Over and over, I find stories online about the transformation of a loving partner, most often a man, into a depressed stranger. I know what that’s about because I have been that stranger.
I went through a period of withdrawing emotionally from my wife and blaming her and just about everything else for my problems. I filled my mind with fantasies about escaping to a different life as the answer to internal pain. Fortunately, I pulled out of it before losing everything, but many men and women don’t.
My wife took the brunt of this emotional betrayal – for that’s what it was – and was deeply hurt and exhausted by it. But she also understood that this was my problem, rather than blaming herself. She insisted I get treatment, and the risk of losing my family finally pushed me back into therapy, something I had been avoiding for several years. When I improved and “came back,” however, the old relationship wasn’t there anymore. Instead, we had to create something different because we were both different. It wasn’t about me or her then but about both of us.
Because of what I’ve been through and knowing how my wife took care of herself, I worry about many of the stories I read online. They tend to be all about the one who’s gone emotionally or perhaps who’s moved out. In most cases, it’s a man I read about, but the problem is not limited by gender. The emails and comments describe in detail how the depressed partners are behaving (often abusively), what they’re feeling, their refusal to get help, their on-again off-again closeness, their confusion and pain. The question asked is whether or not they’ll get over it and return as the loving partners they used to be. Is there any hope?
I hear so much less about the person who has to live with Depression Fallout, as Anne Sheffield calls it – the emotional damage caused by living with a depressed partner.
I often respond by asking: What about you? Except for a brief mention of your own pain, I have a hard time getting as sharp a picture of who you are and what this relationship means for your own sense of self. Are you worried you won’t be you anymore once he’s gone? Why do you think you can change him? Why do you ask only about what will happen to him? Where are you?
There is so much invested in a close relationship that it inevitably affects the sense of who we are. Each partner, hopefully, feels enough trust to open and share a usually closed emotional core. Once it’s clear the relationship is a lasting one, there’s a sense of fulfillment and sureness of commitment on both sides. I’m still me, but I’m also more.
Even when troubled, angry or hurt by each other, the emotional resonance and mingling can move two people to some sort of healing. It’s all the more shocking, then, when depression takes control of one partner and rips the relationship. It’s not only a betrayal; it takes away the part of one’s self that emerged through closeness to an intimate partner. That cuts too deeply. It may be hard to feel complete anymore.
I suppose the continuing challenge is to find the balance between a healthy sense of one’s separate self and the shared identity of a close relationship. Neither can exclude the other, and even if relationships fail, they’ve given as much as they’ve taken away. But that’s impossible to think of in the midst of a devastating loss due to depression.
Sometimes I find out how the online stories have ended – though not so often as how they began. Usually, it’s encouraging, not because the relationship has been restored (that’s rare), but because an inner resilience has led to acceptance of what’s happened. The new story begins, and it’s all about you, no longer about him.
So that’s why I ask: where are you in the story you tell? Are you worried you won’t be you anymore once he’s gone?
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My life is based on all the stories I have read on this site. I have been married for 23 years and for the past 3 years my life has turned around from laughter to sadness!
Can a person be depressed and still function to do his job , have a second part time job and be very into kids activity , sometimes even go out with friend, not get up all dressed up just going to their friemds house but not be emotionally availble and physically? My spouce reveal to me that 4 years its been since reached for medical trratment due to chronic nerve pain, something with his system that when he walks he can feels very tired and and everything pulses i. Hes. Body and has to seat . I was not aware of the pain and struggles he was fighting. He became distant , i started noticing less sex no imtimacy it was just Bout the kids and maintaining the house. I became distant too fell he lost interested in us. He did not want to talk ever about anythimgg related to our relationship. I file for divorce, i felt lonely always alone with kids in family outing but he would take them place without me before me filling . He aked me if we went to counceling would i reconsider divorce , I said yes . We never saw a therapist or counselor. The story began to repeat itself loneliness, always sepereta he slept in the kids room , i began to go out and felt single. His father received bad news he had cancer , passed away, may he rest in peace, 3 years after a strong battle. However this made him break. He confess to me he has been on antidepressents i felt horrible for thinking of all the nagging and sometimes mean things i said to him.in his situation but i was not aware . I felt guilty but now that i knew seems like im even lossingg more and more of him. He does not want to talk to a councelor nor therapist .. he said if i want to leave he wont hold me back but he has no time for that. And now the story begings repeating, myslef alone all the time and i cry alot at night i feel he is gone he no longer it there for me. I try to be there for him but he pushes me away physically and emotionally. I dont want to make Bout me but it is pulling me into a very sad place that when i think of him i litterly just cry. At any moment i hear a song that reminds me of him and tear just fall out . I dont see him much even though we are married because we both work and i go to school to keep myself productive and kids have sports. But this is very hard and sad i dont know how to be strong for the both of us.
