• Our latest book:

    By Amy and Bernadette
  • Also by Bernadette and Amy:

  • Advertisements

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

Advertisements

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

A Poster Person for Depression

the-sun-470317_1280I watched mesmerized as my husband answered the doctor about what the depression he described as the worst he ever had felt like.

“It’s like a cloud of darkness is coming down on me and it is going to suffocate me. It is so thick that I think I can just reach out and touch it.  But I can’t push it away no matter what I do. And slowly it is suffocating me, draining me of everything.”

We were in the psychiatrist’s office, meeting with him because the depression my husband has been dealing with for many, many years had come with a force which he found unbearable.

We talked in the doctor’s office – he describing his symptoms and his concerns, me answering questions asked by the doctor. I was there because my husband asked me to be.

And that is the number one reason I see him as a model for others:

He is not afraid to talk about his depression and HE IS NOT AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.

He is not afraid to have the family members and friends he trusts know what is going on. He treats his depression as the illness it is – something he didn’t ask for, something he is getting treatment for, and something he needs support for.

He’s not less of a man for doing this. He is more of a man because he is willing to meet this terrible foe head on.

More than 6 million men are suffering from depression and more than half of them do not seek treatment because:

a) they don’t recognize the symptoms;

b) they see depression as a sign of weakness;

c) they try to self medicate rather than seek professional help; and

d) they fear for the stigma that might arise in work and family situations.

All these barriers can be dealt with and I am not dismissing the fact that lots of times it will be difficult but it can be done.  We can trust others who describe our symptoms to us.  We can seek professional help instead of reaching for that drink.  We can continue to show that depression is an illness, not a weakness and we can continue to fight the stigma in every situation we encounter.  It’s not easy but nothing changes if nothing changes.

My hope is that more men will “man” up and take a cue from my husband and be open and honest with the people you trust and not be afraid to seek treatment for this very crippling illness.

My hat’s off to my husband and all the brave men out there who are not afraid to seek help for depression.

– 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

What Can I Do For You?

Amy and I have five pages of type of things people should not say to someone who is experiencing depression. All of us have said some of them and all of us have caught others saying them to someone. We sorely need to erase those phrases from our speech.

The flip side is often we don’t know how to respond. What does one say in such a situation? Do you ask how is the depression today or do you suggest activities for involvement or do you just keep quiet?

Perhaps one of the best things to say, and to say it with sincerity is “What can I do for you?” For people who mean what they say, that opens the door for some real possibilities of help. And that means that the depressed individual or the caregiver must be ready to respond.

So I asked some people with depression and I asked their loved ones what could be done to help. Here’s some of the replies:

I could just use some space at time. I need to be alone. I want to be alone. I’m not going to hurt myself but being alone is a way I try to get myself together.  

and

I need people around me. I could go to the local coffee shop but sometimes it is just nice if someone drops over or calls and asks to come over. Not only does it give me people, it gives me the feeling that there are people who care enough about me that they want to spend some time with me.  

and

Bringing over dinner at times. I know that my overstressed and overtired family and I would appreciate that very much. Seems like people do that all the time for funerals or for people who are sick in the hospital. But depression isn’t a “seeable” illness so people don’t think we need the love and care that others in the hospital or at home with a physically-visible illness does.

and from a family member whose brother has depression:

Sometimes I just want someone to hug me. They don’t have to even say anything. I just need to know that I am still noticed, that my struggle in noticed, and that someone out there is willing to be there for me.hugging-571076_1280

As a depressed individual or as someone who loves a person who is depressed, what are you looking for from others?   The more all of us know, the more all of us can help stop the devastation being done by this illness.

– 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

Judge Not

Sebastian and dadRecently a friend called me.  She is a new mother and often feels that she isn’t doing the job right.   Most of my time with her is listening and then reassuring her that she is a good mom and that as long as she loves her child and does what she thinks is best for her, everything will work out.  We talk some about how important it is to have others as a sounding board – to get ideas, to compare notes, but mostly just to know that there are others out there who understand.

After the phone call, I got to thinking.  It is so important that you do have a sounding board when you are a parent – yes, to get ideas, to compare notes, but most of all to know you are not alone in the big job called parenting.  Lots of parents seem to do this naturally and those who don’t, usually have someone they can go to for answers to questions and support, however large or small that might be.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case with parents who have children who are mentally ill.  They are often the ones who bear the brunt of misunderstanding.  I’ve talked with many different women about how they feel about raising a child with mental health challenges and invariably the conversation centers on how often they feel little if no support in their parenting.

They are often confronted with people who think or say that they, as parent, are not doing their job.  If they only did it right, set some rules, demanded obedience, things would be different.  They say things like, “If that were my child, I would put him out the door and a few months of fending for himself would do the trick,” or “It’s your fault that such behavior is going on.  You need to set rules and make sure they follow them” or something equally inane because raising a child who is mentally ill means that the parents do not have rules to follow.   

When you are faced with a child who is bipolar or depressed or attention deficit or autistic or obsessive compulsive, there are no rules.  There are guidelines that you can try, ideas that have worked for others but generally speaking, each case is different and difficult.  You gather support from the doctor and the therapist (hopefully) and you try your level best to deal with the situation, feeling deep love, deep sorrow, and deep anxiety.  Will my child overcome this?  Am I safe with them?  Are they safe with me?  Why did my child have to deal with this?

Unfortunately, unlike my friend who can gather support in many different venues, mothers with mentally ill children often cannot.  There are very few support groups out there for people in this situation.  The shame still associated with having a “defective” child is still rampant.  And the ever present question in the back of the parents’ minds, “What have we done to cause this?”  Even when someone is versed in the medical knowledge in such diseases, there is no immunity.  You want what is best for your child and when that can’t be, you rail against it, feeling deep, real pain.

So next time you see a child who is doing things you judge as “poor parenting”, stop and think about the fact that you don’t know the whole story.  You don’t know what that parent has had to deal with day in and day out.  You don’t know the pain.

And if you do and if you know someone who is dealing with that pain also, contact them and just offer coffee and a time to talk.  It will make a big difference.  We all need support as parents and people.

– Bernadette