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Dear Debra
Dear Debra, Advice Columnist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1852
Experience:  I have been an Advice columnist for 14 years. My column is published weekly in local newpapers.
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Ex boyfriend mental health

Customer Question

I'd been seeing my boyfriend (now ex boyfriend) for a month but we've known each other much longer. Last year we went out on a date in April, we arranged a second date, he cancelled, and then he dropped off the face of the earth, getting in touch in July only to apologise. We chatted again on the internet in December when I discovered he'd moved to England. In February he emailed me saying he was back in Northern Ireland and would like to meet up. He dropped off the face of the earth again in April but emailed again in mid May saying he was at an annual show and realised that the last time he saw me was then and he'd like to make that happen again. We started going out a few weeks later and had a fantastic time. He has a lot of issues though and was very up front from the start about a lot of problems he'd had. In January last year his boyfriend of 2 years whom he lived with and ran a business committed suicide, and cleared their bank account. He decided he couldn't handle a relationship the first time we met and thats why he ran away. He also told me that when he went away he abused drugs and alcohol and did some self harming on his legs (he would never show me the scars). He dropped off the face of the earth this april because he was admitted to hospital after having tried to commit suicide and having a breakdown. He was also diagnosed borderline schizophrenic. We had a fantastic 4 week long relationship where we really clicked and got on so well - I wouldn't be sending this email if things hadn't been so good. We cared for each other and were very open with our feelings. Last Saturday he had a bottle of wine at my house (which he shouldn't have on medication but I didn't want to control him) and stayed out all night at his brothers after I left him home. He told me I was the perfect boyfriend, he'd had the perfect date and that he was loving the time we spend together. He had a bad day on Sunday and ended things - I don't know what was going through his mind but I pestered him a little to make sure he was OK and he started to get annoyed so I left it. I text him on Tuesday to make sure he was sure about ending things and he said he couldn't be anymore sorry but he couldn't cope with his own problems so he can't expect anyone else to. He said he wasn't ready for a relationship and it was no fault of my own.  What do I do? I emailed him explaining that I'll be there for him if and when he needs me and that I understand a relationship isn't for him right now but I am beside myself - I really miss him and I can't switch off my feelings - I was starting to think we could have been together for the long haul and I still want that.  I'm willing to support him.  I don't know whether to move on, wait, or try to get in touch!! Help!! Simon
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
The best thing you can do for him is be there for him. You really care about him and he is going through a lot. He is dealing with many emotions and would be very nervous about getting close to someone again after everything that has happened in his life. He will be someone that will back off because he is afraid to get attached. He lost someone very close too him and when something like that happens that you have no control over some times people blame themselves thinking they should have done more. But what happened is something that put his life upside down and he will never be the same. If you are there for him showing him that its ok to feel what he is feeling and that you care about him. Show him that when he is ready to be in a relationship you will be there for him. That you can take things slow. I feel like when he gets close to you and know how he feels about you he backs off afraid to get that close thinking something might happen. So he runs because he feels its easier then getting hurt again. But you need to show him you are there for him.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
How can I show him I am there for him? I sent him this email last week. Is it enough? He's had 5 days to reply to it and I've heard nothing. I don't know how to stay in touch. We live 30 miles appart. He can't drive because his medication is so strong. How long should I wait for him to come round?

This is the email...

Hi Ethan,

This is the email I probably shouldn’t send, but I need to get my feelings out there and tell you that I want to fight for what we’ve got. I know it’s only been a month, but we do have a little bit of history and we got on ridiculously well, things were so easy with you, there was great chemistry, and I know we fancied the pants off each other!

I know this isn’t the right time for you, and I’m trying to give you space. I wanted to call but then decided this is the best way not to put any pressure on you and give you time to sort your head out. I’ve grown to care so much for you, and I’m finding it difficult to just switch my feelings off and not want to be there for you and not want to be with you.

I just want to let you know that I think there’s a future here, and while this isn’t right now, I don’t want us to rule out the chance of anything happening in the future. I understand that your mental health is the most important thing for you right now, and I can’t begin to understand how you feel about it, but I do know that you’re worried it’s never going to go away and that you’re never going to be able to cope. I have faith in you, and I know that things will get better in time and you will be able to deal with all the shit that life has thrown at you over the last year and a half. You’ve only been out of hospital for three months, and I know it’ll take time to adjust and things will get brighter.

I know you’re a really independent guy and you don’t feel like you can be independent at the minute, which I’m sure is really frustrating. I know living with your parents drives you mad but when you get yourself a place to live, a job and some stability I hope you’ll feel better about things.

