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Depression and the extended family – part three

In response to a reader’s request about how to talk about depression with extended family members, I’ve been sharing in part one and part two the story of how my husband and I handled this issue throughout our journey.

My mother was, at the time, in the midst of returning to college for first a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in social work. Most definitely her background in this area went a long way in helping her understand the nature of depression, the symptoms and treatments.I felt I was able to be pretty honest with her about what I was going through. She wasn’t able to do much beyond listen, but having that sounding board did help. My stepfather was supportive in practical ways like employing my husband in the brief periods when he was able to pull himself together and get to a job.

And then there was my father and his wife. Always concerned, always ready to help…but somehow sharing with them was harder. Maybe they were overly sympathetic, over concerned? I’m not sure, but I tended to gloss over just how hard life was when talking with them.

So, in the end, we had several very different experiences as we tried to communicate the fact of depression in our world with our extended family. In hindsight and in summary, here are some of the things Bern and I have learned and written about in regards to depression and extended family:

+It’s worth it to share what’s happening. You’re going to need all kinds of support, both practical and emotional, and the people who have known you the longest may be your best support of all.

+On the other hand, think carefully about who you’ll share with and exactly how you’ll share. This nugget is true no matter who you’re considering sharing with, but with your extended family (who you’re likely to have continued contact with, no matter what) it’s especially important. Think ahead of time about your relationship and your comfort level. Think what the consequences are likely to be when you share particular things. Imagine what might happen afterward, and plan out what you’re going to say so that you end up with a situation you can live with and that will be helpful to you.

+After this consideration, you may realize that there are some family members you’d rather not share with. That decision, even if it’s necessary, may be tricky. How will you keep things quiet? How will you handle it if that person finds out down the line?

+Accept help from those extended family members, in whatever ways they’re able to offer and in whatever ways you’re comfortable accepting. Keep in mind that recovering from depression can be a long slog, and having a big safety net may become increasingly necessary.

Thanks again to Jennifer for suggesting this topic as a post subject. I hope you found something in this series that might be helpful.



2 Responses

  1. Amy thank you for taking the time to write this! Its so helpful to me to read about others’ experiences. I feel like i am always walking a weird line of wanting to protect my husbands privacy but also wanting to explain to others so they dont misinterpret his aloof behavior. Plus wanting emotional support for myself. I made the mistake of calling my mother in an emotionally weak moment crying and begging her to tell me why separating from my husband would be a mistake. I know it just made my parents worry about me more and somehow think less of him. I wish i could undo that call but i cant.

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