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When a Loved One Has Depression

8 tips to help you cope.

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The suicide of beloved comic actor Robin Williams has again brought the topic of depression to the forefront. I cannot imagine what it feels like to have the weight of such unendurable despair that is so intense you cannot bear even staying in this world. But I know all too well what it is like to live with family members who have depression. One of my parents, a sibling, my husband, and one of my children have also suffered from this black cloud, in varying degrees, and for varying lengths of time. I have spent much of my life living with people I love with all my heart who often have trouble feeling happy or optimistic. This is in itself is very, very painful.

Depression runs in families, and seems to be especially common among Ashkenazi Jews. Maybe our difficult history somehow let it seep into our psychological DNA. Depressive episodes don’t necessarily have causes. While traumatic events can trigger depression, in many cases it is part of a person’s psychological make-up, and I was at first baffled when years ago, my daughter, who had everything going for her, including friends and success in school, suddenly descended into a black cloud, seemingly “for no reason.”

Too often I have seen “that look” on a loved one’s face: the grimly set mouth, eyes slightly hooded, shoulders slumped, the entire demeanor broadcasting the message to stay away, that she cannot cope now. I had to learn that my daughter’s or sister’s or father’s or husband’s depression was not my fault, that I didn’t do anything wrong as a child, sibling, spouse or parent to “cause” it. I have also had to learn coping skills to deal with it. Here are some of the most important lessons I have learned about living with someone who has depression.

1. Offer your love and support emphatically and consistently, especially when your loved ones are in their least lovable states. A depressed person has trouble believing in herself, no matter how much she has going for her. Hearing someone say, “I love you” and “I believe in you,” and knowing that they mean it emphatically, is hugely important. Your expressions of love will register, even if they cannot be returned at that time.

2. Get help to deal with your own stress. You need to still try to live your life to its fullest, and you have to balance all your other obligations in addition to being a caretaker of sorts for a depressed person. Confide in wise and close friends. Support groups or short-term therapy could be a good idea.

3. You cannot “convince” someone not to be depressed. Nor can you “cheerlead” her out of an episode. Accept the reality that these episodes will repeat from time to time, but that they will pass. Offer that same reassurance to your beloved family member that you know it will pass, like a wave.

4. It is not okay for someone with serious depression to refuse treatment or stay in denial. If that is the case, she has no right to expect ongoing unconditional support. The behavior and moods of a person with depression affect everyone around them, and it is their responsibility to acknowledge the problem and agree to a plan of action. It is helpful to reassure the person that there is nothing to feel guilty about if they need to take medications to stabilize moods. Just like a diabetic needs insulin, someone with significant depression will need medication on a short-term or perhaps long-term basis, as well as therapy. I have been fortunate that most of the relatives I have dealt with have recognized the need to be proactive and been willing to get help.

5. Take care of yourself and do not let the wave of depression engulf you. Just like when you are in an airplane and advised that if traveling with children, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before putting it on your child, you need to do things that lift you up, provide you with satisfaction and joy. In fact, it is extremely important for your loved one to see that you are making self-care a priority, especially in cases where a relative, consciously or not, uses their depression as a tool to exert power over you.

6. People predisposed to depression are predisposed to it in their own individual ways. When life’s accumulated stressors or traumas line up in a certain way, the result can be anxiety, depression or even schizophrenia. Our genetic make-up is God-given, and because our make-up is so unique, it is not easy to find the right therapeutic modality right off the bat. For some people, a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy works well; for others, dialectical-based therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, or mindfulness based stress reduction work better. This is only a short list of treatments that can help. Start with a good therapist who will be willing to offer referrals to other practitioners if he or she cannot help get results.

7. Take it one day at a time. Don’t allow worrying thoughts to pile on, imagining “what if” scenarios that have bad endings. A friend of mine gave me a little laminated card with this bit of wisdom: “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strengths.” Stay strong by pushing long-term worries away.

8. Pray. This is an opportunity to grow closer to God and to ask Him to help you. I have told God very directly, “I cannot do this without You. I need Your help.” And I have found comfort and solutions in this. One year ago, right before Rosh Hashanah, I began to pray like I never prayed before for my daughter to heal from persistent depression. And for the first time, I replied to an advertisement from an organization in Jerusalem to have someone pray for my child at the Kotel for 40 days. While I believe in prayer, I had considered these annual pray-for-something-or-someone at the Kotel pitches to mostly be about fundraising. But last year, when things looked very dark, I figured I had nothing to lose and possibly much to gain. I wrote to the organization about my very wonderful child and all her talents and potential. I sent a picture of her. I also had everyone else in our immediate family also say the special prayer that was being said for her during those 40 days. At first things got worse, but after two weeks we had a wonderful breakthrough, finding a new and different treatment that has worked better than anything else has over the course of many years. I believe that heartfelt prayer does work, and that the Almighty is the ultimate Healer.

Depression is an illness that can be pernicious and debilitating, and it takes a toll on those near and dear. But there is always hope for a better tomorrow, and with effort, teamwork, faith and patience, you and your loved one will survive those occasional black clouds and see the sun shining through again.

