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I have been dating a wonderful girl for a little over 10 months now, and for the first long while it was great. I love her and we spend a lot of time together; however, in recent months things have been more strained.

Now, about every other week or so, she has a night where if anything goes wrong she becomes very withdrawn and quiet, silently crying to herself and not talking to me about anything. It has escalated to a larger fight in the past, and I feel like I have to walk on eggshells sometimes because I hate making her feel like that. If I mention that she gets sad again, because I "Don't trust her".

For example, the last time it happened we had dinner together after I had a stressful day at work, and I was having a conversation with her while setting up a new phone that's required for my new job. We were talking while I was transferring files and she was cuddling with her housemate's puppy, but suddenly she just curled up and stopped talking. This lasted until we went to bed.

She says that these instances used to happen a lot more when she was younger, but doesn't want to see a councilor.

I am concerned about her, and want to know what I can do to help.

As a side note, this started about 3 weeks after she started hormonal birth control for the first time ever, and seems to follow the pattern after that, with her changing or forgetting her control occasionally since she began about three months ago.

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    Is it like she can talk, but doesn't want to? Or is it more like you try to ask questions, but she is basically non-verbal during these instances? – Em C Nov 2 '17 at 15:08
  • She is physically able to talk, but just curls up and becomes unresponsive when I ask what is wrong, if I can help, and if its okay to touch her/ rub her back/hold her hand. – GiantSilver Nov 2 '17 at 15:25
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    I'd bet money it was the Birth Control, My wife and several friends wives have very similar side effects. She MUST talk with her doctor. There are other options. – coteyr Nov 2 '17 at 20:28
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    "She says that these instances used to happen a lot more when she was younger" indicates it might not be just a birth control issue. – Bagheera Nov 2 '17 at 20:36
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    How do you currently react when she gets into this mood? Why do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells? Is it possible the moods are unrelated to what you say or do, or has she outright said you are upsetting her? I suspect I might have a lot of experience with the dynamic you're describing, but I might just be projecting, and your situation is actually completely different. – Kat Nov 3 '17 at 1:15
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Hormonal birth control pills come with a very interesting set of side effects listed, some of which are of a psychological nature (mood shifts, etc.). It would, perhaps, be best for both of you if you read that list of side effects, and discussed whether it would be a good idea to continue using them - there are, after all, other contraceptive options available. She might also visit medical specialists who can advise her on that topic.

However, these two events may be entirely unrelated. She says she used to have these "episodes" when she was younger. Well, what exactly are they? Depression typically hits for longer phases than a single evening, so perhaps that's not quite the best way to describe what she's experiencing.

You should sit down with her and discuss the fact that her moods affect both of you, that you wish her to be happy, and that you would like to know more about any difficulties she is facing/enduring. Find out whether this is a condition that has plagued her in the past, and whether she was once on medication, or had some other means of combating these episodes.

Last but not least, just because you love her does not mean that you are the appropriate person to help her through these difficulties. If she really is experiencing some sort of mental health issues, then you should continue to encourage her to see a professional. And that includes one who might better advise her on the particular type of contraceptives that may be appropriate for her.

Best of luck!

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    Thanks. We've tried non-hormonal but it didn't work for her. Ill try to sit down with her and have a conversation next time we meet. She doesn't want to see a counselor but I may suggest a psychiatrist. I will also take more of an interest in potential side effects of what she is currently taking, as it seems as though the current one may have made it worse. – GiantSilver Nov 2 '17 at 13:40
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    I second that, an ex had the same problems with her contraceptive. Here's a link: "The study of over a million Danish women over age 14, using hard data like diagnosis codes and prescription records, strongly suggests that there is an increased risk of depression associated with all types of hormonal contraception.." health.harvard.edu/blog/… – peufeu Nov 2 '17 at 13:52
  • Yes, a friend of mine interrupted the assumption of the contraceptive because it made feel her "less happy". Maybe off-topic, but what about the IUD? – LinuxBlanket Nov 2 '17 at 15:18
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    To add a piece to a good answer, approach the subject from concern for her. Tell her if she's hurting you want to help her, and be supportive of her choices. Be a prop for her to bring herself up with, and make sure you're in a position best to help her. Ask what she needs you to do, and come to an agreement about what would be best for her. My girlfriend has chronic depression, but it's greatly reduced because I'm able to be there for her when she needs, and she has told me to stay close and be her security blanket when these episodes happen, so try and be the same thing for yours perhaps. – Anoplexian Nov 2 '17 at 17:16
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    +1 To the birth-control likely being a factor. My wife struggled with depression when she was young, and there were a few rough patches early in our dating-relationship. She started a new BC method recently and the hormone shift brought back a lot of those old moods and behaviors for a couple months. It really helped to be able to look at the side effects together, understand that there was more going on, and discuss things openly. If she had en episode I would console her, but also note that her BC was likely a factor. This helped us both communicate about the issue and help eachother. – Brandon Barney Nov 3 '17 at 12:13
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I agree with AndreiROM, this could very well be a side effect of her new birth control. You should encourage her to talk to her doctor to explore this possibility and discuss options.

