After Peter’s husband Ray lost his job, he started developing serious symptoms of depression. For over two months, Ray barely left the house, let alone his bed. He felt lost and scared about the future – even small issues became too much to bear. He forgot about his birthday altogether and even broke down crying when Peter told him that he had invited a few close friends over to celebrate.
Peter knew the signs of depression all too well. His mother managed severe mental health issues when Peter was a child. Growing up in a house with a loved one with serious depression made him acutely aware of the forms that depression could take.
What Peter had witnessed from his mother was that depression symptoms have a unique way of draining one’s energy and ability to take necessary steps towards feeling better – both for the person with depression and anyone who might act as a caregiver. He also knew that the best way to work towards stability was by taking things one small step at a time, and with a lot of support. Isolation would only make things worse. Peter was determined to use all of the resources at their disposal to help Ray through this tough time without burning himself out with caregiver duties. Even when it was difficult for him, he would keep communication lines open with Ray. For the sake of their relationship, and Peter’s own mental health, they tried to talk openly and honestly about what Peter could do to help. After several of these conversations, Ray admitted that he often felt better after doing some kind of social activity. He asked Peter to help push him to take action.
Together they came up with ways that Peter could encourage Ray to stay active.
- Peter asked Ray to stay in close contact with his family doctor and to update her about his symptoms. As much as Peter was able to help Ray day-to-day, he knew he wasn’t able to take the place of a doctor and real medical advice.
- Peter encouraged Ray to set up lunch dates with close friends, which got Ray out of the house and connected him with the world outside. While he often resisted beforehand, afterwards he was happy that he had chosen to spend time in a different setting, with people he cared about.
- Peter and Ray watched movies that they loved, played games, got the right amount of sleep, and focused on being active. While exercise was the last thing that he wanted to do, occasionally Ray could be encouraged to take a walk around the block with Peter. Eventually, the walks became more frequent and turned into short jogs. Physical activity, plus a much-needed dose of vitamin D, consistently left him feeling more motivated and energized than before.
- Peter prepared as many fresh, nutritious foods as possible. He replaced snacks in the house with healthier options, such as switching out potato chips for lightly salted popcorn and would often set out plates of fruit and veggies for the two of them. While it was easy to binge on unhealthy treats and difficult to muster the energy to cook, Peter knew that this change in food would help them both feel more energetic.
- Peter helped find Ray support to challenge negative thought patterns and break the habit of catastrophizing. After a few weeks of helping Ray take small steps toward building up his energy, he agreed to try out counselling. Through research, he had discovered betterhelp.com. It was easy to make a profile and find a therapist that would suit his needs. He also liked that it gave him the ability to start off by chatting online and through text – which was far less daunting to him than meeting face-to-face.
While it took many months, Ray was able to find ways of coping with his depression and work towards finding a new job and increasing his self-esteem – all with Peter’s help and support. He knew that this help took a toll on Peter, and he did not take it for granted. Every case is unique, and if you or a loved one is suffering, we encourage you to find help in the ways that will work best for you.
It is important for your health and for any potential long term disability claim that you keep your family doctor informed about how you are feeling.
*All client names and identifying details have been changed to protect the confidentiality of all involved.
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