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Depression and Mildew

photosOur thanks to a mother who has and is weathering depression in her son and graciously let us post this.  Those who support those with depression have to grapple with many things others don’t see.  

It all started with cleaning out the room that had become the junk room in the basement.  Just as we began we discovered mildew, ugh!  At first it was only on a few old coats so those went in the trash.  Then suddenly it was on the covers of scrapbooks, yearbooks…precious memories.  Memories I had not thought about that much since depression entered our lives.

As the clean-up continued, I began to realize that depression has become the mildew in my life.  Silently creeping along and filling me with its grey haze.  Since then I just feel lost.   I look at those old photos and I don’t remember who I was before depression.  And I know that I cannot go back there anyway because depression has changed me.   While we were able to wipe away most of the mildew, the impact of depression cannot be wiped away.

Now the room is empty and the contents chaotically cover other rooms.  But I cannot bring myself to continue sifting through items.  What to keep, what to discard, what to donate?  It should be an easy process but it is agonizing, like I’m discarding parts of myself.  Yet, are those parts still real?  And I cannot bring myself to put anything back into that room.  As if the  mildew may be gone from that room, but depression still fills our house.

All this is happening as my son seems to be improving and learning to live with and within his depression.  Am I afraid that if he gets better then I might not have a purpose and that I might actually have to figure out who I am now.  And as I wipe away the mildew of depression and look at what is left of myself, what if I don’t like what I find?

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Caregiver fatigue, anyone?

This is hard for me to admit, but…maybe it will hit a chord with someone else out there. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m going to toss it out there and see what happens.

I discovered recently that I’ve pretty much hit the wall with my capacity for caring much about the depression and other issues my husband struggles with. Been there, done that. For the last 25 + years. And have the PTSD symptoms to prove it.

A few weeks ago, I found out that anxiety and adult ADHD issues had gotten the best of my husband yet again. So much so that he lost his job as a result. And – here’s the difficult bit – I couldn’t have cared less what he was going through. I was so absolutely worn out with a lifetime dealing with his problems that all I had the energy to care about was the near-breakdown the situation created for me.

Selfish? Probably. Understandable? I hope so.

I think he understood where I was coming from at the moment when the crisis hit. In the aftermath, though, he seems truly puzzled by the fact that I’m a whole lot more concerned with myself this time around than I am about his feelings. I’ve had to say to him a couple of times, in various ways, “Your health issues just about drove me into a place I couldn’t get out of this time. Just now I don’t want to hear your side of the story.”

It’s what they call caregiver fatigue, folks. It’s not a pretty place to be in.

But I’d be willing to bet some of you have been in that place, at least to some extent.

I’ve got an arsenal I can use to help myself survive caring for a depressed (and otherwise diagnosed) person. Not sure what strategies I’m going to need if I ever want to get back to a place where I care about the feelings of the person I’m meant to be caring for. For now I’m managing by being busier at work than I’ve ever been before.

Distraction is a good tool in the short term.

-Amy

On-Line Kick Depression Party! Come, Celebrate!

love heartIt takes a village to kick depression.

Come to the Party!

On-Line Kick Depression Party

suggested by our readers.

Open to anyone who has or has lived with someone with depression.

Let’s celebrate by sharing with one another the good stuff that has happened to us.

Let’s celebrate the times we have kicked depression,

even if it is just a tiny glimpse of the good life.

When: August 15th

Where: Depression’s Collateral Damage Blog at https://depressionscollateraldamage.wordpress.com/

What’s taking place:   A sharing of all the positive times that depression has disappeared, whether for a moment or for a length of time.

Write a comment on what happened or any thoughts you have about kicking depression.

Send it to depressedlovedone@gmail.com before August 10th

We will post them on August 15th.

And please, between now and then,

pass this onto your friends

on facebook, tumblr, twitter,or those in your address book or any other place.

We want this party to reach people

so they will all know that depression can be overcome in some way, shape or form.

And together we can kick depression.

Let’s get that support going and growing.

Let’s beat the stigma.

Come, kick depression with us.

people on world

Shock waves from “Call the Midwife.”

Today’s definition of irony: When a character on a television show you love suffers a bout of PTSD and it triggers your own PTSD experience.

I don’t think I”m exaggerating. In last night’s episode of “Call the Midwife,” the doctor character dealt with an experience that triggered a return of depression. The actor portrayed such a breakdown beautifully. So well, in fact, that I could barely stand to watch.

As his wife supported him, tucked him into bed, and cried out her fears on a friend’s shoulder, I relived the long, desolate years of my own husband’s deep depression. Almost literally, the wind was knocked out of me as I watched. All that emotion was suddenly right there again, front and center.

Of course that’s a resounding endorsement of the power of this particular program and of the actor. But it also says a lot about how very deeply depression affects not only the depressed person, but also those who are closest to him or her, even years after recovery.

I still feel just a bit shaky today, but I’ll get over it. Things are much, much better now.

But I doubt I’ll ever fully forget that pain.

-Amy

If you’re not familiar with “Call the Midwife,” which is in its fourth season, I hope you’ll seek it out. It’s currently running on PBS on Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Central, with earlier season four episodes on http://www.pbs.org. Seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix.

It’s the little things.