Regarding us... what can I say... I’m crazy about you. The last month has been one of the happiest of my life and I know it was for you too because you told me so. I understand that you’re not ready for a relationship, so I’m not asking for that right now, I just don’t want to think that it’s never going to happen again - I think we’re too good for each other. Despite the fact you’re crazy about horses and I love Lego and Pokemon, we still get on like a house on fire and the banter is always mighty! It’s just so easy. If we ever do get back together it’ll be completely 50/50, so I’m not putting you through all these extravagant romantic gestures that I know you can’t return right now.

How have you been this week? I’ve tried to give you time and space. Sorry I couldn’t do that on Sunday, I just care for you, and it would have been wrong for me not to show concern - I just didn’t know how to help you and really wanted to. I understand now, that there was nothing I could do, because you didn’t know how to cope either.

If you do decide you want to get back together, if it’s even an option, whether it be now or in a few weeks/months/a years time, know that I’ll try my best to understand everything that’s going on. It doesn’t have to be a relationship straight away - we can take it really slow, drive about, have a laugh and watch DVDs without any silly gestures - it’s spending time with you that matters.

Know that I’m here, I care and I want to help. There’s no pressure whatsoever, but I did have to tell you how I feel and I really hope you’ll start to see things more clearly. I had to send this email, to sit back and not fight for you would be the wrong thing to do. Someday I hope you’ll feel the same.

If nothing else, be my friend and keep in touch every now and again. I know you probably haven’t topped up (you loser!!) so I won’t expect texts, but you know I’ll wanna hear back from you, so drop me a wee email when you feel you can.


Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
That e-mail is worded perfectly, you expressed yourself in the right way and that was an excellent e-mail. Everything you wanted to say was expressed and I am sure it touched his heart that was such a wonderful e-mail. It will be an e-mail he will think about. He now knows how you feel and he now needs time to think about what he wants. He does have some problems that he needs to work out. Often times when someone is depressed they tend to isolate themsleves and not want to talk, so if you could get him to talk and express himself he would feel better. Just being there for him is excellent because when he begins to feel better he will know you have been there this whole time and it will create a connection.
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I called him today and he ended up hanging up on me and getting angry. I asked him if he missed me and had jay switched his feelings off. His replied "are we really having this conversation?" it was quite cruel. He told me we can't be friends because he knows I'll always want more. He said it was his issues and issues he had with us. He said he hadn't read the email :-( I think he might even delete it now!!

What do I do now??

Is it well and truly over or will he be back when he realises that I'm probably the only guy on the planet who isn't bothered by his baggage?

Can I reconcile a friendship here?
Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
I would tell him that your feelings for him will not effect your friendship. He needs to let you in his life and stop pushing you out. But this will take time, he needs to know that your feelings will not effect your friendship. Also he doesn't feel like himself right now and may need time to feel better, but I do feel he will know that he needs you in his life because you do accept him for who he is.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
How should I get in touch? Just send a text message? Should I wait for long?


Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
I would send a text because he might not read the email but will red the text. I would explain you both could remain friends.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for all your help Debra!! I know it'll take time :-)



Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
You welcome, if you need any more help I am here to answer your questions. Just be patient with him. Its going to take time for him just to get comfortable that you will be here for him. But once he realizes you can be there and be his friend you will see small changes begin to happen. Right now he is afraid to get close so he pushes you away.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi Debra,


I'm confused as to how often I should try and stay in touch with Ethan. Should I send an email every now and again? Or a text? How often? He usually doesn't have his phone topped up and only checks his emails when he feels like it......


Is there anything I can do?





Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
I would check in once a week just to see how he is doing. Since he doesn't always check his e-mail. This will show you are there, but you are not pushing and giving him his space.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Debra...

I've waited a while since I last emailed you and I haven't contacted Ethan. I've been afraid of getting rejected and wanted to give him a little more space. Most of my friends are telling me to stay away but I really miss him.

Is it possible he has gone off me completely? Even though things were so good?

I think about him all the time but I don't know what to say when I get in touch and I don't want him to think I'm desperate or needy!

Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
I would contact him and just ask him how he is doing, just a simple message to see if everything is ok. It willlet him know you care about him and are thinking about him. Its nice to know that when you are having problems that someone is still there thinking of you and wondering how you are doing. I would contact him, you said you miss him and im sure you want to know how he is.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Debra...

I wrote him saying "Hey mister Henderson, what's the craic? You enjoying the sunshine?"

He wrote back saying... "Hi, not a lot! How are you?"

How do I respond?

Expert:  Dear Debra replied 6 years ago.
I would stay with small talk, tell him a little about things going on in your life, but all positive things. Then ask him how about you what is going on in your life. You want to keep this conversation simple and positive. Its great that he responded I'm sure he was so glad to hear from you.