I am so sorry to hear what you’re going through. My partner’s recurring depression pre-dates our relationship. We’ve been together ten years, and in my experience it is very possible for a person to be outwardly keeping it together – going to work, family or other social commitments – but be struggling. For us, my partner withdraws from me because he hasn’t the energy for emotional intimacy whilst he is still trying so hard to hold it together for the rest of the world. He knows this makes me feel terribly lonely, and feels bad about this (healthily on good days, and self-loathing on bad days), but there are weeks and months where he can’t do both. I still am never sure I’m doing the right thing when he’s going through a bad patch – give him space or call him on it? Try to suggest the things like exercise, trying to better-manage sleep, or therapy that, when he’s better, he knows help, but that can feel too hard when he’s unwell. I suspect all are more or less useful at different times. The main thing that has helped me is to look after myself. That means investing in things outside of our family and being clear with him about what I need and want – even when I’m afraid he won’t hear it the way it’s intended and will hate himself more because of my words. I don’t have advice for you I’m afraid, but I just wanted to tell you that you aren’t the only one who lives with something like this. And to say that it absolutely is about you as well as him, and you shouldn’t ever feel it isn’t; you can want to support your partner every way you can, whilst knowing that the relationship isn’t working for you right now. It may do again, or you may need to find a new start apart, but you are entitled to your feelings. You’re dealing with so much, it may help to speak with a professional in your own right.
This is me to the the T! Everything about your situation mirrors my own. My husband has been fighting depression on and off for several years. It got better for a while and then he stopped seeking treatment. All I can say is that you are not alone. It took awhile for me to come to yearns with my own struggles, to except the things I could not change. I asked for a divorce at one point not fully aware of what he was going through. I got him to agree to couples therapy to see how we would proceed with our marriage and keep it civil for the kids sake. The counseling helped me understand a little more about his depression. I think he finally hit rock bottom and was contemplating suicide but didn’t do it for the love of his kids. He finally reached out to me for help and voluntarily admitted himself to a hospital and is seeking treatment. This hasn’t changed our disconnected marriage but I am stepping back and allowing him to heal before we tackle our marriage disconnect. He is not under medical treatment and couldn’t tell you if he is ever going to be the person I knew and fell in love with. The only things that help is to live your own life and keep moving forward with living without him because Depression can be contagious and my children deserve better. I for once in my 16 years of marriage am putting my self first. I find things to occupy my time and make me happy. Recently starting losing weight for myself and continue to go to individual therapy. Whatever you decide to do it will all work it’s self out. Continue being strong and find your own happiness in the mean time.
Thanks so much for your comments. I realized by reading your post that my situation is exactly the same. My husband of ten years, also many more living with him, has had bouts of severe depression with periods of emotional withdrawal and silences for months. It has made me think that I’m crazy, and it had definitely changed me in our relationship. I have moved on emotionally outside my marriage and can see the real me who I was when we first met. It is a relief in a sense to realize that he is the problem, and and also that I have to work very hard to keep from taking on his depression. Thank you again.
I met my boyfriend through a co-worker and everything was fine in the beginning. It was about 4 months in our relationship and I found out I was pregnant and he didn’t believe it was his. It was his and our daughter is growing up healthy and strong. I had her name picked out for as long I could remember and I named her Nyla. Everything was ok and he started changing he’s supportive and will do anything for us but I lost my job to save him because his friend refused to be there in his time of need when he said he would have his back. I have been having a steady job and I look forward to go into nursing or something that will benefit us but he isn’t supportive of that like I thought he would. I noticed that he goes out every weekend with his friends and heir are girls numbers in his phone when he says he didn’t do anything. He always plays games like everything I do is his fault and he’s depressed all the time. Part of it thinks it’s me because he was fine while we were dating until after our daughter was born. Doesn’t help that he makes me feel down because he makes me feel bad about myself like I’m no good for him. I try to stay positive but no matter what he control what I do and who I talk to and no social media at all. He says he just wants me to him self but I think he wants me to be out of his life. If that happens I don’t want to lose my daughter because I love her so much and she is everything to me. I just feel hurt and I feel like I have lost the love of my love because he feels different about me. I shouldn’t have to feel like depressed everyday if loved me.
I rarely comment on articles but I feel I need to respond to what you have said. What you are describing is, very clearly, a relationship that is about control. I don’t like to throw these words at you, but I have worked with relationship abuse and I have trained in it extensively, and I am sorry to say that that is the kind of relationship you are describing. This is very dangerous for you- not even physically, (though if he has been physical or threatened you ever then you would need to get police/domestic violence services and get away soon) it doesn’t have to be physical, but it is dangerous to your basic rights as a human being.
My heart goes out to you.
The things you do share- I’m sure there is more- that make me think this is abuse:
It started in pregnancy (statistically, it very often does, and you weren’t with your partner very long before it to have a sense of if he is safe);
you lost your job to care for him- what did he need that involved you staying home? Unless it was physical care 24 hours then you didn’t need to stop working if you didn’t want to and my guess is that you he pressured you to- this cuts off your freedom and independence;
he controls your access to friends and social media, either by acting jealous or by other means- so again, cutting off your independence- this is always part of relationship abuse;
He is making you feel bad about yourself-a decent partner wants us to feel good about ourselves, if we feel bad we feel insecure and don’t feel we will be OK on our own- also very common tactic in relationship abuse;
you are worried about losing your daughter -why? Has he implied this? Decent parents will always want the other to be in their child’s life unless they are dangerous, and you don’t sound dangerous to me. You will not lose your daughter, you are here mother;
he blames you for his moods- abusive partners often accuse, do not take responsibility for their actions and also will try to get the other to feel sorry for them- this is a powerful tactic and very hard to break. Unless you are cheating on him, belittling him or harming him then you aren’t responsible for his depression- and in fact he is doing at least some of these things to you.
He is not so depressed that he can’t get dressed and go out with friends, so he is well enough to be nice to you and to support your hopes and dreams for a career.
Controlling and abusive partners will try to make us feel insecure, like we need them and can’t cope without them, like we might lose them any minute, but also like they need us so much that they can’t let us have any independence. It is dangerous because ithe is very confusing, and sooner or later you don’t know which way is up, and depend on them to tell you.
I am so sorry to give you this news, but it never gets better when these behaviours are so clear. It might take you time but you know something is wrong, as you have wisely reached out here. If he reads this, he may punish you for it, or he may become very nice or very sorry. But it doesn’t change.
Please get information for yourself, and start doing more of the things that make you you, and give you freedom and choice. You have a right to have friends, you have a right to have plans for a career, you have a right to your child, to your income and to be treated lovingly and with respect. All.of these things are basic human rights and sometimes we need to lose someone in order to get them. But the main thing is that you build them into your life.
Your daughter needs a strong, free, happy woman as a role model – let it be you.
There is enough happening here that you can connect to domestic violence services for advice -particularly on custody and finances, but also emotional support.
Don’t take my word for it, ask others too.
I wish you strength, and self love Zuri.
I am glad that you responded. I am so drained at this point in time and I feel like I have found the love of my life but I am regretting meeting him. I am thinking of different ways to get out of this situation and I don’t want to cheat or anything bad. I rather be mutual and he recently has said that he rather for us to be apart and he doesn’t want to be with me anymore and doesn’t want to get married. I see no point of us getting married since we can never agree on anything and we’re still stuck at his moms house. We have been living at his moms house( I have been living at his moms house for almost 2 years). He’s been living with his mom all his life and he’s 26 I don’t understand this. I’ve been on my own, I should’ve never listened to him and stayed at my own apartment. I seem to be happier by myself it seems because I can have my own freedom and I don’t have to worry about stress or someone controlling my every move that I do or who I talk to. It hurts because I can’t even spend time with my family and it’s not the same. I don’t know what to do, I wish I had somewhere else to go but where can I go. I have no one out there to help me. I got myself into a tough place and it’s going to be hard to breakout. I only have my daughter to fight for. I do not show him affection anymore and I rather be far away from him at this point I just feel like the chemistry and everything has gone away from me and it hurts.
I know it’s hard and will be hard to do, but you need to reach out to your family and close friends. This should be your support system and they should already recognize that something is wrong if you are being limited by this guy of what you can and can’t do. If you reach out to this support system, someone will help you get out of that situation. I’m sure someone will let you stay with them until you can get back on your feet and are able to support yourself and your child. Don’t underestimate the power of asking for help because it’s out there and there is someone that WILL help you.
I’m currently going through the rollercoaster of not knowing what to do. We have been together for 4 years and everything was great, Then things started to change. He started not helping around the house and started going out with his football friends and drinking. He would come home early in the morning after i would be up all night worried. And he would sleep all the next day. I have known he has had depression as when we met he was suffering but it disappeared. Then one day he stopped saying i love you and that he doesnt know if he loved me anymore. From there he has been pushing me away to the point where I am now. He is getting help and his first appointment is Wednesday. I love this guy with all my heart and it’s killing me that he is like this. I know depression causes people to feel numb and doubt things that’s where he is at. He doesnt know what he wants but doesnt want me to leave. He broke up with me last week saying he needs space to get himself fixed. We are still living together and he still calls me by my pet and we Give each other an occasional hug and snuggle, i want to support him as the road ahead is going to be rough for him. He came over from america and only really has me as a main support. But I’m trying to work out whether the relationship will survive and how do I make it survive? Will he get rid of the numbness and doubt?
I too am living with this. My husband is a going through severe depression and I am losing myself in that depression . I was asked the other day when was the last time you felt happy. I could not answer that. I am sad and scared all the time. I love my husband but I am exhausted. My kids look at him and lower their heads because he rarely smiles. I am taking care of him, my kids working two jobs to make ends meet and he can’t even get up to go to work. I understand the illness but at the same time I am tired. He is on medication but it doesn’t seem to work. I frequently ask myself why me. I don’t know what to do. Why do I stay? I guess I stay in the hopes that I get my husband back. It just doesn’t seem like that is going to happen. I have some soul searching to do.
Hey there, I really feel for you; my partners also depressed. It’s so lonely sometimes. I don’t know what the right thing is to do for the kids. (I also have two.)
Hang in there.
No. Married 35 yrs. Reconized signs of depression early in our marriage and looking for the right doctor took time.
How it chaned me? Well I’m not as fun loving, teasing or happy as I was. It sent me through depression periods and caused me to internalize my feelings. It made our children question and not understand the love of their father. We felt we were a family apart living in the same house. I was ask for a divorce several times then I made him sit down with the children to tell them and answer their questions. He realized the effect a divorce would have. I focused on the positive things about him ie.what he didn’t do and the things he did. Although I made an effort to always make sure he knew he was appreciated and never took him for granted it didn’t matter. It was not reciprocal. Depression is a selfcentered disease that devours it’s victim and hurts those who love those depressed. I have stood by with painful comments and now face onsets of dementia which along with diabetes is common. I dread the day I have to go to court and take over for him. I love him, always have. I have to hang on to the smallest of glimpses I see. My sister has been married for over 40years. Similar issues except he crashed at 50 and turned their family into a financial tail spin of which they have never recovered. I was thankful my husband just retired early.
I am the wife of a depressed man who refuses to take meds. He says he has tried a bunch of different ones and doesn’t like the way it makes him feel (zombie like). I understand that but at the same time he is extremely unhappy all of the time, angry and upset over the smallest things. He has tried nonmedicated treatments that are controversial but even these haven’t worked. I have been through a lot with this man yet he makes me feel like I don’t support him. We have a 12 yr old son and I worry that he is showing signs of depression as well (anger emotional). It makes me feel very lonely and trapped and resentful. I know this isn’t a normal relationship because I was married before to a very unselfish man but he died. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I took an oath to stay with him and don’t want to disrupt like for my son but it’s killing me. Thanks for listening
I am the one suffering from depression and I fear it could ruin my marriage. I have battled depression for many years, starting at the age of 12, but I think my upbringing made it a lot worse.
My parents divorced when I was two years old. I was raised by a single mother who, although she loved me, was constantly angry and stressed out.
