Posted in Caregiving

On a Serious Note…Caregiving and Depression

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

How many of you were wondering if I was ever going to venture into the land of the “dark night of the soul” as coined by St. John of the Cross.  You know those points in your life when you’re so down, feeling little hope, and don’t know where to turn?  Well I hope you’re not at that point, but I know that many caregivers are dealing with depression and that we have to address.

On a personal note my family is seeing the damage unchecked depression can have on a caregiver.  My mother-in-law took care of my father-in-law following his stroke for 20 years.  We, the family, tried to help her in many ways, but to no avail.  She worked for a while and that kept her somewhat occupied but she still showed the signs of depression.  Once she retired we tried hiring her a respite worker so she could go out a couple of times a week and do something enjoyable…she never left the house.

I understand that older adults are still skeptical of mental health practice, but the ramifications of treatment are too huge to ignore.  Twenty years of depression has resulted in enormous physical pain, lack of medical care and that in turn has led to huge medical problems in the present.  She’s currently in the hospital quite ill because she didn’t say anything when her symptoms started…she was too depressed.  It wasn’t until she was in so much pain that she asked her daughter to take her to the emergency room.

As I talk to my partner, her son, we noted that we never really treated her depression.  She has been prescribed antidepressants by her doctor, but she only takes them if she really feels bad.  antidepressants don’t work like aspirin.  It takes two weeks to reach a therapeutic level in your blood stream.  Taking them every so often is just a waster of a pill.

I wish we’d performed an intervention much earlier on so that we could have addressed her depression, directly related to caregiving much earlier.  She’s a bit stubborn and resistant, but if we would have pushed harder maybe she wouldn’t be in the medical predicament she finds herself.  Maybe it’s easier for some people to get help for a medical condition than a mental health condition.  Perhaps sucking it up all those years as a caregiver just created too much toxicity in her system.

Why am I telling you my story?  Because caregiving is stressful.  It can have devastating physical impact on your body if left untreated.  What should you be doing?  Eating right and exercising.  You should join a caregiver support group or see a therapist or speak with a coach, someone like me who can guide you through the process of making sense of all the madness.  Stay engaged with family and friends because social relationships and fun (yes I said fun) is good for the immune system.

If you have any further questions I hope you’ll send them to me so I can answer them for you and the collective you.  Thanks for letting me share my story.

Posted in art and healing, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, creativity and health, living with chronic illness

The Mind Connecting with the Body

I’ve started reading the works of Thomas Merton, Trappist monk , writer and peace and civil rights activist.  I finished “The Seven Storey Mountain” and now I’m reading “The Intimate Merton”.  Why am I reading these spiritual works?  I’m fascinated at the conversations we’ve been having about the mind and the body.  If you read the works of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross you begin to see themes that have continued to be asked over time. 

I got two pages into the book and read the following quote; “Merton became a monk by writing about becoming a monk”.  I read that and stopped what I was doing, put the book down and began considering the huge implications of that statement.  After I read that phrase I began thinking about the process of “becoming”.  How do we get from point A to point B in our physical, emotional and spiritual lives?  I know that making cause and effect connections creates a calm within and I treasure that feeling.

My next step in the process was to begin the process of generalization.  If Merton felt that he became a monk by writing about becoming a monk, what can you do or become by writing about it.  If you began writing about your fears could you have them dissolve?  If you wrote about health and wellness can you slow down or reverse illness?  If you write about becoming less encumbered can you live a stress free life?  Writing about the particular is one thing.  Staying with the process long enough to see results is where the rubber meets the road.  We live in a world that thrives and demands instant gratification.  Last week I wrote a post about emotional and spiritual dialysis.  I invited a client to engage in this process.  After two days she e-mailed me to say I’m not detoxed yet from the negative feelings.  I was amazed and amused to think that anyone can or would be willing to believe that two written entries will eradicate years of negative energy flowing through their veins.

What would happen if at the top of the page you wrote the same question every day?  Do you have the perseverance and the courage to stick with one question long enough to get to the “real stuff”?  Are you willing to go an inch wide and a mile deep?  Do you have desire to rid yourself of the questions and concerns that keep you bogged down?  If the goal is health and wellness, can you hang out in the question and truly explore what lies beneath?