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Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Fellow Blogger Needs Your Advice

My friend, Ami, sent me an email the other day asking if I would mind posting something here on my blog for her. 

Quite frankly, it wouldn’t really matter what it was that Ami sent, because I love her writing and her own blog is one of my all time faves. But when I read what she had written, I really wanted to help her – and her family. When you read this, you’ll understand why she’s not comfortable posting it on her own blog, and why she really needs your advice.

Ami writes…

I don't have depression. I'm not going to pretend I know what it's like to have irrational thoughts and I don't know what it's like to not want to get out of bed and take care of your children. But I do know what it's like to watch a person and their family go through a living hell.

Someone in our family is suffering. Suffering from anxiety and depression. It began about 4 years ago as postnatal depression. It got better. And then it all came crashing down again about 12 months ago. She has a loving husband. Two gorgeous children. A successful business. A wonderful life. A wonderful life, that is, from the outside looking in. But on the inside she's not coping. Her husband is struggling with the thought of mental illness. I sometimes wonder if he believes that mental illness exists at all. While he’s supportive, he is exhausted. Exhausted from essentially being a single parent, trying to run a business and look after his wife. Unfortunately he has said he has no faith in the mental health system. At the end of last year she spent over a month in hospital. She was in hospital for Christmas, which was devastating for all the family. Hospital doesn’t seem to have worked. She believes when she was in hospital she was "just a number".

Her psychologist wants her to go back to hospital. They are refusing. When asked why, he said if she goes back to hospital it won’t just be for a few weeks, it could be for months. And as horrible as that may be, a few months out of their lives now is nothing compared to having this continue for years to come.

So for nearly 12 months we've watched the situation deteriorate. We've had suggestions knocked back and we've had a number of family numbers on the phone crying. Grown men sobbing. We've spent hours and hours talking about it wishing something would improve.

They resisted for ages getting any type of professional involved and I think that was their biggest mistake. Her husband leaves making psychologist appointments etc up to her, and she told me last week she stopped making her doctor's appointments and then when she tried to get back into her psychologist she's booked out for a couple of months because she stopped making them in advance. It’s not for us to say, but clearly someone needs to be keeping on top of this, for her.

I've sat on her lounge room floor with her and cried. Cried because she doesn't want to go on. Cried because she wants her old life back where depression wasn't an ugly black cloud that was swallowing up her and her family.

But as upsetting as this is, it is equally as frustrating. That's very easy for me to say. I'm the outsider. An outsider looking in, not living in the reality of a life that has totally fallen to pieces. This family is in crisis. Our family is struggling to know how to support them. To watch your wife have a kicking and screaming fit on the floor saying she is going to kill herself is beyond heartbreaking. To hear their 4 year old daughter witnessed it and tried to comfort her sobbing mum... I, I just don't have the words to describe that kind of pain.

I desperately wish we could help. The whole family has offered numerous sensible suggestions like putting the kids in daycare to lighten the load on them so they can both go to work. (Yes, she’s still going to work). But the idea of daycare makes her feel like a failure as a mother. And I guess when you’re depressed you can only see the negative of everything. All we seem to be able to offer is a friendly ear. But it just isn't enough. We feel helpless. Because really, we are. We're not in the situation and we aren't mental health professionals. We might see things from a different perspective that they may not see, but getting that message through appears to be mission impossible.

They’ve recently visited a naturopath and some deficiencies have been identified. I truly hope it will be that simple to get her on the road to recovery. But pinning all their hopes on some supplements is risky.

Every night she goes to bed and prays for a miracle. I wish it were that simple. I wish the old her would come back. The one that loved socialising, chatting, catching up for afternoon tea. The old her that laughed. I wonder when the last time was that she laughed?

I wish they could get their lives back on track. I wish we could get her back. Our family just isn't the same.

I’ll be honest. I have no idea how to help Ami’s family. I really don’t. And I completely understand how Ami just can’t sit back and leave it up to this couple to sort this out. There’s just too much at risk.

