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Strange Bedfellows

double-bed-1215004_1280Depression and relationships make for very strange and difficult bed fellows. Many of us are in intimate relationships with someone who is depressed. Many of us have sons and daughters, mothers and fathers who are depressed. And in many instances we don’t want depression to destroy the relationship we had before this wicked illness came into our lives. How do we live with depression and still help our relationships to grow?

First and foremost on the list is to be sure that communication is the highest priority for you. It might be that the depressed person instead of reacting and screaming or whatever, simply says, “I’m depressed.” Those few words can make whoever you are with realize that what is happening is a result of the depression, not anything else. Talking about depression and the feelings it brings helps both individuals understand what is happening and it makes it a bit easier to deal with.

Sometimes it is difficult for someone to simply state that they are depressed. Perhaps in those times you might inquire after someone’s well being in a creative way. Is depression in the next county for you or is it just outside the room, or did you sleep with it last night? All these are ways to communicate where and how depression is affecting the one you love.

Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. Don’t let your partner get away with “I don’t feel good.” Ask questions like “physically or emotionally?” or “because of what just happened or because of the darkness?” Conversation increases and that is always helpful. And above all, don’t spend time trying to change your loved one. That’s his or her job and the therapist or the psychiatrist.. You are there to love the person and not change or cure him or her. Just being there with them is enough, listening, holding hands or talking through feelings together. All of these have the capacity to empower the depressed person and that’s what is most important.

Don’t forget too those little niceties that make us all feel better – a back rub, a good meal, good music. This will help your loved one feel better if only for a short time. Do whatever you can to let your loved one know that you still love him or her. You just hate the illness of depression. .

Relationships are never easy even in the healthiest of people. Depression in one of you makes it more difficult but remember that you are both still able to be a support to one another and you have the added gift of helping each other understand depression and come out from its tight grip.

– Bernadette

Let the Sun Shine In

Yesterday I went into the bathroom to find a spot on the wall. It was white and looked like it was perhaps some toothpaste or a spray of soapy water.  I took a cloth and started rubbing it and it wouldn’t come out.  And to my horror, more spots showed up.  I paused, looked again, and then realized that I was trying to erase spots of sunlight that were filtering through the blinds.

This incident – which caused a great deal of laughter on my part – carried a huge lesson for me.   Recently we have been struggling with the effects of depression in our household.  And when depression strikes, I take my trusty cloth and try to rub it away.  But in taking that trusty cloth, I find that too often I overlook what is good about what is happening or I overlook the good in the person with depression.   I try to rub away any sign of hope, of sunshine in the situation.

What that little bit of sunlight taught me is that in every situation there is a shred of light, a tiny bit of goodness if we only look. Whether it was a good word spoken by the depressed one to you or whether it was the fact that medications had been taken on time for a week or that there was the sound of laughter if only for a couple of minutes.  Whatever the nip of sunlight, it is to be recognized and celebrated and cherished.  They may be few and far between but by recognizing them, we don’t lose sight of the person who is there, the one suffering from this terrible illness, the person who deserves hope and happiness, the one that we love.

Don’t be like me and try to rub away the sunlight. Jump all the way in and relish those droplets of sunshine wherever they occur.  It’s one of the best actions a caregiver can do to stay well.

-Bernadette

The Bogey Man Waiting to Pounce

Yesterday I realized that I had to get out of the house. Usually I have no problem being in and around the house.  There is plenty to do – a yard that needs regular care, projects galore in my office and the rest of the house, and good places to relax and reinvent.

But yesterday I realized that the depression that has overtaken my husband was threatening to overtake me. Gloomy days with the threat of rain usually give me a feeling of coziness, of wanting to nest and just be, reading when I want, working when I want.  But this gloomy day was affecting my mood from the time I opened my eyes.  I couldn’t do my regular gym workout.  Something was holding me back.  I ate more than I usually do at breakfast, and I was unable to get into any of my projects, opting instead to play solitaire and binge watch a program on Netflix.

Dishes sat in the sink, the bed was unmade, and I announced that dinner would be whatever anyone could find – a practice I don’t usually engage in. And just before lunch I found, horror of horrors, that I was sitting in the living room chair, just as my husband does each day with his eyes closed, contemplating his worries or swimming in the darkness.

