One of the toughest issues to talk about is how do you deal with your own depression. We don’t tend to recognize the symptoms within ourselves, at times; we refuse to accept the diagnosis when someone else recognizes it. It is so difficult to accept that we need help ourselves, especially when we are caregivers. Because of our fear of being judged as anything less than what we are and should be comes in the way of being able to discuss depression. And yet, nine out of ten caregivers experience mild to severe depression during the course of their taking care of loved ones. The constant emotional and physical demands placed on them often cause feelings of guilt, anxiety, physical and mental exhaustion, distress, isolation and agitation.
What are some of the symptoms of depression that caregivers may experience? Do you feel drained and exhausted, tearful, irritable?
- Caregivers who look after a loved one with dementia find themselves spending more hours per week dealing with dementia-related behaviour that can be very challenging. They also suffer from emotional and physical stress caused by dealing with lack of sleep, work, lack of personal time and space, family conflict, etc. The more severe the dementia, the more likely one may experience depression.
- Women experience depression more often than men: This is because women are generally the primary caregivers and at times, physical factors like menopause, childbirth, thyroid, and vitamin deficiencies can cause depression.
- Men caregivers deal with issues of depression through overwork or are willing to hire outside help.
- Lack of sleep due to caring for a loved one is a major contributor to depression.
- Even if you decide to move your loved one to an assisted care facility, you may still be plagued by guilt or the stress of monitoring the care in the new place.
- After a loved one passes away, the feelings of depression persist sometimes due to loneliness or guilt.
How do you deal with your own depression – Strategies for treatment
Over a period of time, you may recognize some of your symptoms as depression and decide to seek help. There may also be times when your family notices the symptoms and advises you to seek help. Remember, depression is like any other illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about specific symptoms and how you actually feel. Be honest.
- Meet a mental health professional – a psychologist or a licensed therapist. Get a physical evaluation done with your physician since certain viral infections or medications can also cause similar symptoms. It is important that you meet your physician and psychologist so that you have help for physical and emotional issues. The therapist will evaluate your symptoms for depression and help you in developing ways in coping with stress. Psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication as well as guidance from the counselor on how to deal with the symptoms can go a long way in helping you deal with the challenges of depression. Be careful to watch out for side-effects and keep your doctor informed.
- Remember to get your quota of sleep – taking care of a loved one will cause you to sleep irregularly contributing to depression. Arrange for a family member or hire a caregiver to give you some much-needed respite.
- Physical exercise – walking three to four times a week for 30 to 45 minutes can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Ask a family member to keep track or a friend to join you.
- Mind-body techniques – Yoga, meditation, prayer, deep massage, listening to music or art.
- Simply going out with your friends for lunch are other ways in which you can alleviate the feeling of the blues.
Remember – you have to learn to help yourself first.
- Start small – set a small goal, make it a priority
- Trust in your family member and confide your feelings. Don’t keep them locked away. Let your family in. Ask for help. You don’t have to everything by yourself.
- Go out often. Take turns within your family to make time to meet your friends, or a movie or any other activity that you enjoy. Don’t let feelings of guilt stop you from participating in an activity that gives you satisfaction.
It takes time for your negative feelings to change. A positive attitude, assistance form your therapist about new ways of coping with challenges. Also, your trust in your family and friends will help you come out of your depression. Eventually, you will start feeling healthy both physically and emotionally.