It’s been a good week. A major annual project at work is now finished and was a great success. I have a Saturday ahead of me with no unpleasant items on my to-do list. We’re nearing a family trip we’ve been looking forward to for months. Though there are long-term, serious stressors lurking, as always, in the background, I’m taking joy in life for now. When you spend a significant amount of your time and energy caring for an ill person, enjoying the small moments of joy can be a life-saver.

Morning has always been my favorite time of day. The angle of sunlight, the conversation of morning birds, the feeling of excitement and opportunity stretching out throughout the course of the day – I love it all. This time of year I like to take my coffee and breakfast onto the back porch and see what’s happening in the yard. It’s not exactly a botanical garden, consisting mainly of squirrels, rabbits, a robin’s nest in early spring, the occasional goldfinch, and a few flower baskets I bought over a month ago and haven’t yet managed to kill. But it’s all lovely just the same (my apologies to friends and neighbors who are at war with the rabbits who eat their gardens and the squirrels who eat their way into attics).mama robin

This morning I was treated to what appeared to be a rabbit and squirrel play date. Two squirrels were doing ridiculous acrobatics between the fence and low-hanging branches. All the while, two rabbits played leap frog and took turns flopping down and stretching out in a patch of dirt. Probably there was no cross-species friendship taking place, but the four of them were tolerating each others’ presence and putting on quite a show.

It’s so often the little things that make life enjoyable. It’s my hope that, even if you’re struggling with caregiving, you will find some little thing in which to take joy today.

-Amy

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Caregiver, care for thyself.

self-care

A dream I had last night brought it home to me like nothing else has: I. Am. Stressed.

It was one of those dreams that seems to last forever.  I know the sleep experts will tell you that dreams really only last  few minutes, but I could swear this one was all night long.  It involved overwhelming sadness, from a cause I know full well is extremely unlikely.  In fact, its very unlikelihood is what made me realize in the morning that this dream was totally the result of stress.

It was a wake-up call (see what I did there?).  Thankfully, it was my day off and I didn’t have  a huge agenda for the day.  So I quickly made plans to do fun and indulgent things to pamper myself all day long.  No housework (one load of laundry and the weekly grocery shopping don’t really count). A quick shopping trip for a new spring outfit.  Excellent lunch of goat cheese, Irish cheddar, multigrain artisan bread, and grapes… outside in sunshine and warmth.  Got my nails done for the first time in five years.  Took a walk in a nearby park with our darling younger daughter, who was not embarrassed to be seen out and about with her mother when a friend from school passed us.  Nice.  Finally, supper with said daughter while watching “Upstairs Downstairs  (70’s style) on Netflix.  Daughter’s idea.  She is so awesome.

People who care for others day in and day out need a break sometimes.  Whether it’s the constant caring of being a mom or the more overwhelming kind of caring htat takes place when someone you care for is physically or mentally ill, or whatever kind of caring is given us to do, caregivers need to create times and ways to take care of themselves, too.  A little pampering, a little sunshine and fresh air, a little exercise, time with pleasant and positive people – these things can keep us going.

Aaaaah…I really do feel better.  I predict better dreams tonight.

-Amy

Hanging in there…by a thread.

The difficult and stressful week I was expecting has definitely materialized. On the plus side, some items on my jam-packed calendar have gone well, and a number of tasks are checked off. Also on the hopefully plus side, we have a plan of action from my husband’s sleep doctor, which could lead to improvement in his depression down the road.

On the minus side, our youngest had a sticky teen romance break-up , which – even though I’m NOT into helicopter parenting – really did have implications for me in terms of the volunteer work I do at our high school, and which therefore created emotional duress at a time when I really didn’t need it.  On the extremely minus side (as in zero degrees Kelvin) my husband’s mood went from surprisingly up and pleasant at the beginning of the week to total emotional collapse last night.

It’s been a very long time since this has happened, but his breakdown immediately felt miserably familiar.  I automatically went into crisis survival mode: hugs and concern (but not too much concern, which can be counterproductive); firm straight talk to remind him of reality: he has clinical depression, it will get better, and there are certain things he MUST do in order to help himself get better.

It was a painful, exhausting experience, made all the worse by the fact that as it happened I was dealing with several “absolutely must be done right now” tasks.  It led to some musing as I completed these tasks, continued with as much reassurance as I could offer, and tried to get to bed at a reasonable time so I could be up early enough to manage the next “absolutely must be done right now” task at 7:00 this morning.

Here’s how my musing went: Bern and I do this stuff (helping people survive depression in a loved one) on a consistent basis.  I’ve spent a lot of time researching, reflecting, and offering practical suggestions for people in the exact same situation I’m experiencing right now.  And yet when I have to deal with a crisis myself, I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  Am I saying the right things? Doing the right things? And how long can I keep this up, when I’m fighting seasonal affective disorder myself, and am weighed down with work, life changes, and some other seriously stressful issues.  At what point will I just give up?

Sigh.  The answer is I probably won’t just give up.  I’ll keep plugging away, doing my best, and trying not to be resentful that this is my lot in life.  And I’ll reach out to others for support (thanks, Bern, for being the best support group ever) and try to create breathing space for myself, in which I can rest and restore.

-Amy