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.