Depression caregivers' support thread

So as not to derail the depression thread, I thought I’d start one for caregivers.

Today has been shit. Came home and committed the crime of Insufficient Enthusiasm, which quickly descended into getting blamed for the spouse’s entire depressive episode. Of course his mood is my fault, and he was “fine” until I came in, having completely recovered from the downturn earlier in the day. (And all my efforts during the day to help him were apparently useless and unwelcome.)

It’s a familiar pattern (so much so that, nerd that I am, I’ve drawn a map), but it’s still hurtful, and of course any hope of spending the eveing with friend / romantic partner / lover is gone. But right now, nobody cares about my needs: I’m not struggling with depression, I’m not ill; I’m only enduring a little emotional abuse as a side effect of the disease. Emotional abuse which will go unacknowledged once he’s better, since he’s learned to manage it by intense denial in the good periods.

I have to say, in general spouse manages what appears to be a very severe depression rather well, with only the occasional short-term episode these days, but even so it’s really wearing me out.

Thanks for listening: any other stories out there?

Your post gave me a flashback to my marriage. I feel for you and vent all you want.

I finally got out - my reasoning being “You can love tigers, but that doesn’t mean you have to live in their cage. Self-preservation is important, too”. My kids report that he’s worse. His current wife is suffering from a serious stress-related disease. It would be nice if there was a magic wand that would take away the illness, but that won’t happen.

From your description, it sounds like there’s a little narcissism thrown in as well. I subscribed to a Adult children of Narcissists email list and it really helped. The folks on it were extremely verbose - there would be up over 100 emails a day, and I usually deleted most without reading. The scenarios I did read were eerie because they so closely resembled my own situation. I never posted to the list, but reading the comments made me feel a lot less alone.

Thank you—I’ll check that out. I hadn’t really considered narcissism but that could be a factor here. I certainly get blamed for a lot!

Email/facebook message me if you want Dr Drake. I am a depressive too, but a cheerful one and I only take it out on the poor long suffering “man of many initials”. Plus, when I am not too depressed to work I am actually a psych NURSE… lol.

Thanks, MLS! I would appreciate the insight.

I urge anyone who is dealing with mood disorder to consider cognitive behavioral therapy. It can be life changing. Also, if you are family or friends with someone with a mood disorder it may help you to read about it and consider if your loved one has cognitive distortions that are affecting the way the person perceives the world. Gently, consider challenging these thoughts. I will post links later, I am posting from a tablet right now.

I understand, as being around a negative person can really wear another person out. It’s emotionally draining, depressing, exhausting, and the stress from it can cause bad sleep, and then feeling emotionally drained waking up the next day. I wish there was a solution, but is he on any medication? Possibly he should see a doctor for an anti-depressant. It’s really, really hard being a caregiver, but hopefully things will take a turn for the better soon.

Thanks! We gave medication a try a couple years ago—short-term good, long-term bad. Plus, I don’t think the counselling route has been exhausted. Like so many people with issues psychological, there’s a strong tendency to want to Fix It Myself.

Funny thing is, I can be quite negative, myself, but I don’t take it at all seriously. I’m just sort of a happy-go-lucky pessimist: plan and prepare for the worst, but enjoy the challenge along the way.

I’ve been depressed for most of twenty years now but manage to put on a brave face to friends, family and coworkers. Although I have disclosed the fact that I’m depressed to friends and family, I never burdened them with my problem until I finally went over the edge and made a suicide attempt. They rallied around me and I’m very appreciative. I try to strike a balance between being honest about my mood vs. burdening them with feeling responsible for me. It’s tricky because depressed people need support but at the same time I would feel awful if I thought I was a burden to someone. I feel for you, I know it’s not easy to be the caregiver. If I were in his position I would appreciate a frank talk about the situation - I may be depressed but I’m also empathetic and would want to know. I’ve never felt that being depressed gave me the right to take advantage.

I’m sorry to say I’m way too familiar with your situation, Dr. Drake. You can’t have needs or show even fleeting negative emotions or moods around such people, because they tend to absorb them and then vomit them all over you at 10,0000 times the volume. It gets old. It’s draining.

Some depressives are like this and I feel for your situation. Not all of us are, I’m actually more empathetic because of my situation and my friends tend to confide in me about their loved ones and value my perspective. I hope I give as much as I take. I think you have to be open and honest to the depressed person - tell them if they’re making your life miserable. A surprising number of us actually care about other people’s well-being and are not self-centered.

Zago, I didn’t mean to imply that you or most depressives are anything like that. Sorry.

I have had depression for a long time. It started around puberty but I hid it for a long time. I only started to crack when I started college. Near the end of my junior year, I started dating a guy who had confessed his love to me. He said he could tell I was suffering and told me he wanted to take my pain away. Over the years, I had built up emotional dams to keep all the feelings in. With that sentence, I broke them all. I flooded him with every little thing I had felt over the years. I exploded at the tiniest thing. He broke up with me after a few months, completely unable to take the unslaught. After he broke up with me, I spiraled downward until he and another friend confronted me about my emotional state. I was so mad at the time because he had betrayed my trust. It was the final straw for me and I got very close to committing suicide. He called the cops when he realized what was happening.

That night, that man saved my life and made me get help. I am eternally grateful for what he did but I have no way to tell him. He never spoke to me again. I don’t blame him. I think I might have done the same in his situation. I look back on my behavior in disgust. I hate that I did that to him.

I tell you all this because it took serious, harsh words and a hard slap from reality to make me realize I was sick. Once I realized I couldn’t trust my own head, I was able to get help. I have been off medication now for about a year. I still have bad days but I can see them for what they are. I wouldn’t be here if it hasn’t been for him.

