My partner of many years had a childhood of abuse and abandonment. Eventually he was adopted and things improved to a degree. He’s never really dealt with his emotions about his past, although he is a sensitive guy and I know he has a lot of hurt inside him. He has instead chosen to repress and ignore these emotions. He moved across country, so his family is out of sight, out of mind. He will do anything to distract himself and not think about it. He definitely has shown signs of depression on and off over the years. I’ve suggested therapy to him before. It comes up perhaps once a year. He is extremely reluctant and he says has no desire to relive his terrible past. I’ve told him I understand that and that I think while therapy would be painful, I believe it would be worth it in the end. He’s extremely stubborn and pushing an issue will make him more likely to reject it, so I don’t bring this up often. My approach is to discuss it in a supportive manner, encourage help, not push it, leave it to germinate. It seems to have made him open up to the possibility of help. He has conceded in the past year that he might be depressed.
We recently visited his adoptive parents. It had been 3-4 years since he had seen them, because they live back “home” and he’s been avoiding his past entirely. His foster father is very old and unwell. He put off seeing them as long as he could. I encouraged him to go visit, because the guilt at not going was evident and I knew he would have terrible regrets if his foster father died and he had not gone to see him in so long.
I know he feels a lot of guilt for being so far from them, especially now they are old and unwell. He approached me today and stated he thinks he is depressed. I think this is a huge step for him to admit this. I want him to get the help he needs. I will of course, be supportive and will listen to anything he wants to talk about. I do strongly believe that therapy would be invaluable to him. How do I encourage this route without scaring him back into his shell? Thank you.
You gently encouraged him to seek treatment and then backed off when you felt that he was at his limit. You were supportive and encouraging but not pushy. You “stood your ground” but realized when to back off. You seem to be doing all of the right things.
More recently, he confided in you about his depression. This suggests that he sees you as trustworthy and nonthreatening. It is further proof that your approach is correct.
You should continue doing what you are doing. You can’t force someone to go to treatment. People are ready when they are ready and no sooner (and some people unfortunately are never ready).
However, he seems to be indicating that he might be open to treatment. Continue to be patient, supportive and encouraging. Hopefully, he will realize the wisdom of your advice. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle