Traditionally, I am the type of person that if I’m having a bad day I’m just not handing out $50 bills. I have been known to be one of those people who are “too happy”, and always upbeat…I won’t go as far to say I can be so happy I’m “annoying,” but it has probably been uttered (I know I have annoyed people). That made it more impossible for me to believe I could be depressed. I figured I just had not found the right activities to feel better.
* Feeling like life is being stolen from me.
* Crying frequently (sometimes)
* Easily angered by, and constantly annoyed at the care recipient.
* Change in sleeping habits –
* Took naps for breaks.
* Now sleep whenever possible.
* Lack of desire to do anything.
* Quit scheduling spa appointments.
* Didn’t want to go boating.
* Didn’t answer the phone.
* Loss of interest in people and pleasurable activities.
* Feel like nothing I do is good enough.
* Thoughts of death/suicide.
* wanted to take so many pills I would sleep a long time, but not die.
* Panic attacks (only when A LOT is going on).
* Feeling overwhelmed.
I was in such denial that I am sure I looked up lists of symptoms from books or the internet because I couldn’t even find the words. The next page was labeled “Attempts to Combat.”
* Read “Tough and Tender Caregivers” with my ill spouse.
* Hired more help (home health aide hours – two to five hours).
* Vacations (solo)
* Talk to friends
* Started to rely on “My” friends.
* hernia surgery.
* Joined a support group (Well Spouse Association)
* Cut down on responsibilities.
* Not in charge of renting out our neighborhood clubhouse.
* Not participating in district PTA meetings.
* No green car.
Lastly, I identified what I felt were my challenges:
* Husband with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis.
* I had literally saved his life several times.
* Dad – Cancer
* Mom – cognitive challenges (my notes say “goofy”).
* Ten year old son that I was trying to make an asset to society.
* PTA (President) * Cub Scouts (Committee Chair).
When I was able to talk to my ill spouse, he felt if I didn’t have a job, wasn’t involved in the PTA and Cub Scouts I wouldn’t be so tired out. He would criticize me wondering how I could be so tired since he had more help/aides, and he said they were commenting on how I was sleeping all of the time. Who knows what was really said, but I wish he would have defended me in some way. There were times I told him about my depression, but he didn’t seem to care. It felt to me like the worse my depression got, the more aggravated Terry got.
Three years later as I review this I remember the time and how desperate I was for relief. I was such a mess emotionally that it started to affect me physically. My stress was so bad that my heart wasn’t beating right so my lungs were filling with fluid and then I would get pneumonia. Then I was diagnosed with asthma which also caused a few cases of pneumonia. I was in and out of so many doctor’s appointments, and if you’re a caregiver you know how tired we are of doctor’s offices. This is when I was so sick, and so depressed that I sincerely thought about taking my life.
I presented the lists to my doctor (who I respected), and she said (like she was talking about the weather) “you’re depressed.” WHAT? I literally said “I am the least depressed person you could ever meet.” She said “that may be true, but you’re going through a lot of stuff and it’s manifesting itself as depression.”
She wrote me a prescription for Effexor. I left that office half shocked, half sad, half embarrassed, and half thrilled that she didn’t find anti-depressants for losers. I secretly got it filled, and knew it could take several weeks to take effect. Holy Cow, I started feeling better within days. When I returned six weeks later I told her how much it was helping, but I was still struggling so she increased the dose and I improved even more!! This was the beginning of my recovery from depression.
I then started going to a psychiatrist to be able to adjust medications to get the maximum help that I could. I remember her stopping me and saying “Jill, you have been here for 40 minutes and I’m exhausted (giving her a run down on all that was going on in my life). You have more on your plate right now than any patient I have ever seen.”
Today, October 2013, I am still fighting depression, but it is manageable. I have identified a lot of activities that keep me going, events that I find purpose from. I still have a long road ahead of me, but at least I have help and I can think clearly enough to make sound choices and keep moving forward.
I am hoping in sharing this that other caregivers will be able to see that it’s ok to ask for help, to not be embarrassed/ashamed, to take medication, to take a break…. Cargiving takes a toll on the human body. So much so that often the caregiver passes before the ill spouse. Reach out to your doctor, heck – reach out to me (send a private message). Just please don’t continue to suffer.