God knows I am not an expert on what these loved ones go through and God knows that I have put my loved ones through the ringer and back during my life, but this is what I imagine the worst experiences are. If you have anything else to contribute to this discussion please add it in the comments below.
It’s not just a single person who is affected by depression – it’s an entire community.
Often when seeking advice or help for a depressed person, the caregivers and loved ones are often not considered for any sort of sympathy or treatment, but they are the collateral damage to this disease. They go through their own type of hell – mainly because this person that they’ve loved so much has become someone completely different that they would never recognize in a million years.
This blog series has been very eye opening for me. As soon as the first one was published, I got many emails and messages from many people, some of them friends and family, who had gone through this experience or who were struggling with depression in their lives. Some of them were brave enough to relate to me what they have been through and what they go through on an everyday basis. This blog is my attempt to point out the similarities in all the stories.
This is what I believe the people around the depressed person have to deal with everyday…..
The family member of a depressed person always finds a need within them to assist the person who is depressed. They love them and as is the nature of the beast, humanity requires them to become a caregiver and to try to do everything they can to stop the suffering on the part of their loved one. This is the driving force in their lives and often is the reason that they stay through all the trauma they are put through.
A strong feeling of helplessness overcomes them. How is it that they cannot help this person that they thought they knew so well? What is wrong? What am I doing wrong? What else can I do? This must be one of the hardest things for them to go through – you are supposedly the caretaker and you can’t seem to progress in anyway, no matter how hard and how long you try. Frustration sets in….and a lower sense of self worth results….
The family member will usually go out of their way to try to make the person happy. They try everything they could think of, basing their efforts on the person they knew before, without being sure of what is wrong in the first place. The problem with this is that the depressed person is not the happy person you knew years ago. They are depressed. They don’t even know why. There probably isn’t any reason why – and this is why they can’t figure it out themselves. The family member may go against many of their base beliefs, thinking that if they do it once or twice, then the depressed loved one will feel better…..the problem is that once or twice often becomes an everyday occurence.
They make an massive effort to understand what is going on. They sit for hours on end at the library and at the computer researching depression. They buy books, watch videos, even call psychiatrists or psychologists themselves to see if there is any more that they can do. They make it their mission to solve this problem. If they can learn about it, maybe they can figure it out and help cure it. Maybe then they’ll get their loved one back sooner.
And although they know that they need support themselves, they hesitate and never tell the entire story to anyone. They don’t want the depressed person to come across as evil, cruel or dangerous. They believe that if they don’t tell the whole story, the reputation of their loved one will be preserved after all of this ‘drama’ is over. They also want to protect others around them from the depressed person’s rage. They act as a double sided protective shield as such and internalize most of the burden in fear of upsetting others that care about them, becoming the beating board from both sides…
They often take frequent mental and sometimes physical abuse from the depressed person. They sometimes even convince themselves that this is all their fault. Emotional abuse does take its toll after time, and the family member often starts to look down on themselves, partially believing all the insults they have been given. They even give in, doing everything in their power to “get it right”, in the slight chance that it will stop the tirade of hatred being directed at them.
They start to despise the depressed person and themselves. This is natural – they feel as if the depression is not just pulling their loved one down, but pulling them down as well. They start to hate themselves for changing in an attempt to make the situation better. They start to hate what they’ve become and find themselves unrecognizable. They become broken and often depressed themselves (NB there’s a difference between depression and clinical depression).
Depression is like a fog and envelopes an entire family. The harder the loved ones try to help, the more they are affected, it’s a cruel, unfair cycle. The problem is that people may recognize clinical depression, but they tend not to recognize the depression that sets into the caregiver as a result. This is something that we really should make an effort to change….
I urge you, that if you know someone is depressed, check in with their caregiver once in a while – even if they don’t tell you what is wrong, your solidarity with them in the fight against depression will help them get through one more day….
If you haven’t checked it out yet, please see Part 1 which tells you about my worst night when I was depressed and Part 2 about the Escapism that a depressed person employs.Also, please check out Part 4 of this series which gives advice to family members of a depressed person as to how to manage during this difficult time.