Caregivers Dealing with Depression

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.

tearI recently found the notes that I wrote down (2009-2010) that I presented to my doctor in an attempt to correct my feeling so sad.  I first listed my symptoms (copied verbatim from my notebook):

*  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.”

fight-depression-15727957*  Counseling
*  Read “Tough and Tender Caregivers” with my ill spouse.
*  Scrapbooking
*  Hired more help (home health aide hours – two to five hours).
*  Vacations (solo)
*  Boating
*  Talk to friends
*  Entertain
*  Started to rely on “My” friends.
*  hernia surgery.
*  Joined a support group (Well Spouse Association)
*  Golf
*  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.
*  Job
*  PTA (President) *  Cub Scouts (Committee Chair).

Depression HeartWhen 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.”

recovery-24791320She 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.”

relax-stress-28972659Today, 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.

2 thoughts on “Caregivers Dealing with Depression

  1. Jill,
    I’m trying hard not to cry as I type this. Thank you for being open about your depression! It’s only by fighting the stigma that people will start getting the help they need. I’m so glad you are feeling better! There’s so much available now to those of us who battle depression. There’s absolutely no need to suffer alone anymore. Again, thank you!

  2. What I HATE is there are other people that have felt, or do feel, the way I did when I was so darn low. I have to admit it took me a while to be able to post that because I’m still a little sensitive to the stigma – but that’s why I’m doing this. I know how lifting it was when I found other people that knew exactly what I was going through having my spouse chronically ill. If it is only you that I touch with this site…it was worth it. I let someone know that they are not alone.

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