, especially as often there wasn’t anything wrong with your performance. It’s that the job no longer exists.
It’s great that your parents are so supportive and loving, not everyone has that, and being at home with them may be exactly what you need whilst you assess what you want to do next career-wise.
Have you started looking for a new job? You may worry your depression would go against you, but the opposite can often be the case. Workers living with depression often have good coping mechanisms in place, which help in stressful situations. They can also be more aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. Often they can also be more empathetic towards and more understanding of their colleagues’ actions and needs.
You mention that you are presently far away from where you’ve been living, but in regards to maintaining your current social circle have you discussed with them the idea of either you going to see them or vice versa for a weekend? It could be really fun for them to visit where you’re from and for you to show them the sights and sounds – it’s a mini break, after all! Plus I’m sure seeing them will cheer you up no end, and I’m sure they’ve missed you.
If that’s not possible, why don’t you try making some friends locally? Google where the nearest local gay bars are and go and meet some new people. There are gays outside the big cities and the gays in the provinces may pleasantly surprise you.
If you don’t feel up to going out on your own and approaching strangers, why not try downloading an app for your phone (something like Grindr or Scruff)? These apps allow you to say what you’re looking for, and believe it or not some people are looking for friends.
Remember this spell of depression won’t last forever. I think a really great idea is to write down some of the positive things that have happened to you. They can be huge or tiny. Focus on the positives because it will get better.
I would also suggest reading a book called The Velvet Rage. Being depressed doesn’t define us. How we pick ourselves up and what we do next is far more important. Good luck.
I would like to thank Luke and Ian for opening up to me and reaching out. And I would love you to keep me posted on what happens next.
If you have a problem you’d like me to help you with please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Live life, and love.