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    By Amy and Bernadette

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Surviving through the support of a community

Living with and/or caring for a depressed person is a monumental task. Those of us who have lived this life know about being overwhelmed by a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions; walking on eggshells to avoid triggering a downward spiral; losing sight of our own needs and wants as we too easily become absorbed by the needs of a loved one who can’t function normally. And these experiences are only the tip of the iceberg for caregivers of the depressed.

Adding insult to injury, many of us feel we have no one to talk to, to share the experience with. The stigma and misconceptions about mental illnes lead us to keep quiet. Then, too, it’s unlikely that anyone we talk to has the slightest clue what we’re going through – how thoroughly the weight of depression pushes on us from sunup to sundown – and throughout the night, as well.

One small but meaningful light Bernadette and I have found in this darkness is the support of others who are going through similar circumstances. She and I, through our writing work together, informally created our own two-person support group years ago, when we realized both our husbands dealt with long-term, severe depression, and both of us were suffering effects, as well.

For the last several months we’ve had the honor of leading a support group for caregivers of depressed people, all of whom are employees at Hallmark corporate headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. On the first Thursday of the month we gather over the lunch hour – a perfect time slot for caregivers who have absolutely no time for themselves once they get home from work – and share what’s bugging us, what’s working, what’s not working, and what is dragging us down. There have been tears and laughter, honest and open sharing, and a whole lot of caring. For one hour a month we’re with others who know what we’re going through, and I know from my own trials that this can be a lifeline.

Here’s hoping that more people out there who live with and/or love a depressed person can find this kind of support. We challenge other businesses to offer groups like this for their employees. And check out the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)link on the right – this organization may be able to help you find a support group near you.

-Amy

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