If any of you - my lovely readers - have any suggestions as to what Ami could do to help ease her family's situation, I know Ami would appreciate your thoughts.


Little Miss Moi said...

Blogger ate my comment! ARGH!

OK I personally have not experienced a mental illness but a lot of people around me have.

Ami - firstly, you should seek advice from a telephone counselling service, or your friends GP if you know who it is.

Then you need to stage an intervention with her husband. I'm not kidding.

It doesn't matter if they don't like hospitals or professional help - without medical assistance, she may not be here in a month or two.

Her hubby needs to take some action on her behalf:
- get her TO a hospital. Not just into one, TO one. If the last one wasn't good enough, then try a different one, one with a good mental health assessment service
- she needs to start taking drugs, and probably sleeping pills too. If the dosages don't work, hospital will tweak them
- she can rely on her GP as much as possible - they can always provide advice and medical assistance, when she can't get into her psychologist or psychiatrist
- Phone counselling services. Both your friend and her husband should use these. Hubby needs to look afterhimself too
- Hubby will need to watch out for her for life... Thre are ups and downs in any illness, and often when people get sick again, they are the last to see the symptoms
- the reality is, hubby can't rely on his wife to book herself into places, take her medication etc at this stage, so he needs to stay on top of that too.

I hope this helps and i hope your friend is in a hospital soon...

Anonymous said...

Stories like that of Charmaine's on Sawholes as featured on woogsworld a couple of weeks ago should be of interest to this family.
Seems husband is in fear of what may happen from his wife getting better.
Very difficult situation. Whats the point of running your own business to success or using reasons for not putting the kids in child care..when your family is falling apart due to the Mum's actue illness.
Good luck to Ami.

Dorothy said...

Sorry, I have nothing practical to add, other than reiterate what the others have said.

Little Miss Moi gives some really practical advice and that's what needs to happen. Meds, hospital, counselling, childcare.

Been there, done that. Without professional help, it is unlikely she will get better. If she is unable to take action and responsibility for her recovery, then someone who is close to her and loves her needs to take over, until she can.

Megan Blandford said...

Ami, this is so hard.

This was part of my time growing up, and I know how hard it is for children and can see how tough it is for husbands and partners to deal with it. I think Little Miss Moi's suggestions are great.

To have people around her - like you - who acknowledge that this is happening and it's real, is invaluable. So many people don't want to hear it or really be there for someone going through these things (and it is tough on those people, I can understand that too).

But leaving her in charge of her own appointments and everything isn't OK. It's hard to realise, unless you're in it (or, more to the point, until you've come out the other side) how incapable you are of taking charge of things like that. Or of realising that what you're experiencing isn't a new 'normal' for you, if that makes sense.

Something my mum has said to me ever since her depression is, you always need something to look forward to. I think that, in addition to all the really practical suggestions, it's important for your friend to have some out-of-the-ordinary things to look forward to now and then (within the realms of things she can handle right now).

(Beautifully written piece, by the way.)

Good luck. xx

Anonymous said...

I had to share my thoughts here, I was your friend, many years ago. Suffering such severe agoraphobia, anxiety and depression that I felt like dying would be easier for everyone.

I was fortunate though, my husband, while finding it hard to understand, was patient and caring and didn't complain about the burden it put on him. We had a thriving business, a young child and I couldn't even go to the letterbox to fetch the mail, it was truly overwhelming and terrifying. And its no wonder that those around find it hard to comprehend let alone help, even now I find it hard to comprehend, how frightened I was and how desperate I felt.

And its a vicious cycle, the things that make you feel good, that release those "feel good" chemicals in the brain and spur you on are no longer accessible, instead you are trapped in the walls of your own home with way to much time to think about the "pink elephant", which effectively feeds it and gives it strength.

But I got out of it. Now there is nothing I cannot do and unlike my previous self, I'm optimistic, happy and embracing life, possibly more than others that don't suffer from this.