You’re a happy-go-lucky (mentally healthy) pessimist. I’m an optimistic (mentally sick) depressive. To me it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty…Let’s drink it NOW!

I think it’s way easier to be the sick one. The can’t-help-its is a blanket excuse but don’t buy into that. Firmly enforce what you will and will not put up with. Boundaries are paramount. If you really love the person struggling and want to stick it out you have to protect yourself for the long run.

You have needs, too. Require that they be met. You’d be surprised how grateful an emotionally sick person can be just to know the damn rules. (Sometimes we’re self-involved enough as to be clueless.)

[QUOTE

I think it’s way easier to be the sick one. The can’t-help-its is a blanket excuse but don’t buy into that. Firmly enforce what you will and will not put up with. Boundaries are paramount. If you really love the person struggling and want to stick it out you have to protect yourself for the long run.

You have needs, too. Require that they be met. You’d be surprised how grateful an emotionally sick person can be just to know the damn rules. (Sometimes we’re self-involved enough as to be clueless.)[/QUOTE]

I don’t agree that it’s easier to be the sick one - I suffer tremendously and have tried to kill myself because living can be that painful. I*** DO ***agree that you have to take care of yourself. I know a person can be shamed into agreeing to stand by no matter what and that is just wrong. If you are so angry and resentful toward the depressive - well, you just might be likely to become depressed yourself. As I said above, being depressed is not an excuse to take advantage. I realize that there is a lot of guilt involved in taking care of a depressive. Similar to the support groups offered for loved ones of alcoholics, seeing a therapist or joining a support group might help you deal.

Suicide is my “drug of choice”, preferably pills or knives. Just planning it can calm and center me enough to last for weeks at which time, hopefully, I’ve changed my mind. (Not always; I wear the bracelets of uncertainty in scars across my wrists. I have scars in unexpected places that don’t make sense except I know they had the “juicy” veins.) I’ve racked up time on psych wards a couple times at least. Being “in” it is different from being around it, doing anykind of caregiving. As a caregiver you don’t have the luxury of flailing around drowning because you’re too busy keeping two heads above water. It takes strength that is going to be depleted in one way or another without support and help. Not to negate your pain; tomorrow I may be feeling my nails being torn out as I try to hang on. But having been on both ends of the stick I think it’s easier to hurt than it is to help. The ones hurting know why. The ones helping don’t always know how.

I hope more people post here about their experiences living with a loved one who has depression. My Mom is mentally ill including major depressive disorder, so I can relate, even though we are separated by a far distance now, it is hard for me not to want to take care of her. But she is getting help, actually getting treatment (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) for the first time in her entire life, and doing really well. But she is also sort of homeless, not sleeping on the streets or anything but she doesn’t really have a place to live either, and she has no money so I worry. She is just really lost right now, not sure of her purpose or who she is, or what’s going to happen in her life. From a very young age I always had a sense of personal responsibility for her happiness, and I have let go of that with time, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

I want to say that mental illness is no excuse for treating your partner like crap. I can’t imagine how hard it’s been for my husband living with my depression all these years, but one thing I can say for sure is I always take responsibility for my own behavior. Even on days where I’m really bad, if I get snippy I apologize as soon as I recognize what I am doing. I’m not perfect, but I do try to consider his feelings.

You, Dr. Drake, are allowed to have feelings. You’re allowed to get pissed off by his behavior and you’re allowed to have standards for the way you should be treated. During a particularly bad bout of my depression last year, Sr. Olives started venting to a therapist, and it really made a difference for him. He has also learned to reach out to his friends about it. Sometimes I feel a little weird, like, oh, everyone sees me as Dom’s crazy wife, but I’d rather he have someone to go to about this than maintain whatever semblance of a reputation I may have with his friends. And really they’ve never been anything but lovely to me anyhow.

Bottom line, you aren’t responsible for your partner’s mental health, he is. You aren’t obligated to feel terrible when he’s feeling terrible (another thing my husband and I had to work out.) It’s natural to feel that way, but you owe it to yourself to find some kind of center. It really doesn’t help him to try to fix him. It just enables him. Yes sometimes I resent the hell out of my husband when I’m being whiny and ‘‘too depressed’’ to go get a glass of water, but when he tells me to go get it my own damned self, it comes from love, and it’s always what’s best for me in the end. Your spouse may be so dependent on you at this point that he doesn’t even realize what he’s capable of. That’s what happened to me, and I’m much better off now that I am the responsible one.

Thanks for all the support, and the stories of other people with depressed loved ones (current or past). Olives, what you said is exactly what I’m trying to keep telling myself. Thanks.

And I don’t think it’s easier to be the sick one: I can see his suffering, and I can feel mine, and believe me, his is worse, and he has fewer tools to fight it. But it’s not a contest: we both suffer from this illness, though in very different ways. Everybody loses!

Today hasn’t been brilliant, but it’s been better. We’ll be back to equilibrium soon.

Dr. Drake,
Have you decided on an action going forward? Will you take some action vs. wait and see if he improves? I ask because your initial post seems like you’re at your wit’s end but now you’re coping. That maybe normal for someone in your situation but it shouldn’t happen very often (that you have to cycle like that). That’s too much for anyone to deal with without help. If I found myself in your situation I would seek help from a psychotherapist (your doctor would be able to give you a reference) - he/she would have a unique insight about what you’re going through.

Yes, I think so. Basically, in the short term, work on my own coping skills. (I tend to take it personally, and I know I shouldn’t.) In the long term, push for a more regular treatment schedule for the patient. The general trajectory has been upward for quite a while, since the original diagnosis really, but with setbacks. It’s just that each setback is harder to bear.