Hello Everybody! I am so glad you are here with me today. I am the Proactive Caregiver and I specialize in educating others on how to be proactive, by empowering You - the caregiver. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you can't take care of your loved one.
Caregiving is already an emotional challenge for all sorts of reasons but with the added crisis around the world our fear, anxiety, and depression is affecting us more than ever before. The number of caregivers has risen by 10% in the US alone spanning across ages from 25 to 65 and up, from 42 million in 2015 to 53 million as of 2020 prior to COVID. You can imagine the need for resources to do more than survive is on the rise as well.
It is kind of hard for me to talk about Dementia without talking about depression, especially after sharing the information in our first two episodes this year, what it is, and the stages. Even though Mom was used to living a melancholy life, I was not, so this kicked my caregiving journey into high gear. This is why I have asked Hannah Platt to join me today. Before I get into the details please keep in mind this is strictly based on my personal experience caring for Mom who lives with mixed Dementia and not at all intended to be medical advice or replacement for seeking your own care or care for your loved one.
Hannah Platt owns a private practice in Round Rock, Texas, and specializes in working with adolescents and adults on a range of issues spanning from mood disorders to healing from trauma. She is a Certified Dialectical Behavior Therapist. She is also certified in Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing which is a leading trauma treatment. Hannah has worked in the mental health field for over 15 years.
She has helped thousands of individuals move through difficult and often overwhelming times in their lives until they are able to see hope and renegotiate their purpose. Her passion comes from navigating multiple crippling episodes of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder throughout middle school and high school. As a result, she wanted to understand more about mental health.
Mental health is not easy to break down in the areas between Dementia and depression because we each have unique circumstances to consider. When I began my caregiving journey I was fearful that I would someday be walking in Mom's shoes. I know aging is inevitable just as much as knowing what I can do as part of self-care to change my process of aging. What I do not know is how I can get emotionally stuck now as a caregiver when before in the corporate world I did not seem to have these moments of being stuck. What I later learned through my own therapy is I was compartmentalizing moments, people, tasks, life, in general, to just get by. Basically, I was not feeling my way through and not accepting uncomfortable situations so I could keep functioning day by day for my family, job, and others.
My occasional moody blues could have been explained on a monthly hormonal cycle. When it became an all-the-time sadness that I could not shake then I began to feel like something was wrong with me. I was broken. I went from feeling strong and capable to handle anything without shedding a single tear to crying as often as I could in private. The excessive crying caused me to experience myopic migraines which were painful and scary when my vision blurred temporarily. I hid behind a smile in public telling others I was fine when asked how I was doing. It was easier that way. Especially, when I felt as if I took a deep breath in front of them to answer that simple yet loaded question, then I would crumble into sobs right in front of them. Our bodies are amazing but can only withstand so much before we break mentally and emotionally.
Eventually, I started having trouble sleeping and focusing on anything important to get work done. I had to sleep with a weighted blanket to feel comforted, being hugged and protected all night. The only thing I could focus on was binging mindless episodes of drama or romance to feel like I was in someone else's life because my own was too overwhelming to face. On good caregiving days, I was baffled when instead of feeling relief for a nice change I still felt sadness and hopelessness deep within my core. That is when I decided to seek therapy because allowing the sadness to linger took my mind down a dark rabbit hole.
During my therapy I learned, I was suffering from situational depression. My unresolved childhood was resurfacing as I cared for Mom. Caring recreated situations to relive a past in present moments, juggling far more than I had as a child. Thankfully, through different forms of therapy, I was able to understand my past and why it was overwhelming my present. I had to become very intentional with treatment through daily regimens. An approach Mom was reluctant to adopt during her prime years. I wanted the sadness to go away as much as I wanted to walk in my own shoes, not hers. Finding a way through my situational depression gave me hope which helped me find joy and harmony with all of my relationships including becoming my own best friend.
If you are feeling any of the following then I want to encourage you to seek your own therapy:
Lack of enjoyment in normal activities
Constant worrying or feeling anxious or stressed out
Sleeping difficulties (could not sleep without a 20lb weighted blanket)
Disinterest in food
Trouble carrying out daily activities
Avoiding social situations and interactions
Not taking care of important matters like paying out your bills or going to work
Thoughts or attempts at suicide
You are at a higher risk of experiencing situational depression if you have:
Gone through considerable stress during childhood.
Existing mental health problems
Several difficult life circumstances occurring at the same time
"Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." -Carl Jung
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