Hullo Dr. Robert,
My name is Christine. I am 23 year old female living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I found your web site and want to ask for your help on an issue that is totally destroying my life. I am completely and hopelessly obsessed with my ex-boyfriend. He is a very kind man and still sees me because he is so worried that I will hurt myself if he doesn't. I am so ashamed and so scared by my feelings. I have been taking anti-depressants but they are not helping in the slightest way. I constantly think of him, every moment of everyday. I cannot function normally when he is not there and I am hopelessly jealous of him.
Every since I started feeling this way I have been so confused about what I should do with my life. I don't want to eat or work anymore and I have lost my job over this. All I want to do is be around him. I send him text messages constantly and sometimes feel that I cannot live without him. I am incredibly depressed when he doesn't do romantic things for me or when he isn't holding my hand or other things like that. I never feel okay unless he is there holding me. I have become totally dependent on him and cling to him terribly. All I ever want to do is make him happy and be near him. It has gone so far as to make me simply want to be his wife and take care of him, or rather thinking that this would be the perfect role for me.
I am a university graduate and had high hopes of having a successful, accomplished and independent life but I cannot do anything now. I have become completely incapable of functioning normally. I desperately wish I was in his field of work and cannot figure out what I am going to do for a future career with my mind all disrupted like this. I am jealous of him and constantly look up web sites detailing the tenants of his line of work. I do not know what to do with my life. Nothing but him and what he does interests me. I do not go out unless he is there and constantly miss him. It is like I am no longer a person and like I no longer have a life independent of his memory. I do not know who I am anymore and I often wish I was dead. I hate being alone without him and simply wish I could be around him all the time.
I wish I didn't feel this way and I am at my wits end. I do not know what to do anymore. I have tried both drugs and therapy and still I feel this way. It seems to get progressively worse and worse. I suppose it would be best if I never saw him again because when he does not contact me I feel like I'm going crazy and I become terribly hurt that someone who claims to love me would not call me and say something romantic. I am always wondering what he is doing and feel like I'm a worthless idiot. Doctor Robert can you please, please, please write me back with some advice. Please help me.
Thank you so much for your time,
Dear Christine-- This is an emergency situation. Although I can never make a firm diagnosis without having met the person in question, your words and the tone of your letter are suggestive of a level of depression serious enough to demand immediate attention. In my opinion, you should find a competent psychologist experienced in treating depression, and get into therapy right away.
I do understand that you have tried antidepressant medication which does not seem to be helping, but usually medication without supportive psychotherapy is not enough, and may even do more harm than good. You said that you have tried therapy, but did not give any details. Whatever kind of therapy it was, and whoever the therapist was, that work certainly failed you. But please do not give up on psychotherapy just because one try did not seem to help. Sometimes it takes more than one try to find the right therapist for you, and good therapy is exactly what you need to deal with your depressed frame of mind.
That said, your desire totally to merge with the person of your ex-boyfriend is another kind of problem which also requires expert treatment if you are to get beyond it and reestablish a life of your own. This kind of drive to lose oneself in another person, to become completely emotionally dependent, and to create a fantasized romantic relationship which really is only one-sided may be a manifestation of desires to return to certainty and safety by regressing to the state of an infant who is merged, both emotionally and physically, with its mother. If that is true in your case, the best treatment would be psychoanalysis with a person experienced in depth psychology--perhaps an analyst who works along the lines called "self psychology," pioneered by Heinz Kohut. If you are interested in pursuing that kind of treatment, you should check with a local hospital for referrals to a psychologist who specializes in self psychology.
In any case, Christine, please begin with a depression assessment and treatment for depression--not just pills, but an ongoing, supportive, therapeutic relationship. And do not put this off.