She tended to put her social life above my needs most of the time. I was sexually abused by older boys/men, with one incident happening when I was 9; my aunt blamed me because I was alone on the playground when it happened.
To this day, I feel ashamed. I have issues with relating to men and to people in general.
I was constantly bullied in school and even by my own family. My mother met my stepfather when I was about 14 and married him when I was 16. He did SEVERE damage to my self-esteem for a number of years…I was unable to escape the situation until I met my husband, married him, and moved out.
I have sought therapy but it didn’t help because the “therapist” was unprofessional. She refused to listen and belittled me.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at therapy, I quit because I figure that no one cares.
My point is that I want to heal from this so it doesn’t hurt my marriage. My husband is a wonderful guy but he doesn’t understand the complex issues surrounding my depression.
I fear that if I can’t fix myself somehow, he will leave me for a woman who is happier and more stable.
Sometimes when we have disagreements (esp. on issues like race or politics because I am biracial and he is white) I find myself getting angry and raising my voice, which is out of character for me.
But I think this happens because most of the time, I feel like people try to shut me up…they don’t care how I feel or what I have to say. I also feel frustration due to not being understood.
I’ve spent most of my life being shy and quiet due to the abuse/bullying I experienced growing up, being afraid of my own shadow.
Nonetheless I know that yelling at my husband is wrong and I don’t want to be like my stepfather was to me. Verbal and emotional abuse is damaging, and I would never want to hurt him the way I’ve been hurt.
I tell my husband all the time that I feel lucky to have him, because not many men would want a depressed, bipolar, unemployed woman with low self-esteem.
I don’t want my depression to change him in a negative way. But in some ways I think it has, because we are never intimate and he doesn’t want children (something he never told me from the start).
I didn’t really write this with the intention of seeking advice…just wanted to share.
Hi, Im the depressed wife and it has affected my happy husband of 30 years to the point he is self abusing with alcohol at night then falling asleep on the lounge so he dosnt have to come to bed. He has put on weight due to hus drinking and stressing iver me. He has a very high powered stressful job that requires him to travel interstate and overseas for work so at least he gets away from me for respite from time to time. My mental health spiralled in 2015,(had been treated at the time by physchiatrst who coukd never get me right) when my Dad died after a long protracted lung disease, living on his own, refusing services, hours away from his kids, refusal of going into care,(typical of the oldies), finally too sick to be looked after even by us so was put into care four hours away, but they were wonderful to him. He lived 12 months once there. My mother died at 58, 18 yrs earlier while I was pregnant, Im 57 now. It was sudden and she had schizophrenia my whole childhood until her death. Since the birth of my third child I had undiagnosed hypothyroidism for 18 years,(strong maternal history). I put on 40 kilos, My phyisical and mental health went down hill and I spent years going to gp,s endos who said there was nothing wrong with my thyroid!!. The stress of my Dad nearly three years ago sent my thyroid into a tailspin. I coukdnt walk, talk or think properly due to its affects on the brain and body. Fine and gross motor skills were affected plus chronic pain in my feet. all this due to lack of hormone which also makes ypu deoressed. Long story short I went off grid, got a Intergrative Dr in the USA who told me it WAS my thyroid ie hypothyroidism. She prescribed NDT and sent me it from there. I cant state enough how my health turned around after I was treated. The TSH test as I found out it not accurate in determining if someone is hypo. My familys reaction to me NOT believing what the GPs and Endo says has hurt me. Now I actually have depression due to this unintentiinal Gaslighting which still continues over my treatment with natripaths and Intergrative Drs. After my Dad died, the thyroid condition, my little grand daughter was diagnosed as autistic. This has absolutally made me so very upset and I cant go into the effects it has on the family. It alters everything . My husband dosnt talk about it and avoids it but loves our gran daughter while Im the one who is doing and reacting to it. Just after this I got a very bad case of a sinus infection that went into my spenoid sinus near my brain, which no antibiituc could treat properly. I ended up in emergency while awaiting an.operation with the start if meningitis. Got over that, then my daughter split with her husband due to stress of autistic child!. Funny the Mums just have to get on wuth it!!. Theres more and everyone gets a whole heap of crap from time to time and I acknoweledge that. MY husband while a good man dosnt understand this depression thing, cant understand why I sleep all day, cant socialise and am short tempered with him and I dont want to be like this. Too much stress has caused this!. The last nail in the coffin two months ago for me is that our old friend of 30 years insulted us /me after years of me overlooking lying and manipulative behaviour which I recently found out that they probably have covert narcissism!. This person went after my daughter so I called them out on their prior behaviour and recent insult. My husband dosnt like dramas so gave me the impression that I was overeacting, ie gaslighting. My daughters see my point and called him out on it because they agree with me about this persons behaviour. So now I am questioning my sanity, am I the narc?. Who would be sane after this?.
