Tomorrow, Amy and I head out to Hallmark Cards here in Kansas City to give a presentation on Living with a Depressed Loved One as part of their Lunch and Learn series. Last week we had a University of Missouri Communiversity course which was open to the whole community on the same subject. Two thoughts have come to the forefront for me with these presentations.
The first is the universality of feelings. Invariably Amy and I talk about different events in a caregiver’s life and we look out onto a sea of heads nodding in agreement. We hear stories of these people, stories that always end it with, “it was so good to hear that someone else goes through that same thing.” We get that response because we are able to talk candidly about some of the things that happen – how depression usurps special occasions, how intercourse can disappear completely for a couple during this time, how difficult it is to live with someone who you don’t know any longer, how all the little idiosyncrasies of depression can drive a caregiver up the proverbial wall.
The second thought is about the continuing stigma of mental illness. It is true that sometimes a person doesn’t come to a class that might be of help to them because the time nor energy is there to attend, but often it is because they don’t want others to know that they have someone in their family who is depressed. Sometimes getting people to something that will help them, ease them into a healthier way of dealing with the situation, is like pulling teeth. I find myself asking “what can the wider community do to be of more help, especially in letting go of the stigma attached to mental illness?”
There is no easy answer to that question but I know Amy and I will continue to do presentations for those who live with depressed individuals. We will continue to talk about the things peculiar to living with a depressed loved one. And each time we go before a group, we will continue to fight that stigma as we once again tell our stories, hear the stories of others and realize that we caregivers are the greatest support we have and we are the strongest group that can fight and destroy that stigma.