Help: The Depression Series III

Joy has been caring
for her widowed father
for over twelve years.
He became a paraplegic
when routine spinal surgery
went awry.
Joy and her father always agreed:
he would be cared for at home
until it became physically impossible.
But even with paid nurses and therapists
coming five and six days a week,
many hours a day,
the unrelenting responsibility got to Joy.
Normally an upbeat person,
she became increasingly depressed.
After listening to her story,
I referred her to a psychologist I trust.
That was three years ago.
She caught up with me recently.
Her bubbly spirit had returned.
“That doctor helped me so much,” she said.
“I feel like I’ve got my life back.”

Repeated studies document that family caregivers
are much more likely to be depressed
than the population at large.
When we sense that might be happening to us,
what can we do?
Many possibilities exist,
which we’ll address in coming entries.
But an important first step is this:
we can seek professional advice.
Our family physician is a good start.
She or he can help assess what is going on.
Is this truly a depression
or might it be something else—
a physical ailment, for example?
This person can refer us to a social worker,
a psychologist, or a psychiatrist.
It’s important that we feel comfortable
with whomever we decide to see.
If the chemistry just isn’t right,
we can exercise our human freedom
and try a different professional.
If we’re employed,
an EAP or employee assistance program
might be an appropriate solution.
Our local mental health association can help.
The appearance of depression is not a sign
that we’re weak
or that we’re somehow broken.
It’s a sign that our responsibilities are huge,
and we all have our human limits.
Sometimes our life becomes decidedly off-balance
and we’re missing our former resilience.
When that happens, let us remember
there are people around us
who have been trained to help
and are ready to help.
Just as we give care to another,
they can give their specialized care
to another as well—to us.

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