Now, about every other week or so, she has a night where if anything goes wrong she becomes very withdrawn and quiet, silently crying to herself and not talking to me about anything.

I did this a lot in college, and still do sometimes. It's a difficult habit to break, especially when it's been going on for so long - as it has for your girlfriend.

The root of the problem, for me, was depression and anxiety. I would act "normal" for weeks on end while worries and fears piled up in the back of my mind, until one day I'd stare at my ceiling for too long...

Usually when this happened, I felt paralyzed and practically mute. I lacked an emotional vocabulary to express how I felt, and couldn't articulate what was bothering me (in part because I'd been ignoring my problems). So I would be very withdrawn and kind of get lost in my own head for a while.

Things that helped:

  • Patience and reassurance, non-verbal comforting like hugs or bringing her a cup of tea. She might not want to talk, and prefer you just let it pass. But she is probably feeling vulnerable, and so it helps to know that you are still there for her. (This can also look like bringing her a blanket and just checking in on her every so often, if she wants to be alone.)

  • Simple or "leading" questions. This helped when I was open to talking, but didn't know how to. If you asked "what are you thinking about?", I honestly couldn't say. But if it was, "are you worried about [x]?", I could figure that out. Instead of "how do you feel?", try sharing a list of emotion words with her and asking which ones she is experiencing. Yes/no questions are easy to answer vs. giving a full explanation.

  • Distractions. Put on a movie, make dinner, play a board game. I even got tickled a few times (YMMV!! make sure you are still respecting her boundaries, of course). Sometimes I just needed a push to get back out of my own head. This works best if you can recognize when an episode is starting and nip it in the bud, so to speak.

However, I still think you should encourage her to consult a professional. It is one thing for you to comfort her for an evening, but tackling the root of the problem is a much bigger undertaking, and a professional will know how to diagnose and treat it properly.

  • So as for the tickling, an absolute no-go. How should I put on a movie or something like that while not seeming like I'm "Ignoring" her. I'm also wondering how I can provide care to show I'm there while not physically cuddling. This is my first real relationship so I'm still new at this. – GiantSilver Nov 2 '17 at 16:50
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    @GiantSilver Hm, does she have a favorite feel-good movie? You could suggest that. You're right, I wouldn't just put it on and start watching, definitely involve her if you can :) Or, for me it often helped just to know my boyfriend was available if I was ready to talk, even if he was playing video games or doing homework. Small gestures like bringing a glass of water or some tissues can mean a lot, too. It really depends on her and your dynamics. – Em C Nov 2 '17 at 17:46
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    @giantsilver Acknowledgement and respect are key here. Get face to face. Ask if you can do anything. Maybe get more specific - "Can I get you something? A blanket? Food? Do you want to watch something?" Offer to leave ("Do you want to be alone?"), be with her ("Wanna snuggle?"), or stay nearby. More cautiously, perhaps humor would work for you: "Hey, I lost you for a second there." or "Welcome back, how was outer space?" Whatever method works for you, don't overdo it. If she keeps saying no or ignores you, back off. "Okay, well let me know if you need anything. I'm here for you/I love you." – feelinferrety Nov 2 '17 at 21:33
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This sounds like myself and my wife. @Em C has great suggestions, but the biggest help for us was:

Talk about this when she isn't upset.

Make sure she feels safe. Don't get upset. She isn't in trouble. You care about her and just want to understand what goes through her mind so that you can help.

Talk about this when she isn't upset and can think clearly, when the anxiety and negativity aren't clouding things. Ask her what she wants from you during these times. Could be all she needs is patience and a shoulder to lean on.

Talk about this often. After a couple of years together, my wife and I still struggle with this, with proper communication, but each time it's better, each time we learn more about each other and how to talk to each other.

5

I'm not a counselor, but I'm diagnosed with depression. The symptoms you described (overreacting to minor things, suddenly becoming non-responsive) sounds very much like clinical depression.

It's important to understand that depressive episodes often appear with no warning and no control. Depressed people often don't have a reason why they suddenly feel so bad because there usually isn't an "external" reason why.

