Depression Through The Eyes Of The Caregiver

As an outsider, depression is hard to comprehend. You watch as it rips away, at everything your loved one thought they were, everything you know them to be.

Batman retreated into a bat cave in his own mind, a dark, desolate place that no one could find or reach.

As an outsider, depression is hard to comprehend. You watch as it rips away, bit by bit, at everything your loved one thought they were, everything you know them to be. You can not reason with it and you certainly can’t make your loved one see that their mind is lying to them. No matter how much you say, their inner voice says more and louder.

The most distressing thing about depression for me as a caregiver, is that it starts so subtle. No rhyme. No reason. Slowly it creeps in like a shadow and sometimes you don’t even realize it till your loved one is engulfed in darkness. It is extremely devastating to watch a once confident, proud man be reduced to a child, unsure and frightened of everything. Afraid to make even the smallest decision.

But the self loathing is even worse. He hates himself, his life and the impact this disease has on his family. Day and night, he spends in bed, not eating, not bathing, not dressing. Most of the time, he is not sleeping either. He lays in bed, replaying the bad thoughts in his mind till they wash over him and pin him to a cross he can not extricate himself from. It is a battle of the mind that even the bravest of men may not win.

What can I do?

I give support in the only way I can, by being there. Mostly in silence. When I do speak, I acknowledge his feelings. I remind him of his accomplishments including overcoming past depressions. I use small, subtle affirmations so I don’t overwhelm him or over simplify his emotions. I make sure doctor appointments are kept and medication is taken. I make sure I have a plan in place for if and when I believe he may harm himself.

As subtle as it began…

It’s hard to pin down when the shift upwards begins. Medication, therapy and support start to work. Slowly, gradually, good days begin to outnumber the bad. Routines are established. Confidence returns. My husband’s mind is his again.

The worst thing I can do as a caregiver is get too comfortable during stable times and forget. You must be vigilant for signs of depression. Don’t let “fine” and the smiling face fool you. If you suffer from depression or have a loved one that does, never let your guard down. Keep a mood chart, be aware of triggers and keep dialogue open. Always seek professional help. Depression can beaten.


Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a doctor. This post is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be deemed as advice or counsel. Please seek appropriate medical attention from a licensed professional.
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  1. I wish this was way more widely spread knowledge. Sometimes it has been so hard to hold in the frustration or sadness that build up watching his struggle and hearing his nonsensical negativity. My fiancée was such a strong willed, self assured person that as he pushed me and his family away they still couldn’t bring themselves to believe that he was sick and needed us to disagree with him. We’ve been separated for 7 months and all I can do is wait for him to come out and let me know when he is back to himself. He isolated himself so much I don’t even have anyone to ask.
    Thanks for a place to vent.

  2. So true and powerful intro to the world of caregiver to someone living with depression. For some, it’s still a secret. It’s not my story to tell and thus it’s my duty to keep their secret.

    1. I think it is so harmful when things like this are kept a secret. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there is so much help out there if you just speak up. I know that it hard for many tho.

  3. This is such a good description of depression. My husband suffered from severe depression for the last 1-2 years and is just starting to see the light again. I also had severe postpartum depression with all my pregnancies and it is so debilitating. Thanks for posting this! Thank you for reminding me to stay on top of things with his and my mental health.

    1. I am so glad that you have both come through. Yes, stay on top of it. I always find when I get complacent that it just comes on ten times worse, or I don’t do anything about it till it is. Good luck to both of you.

  4. Such an eloquent narrative of the powerlessness so many of us feel in these situations (I had a mother who struggled with depression and refused to take meds). Thanks for shining a light and providing encouragement/affirmation to those on the outside looking in.

  5. I once suffered from severe depression. It runs in my family and sometimes I worry about my boys, but because I know what it’s like to be trapped in that darkness, I hope that my experience with it will allow me to help my boys if it ever happens to them. I love that you say to stay vigilant. I watch my sister go through all the time and my ex husband. It’s hard to watch, even though as a former member of the club, I know what they’re going through. Maybe that’s what makes it harder. I don’t know. Great post! thanks for sharing!

  6. As a longtime resident in the chronic depression zone (thankfully now lifted) the thought of what I was doing to those around me when in a downward spiral haunts me to this day. It’s almost easier to be going through depression than watching someone else. There IS nothing you can do..and that is the most heartrending part. I am so grateful fto members of my family and so sorry for what I dragged them throguh, unwittingly. Carers are the unsung heroes, IMO.

  7. All of this is so true Elena – depression creeps up slowly and you don’t notice what it has become until you are in the depths of it – trying to care for someone in that place is really hard work – beautifully described 🙂

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