I'm looking for book and website recommendations for supporting someone with clinical depression. Is there a national support group for spouses and family members?
I could use all the tools I can get my hands on.
Thanks. I'm kind of surprised by the lack of response with depression being so common.
Being this close in a supportive role to it is new to me, andi know that my role is crucial for this person to have success.
I do not know of resources like the ones you are asking about (aside from NAMI), but my parents read Darkness Visible and they found it very helpful to understand what was going on. Also, mental health hospitals (and probably regular hospitals as well) sometimes have support groups for family and friends. You could try calling them.
Whoever it is that you're supporting is very lucky to have you.
I wish I had some recommendations for you; I have found the best resources to be local to where you are. I am not so sure about national support. Search the web for local support groups in your area - women's centers, diagnosis-specific groups (I go to a place that has an Integrated PTSD Treatment Program), things like that.
Best wishes and prayers for you and your family member; depression is a miserable thing, and so many people don't understand it. (If I hear one more person tell me to just "pull my self up by my bootstraps" regarding my PTSD I will strangle them!)
If you must choose between two evils, choose the one that you've never tried before.
Petstorejunkie, I know you aren't soliciting random advice or personal anecdotes, but perhaps what I have to share might be helpful to you.
Challenge scripts and knee-jerk negativity - compassionately. When someone is "in a mood" they may not appear receptive to this at all. None the less, I believe it builds new scripts and reflexes. Sooner or later the more positive and hopeful voice will play in the depressed person's head all on its own. If you've ever had a trainer whose voice you heard even when they weren't around, you know this works. There is literature on how to do this more or less skillfully, but I think it's one of those things that's pretty much always for the better. Definitely do not participate in old, harmful scripts and when you slip up, it's definitely ok to go back and edit ("Hey Loved One, I know yesterday you said this and then I said that. I want to correct what I said to ____"
Novelty is the enemy of depression.
If you can handle it, address the worst case scenario head-on so you can accept it. Meaning, the people in support roles I've seen best take care of their own mental health and stay effective for their loved ones are aware the other person may take their own life and that there is nothing anyone else can do to guarantee that won't happen. Of course there are things you can do that are more helpful or less helpful, but you don't do anyone any favors if you have to tip toe around worrying about "the worst thing." Most depressed people really care about the hurt they cause others and will readily agree to verbal contracts promising to minimize that hurt as best they can. If someone is really plagued by suicidal thoughts, it may not work to ask them to promise not to act, but you can generally get them to agree to do something else first. Any space you can get them to agree to put between themselves and self harm gives them time to cool off. After awhile, they may learn to expect and accept that that all-consuming, overwhelming desperate sadness will cool off. It never, ever feels ok, or even tolerable to be that sad. But speaking for myself, I know it will probably feel less bad in the morning, worse in the evening and the very worst of it really only lasts for hours (although repeating) with the over arching debilitating Major Depression lasting no more than a month probably. If you recognize patterns in your loved one's depression, point them out.
If you watch the news, documentaries on sex trade, or indie dramas around this loved one, consider stopping. The Daily Show is ok.
If not part of your value system already, try reading up on universal love and compassion. If you are Christian read up on grace.There are wonderful meditations which can really help with issues of self-love, forgiveness and acceptance, the latter two being useful to a support person. Dealing with someone who is behaving apathetic and miserable and neglecting responsibilities sucks especially when the thing that's going to help them get going again is reserving judgement and giving validation. Unconditional Love is very important right now and is the enemy of Depression.
Don't be surprised if drugs don't help or don't help for long.
Whatever skills, goals or actions the person has discussed in therapy - try to take interest in those and find little ways to support those. Allow very small progress and short-term thinking. Three days feels like forever when you feel like dying. Maybe clean clothes and brushed hair feels Herculean right now. The best things right now are good sleep, exercise, healthy - but comforting and easy to digest - food, and NO caffeine or alcohol at all. But maybe that's not going to be done all the way and with gusto. You can't make them walk the walk but you can clear the path a bit. I'm certainly not advocating taking someone else's morning coffee away!
Achievable routine builds a sense of purpose and accomplishment and makes making the right choices easy. All of which is bad news for Depression.
I'm a sciencey person, but the current medical model of mood disorders is nothing short of asstastic. Some of this is because science is stupid on purpose and partly it's because of the religious influence of the mind/body dichotomy. And partly it's because of money and insurance. By all means, be supportive of tried and true evidence-based recommendations. But...how do I explain what I mean...You know The Biggest Loser? Notice how what those people go through doesn't look anything like what you would get from a doctor or in therapy? Just chew on that a little. Additionally, there are good providers and crappy ones, and others who may just be a bad fit. It's hard as the patient to be objective, be willing to "fire" a doctor when you don't think you deserve anything anyway, or "start all over" with a new therapist. You could help with perspective and emotional support with those issues.
Check in with a therapist to go over what support or work you might need to do for yourself. Even if it's only two sessions.
There are as many kinds of mood disorder as there are people in a mood and you have to sort through that on your end. But I guess I would offer that profound sadness is positively correlated with loss - whether of power, relationship, utility or whatever. For myself, whatever the original situation was ("situational depression") or predisposition or both, I now have a body that is primed and ready to go to that place often without a clear trigger. But something does trigger it.
While Depression is definitely not a choice it becomes scarred into the body like a lifelong habit. Where your loved one is in the scarring will influence how this turns around for them. And while no one thing will help all the time, many things might. I've become quite willing to do virtually all of those things to get a sense of self-worth and belief that my life is worth living. Ultimately, I made very radical changes in my life and I absolutely needed both physical and emotional support for that to be possible. So eternal gratitude to my own loved ones for that. It has been a big risk and not all the results are in. But over all I have to say completely rearranging my life has been the right thing to do. Just the act of being willing to do something big and risky for yourself, receiving words of support and finding that the leap maybe wasn't so broad or crazy after all is healing. Check your own fears so you can support the leaps.
If you can, find excuses to help your loved one feel competent and useful. "Honey, can you help me open this jar please?" for example. It's the little things.
Happiness is not the opposite of Depression.
OP, I never felt like I got a lot of understanding or support and what I am aware of was really a long time coming. I think you are a superstar for your post. Best wishes.
OP, I don't have any book or website recommendations, but you may want to try calling a few local psychiatric and mental health practices/hospitals. They may be able to link you to local support groups, or provide you with the resources you're seeking. I know there is plenty of material and literature out there, but I can't make any recommendations from personal experience.
Your loved one is very blessed to have such a strong supporter, and especially one that wishes to learn more about the role. If you find yourself in need of more specific support, please feel free to PM me; I may be able to provide some insight or experience.
I don't have any specific advice either but everything you've got so far looks solid. I know who you are IRL and am wishing you all the very. BEST. with this. You are awesome for doing this for whoever it is you love with this. Depression sucks, I've been there myself.
What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!