Yesterday I published a post that resonated with a lot of people. Many of those people offered further thoughts and asked me excellent questions. As a result I have a few more things to say.
First, I want to post some links to resources. I’ve actually added these resource links to the bottom of the prior post, because in hindsight I can see that they needed to be there all along. These provide a starting place for people who are exhausted from struggling alone and would love to have help and support.
NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have a page dedicated to helping people connect with support groups and discussion groups both online and in person.
Google also led me to DBSA the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. They also have a page devoted to helping people connect with the resources that they need.
There is the ASCA, Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. If a history abuse of any kind factors into your loved one’s depression, it is probably best to talk to someone who knows how to thrive after that.
If you want a faith centered approach to healing, you might consider looking at the LDS addiction recovery program. Reading through their 12 steps, most of it applies if you just substitute “depression (or anxiety, or mental illness) for the word addiction. You do not have to be a member of the LDS (mormon) faith to use these services.
I know there are more resources than these, both locally and nationally (or internationally.) No one has to struggle alone because the world is full of people who’ve been there and would like to help.
My further thoughts:
Several people brought up how sometimes depression can manifest as irritability and anger. This was one of the things that surprised Howard and I when he first took medication. Over and over again I would brace myself for an event that I expected to be stressful and then it just wasn’t. It was little things over and over which failed to make Howard cranky: loud children, dishes undone, lost items. We didn’t see until after it was gone the hundred little ways that depression crankiness was adding stress to our lives.
When Howard and I first started naming and discussing the depressive cycles as a problem to be solved, we spent a lot of time wondering “was it always this bad? Or are we just noticing more because we’re paying attention?” I still don’t have an answer to that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that is a common stage in the process.
Thirty days makes a habit. This means if your loved one has been depressed for an extended length of time, you’ve forgotten what it is like to live with them not depressed. You can work to revive that memory, but your family habits have adapted to the depression. I saw this when my sixteen year old son was sick for six weeks. When he finally recovered I spent a lot of time re-realizing how capable he is. I don’t have a solution for this, just an acknowledgement that this is really, really hard. Perhaps some commenters will have suggestions for how to keep the memory of happy things alive.
Depression has many causes and therefore many treatments. Depression that is driven by the PSTD of an abuse survivor is a different animal than a rapidly oscillating manic depression caused by brain chemicals. Sadly, having one type does not exclude another. Treatment is often very complex and takes place over an extended period of time. Don’t expect to treat all of it at once, just start in a corner and focus there. People at the resources listed above can help you figure out where to start.
I found myself musing on some of the bad coping strategies that I used to deploy. Most of them were only semi-conscious. If they’d been fully conscious I would have known they were bad. One was to try to counter act a depressive cycle with a crisis. Sometimes the adrenaline from a crisis would pull Howard right out of a depression. Other times it would just sink both of us into a morass of emotion. So Howard would swing downward and suddenly I would be ready to melt into a puddle of incapacity. Some of that was real, but some of it was my subconscious trying to jump start normality again. Bad strategy. Life is not happy when pinging between depression and crisis. Fortunately I left that strategy behind somewhere in my twenties. I mention it here though, because it is a real thing and may be playing into the life of your loved one.
This afternoon I checked in with Howard to see if he felt weird that my post about his depression had gone a little bit viral. He shrugged and said not really. This is why I can say these things now, when I would have been afraid to say them a year ago. I would have been terrified that my words would send him crashing down into depression and then it would be All. My. Fault. Instead I said some things that I felt were important and needed to be said, even though I knew there was a possibility that it would effect him emotionally. But it didn’t. He’s fine. He even said it was interesting to see the depression from my perspective. So all is well. And we go onward.