Mental Illness and the Caregiver Double Standard
Two weeks ago, I went back on antidepressants. I say "back" because I took them during a protracted period of depression several years ago, but weaned myself off of them after about six months because I didn’t think they were doing much for me. But two weeks ago, after weeks of urging by my husband and a close friend, I went back to my psychiatrist and he felt I should try an antidepressant. I am beginning to feel better, I must admit, and if I’m being honest with myself, I white-knuckled it through the winter and early spring, knowing I was in depression, and refusing to do anything about it other than hide and eat (food is my self-medication of choice). But I felt defeated, walking into the doctor’s office, as if I was a failure. So after putting on 25 pounds and crying every day for a month, I gave in and got myself some help.
The Caregiver Double Standard
It’s a twisted type of irony that caregivers of persons with mental illness often have a double-standard when it comes to their own mental well-being. We encourage our loved ones to take their medication and attend therapy, but to suggest that we could benefit from the same is rejected as ludicrous. We must be strong. If we need help, we have failed ourselves and our family. For me, I feel that if I admit I have this “weakness,” I will be seen as less than, at work and at home. It’s not rational, and I wouldn’t let my friends or extended family languish in denial. So why do I do it to myself? Caregivers have an elevated risk of depression and anxiety, no matter what type of disability the person they care for has.
An Unhealthy Caregiver Is an Ineffective Caregiver
We caregivers need to constantly remind ourselves that our loved ones are only as stable and healthy as we are. If we are stressed out, anxious, or depressed, that will have an impact on the ones we care for. Some medical professionals have begun labeling this as “caregiver stress syndrome,” the stress of which can cause weight loss or gain, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, and depression. I know that suggesting we go out to dinner, spend time with friends, or take a yoga class sounds easier said than done. Like 61% of caregivers, I have a full-time job outside the home and time is a luxury. But I know that when I am stressed and depressed, Tim responds in kind, of course. The mood of our home and of the rest of the family impacts his mood and stability. I need to let myself off the hook and remember this. I deserve mental and emotional stability as much as my son does. Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s good parenting.
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Hickey, C. (2014, May 29). Mental Illness and the Caregiver Double Standard, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2014/05/mental-illness-and-the-caregiver-double-standard
Author: Chrisa Hickey
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As a fellow caregiver, I have to remind myself that I am in a marathon, not a sprint. Marathon mentality helps me, but also discourages me, as this is exhausting work. You are so wise to do self-care first and foremost. It is very hard to apply, for so many reasons. Thank you for the reminder, and the personal story.
So true. I denied my own PTSD to deal with my children's PTSD (domestic violence). During that time of denying my illness and being everyone's rock I slowly swirled the drain. Finally I found myself under water and unable to come up for air. I'm now on short-term disability, unable to cope with day-to-day life. My kids, so used to having me be the strong one, are falling apart. Had I put the same effort into my own care at the same time perhaps we could've healed as a family rather than starting from scratch now.
I have been dignosed bipolar since 1994. I have been in & out of hospitals 2 state phacilities Through the years I have been through hell trying to get the proper Doctor to treat me. I have been depressed all winter weight gain the works. My significant other of 20 yrs can't make love to me wantt even hold me! What do i do?I'm taking myy medicine
Chrisa -- You speak for multitudes of parents! We need a push to take care of ourselves, because everyone else comes first. Thanks for a very important message! Jean