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    By Amy and Bernadette
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Let the Good Times Roll….If Only for a Moment

When you have been dealing with depression in a loved one for a long time, it is surprisingly difficult to accept good, healthy behavior.   I find that my first reaction is much happiness that my loved one is feeling good.  Immediately after that moment of euphoria, there is a feeling of apprehension.  I begin to wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop.  Part of me has trouble just enjoying the good, healthy person in front of me because another part of me is waiting for the depression to reassert itself.  

I need to keep reminding myself that all I have is this moment.  I can either worry about other moments that may never come to be or I can enjoy what is right in front of me.  I’m taking what I can get, whether it is one hour, one day, or more.  My loved one is in a good place   for the moment and I’m going to enjoy both him and me.  

– Bernadette

Shhhhh! Don’t Talk About It!

shieldWhen a relationship has been dealing with depression for a long time, you have to do a lot of changing and a lot of salvaging. You remember the persons both of you were before depression set in. You remember what today is missing. And you try to forge a new normal.
And that is difficult.

Sleep is often disrupted by a loved one waking you in the middle of the night because some unseen force is causing blows or shivers or talking to take over the sound asleep body. For the caregiver that spells exhaustion when it happens night after night. And there is the endless talking or crying or sleeping during the day which has to be dealt with by the caregiver so as to arrive at some type of peace.

We as caregivers of our loved ones in the throes of depression often find ourselves dealing with stuff we never thought we would – mood swings, twitches, drug dullness or drug hyper-ness, and sheer fatigue. The intimacy of intercourse is gone and the couple has to work out other ways to deal with pleasuring one another. And that issue is often overwhelming for the couple already dealing with so much.

Sadly, the medical system often doesn’t address these issues. Few doctors or therapists say anything about the changes that might occur. And we know that if that sharing were to take place, that would mean seeing both people. Psychiatry keeps its cards close to the chest and often doesn’t include significant others or family members. Right at a time when people need the healing of touch, the couple find themselves pulling away and suffering from the lack of intimacy that previously had filled an important place in their lives and nobody tells them that such a scenario might take place.

It is strange that we see so many sexual images on television, on the web, in magazines and yet seldom do we address the issue when it affects people with cancer treatment or people with depression or people with other illnesses.

Caregivers dealing with depression lose sleep, lose sexual pleasure, and often a significant part of their relationship identity. And no one wants to talk about it. No wonder depression swallows up so many caregivers.


Alive and Kicking

It began with a simple remark. It went something like this:

You just have to stay away from her. She is on depression medication and she tried to kill herself once. You never know when she will get violent.

And it was followed later in the day by:

They should just lock up those crazies and everything would be okay.

In the afternoon I heard kids in the playground. One said:

Janie’s weird. She’s got some loose screws in her head.

My day was capped off with:

Violence, violence, violence. If we could just get rid of the lunatics we could live happily ever after.

And then I read in a magazine:

Some people do have a tendency to be depressed. It is a matter of recognizing that you have sinned and once you ask God’s forgiveness, everything will be all right.

As I fell asleep I thought:

The stigma is alive and functioning and being passed onto other generations. How sad is that?

– Bernadette

Mothering and Mental Health

Many of the people I care about most are genetically predisposed toward depression. That includes our three children.

As they got into their teen years, it was a subject we brought up repeatedly. Now that they’re all in college we check in with them regularly, knowing that a shocking percentage of college students experience depression and anxiety.

In the last few months, my mothering and mental health skills have been called into action for all three kids. Several months ago our oldest recognized in herself symptoms of depression and anxiety, and took appropriate medical action. Thankfully she kept us informed all the way, and we provided as much long-distance support as possible. Just over a week ago I discovered, however, that she hadn’t been coached in the importance of NOT running out of depression and anxiety meds. I used all the electronic media at my disposal to keep in touch with her, encouraging and reminding her to get her prescriptions refilled ASAP. And did my best to channel my anger toward the on-campus mental health clinic in an appropriate direction.

Also about a week ago our son broke the news that he was struggling in one of his classes. He loves the class, is highly motivated, and was proactive about taking care of the problem. But alarm bells went off in this mom’s head. It was while in college that his brilliant father, with every opportunity in the world open to him, fell off the deep end into a lifetime of depression. So we had intentional conversations with our son last week, praising him for being open with us and looking for the help he needed, reminding him that he can always come to us and that we’ll always be on his side.

Now our middle daughter has hit a low point in what has been an extremely difficult year for her. She’s at the top of all her classes, is self-motivated, and truly loves learning. Unfortunately, poor health that led to surgery a couple of weeks ago has brought her down. She’s exhausted, over-stressed, and beating herself up because just now she can’t work up to her own (too-high) standards. We had a long mental health pep talk this afternoon. I’m hoping she came away with some understanding of her need to accept where she’s at, give herself a break, and simply do the best she can under very difficult circumstances. Being all too familiar with the symptoms of depression, I’ll be watching her closely as she regains her physical health, to monitor whether her emotional health improves, as well.

Being a mother is a lifetime job. Being a mother of children who are at risk for depression raises the stakes.