Me Before You

Clinical depression is on the rise in Pakistan with studies claiming almost 34% of the country’s population already suffering. Back in 2017 Mental Health day theme was depression and while, it was an important initiative to encourage frank talks about depression, the conversation would be incomplete if we don’t acknowledge the needs of the caregivers around them. When it comes to caregivers their needs are often neglected and no resources are made available to them that could aid their situation. There is a lack of guiding content for people acting as care givers to people suffering from afflictions such as panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and depressive episodes. Having personal experience in being a care giver to a person who has been diagnosed with depression and experiences panic attacks, I can vouch for the fact that it directly effects the health of the care givers as well. A rare study exploring this issue has found that caregivers who spent more than 32 hours per week with patients with mental health problems, suffered from high levels of anxiety (84%) and depression (86%). Caregiver burnout is a bitter reality that most are unaware of or deem a luxury to indulge in. Yet the need to battle it is immense as without good caregivers the patient cannot thrive which ultimately negates the point of having a caregiver.

Here are some points that can help if you are caregiver under undue stress:  

  • Starting with detachment, caregivers must realize its importance and learn to detach yourself from the emotions they might be feeling. It’s very easy to get bogged down by their extreme negativity or positivity towards life but ensure you develop a coping mechanism to ensure detachment. This could be as simple as leaving the room or saying aloud “I am not feeling this way!” Not only would this make you their foundation but ensure that your keep your sanity.
  • Then most caregivers are neglectful of their own needs and follow the “you before me” principle which in the long learn can be detrimental to health. Don’t neglect your own goals/desires/needs. I understand that certain situations require sacrifices to be made on your part but by no means make this a habit. Make time for your life to ensure your sanity and sense of self. Also make sure you have your own goals towards which you work and a purpose in life apart from being a caregiver.
  • It is also important to develop your own support system. In order to be someone else’s support system, you need one of your own. Find your people and call upon them whenever the situation gets overwhelming. The power of simply talking it out is remarkably therapeutic especially if you surround yourself with the right people.
  • The next piece of advice is a no brainer as educating oneself is highly important. Read up on as much content you can get your hands on. Knowledge is power they say and rightly so as the obvious benefit is that it will transform you into a better care giver but it also dispels any feeling overwhelm.
  • Lastly, schedule a time for yourself, which gives you an opportunity to detach yourself from your responsibilities. From personal experience this time needs to be penned down along with your appointments otherwise you’ll never get around to it.  This scheduled soothing of the frazzled mind   needs to be done on a daily/weekly/monthly basis whichever is feasible for your situation.  This point differs from working on your goals as its “me time” and it’s the time you need to carve out of your schedule to recharge yourself.

I know times it can get tough with the doctor visits, midnight ER runs, the quest for answers, the desire to do more and the guilt of not doing enough but in the bigger picture it would be much more beneficial for them to have a happy and calm caregiver around them. We caregivers are often too hard on ourselves and constantly question our intentions if we want to take some time off. Then as a nation we pride in our relentless work schedules which little or no regard for what mayhem it might be wreaking on our mental health. Therefore, when we talk about depression let the care givers be included in the conversation and let them step back and say “me before you”.