Mr. Y came into the therapists’ office last week looking really exhausted, he seems to have lost some weight, have a lot on his mind though saying nothing, he sat with his wife waiting to see the therapist and pooh, he slept off! The office assistant quietly called his wife in to see the therapist and left him for the almost an hour long session and he never flinched from his deep sleep for once! Mrs Y, his wife had been brought in earlier in the week in respect of her year-long depression which multiple negative life had worsened.

If you had been following our previous post, you’d be familiar with the typical depression symptoms. Usually, in every typical health issue, it is not unusual to have the caregiver burnt out. Caregivers Burnout is a form of stress related to caring for an individual with any form of illness, this is often worse in chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, depression is a chronic illness that causes persistent feelings of lack of joy, persistent negativity and an almost impossibility to do things that gives happiness in the past even when they need to! This many times gets to the caregivers and people around the depressed individual so much that they also, might lose themselves in the process of caring for the depressed person. Like in our case study above Mr. Y so much wanted his lovely wife back but over the past months, it just seemed an impossible hard nut to crack. He had consistently been at it until he stumbled on use of psychotherapy in curing depression, which he subscribed to immediately even though he was told it’s not a miracle cure.

However, over the months Mr Y had been striving to be a good husband and father non-stop by preparing meals, doing household chores, running home errands the two do together before, alone. Bathing the kids and even his wife as she complains she’s too tired to do anything, performing medical tasks (giving medications, taking her to clinics, feeding her etc.). Many times he feels if he says no or asks for help it suggests he’s tired of his wife’s illness. Indeed, taking care of a sick loved one can be emotionally rewarding – we might even feel useful and happier than before but it can equally be exhausting and frustrating. Caregiving for a loved one with depression can be so stressful that it burdens and negatively overwhelms to the extent of affecting almost all of life, living and health, with symptoms not only limited to vague aches and pains, fatigue, loss of appetite, feeling miserable and feeling of losing control.

Quick difference between depression and burnout: 1. Depression is a disorder of your mood or state of mind. Burnout is a reaction to exposure to severe stress in your environment, 2. When you’re depressed, you may feel like life has lost its happiness. With burnout, you feel like all of your energy has been used up. When a depressed person wants to get better it is important that significant people in their lives are supportive to help – keep them on track. This implies that to get his wife back in good health Mr Y will have to be back in good health as the primary care giver, to aid quick recovery which requires mini re-orientation for him. We’ll share some of the things that can be done for a caregiver:

1) Understand the illness and its symptoms.

2) Get familiar with the common emotions that you may feel as a partner of a depressed person:

a) Feeling angry and useless in helping the loved one

b) Perceiving the depressed person as ungrateful or too needy

c) Fear or anxiety in expressing your frustrations

d) Feeling your relational needs are unmet; feeling shut out

e) Feeling frustrated by lack of participation in chores; just to mention a few…

3. Be honest with yourself: understand your limit (do your best and leave the rest). Say no when you can’t do some tasks.

4. Ask others for help and get support

5 Have healthy diet and lifestyle – Exercise 

Things to avoid

Not Communicating –Take the time to communicate to your loved one. Reassure them that you understand that depression is a disorder and not a personal failing.

Not supportive -Team up to tackle depression rather than allowing it to drive the relationship apart.

Not Involving them – Involve the person as much as you can in the decision-making process. So rather than saying, “You need to get out of the house and go outside today,” you could say, “I’d like to get outside today, its good for us – what do you think and how long can we stay?.

Avoid accusatory speech –Watch your words and try to use “I-statement” rather than accusatory “You-statements.” There’s a difference between “I value your mental health and want to see you accomplish your goals,” compared to “You never do anything for yourself.”

It is also important to know that maintaining a healthy mind and body is essential for the well-being of both you and your loved one. Your loved one isn’t lazy or uncooperative. When suffering from depression, just thinking about doing the things that may help you to feel better can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action (that is why therapists are important!). Have patience as you encourage your loved one to take the first small steps to recovery.

Finally, always seek and speak with professionals when trying to help your partner. Depression is treatable! There are different treatment options including and not limited to pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Sometimes it’s best to have both combined. Contact Us on 081 2827 6962, +234 2291 4084,

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