When Depression Comes Knocking

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Depression is not an unknown emotion. With changing lifestyles, where competition never ends and the race to survive is paramount, few are able to sustain the pressure while the rest succumb to the emotion. There is a lot of literature available on depression but little on how to live with a one that is depressed. Shweta Bhatia talks to a few about how they supported their loved one

Murtaza Ali and Shabana Ali have been married for over 25 years. Shabana went through menopause at the age of 44. She burst into tears erratically and withdrew herself from everything. All she wanted to do was sleep. Murtaza knew that this was not his wife and consulted a psychiatrist. The hormonal change had caused
a chemical imbalance, which caused her brain to emote differently and remain low. She was prescribed mooduplifting medication. After about six months, she became better but not in the best way. Shabana became hyper. Her energy levels were never ending and she was overworking herself without feeling tired. The usually timid Shabana was overenthusiastic about everything and would not stop talking. “She could start a conversation with strangers on the road. I was glad that she wasn’t sad anymore but her hyperactive behaviour was definitely not normal,” Murtaza says, “It was hard for me to take her to see the psychiatrist again but eventually I convinced her and, with one look at her changed behaviour, the doctor knew exactly what was wrong. Shabana was diagnosed with bi-polar depression. He explained that people who go through it have sever mood swings. They go from dark sadness for a period of time to being hyper for the next period. When she’s in her low phase, she is inconsolable and suicidal and when she’s hyper it’s hard to control her energy. Shabana has been on medication since then but has never been the same. It’s been like this for 12 years now. The hardest thing about living with someone going through depression is that you feel that you are depressed too. There is a large emotional distance between my wife and I. I hardly talk to her about my work problems and manage the children on my own. I’m constantly scared that sharing any concerns will push her deep into the low phase again. What she is going through is not easy but has definitely changed my life. Being the man of the house, I would love to fix this but depression is something you can’t fight and that fact is very frustrating and makes me feel helpless.”

Ten years ago, when Layla Majid’s father fell into depression, she never imagined that her life would change. As the oldest child, Layla, 36, has spent the last decade trying to be the supporting daughter and be the ‘man of the house’ for her parents and four siblings. It began when Layla’s father, Mohammed Majid, faced a huge loss in their business. Overnight, they lost their house and factories and were bankrupt. For Mohammed, this caused a huge emotional impact on him. He stopped talking and became a recluse. He refused to get out of bed for days, lost his appetite and went into a zone where he only spoke about wanting to die. The doctors diagnosed him with ‘Major Depressive Disorder’. Therapy and anti-depressants didn’t work. “He had lost the will to get better and it seemed to us that he was falling into a bottomless pit,” Layla shares, “The medication didn’t affect him at all. In fact, he became worse and while that was happening, our lives were affected too. I had to quit college and get a job to support the family and pay for the medical bills. My other siblings were too young to help me out at the time. On top of that, to be emotionally there for every member of the family got quite draining. I had to keep all my problems and hurdles aside and be there for everyone. Constantly counseling my dad and being the decision maker broke me down. There were many days when I felt as if my life had now become only about keeping everyone’s spirits up. Even now, after electroconvulsive therapy, my dad’s condition hasn’t improved much. My siblings have now grown up and do help out with the family finances but life is not the same. Being in charge of everyone’s emotional needs is something I know I’ll have to bear the burden of for a long time.”

But is it all that dismal? Psychotherapist, William Berry, states that many that live with a depressed person struggle with whether they are being supportive or are enabling. Some believe ‘tough love’ is what is needed. Being supportive and loving may appear to allow the depressed individual to remain stagnant. As hopeless as living with a depressed person may seem, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), this can be dealt with in the form of meditation and exercise. Self-care too is a very important factor. The APA states that one must do things they enjoy doing whether your loved one will do it with you or not. Although the process of seeing your loved one in depression is extremely hard, one must not allow it to darken their universe.

As adapted from The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, here are some tips on how to communicate:

WHAT YOU CAN SAY THAT HELPS:
• You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
• You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
• I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
• When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute— whatever you can manage.
• You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
• Tell me what I can do now to help you.

AVOID SAYING:
• It’s all in your head.
• We all go through times like this.
• Look on the bright side.
• You have so much to live for why do you want to die?
• I can’t do anything about your situation.
• Just snap out of it.
• What’s wrong with you?
• Shouldn’t you be better by now?

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