Supporting a family member with depression
Exhausting, frustrating, heartbreaking, worrying, emotional; just some of the words that might be used when describing being in the situation of supporting a family member with severe depression. As hard as it is for the person going through the depression, the impact on family members who are trying to be supportive can be immense.
If it is a son or daughter, then the parent or parents desire to try and help, to 'fix things', to improve things, to support, can be overwhelming, and very difficult; trying to judge when, and how to step in, and when to give someone some space. There can be periods when you may be almost constantly expected to respond to everything that is being said, yet find that there are no right answers, in fact quite the opposite. A very challenging situation.
Trying to judge when your input is required, and when it's not. Knowing when to encourage going out, and when to leave things be.
Seeing the progress, when there is any, of two steps forward, and one step back. Being pleased that they have felt up to having a shower, and sad when they have felt unable to get out of bed all day. Relief when they agree to go to counselling, and concern when they stop attending sessions. It's a constant rollercoaster of emotions.
For siblings it can be equally hard, but in a different way. Accepting the amount of support their brother or sister needs, a situation that can leave them feeling that their needs must be put to one side, that perhaps their issues or whatever they have going on, is not as important. Siblings can feel isolated; not wanting to burden either their brother/sister, or their parents with any more concerns.
Sometimes it can seem selfish or even ridiculous, for these family members to consider going to counselling, when they are not the one struggling with mental health problems. When actually it is essential that the supporters are supported. That they take time out for their own needs to be met, for their own self care. That they have someone that they can talk to, openly and honestly, about the challenges and emotions that they are dealing with, and know that it is ok to do this. In this way, there is improved well-being for those family members, which in turn, can only benefit those that they are currently supporting.
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About Isabel Fulcher
I work in private practice and am passionate about the benefits and healing properties of talking therapies, both because of my own experiences and all my one-to one client work.