Dealing with your own emotions

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The stress of caring for a depressed person is significant. Family and friends often develop depression themselves and suffer from anxiety or a host of other problems. Be sure to expand your social network through support groups and other caring communities. Try to find other people to help you care for your loved one, so you don't shoulder the responsibility by yourself.

Remember:

  • It's not your fault. You did not cause your family member to be depressed. It is not due to anything you said or did. Depression is a medical condition that needs to be treated, just like heart disease or diabetes.
  • You are not alone. Depression is an extremely common condition, and many families are caring for someone with depression. You can meet them through depression support groups.
  • Your reactions are normal. Most caregivers experience a range of feelings, from compassion and understanding to frustration, anger, and hatred. These feelings are to be expected because it is extremely difficult not to take a depressed person's behavior personally. Symptoms such as withdrawal and irritability adversely affect you and create conflict in your relationship.
  • Your emotions will change. Family caregivers commonly go through various emotional stages as they find out their loved one has depression and then move to managing the condition over the long term. Initial reactions are relief, shock, or even denial. Often families say they thought a magic cure would exist for the condition, and it would go away. As time goes on, you may feel angry or resentful that your life is different from other families' lives. You may grieve for the person you once knew and feel you have lost them. As you find effective treatment for your depressed friend or family member, you will feel relieved and lucky that your loved one is doing better. You may also be ready to reach out and volunteer or advocate for depression awareness.
  • Take time to care for yourself. Set healthy boundaries and limitations on how much you will do. Take a vacation from caregiving from time to time. Be sure to schedule time for yourself to do activities that you enjoy. Do not be afraid to seek counseling for yourself, to process and deal with your own emotions.
  • Find social support. Dealing with depression can be very lonely and isolating. You've watched the healthy person you once knew deteriorate and suffer. Your friends don't understand, and it is difficult for you to go out. Make sure you find sources of social support through support groups and your community.
  • Have hope. Remember that in most cases, depression is highly treatable (80% of patients improve with treatment). Depression is cyclical, so it will be worse at times, then become easier. Sometimes caregiving will be overwhelming, but it is manageable. Finding the right treatment takes time but does happen eventually.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 800-273-TALK or 911 immediately. For crisis support via text message, text LISTEN to 741741.