Ask A Dude: How Do I Help My Depressed FWB?

Hi Dude,
I’ve gotten so much conflicting advice from all my friends, so maybe you can offer some wise guy-insight in how I can help someone I really care about.
I’ve had a really long FWB relationship with this guy since freshman year of college (we’re seniors now). We’ve gotten increasingly closer to each other over the past 3+ years and I’ve made it known during most of it that I wanted a more serious relationship out of our friendship, and he has shut me down about half a dozen times, saying he doesn’t want to date me in the long-run, so we agree to be friends but always end up getting close anyway and acting like a couple and spending just about every day and night together. This past summer we agreed to be exclusive for awhile (without seriously dating), and it’s been going really great, we both seem to be enjoying it, or so I thought…
Two weeks ago, we were sleeping and he got up in the middle of the night to go sleep on the couch. I was obviously worried and so I asked him what was wrong and he said he has just been really stressed lately and couldn’t sleep and it was unrelated to me. A day or two after, I tried to talk to him about what was going on and he just got upset and started crying and saying he couldn’t handle his stress and needed space and that I wasn’t helping him and I could tell he was really troubled. I sent him a long email the next day explaining my confusion over what had happened. He emailed me back and apologized for putting blame on me and explained that he’s just been depressed and has had a lot of anxiety this semester, and that this is the worst he’s ever felt for no apparent reason, and he needed time to get himself back up and learn not to hate his life and himself anymore, as he put it. He said that while he still cared about me, he doesn’t think we can see each other that much because he needs to be alone to figure out his life and that he doesn’t think we’ll work out in the long run. He’s afraid of us getting too close again and then having to go through “breaking up” again, but would still like to see me and be friends with the possibility of hooking up (which I offered in the email I sent him).
However, since then, he’s just completely shut me out basically all week I’ve realized that I shouldn’t take his ignoring of me so personally and that he does need space and time, but my main concern right now is that he seems genuinely depressed and not himself and it doesn’t seem to be getting better…I want to help him, but I know I’m probably not the best person to do so, and I really think he should talk to a counselor (which I have planned to do for myself because I can’t handle the stress this is putting me under), but I’m not sure how to even suggest it to him.
Can you please give me any advice on how I could help him? Or if I should back off? I’m worried that if left untreated, his depression could get worse. Also I know he says he doesn’t want to date me in the long-run, and I’m okay with it, so how can I show that I still want to be here for him as a friend?
Thanks so much,
Completely Frustrated and Sad
Dear Completely Frustrated and Sad,
You sound like a really good friend to this guy. Depression’s a bitch to deal with. It’s not easy to watch someone you care about go through it, especially when he seems resistant to any help you offer, and even harder when you feel like you can’t help at all. I think your instinct about suggesting he make an appointment to meet for a counselor is spot on. But there will come a point where you’ve done all you can and just have to keep being there for him, accepting that he’ll get help when he hits the point where he feels like he has to get help.
Besides being a good friend, you also sound a bit like you’ve let him take advantage of your feelings for him. But that’s the Yin and Yang of wibbly wobbley webs we weave with a FWB. There’s a point where it’s like: “I really care about you. I want more. You don’t believe we can have more so this is the best I’ll get and I guess I just have to make due with it.” And that sounds like what you’ve done. Settled for what you can get out of him and are trying to deal with a crisis he’s in. Does that situation sound okay for you? If it is, then okay. If not, then you might want to reconsider how much you’re willing to put in a place you don’t want to be in. The more you invest in something that you understand isn’t realistic, the more you close yourself off to the possibility of finding something more fulfilling. Food for thought. ‘S’all I’m sayin’…
People, well I should say most people, go through bouts of depression. And believe it or not, a lot of bouts come during college, especially freshman and senior years. Why? Well, there’s a theory that it’s because during those particular times in a person’s life they are at a point before, during or right after a major transition. Transitional times are scary times. Scary times can trigger depressive episodes in people. But it can hit you out of nowhere before you consciously understand what’s going on.
I’ve been in this spot, as far as dealing with the Debbie-Downers. Bottom line is you can offer all the help you want and be a good friend, offering him an ear and a shoulder, but you can’t make him take it. The less he’s willing and the more he pulls away from you, the more helpless about the situation you’re likely to feel. Which is going to increase your stress and make you feel crappy about yourself. Which you shouldn’t. His decisions have to be his decisions. You can’t push him towards healthier ones, just make offers and follow through, and be there for him if you’re willing to forgive the assholishness he’s throwing at you.
Chin up. Reassess. Change what you can, accept what you can’t. And he’s one of the things you can’t. But how much you allow his issues to weigh you down is something you can. Take care of yourself first and foremost, otherwise you’ll be in no shape to help anyone.
Here’s to good mental health,
The Dude
[Got a Dude itch you just can’t scratch? Sick of trying to come up with a not-totally-crazy-girl way to bring it up to your guy friends and get their take on things? Totally over over-analyzing the cryptic messages he leave on your Facebook Wall? We got your back, girlfriend. Send your question over to askthedude [at] collegecandy [dot] com. The Dude won’t sugarcoat it, beat around the bush, or any other weird cliche that means lie to you. Like a nice, juicy hot dog, he’ll be 100% real beef, 100% of the time. So bring. it. on.]

Candy Dish: Hump Day
Candy Dish: Hump Day
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