In July last year, in my second week of work in a new job and three weeks before my engagement party, my partner of two years called me at 8am on a Monday morning crying.
At first he was crying too hard to get the words out. I asked him repeatedly what was wrong. Was he hurt? Was he in an accident? Had something happened at work? No.
He didn’t need to say anything else. I knew. Two weeks prior, at a small party I hadn’t attended, he had gotten black-out drunk and slept with someone. We had been engaged three months.
The next few days were the worst of my life. Obviously there was anger, and hurt and disbelief. My partner tried to assure me that yes, he was very happy and no, he absolutely did not want to lose me. But he still couldn’t tell me what had happened or why he ended up in this situation.
Over the next few weeks we struggled. I would wake up at 2am to find him sitting on the floor in the doorway of our bedroom, watching me sleep. We discussed our future, whether there was one or whether we should break up. My partner cried, frequently. More frequently than me. More than was normal, even for someone in his situation. Then he stopped getting out of bed in the mornings. He refused to go to work. A feeling of unease started to uncurl in my stomach. I started thinking back across the course of our relationship to other times when he’d refused to get out of bed, or drunk too much, or cried too easily.
I had known he sometimes ‘felt down’. I knew that sometimes he wasn’t feeling motivated to go to the gym or to do the dishes or go to work. I knew that before we’d met, he had a reasonably significant drug problem. I also knew that there was a history of mental illness in his family, of anxiety and depression.
But he’d seemed fine – things were going great between us and we had so much to celebrate and look forward to. Surely he had just drunk too much and made a really poor decision aided by someone equally as inebriated and with severe emotional baggage of her own. But he wasn’t dealing with what he’d done at all – in fact he seemed to be coping worse than I was. Almost every day he would wake up crying, and I would have to physically pull him from the bed. I would dress him and get his things together to send him to work, terrified he would lose his job.
Eventually, I persuaded him to go to the doctor. The doctor wrote him a referral to see a psychologist, and the sessions seemed to help. At the end of session five, she signed him off. His indiscretion and subsequent depression seemed situational, she said. Somehow, we moved on. We stayed together and I tried to be supportive while trying to work through my own anger and hurt.