 

by Pearl Goldman.

http://www.aish.com/

 

Dealing with Depression

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There is a world of difference between clinical depression and having a bad day.

When I was a young rabbi and I first encountered someone with depression, I vividly remember thinking to myself, why can’t he just snap out of it? What does he mean when he says he sleeps most of the day and can’t concentrate on anything? We are all tired and dealing with stress. Just resolve to get out of bed and get going. I remember not being able to understand why he was so depressed. After all, by all measures, his life was pretty good. If he were to just focus on the blessings and simply choose to be positive, he wouldn’t be depressed at all.

Looking back, I am incredibly grateful that I didn’t articulate any of these sentiments to him, but nevertheless, I feel ashamed and even guilty for having being so ignorant and insensitive to what depression is all about.

We perpetrate a terrible disservice by using the exact same word to describe how we feel when our favorite team gets knocked out of the playoffs or when our cell phone breaks, and a chemical, clinical illness that can be debilitating and incapacitating. Clinical depression is not about feeling blue, or down in the dumps or terribly sad. It is a serious illness that can be the result of a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Depression is no more the fault of the person suffering with it than cancer or Alzheimer’s are the fault of someone suffering with one of those conditions. Just as the patient with cancer cannot simply will his or her cancer away and the individual with Alzheimer’s cannot simply determine to stop forgetting, the person with depression cannot just decide to not feel anxious, worthless, or exhausted. It is terribly unfortunate and unacceptable that depression remains stigmatized even today. Having a physical illness can be awkward, but should not be a source of embarrassment or guilt. Similarly, having depression, equally out of one’s control, should not be a source of shame or inadequacy.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of depression like decreased appetite, inability to sleep or excessive sleeping, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, or thoughts of death, I urge you to seek support. If you recently had a baby and despite the newfound blessing you just can’t get yourself out of your rut, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. You are not the first person to experience this, and you have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a local Rabbi or Rebbetzin who will guide you to the resources and people that can help you without judgment.

Like any illness, depression requires diagnosis, intervention, and treatment. Like all illnesses it also requires the love, patience, understanding, and support of family and friends. However, for the most part, while people extend themselves remarkably to cook meals, shop for groceries, babysit children, or even just send a thoughtful text to check in on someone recovering from cancer or another physical condition, the person with depression or another mental health diseases often feels isolated, alone, neglected, and ignored.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a perfect time to educate ourselves. As we resolve to be more sensitive, please consider the following:

  • Don’t use the term “depressed” unless it is clinically appropriate. Find another way to say you are sad, bummed out, disappointed or feeling blue. Saying you are depressed over a relatively minor issue minimizes the suffering of someone struggling with true depression.
  • When someone you know is acting differently or unusual, don’t judge them or jump to assumptions about them. Ethics of the Fathers (2:4) quotes Hillel who said: “Do not judge another until you have stood in his place.” Since it is impossible to stand in another person’s place, to be them, to have their baggage or to live their struggles, we can never judge another. Instead, we should be kind, sensitive, supportive and understanding of everyone around us.
  • Never assume you know everything going on in someone’s life or what motivates his or her behavior. Ian Maclaren, the 19th-century Scottish author once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”  Cut others slack; give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • When you know a friend or family member has depression or other mental illness such as bi-polar, anxiety disorder, etc., be as supportive as you would be with someone suffering with a physical illness or disability. Offer help and assistance, check in, and let them know you are just thinking of them. Unlike acute illnesses, most of the time, depression is chronic. Once diagnosed, it can be controlled, lessened, or perhaps, even go into “remission.” But it is never cured. Support will be needed in some form always.
  • When reaching out to someone with depression, never judge, criticize or make comparisons. Don’t offer advice or minimize the person’s suffering. Simply listen, be present, and be a friend.
  • When someone has depression it places a tremendous burden on other members of the family who often need to take over chores, responsibilities and even produce greater income. Go out of your way to be inclusive of them, to check in on them and seek to unburden them.

 

This article originally appeared on aish.com by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

 

Recovering from PPD- It’s a process!

Most women who reach out to us are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

The pain, sadness and almost constant anxiety is more than they can bear, and they are desperate for a quick and fast solution. It’s important to realize that the recovery process is like a JOURNEY. A number of steps leading up to an amazing goal-

BUT one needs patience and time to get there.

 

The process of recognizing, getting treatment and recovering can take weeks and sometime months.

“WE KNOW THAT CAN BE FRUSTRATING”

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand- we wish there was.

Healing can’t be rushed- it takes baby steps and time. It might take effort, hard work and lots of acceptance.

But you’ll get through it- and G-d willing reach a complete recovery- WE PROMISE!!!

You will be able to experience the joy of motherhood- without the fears, loneliness or insecurities! Your confidence and love of yourself will return.

You’ll be stronger and wiser, and will trust yourself more than ever!

IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER:

  • Don’t compare your recovery to others.
  • Don’t expect that you should before your time.
  • Don’t give up!
  • You will get there!

 

these times are hard but they will pass2