I jumped up and announced that I was going out. I grabbed the car keys and went, no destination in mind.  I drove for a bit, stopped, messaged a good friend asking to get together sometime soon,  and then went to a park, got out and walked, taking in the smells and watching the birds in their spring frenzy.  I don’t know how long I was gone but I do know that when I returned, the house was my haven again.  I didn’t see the darkness hovering.  I could see my husband in a calm, caring light.  And I felt myself buoyed up by my interactions with people and nature.

Whenever we feel depression threatening to overtake us, we have to act with haste. We need to do something for ourselves, do something that will renew us, will give us strength, will make us laugh.  Whether it is talking to a good friend, running, treating ourselves to lunch.  Whatever it is, we, as caregivers, need to help ourselves and sometimes that comes in a flash when we realize that those things that gave us life are slipping from us.

When you recognize this happening to you, don’t hesitate. Your life and the lives of those you take care of depend on it.

– Bernadette

When there’s nothing you can say.

Depression and anxiety can manifest themselves in so many ways it can be hard to keep track. But I was hit with one of those manifestations over the weekend, and knew it for what it was immediately.

What did it look like?

Let’s see if I can come up with enough negative adjectives to paint a picture of what I experienced in my husband in this situation: Cranky, cruel, critical, hateful, mean, selfish, unfeeling. How’s that?

Nothing earth-shattering was happening. My mom had come to visit overnight. The Husband had been working on his mother’s tax return all day (never a good omen). Our daughter and I prepared an excellent meal. The Husband came downstairs (late) for dinner.

Every word out of his mouth was unpleasant. A scowl was permanently attached to his face. He criticized just about every aspect of the meal. It was impossible to ignore, and made for a very uncomfortable dinner hour.

And there was absolutely nothing I could do.

I know from past experience that any mention of his negativity would have created an even uglier scene. I might have just gotten up from the table and made myself scarce, but couldn’t bring myself to abandon my mother and daughter.

I was hurt. And I don’t like feeling silenced and helpless.

So far I haven’t even been able to bring it up to him in retrospect. He’s still wrestling with the taxes and the resulting depression and anxiety. And while his demeanor has improved (having taken a break from the annual task yesterday), any mention of his behavior during that dinner will send him in to a tailspin. I know. From LONG experience.

I ask myself why I put up with this crap. A large part of the answer is that the ugliness my husband sometimes displays is not who he really is. When he’s not under attack from his diagnoses, he’s generous, kind, thoughtful, and loving.

But it’s extremely difficult to remember who he really is when depression and anxiety take over.

-Amy

What to Say

Lots of times we have written in our blog about some of the things you should NOT say to people with depression.  In this entry I would like to highlight some of the things you SHOULD say.   Let’s start with a simple question.

Have you taken your medicine? Of course don’t say this in the heat of an argument but say it at a time that you know it will be looked upon as a reminder and only that.  Haven’t you appreciated when someone asked if you had done something?  Same is true about the medicine because we can all just forget because we are human.

And since we are on questions….

Do you want me to go to the doctor with you? Statistics show that it often takes ten years before someone goes for help with their depression.  Maybe an offer to go along or to set up the appointment is just the push that the depressed person needs.

Another good question is:

Do you want to go for a walk? Remember how that is worded.  It is not saying, “you need to go for a walk to deal with this depression.”  Rather, it is an invite to join you….and besides the walk with or without the depressed person will be good.

On those days when plainly the depressed person doesn’t want to do anything, ask if you can help with anything. Maybe the person needs to just sit with someone and feel their presence or maybe they just want to take about how they are feeling.  Be there for him or her.  Sometimes the greatest help is just being with another.

Another big thing we can say to a depressed person is to tell them that they deserve help. Oftentimes, the depressed one will feel that people don’t want to take up their time with a depressed person.  Tell them again  and again that they deserve help.

And tied into that is telling the depressed individual that they are great, appreciated and loved ….but just not in general terms…..tell them particular reasons why you like them, why you appreciate them, why you love them. Be concrete.

And lastly,  Physical contact is one of the greatest things we can give a depressed person.  It reminds them that they are not alone, that someone cares.

Why not practice saying some of these things to the depressed person you love.

– Bernadette

 

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

Connect with Nature

nature walk

Recently the Washington Post gave a report of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found that the brain most positively reacts to walks done in natural environments than those done in cities and suburbs.

The study took 38 individuals who lived in cities and had no history of mental illness and had half of the group walk 90 minutes through a natural area and the other half through a downtown area.  The participants were asked before and after the walk to respond to a questionnaire designed to measure the “tendency toward rumination, a pattern of often negative, inward-directed thinking and questioning that has been tied to an increased risk of depression” according to many in the mental health field.

