Hi all, this is my first post here and I am hoping that some of you could give me advice on how to deal with this situation. Apologies for the length (Iím not great at being succinct, as you'll see!) but I feel I need to explain the background to this as much as possible Ö partly for myself, to be honest, so I can try and get things straight.
Iím a 20 something female. Until recently, I was living overseas in a non English speaking country. Whilst there, I volunteered for a telephone listening service for fellow expats. Iím in no way a professional counsellor, but callers to the line knew that those of us at the other end were just ordinary people whoíd gone through a bit of training in how to listen actively. Our aim was to give some support and advice if possible. Lots of the calls were the standard thing youíd expect in this situation Ė cultural misunderstandings, issues working in a foreign environment, everyday frustrations etc. All fairly minor.
One evening I got a call that was different from the rest. The caller was a male who was incredibly on edge. He was hard work at first so I sat back quietly and let him vent for a long time. As the call went on, it became obvious that Ė although he was reluctant to tell me the exact situation Ė he was in some sort of trouble and this was having a negative impact on his wellbeing. Once he was calmer, I realised he was very scared, lonely and felt helpless. We ended up talking for nearly seven hours. By the end of the conversation, I didnít want to just let him go Ė I felt emotionally invested and I wanted to be sure he was okay. So when he rather shyly asked if I wouldnít mind him contacting me outside of the listening service, I gave him my details. Since the service was voluntary I was under no official obligation to keep myself anonymous.
So, we kept in touch. At first, I was a little wary of what I may have got myself into, so we just communicated through messaging on Facebook. After a while, he asked if we could talk on Skype. We chatted for a short time and it was fine; I suppose I was relieved that he seemed normal and not like a crazed stalker. We got into the routine of chatting every now and then, and Iíd message him to see what was going on. I wasnít sure of his exact situation, but something was causing him a lot of stress and I realised that he had very little support from anyone else.
I returned home shortly afterwards. We stayed in touch regularly despite the time difference. Things got much worse for him and he ended up unemployed, homeless and living in his car for a while. I was so worried but there was nothing I could do except listen. Then he managed to get back on his feet and found a job and apartment. I went back overseas to the same country and was very aware that we were now just a couple of hours apart. I was curious to meet him in person as by this point I considered him a friend. I wasnít just Ďthe listenerí and he Ďthe callerí anymore; we had long conversations about all manner of things and I genuinely enjoyed talking with him.
Since he seemed to be more stable, we arranged to meet up one weekend. I stayed at his new apartment and we just hung out, chatting, watching films and exploring his area. We got on very well, although at times he was a bit withdrawn. Whilst I was there, he mentioned in a somewhat offhand way that Iíd Ďsaved his lifeí. I wish Iíd asked him to explain this in more detail, but I didnít. I did begin to realise that I cared about him very deeply.
I went away again for several months. It was harder to stay in touch but I made an effort to message him whenever I got online, and we managed to Skype occasionally. Although things had been looking up, gradually he seemed to be sinking back into depression and I was worried. I found myself thinking about him a lot. My feelings towards him were becoming stronger and I realised that I loved him. It was a different sort of love to what Iíve felt in past relationships, however. It didnít matter to me if he didnít reciprocate my feelings Ė more than anything, I wanted him to be okay. That was the most important thing.
When I returned, he was worse than heíd been before. We had a conversation in which he kept describing himself as Ďfucked upí and it sounded as though he was on the verge of giving up. Heíd lost his job and was in complete despair. I was genuinely scared for him and although he tried to put me off, I drove five hours to check up on him.
It was dreadful. His apartment was untidy; the curtains were drawn, and I realised that all he was doing all day was lying in bed staring at the TV but not really watching it. Heíd stopped eating, sometimes for days on end, and had lost so much weight. He looked unhealthy and was unresponsive to my presence, despite being so happy to meet me the first time. He kept coughing, complained his body was always aching, and didnít want to talk. Heíd told me on the phone about the eating issue so Iíd made loads of food and brought it along in plastic containers to freeze, but he wasnít interested in any of it and pushed it away. I felt like my heart was breaking for him.
I guess Iíd been hoping I could Ďsaveí him again Ė naÔve, I know. It quickly became obvious that he was too far gone for me to pull him back. I felt like I was trying to hold a handful of sand together like it was something solid, but it kept slipping through my fingers in hundreds of pieces.
I ended up sleeping with him. This was something Iíd been thinking about for a while, although this was a less than ideal situation and in hindsight we probably shouldnít have done it. All I wanted was to show him that I cared about him and that he wasnít alone, but it was like he couldnít hear me. I thought that it might be a tangible way to express that I loved him. He still seemed so distant, though, even after this. There seemed to be a barrier between us that I couldnít break down.
This brings me up to the present day. Since then, Iíve tried to stay in touch regularly and whenever I speak to him I tell him how much I care and how important he is. However, Iíve moved back to my home country, this time permanently, and Iím hugely aware of the miles between us now. Itís stupid because I know I couldnít do anything for him even when I was right there with him, but I still feel like Iíve abandoned him and if only I could see him again in person I could change things.
Trying to engage him in conversation has become more and more difficult, and a lot of the time our calls involve us both sitting in silence. I donít mind this, though Ė as long as I have him there on the other end of the line, I know that heís safe. But the last time we spoke, he was angry and frustrated. He told me that me calling and asking how he is makes him feel bad because his situation isnít improving and he never has anything good to say. He said that next time I call, if heís not in the right mood he might not pick up. He thinks this is better for both of us.
I can understand why heís saying this, and I accept it Ė I canít force him to talk. Iím not prepared to just give up on him, though. I made the decision to get involved in his life and thereís no way Iím turning my back on him. I know he isnít talking to anyone else. He is not in contact with his family. He has friends in his home country but has gradually isolated himself from them. He isnít getting any sort of professional help and refuses to give it a go. It seems heís in such a dark place right now he canít see any way out, and Iím so worried for him. I asked him about suicide and although he didnít give a definite answer, he made it clear that he canít find anything good in his life.
Iíve only ever known him when heís been going through tough times. He says he doesnít like who he is. I donít like the situation heís in but I can see so much potential in him. Every now and then (more rarely now, though), Iíll catch glimpses of how he must have been before the depression. Iíd love to meet that person in the future.
Iíll reiterate Ė I am not giving up on him, awkward, difficult or frustrating as he may be. Iíll keep calling and messaging him even if he doesnít respond. Iíll still be there for him, if and when he needs me. I will do my best to see this through, whatever the outcome may be. But like I said, Iím so conscious of the distance between us and very aware that all I have to offer him are words. I feel like Iím running out of words.
Iím sorry this is so long. Thank you if youíve got this far. The advice Iím really looking for is Ė do you think thereís any way that I can get through to him that Iíve not already tried? What can I say that might cause this barrier between us to crack and help him see a way out? How should I speak to him? Iíve never suffered from depression myself and so I donít know what heís going through, although Iím trying my best to understand and not judge him or force advice on him. If anyone whoís been in his situation can shed some light on his mindset, Iíd be so grateful. Again, thank you.