My boyfriend & I are both 19. We are in a LDR. My boyfriend is severely depressed and he lashes out at me quite often.
I feel like sometimes he purposely tries to start arguments & blames me for things just so he can yell & bicker. He constantly makes “jokes” about suicide & I’m just honestly fed-up with him doing this over & over.
He gets terribly rude & curses at me.
Neither of us are religious; however, I am Native American & I believe in natural healing & things of that nature. When I try to suggest natural healing to him, he dismisses & mocks my culture.
He is an extremely sweet boy when he is fine.
But, I’m just so exhausted trying to console him & calm him, & I’m beginning to lose my patience with him.
I just want him to get help or to get out of my life because I’m sick of his crap, to put it simply.
I’ve suggested therapy & even getting put onto prescribed medications.
What should I do?
If I leave him for good, he’ll really commit suicide & blame me. I can’t do anything, since I’m so far away.
I was in a similar relationship a few years ago, though I’m a bit older than you. I really think and hope I did my best to help him but in the end I couldn’t cope with it anymore and made the decision to leave, for both of our sakes, I was a shadow of my former self, I would have to stand outside our door when I came home from work to breathe and mentally prepare for the deluge of negativity and anger I knew was waiting for me, every day. I was not depressed as he was but was starting to absorb his depression I think, or his expression of it at least. I was becoming tearful, anxious, watchful, nervous, anxious, when I never had been before. As for him I felt that while he had me to take out all his negative feelings on he was never truly acknowledging the depression or committing to getting proper help and support. So I ended it and I’ll be honest what followed was traumatic and painful and still affects even me now 5 years later. There was abuse, threats of harm (to me and to himself), blame… but I knew that if I stayed with him out of guilt then that would be it and I would never be able to leave him in the future, knowing what would follow.
So I toughed it out, he was finally getting professional treatment and in the end we were fully separated. I kept low-level tabs on him through one of his very kind and understanding friends who had seen it all escalate as I was with him, for a while after and was genuinely glad to hear my ex-boyfriend was continuing to get professional help and had gone on to complete a Masters and get a great job etc.
But to this day, though I’m sometimes sad and feeling guilty about it all, I’m so glad I made the break and took the fallout, to get out of what was a very bad situation.
PLEASE don’t feel you have to be the one to bear the brunt of how your boyfriend is suffering and don’t stay with him because he threatens to harm himself or anyone else. You have to think of you too, there’s very little about the trauma loved ones of depressed people experience but it is real and you shouldn’t feel bad if you feel you just can’t take anymore. especially at your young age.
I would suggest that you approach your boyfriend’s family and friends, tell them literally everything, particularly his most worrying behaviours, you shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of it all alone and they need to be there and know what he is going through if you don’t think you an handle it anymore. Again do not feel guilty if that’s the case, you cannot stay with someone out of fear whether that be of them harming you or themselves. God bless Nata xx
Hello, I’m 16 years old and I got a boyfriend of 17. He have anxiety, depression, bipolar, maniatic and is scared to go out. We have been dating 9 months and I really do love him and I try to help him but I just feel so sad inside, I has been always a happy girl with very good vibes. I know that he is a toxic person but he needs help and love. I try to help him, giving to him tips anti-depression, better foods for him, movies ,songs, etc. He always tell me that he going to find help but it has pass 3 months of that and I’ll remember it and he start telling at me. I don’t know what to do, yesterday I told him that he maybe could try to expend more time with his family because that help and he just started saying to me that if the only thing that I think is that he don’t do nothing, he doesn’t tell me about his day and things like that,I ask him and he just say: nothing. He start yelling at the phone at times and he start acting this way. We are at a long distance relationship, but is just I really want to help him but the thing more sad is that I have change and I’m just skypinning another things. Is so hard and tired