(Pretty Big) White Lies as Boundary Setting

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 20, 2009 12:44 PM GMT


    Hey Guys

    I'd be interested on your take on a situation that came recently between me and the on the other end of what for the past few months has been an amazing long distance relationship.

    About a week ago my guy called me to say he was in the hospital for some tests after fainting at the gym. He reassured me that they had already ruled out a heart or stroke or anything imminently dangerous so I didn't have to leave Boston for Charleston,SC and miss any classes, etc, He said he thought he would be in the hospital for a couple of days of tests.

    We talked by phone and via IM a few times a day and he kept posted on his progress. And after three days he was home. The only thing about the whole episode that I thought was a little strange was that he didn't want to give me the hospital's name or address so that I could send flowers. (He said poor students should buy food and beer, not flowers!)

    Anyhow, I came down to Charleston for the long weekend (today is Patriot's Day - a.k.a. Marathon Day - in Boston). On Saturday my bf asked if we could talk. I knew something was up because he was all flushed and then when he started trying to talk he dissolved into tears.

    The short version is that he lied about the hospital thing. He was in a psychiatric hospital following a bout of intrusive suicidal thinking. Up until then I knew he has depression, that he sees a psychiatrist and that he takes a couple of anti-depressants.

    When he calmed down he told me that he had rationalized a lot of reasons for not wanting to be upfront in the first place (e.g. not wanting to scare me, not wanting me to know that during the suicidal episode our relationship didn't seem like enough to stop him wanting to kill himself, etc). But he told me the real reason is he was ashamed at being in the hospital and didn't want to scare me away. We first met face to face two or three months ago.

    For the record, I usually have a very, very low tolerance for being lied to - especially by lovers.

    But I felt nothing but compassion for my bf. We had a bunch of long talks Saturday and yesterday about how I feel about his illness, his lying, his suicidality etc. In the process I learned that he was first diagnosed with major depression six years ago and that he was hospitalized two times before this most recent time.

    I've made it clear that my main annoyance at being lied to was that it underestimated my commitment to my bf, my ability to deal with scary news and it stripped me of the possibility of helping more effectively.

    I've made up my mind that this episode will strengthen, not weaken our relationship. (Two of my best buddies from HS have bipolar type 2 and we're still v close , so I have some experience with being around people struggling with mental illness.)

    So my question: how might you guys have handled this situation differently?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 20, 2009 1:44 PM GMT
    Well... I'd definitely not put it against him and would've done exactly the same thing.

    He had a right to be afraid of telling you the truth, because there ARE people who would have left him in a second if he had told them he was suicidal. They would've have viewed it as weak and severed all contact with him so it would not 'rub off' on their perfect lives.

    The more important thing is to be there, and not plunge him deeper into depression by pushing him away. Being afraid is not a weakness.

    As for honesty, like everything else, it all depends on the context. Very little in life are black and white, it's all shades of gray.



  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Apr 20, 2009 1:48 PM GMT
    If it had happened to me, I wouldn't be upset that he hadn't told me the whole truth. This is about him and what he's going through, not how he handled it.
  • twentyfourhou...

    Posts: 243

    Apr 20, 2009 2:58 PM GMT
    You handled it well.
    I would suggest that you make it VERY CLEAR under no circumstances should he purposely deceive you again. If you decide to move forward and work on a relationship with this person, trust is vital.
    I was in a similar situation some time ago and unfortunately, similar deception regarding health mattes persisted - over a 2 year span. Being compassionate and understanding is one thing, being taken for a fool is another.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 20, 2009 3:03 PM GMT
    You handled it well. As others have said, many people would have left him at the first sign of this and he did not want to scare you away.
    He probably has scared others away wit this this information, and did not want to do that for you.

    Be strong together for him. I think he know realizes you are there for him..
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    Apr 20, 2009 3:22 PM GMT
    Like others have said, it sounds like you are doing the right thing by being supportive. It's good that he was honest with you and told you the truth. I've had several friends over the years be hospitalized and there is a lot of shame involved. Also, people who have never been depressed cannot understand what it's like for someone who is depressed and can be unintentionally cruel. Be sure to create the kind of relationship where you can be open and honest with each other about everything. Also, caring for someone who is depressed can be very exhausting. You may want to see a counselor at your school to help you understand how you can be supportive without being co-dependent or enabling. You can quickly lose your identity if you are taking care of someone - and then you are no good for that person.
  • twentyfourhou...

    Posts: 243

    Apr 20, 2009 3:40 PM GMT
    Hmmmmmmmmm,
    I was compassionate and understanding for 2 years - actually 2 1/2 years.
    Like many others, i to have had to battle my own mental health issues - as i imply in my bio.
    All is good -
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 20, 2009 3:44 PM GMT
    If you were to take an ethics course, distinctions would be made about lies to defraud vs. lies to protect. If he were trying to 'defraud' you into doing something that you would not otherwise do, then yes, you would be justified in holding him to account. In a case like this, though, a few-months-long relationship may not have earned you the right, yet, to the 'full truth'. Considering his depressive state and his suicidal tendencies, your taking corrective action would have only exacerbated his feelings of despair. In the end, I believe that you made the right decision. Put yourself in his shoes and consider what you would have done if in a similar situation. Your job, now, is to support him, but not to judge him.
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    Apr 20, 2009 5:24 PM GMT
    This is the wrong issue.

    The issue isn't lying. The issue is holy shit, you are in a LDR with someone who has serious depression. Learning to deal with that reality is much more important to the long term success of your relationship than the non-issue of deferring the truth.
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    Apr 20, 2009 7:17 PM GMT
    Thank you everyone for your support.

    It seems to me that this revelation has moved my bf and me closer. As a few people pointed out, I will need to negotiate being supportive without being enabling. I've been invited to meet his therapist the next time I'm down and I may go meetings for friends and family of people with depression at one of the Boston chapters of an organization called DBSA (Depression Bi-Polar Support Alliance).

    Peace

    Chris
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    Apr 20, 2009 7:25 PM GMT
    Isn't the key thing here to remember that people who are seriously depressed do not behave rationally. Lack of self-worth and feeling guilty lead to feeling ashamed. Depression generates different levels of paranoia and therefore a reluctance to trust even close friends, family partners, bf. The sense of isolation may be extreme.

    The crucial thing here is to find the right management modalities. If you are close to some one who is severely depressed then it is important to find ways of letting them know that you will stick with them. That is far from easy, The management strategies are best left to the professionals.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 20, 2009 7:40 PM GMT
    devontrainer saidIsn't the key thing here to remember that people who are seriously depressed do not behave rationally. Lack of self-worth and feeling guilty lead to feeling ashamed. Depression generates different levels of paranoia and therefore a reluctance to trust even close friends, family partners, bf. The sense of isolation may be extreme.

    The crucial thing here is to find the right management modalities. If you are close to some one who is severely depressed then it is important to find ways of letting them know that you will stick with them. That is far from easy, The management strategies are best left to the professionals.


    These are my thoughts exactly. I think that he must have amazing trust in you to have admitted that given the severity of the situation. Many in his position would never admit it due to the illness itself. It isn't as if he was deceptive for some selfish or callous reason. You need to keep this in mind because in the future, this will not become any easier for him to discuss (unless effective meds are determined.)

    If this relationship is one you want to pursue, then by all means go for it. But you must always be vigilant and fully understanding about this condition before you commit to him thinking that this will just eventually go away. Although it's possible it could go away, you shouldn't proceed with that as an expectation.