So who’s looking after the ones who look after sufferers of depression?

It can be a confusing nightmare caring for a loved one suffering depression. I mentioned in a previous post, what might have been if only my wife had picked up on the warning signs early, but the fact that she didn’t is unsurprisingly common. This week I attended the Partners in Depression training for facilitators who will run six week support groups for carers of depression sufferers and I learned a lot about helping carers and their experiences.

The research conducted indicated five common themes for carers, that these new support groups are seeking to address;

1. Carers felt socially isolated. They felt that support from other family and friends was lacking and in the wider community due to stigma. This was made worse by the fact that they had turned down social invitations because they were in that caring role and these eventually dried up.

they didn’t come near me because they didn’t know what to say…..” “She didn’t want to go out, so we didn’t go out. We’d knock back invitations… then they stopped coming”

2. Carers felt a lack of engagement with healthcare providers. They were often excluded from the treatment and management of the illness, and due to confidentiality found it frustrating trying to get information and understanding as to how best to support their loved one.

we didn’t know, we weren’t told… it’s almost as if we are irrelevant and a nuisance…”

3. Carers stressed the importance of support groups or agencies. Organisations such as the one I work for have been able to let them know they’re not alone and assist with sharing information and offering useful strategies and even respite for those who qualify.

I needed the help as a carer, not anything to do with my husband…. it was just that I needed somewhere to go for support for me.”

4. The illness had a direct impact on the carers. They were often unprepared for the relentless nature of the caring role and rated high on anxiety scores, and ended up at higher risk of depression themselves.

You can only keep propping the person up for so long… and then you start feeling down.”

5. Carers intimate relationships had declined. There were intense feelings of sadness and grief over losing the person that was, to depression. This added further to the sense of isolation.

This is not the person I married four years ago…. he is just a shadow of who he was, and that is sad.”

It seems that carers are the forgotten ones who are shouldering a heavy load all alone. The keys to alleviating the carers stress revolved around education and self care.

If you’re a sufferer, do those caring for you have enough support for themselves in place and have a strategy for self-care? Do they have an understanding of what you’re experiencing and how best to care for you? How are they managing the challenge?

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My wife is afraid of me

My wife and I were talking in bed, late last night. The conversation revolved around me being abrupt with her. I think she felt maybe I should be back on anti-depressants. I think I’m coping ok with my responsibilities which is a key indicator. I think she feels that if I am “abrupt” then I don’t respect her or care for her. I think maybe that I am a bit short and that my tolerance is fairly low, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. I can understand how it can come across that way to her though.

I think it’s hard living with someone who finds it hard to accept your behaviour if you’re suffering from depression. It means you have to spend precious energy on masking, and moderating your behavior, and you can never really relax. Home is just another stage.

Today I received a text from her “I am afraid of u and ur aggression. In your depression I don’t know if u would harm me or the kids. I feel like a shel of a person in ur presence most of the time”. This isn’t a great situation obviously, and not conducive to recovery for either of us. I thought I’d just put it out there, in case it helps give you perspective.

On the solution side of things, I think it’s clear, that spouses of scrapheap pastors can really do with a lot of support. They also need to get their head around what depression means and how it affects their spouses, so they don’t take things personally.