She needs to see a counselor. I know it can be really, really hard to get a depressed person to go to a counselor, especially if they tried that in the past. But she really needs to go.

The analogy that got me to go was: treat mental illness like physical illness. If your back is sore after running, just take a day or two off. If you suddenly feel a stabbing pain and can't even stand up, then get to a doctor. If you're bummed out for a day or so, then take a personal day. If you suddenly feel so bad you can't get off the couch, go see a doctor.

Barring that, I'll repeat some of the suggestions others have made:

Discuss this when she's not in an episode. Depressive episodes make you feel really bitter and defensive. It's not the time to ask a depressive, 'What's wrong?' Wait until it seems to have passed, then talk about it.

Sit in the same room with her when she's in an episode, but don't expect to be very involved with her. A person in a depressive episode might not want to talk (or do anything else), but a trusted person's mere presence can be very comforting. This is why pets are so great for depressed people; they curl up next to you and just sit quietly. You don't have to sit quietly; read, watch a movie, whatever. Just do it in the same area she's in.

Watch your own mental health. Depression is contagious. Caring for a depressed person can be really frustrating and make you feel awful. Make sure you're getting out with friends and doing things that keep you happy. Getting depressed alongside your girlfriend won't help her.

Don't try to be a shrink. Depression is an illness that requires medical treatment. Just as you might massage out a tight muscle, but you wouldn't try to fix a slipped disk; you can help someone through a rough time, but you don't try to cure them of clinical depression. Get her to a counselor.

2

One day a brave knight received a letter from a princess, which said that she had been kidnapped by a fearsome dragon and locked up at the top of a tall tower. Immediately, the knight mounted his horse and rode to the tower. He ascended the many flights of stairs and eventually encountered the dragon, whom he slayed after a long and difficult battle. Triumphant, the knight unlocked and opened the door to the princess' room, whereupon she folded her arms and frowned: "I didn't ask for you to solve my problems, I just wanted you to listen to them!

Sometimes the hardest thing to do for someone you love is to listen and nothing more. Everyone has emotional struggles that ultimately have to be dealt with by themselves. Too much human contact - even from loved ones - during a state of emotional stress can feel suffocating. I had to go through multiple relationships with partners affected by depression and anxiety before I learned this difficult lesson: some problems simply cannot be talked through to resolution, and sometimes well-meaning words can backfire and hurt when somebody is not in a rational state of mind.

As long as your partner is not prone to self-harm, then they will be ok after they get over the shock depressive state. Just let them know that you're there for them when they need you, and meanwhile you can do the dishes or something to help set a feeling of a stable and welcoming place for them when they are ready to emerge from a depressive state.

As others have mentioned, chronic emotional problems are best worked through by an experienced professional. While I would not suggest that a therapist could solve your partner's problems, they could at least have a better understanding of their context and the parallel struggles of others, and ways that have helped them, which could ultimately help your partner as well.

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When I was dating the woman who is now my wife, she was about the most level emotioned person I know. But when she got a Nexplanon implant in her arm, it all changed. She is in control enough to recognize that the birth control is the cause, but she would just get overwhelmed and depressed, especially in the evenings. For someone with less control than she has (not saying your girlfriend is in that category, but she might be), I can imagine it can get difficult.

This sounds cliche, but if the problem is really her hormones, I suggest chocolate. Maybe also a distraction like a dumb TV show. The chocolate has really helped us though. When she starts sinking, I just grab a chocolate bar and give it to her, and before long she levels out. Regularly eating foods that are high in estrogen (or cause increased estrogen production) like soy milk has also helped.

I think your problem is difficult to solve through normal interaction and communication. It is just a hormone problem and the only way to solve that is to address the hormones, not the person. It isn't her that is withdrawn, it is her unbalanced brain chemistry.

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If I mention that she gets sad again, because I "Don't trust her".

This reads like a very defensive response that translates into that she does not trust you. Exactly why is just speculations from my side, but it could be that you appear judgemental to her in some circumstances, that she is afraid of your reaction, that she does not herself have an awareness of exactly why she is depressed and does not want to engage in a "loosing battle" trying to explain why, shame, or a myriad other possibilities.

So what can you do with regards to that? Simple and hard: earn her trust. As pointed out in other answers, addressing this is best done when she is not depressed. And you need to avoid a "you don't trust me" focus that might trigger defensive behaviour.

Put focus on your perspective and tell her what you would like to achieve ("I would like for us to improve our level of openness and honesty with each other") and perhaps ask "what can I do that will increase your trust in me?" (following up "why would that help?"). Take a trip to the library and find some books about how to increase trust.

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