Not surprising was that those individuals who were on the nature walked showed a decrease in rumination and actually answered questions differently from before the walk and after.  Other tests done confirmed the findings.

The lead author of the study, Gregory Bratman, said, “This provides robust results for us that nature experience, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases, of mental illnesses like depression.”

We knew that walking and getting exercise was helpful in dealing with depression and in keeping an even keel when you are taking care of someone with depression.  But now we can look to those nature walks as doubly important in keeping the brain on a most positive track.

So, find a scenic nature walk near you and get out and moving on it at least once a week – more often if you can.  Your body, your brain and your family will benefit.

– Bernadette

Being There for Each Other

I have a confession to make.  I have always played little games with myself that go something like this:

If there are only five crackers left I will have them.  If there are more, no. 

Or

touching-1

 I will play only four games of solitaire if I get two emails.  

Poor examples of what games I play, but you get the picture.

Today I am feeling a bit defeatist.  My husband is again beginning the downward spiral with depression and I find myself irritable and wanting my well husband back.  And right on the heels of that thought, I realized that it was more than about time to write something for this blog.  But with everything going on, I didn’t want to.  I was tired of looking at depression.  I was frustrated that professionals are not seeing the importance of the role friends and family play in a person’s recovery from depression.  I was seeing the problem escalate more and more out of control.  And I didn’t want to write about it anymore.

So, a game with myself.  I would not write anything.  I would close the blog after talking with Amy and I would say goodbye to being a voice in the wilderness.  I would do all these things IF there was no increase in the people who were coming to the site.  I felt confident there would not be as it had been at least three weeks since a posting.  I opened up the site and low and behold the number of followers had increased.  And then it dawned on me…..

If I was feeling the way I was at this point in time, there were others who were feeling the same frustration as to where to go for support and information and ideas.  I realized that this site was doing that in some small way.  Someone out there was getting something they needed to keep going another day.  They were feeling support and understanding and they realized they were not alone.

So I’ll keep writing and I’ll urge Amy to do the same and hopefully, together with all of you, we will help professionals and others not familiar with depression to realize the far reaching scope of the damage this illness can do.  And we will be a very strong support to one another.

– Bernadette

Why?

Loved one takes trip to meet a therapist.

Therapist says during the course of the discussion:

* You don’t look depressed.

* Your thoughts control your depression.

* Do you have a happy pill for that?

Why is this therapist still practicing and dealing with depression?

– Bernadette

Avoid Looking Through Depression Colored Glasses

571Recently my daughter came to visit.  It is always a treat because, although in touch regularly through emails and facetime, there is nothing like having the person in front of you to hug and hold.  We had a good time hanging out and doing various things.  When mail of a neighbor’s was delivered to our house by mistake, we both walked over to deliver it.  The young mother of five was talkative and welcoming, very pleased to see us.  As the conversation went on, it inevitably turned to the young mother’s struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  She has suffered from it for several years and finds winter one of the most difficult times to handle.

After we returned home my daughter asked me a simple question:  Don’t you ever get tired of talking about depression?

It stopped me in my tracks.  It was not something that I consciously thought about but with my husband, several friends, neighbors and acquaintances dealing with the disease and with having to do presentations on the subject and hear the tales of others dealing with depression, I had to say that I did indeed get tired of talking about depression.   I had to watch that it didn’t color everything I said or did with someone.  My antenna was highly sensitive to even the slightest hint of depression in the person or persons I was speaking with.

As I answered my daughter, I realized that I had to take the time to remember that life without depression was the norm for a great many people and that life with depression could achieve that norm.  I had to remind myself of the importance of laughter, of taking care of myself, of looking to relate to people as people not people with depression.  Sure people wanted to talk about their experience with depression either as a person with it or as a caregiver, but that did not have to define the relationship I had with them.

When people have depression or any life threatening illness, it is important to relate to the person as a person, not as someone with a disease.  Relating only to the disease causes people to back away, avoid each other, treat each other differently.  There is a deep human need to be treated as a person who laughs and cries and works and plays in his or her own unique way.  Yes, the disease is present but it should never define the person and when we catch ourselves always thinking about it or relating to the person as a person with depression, we need to stop and see that the person is not depression.  And we need to examine ourselves and if talking about depression is too much with us that we look through depression colored glasses at each and every person we meet, it’s time we stepped back and smelled the depression free air that does exist and is a part of many people’s lives, even those with depression.

– Bernadette