The thing is; you cannot do it alone, you don't have the motivation or faith to trust in therapy and drugs. You simply don't believe they will work, you believe you will be the only one in the entire world that they won't work on. It's the nature of depression and anxiety to think this way. In many cases you are so afraid of terrible things befalling yourself or your loved ones that taking a drug is one of the most terrifying things you could do.

I tried everything; councelling, modified behavioural techniques, facing the fears alone and with family, natural remedies and for some these work. For me they didn't.

In the end my husband called the GP to the house to talk to me, he put me on Cipramil, I'd had negative effects on other anti-depressants and was sceptical, but they both insisted.

I began taking the medication every day and just carried on. After two weeks I began feeling lighter of spirit, not cured but not hopeless anymore. After a month I could take a walk around the local shops without any problem. Soon after I felt like venturing further, to drive my car again, shop, pick my son up from school and it was then that I resumed my modified behavioural therapy with a new therapist, one I felt comfortable with.

Within a few months I was almost my old self.

I think what really worked for me was the fact that the decision was made for me and gently. It was put to me this way, just take the meds and we'll see how you go, you don't need to do anything else. Small steps seemed less frightening.

My husband spoke to the GP at length about the disorder and I'm sure this helped him as much as it helped me. He said it made him realise the condition was not a choice but an illness, a deficiency in chemicals.

I'm not sure this will help, I hope with everyones feedback something will resonate and your friend will find a solution. For me it was less confrontational, the idea of hospitalisation was too much. But I realise its different for everyone.

Jacki said...

I think Little Miss Moi has hit the mark with her comment. I think her husband might need to get more involved and speak directly to the psychologist to find her a better hospital. She clearly needs help dealing with this situation. My other advice would be that once she gets into a hospital program, the extended family step in and really give her husband support and help because he sounds like he could be struggling to cope with all of this (understandably). Here's hoping it can work out smoothly and quickly.

Miss Pink said...

Maybe Ami could offer to come and take the kids for a morning or afternoon, commit to a specific day or two?
Even Ami committing to visiting once a week for a catch up if she can manage it, or talk to other family members and arrange it with all of them so that she will always have someone there to talk to, help with the housework, to take the kids for a bit?
Also talk to her husband and get someone else to make the appointments. Maybe her mother, or sister or even a friend, someone who is able to be firm about regualar visits. This will also lighten HIS load, because he must feel like he has to do what she says for fear to make it worse if he doesn't.
I don't think that she needs hospital per say, but if professionals are pushing for it because nothing else is working, well then i do think something has to be done, and her husband is being negligent not to do what is in her best intrests for her health. If it were cancer, treatable cancer, would he just sit there and let her choose to die? No. He needs to fight this, fight for her right now when she cannot. Sometimes she might not like it but she isn't in the right place to decide that if she is feeling suicidal.
Good luck.

MaidInAustralia said...

Firstly, my sympathy to all of you.
Secondly, this woman needs help and so does her hubby. (And probably all of you!)
Please ... do you have private health insurance? You can jump the queue and find a nice private hospital for her.
If not, you need to find a good public one. Google it. Ask on twitter/facebook/GPs although, they don't always know.
She needs to be hospitalised so she can get appropriate diagnosis and treatment. It may take some time. Some drugs and counselling are trial and error. Hence it is best she be hospitalised while they work out which drugs are right for her condition. The counselling and support in a good hospital will help too.
If she had a heart condition, or kidney condition and needed to be hospitalised and treated, she would be right? This is like any other medical condition that can be treated.
If you have no insurance and you can't find a good public hospital, she can get help from a psychiatrist (who is the only person who can prescribe drugs).
You can get a Mental Health Plan from your GP which will cover the costs of seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist if necessary. (Sometimes there is a small gap, but there are those who waive the gap for those on limited income).
Be there for both of them through this if you can. Her hubby sounds like he is in denial too.
Just get help.
They can get through it, but they need to access the help that is available.
Good luck. Know she is not alone, and others have been through it and come back the other side, stronger and wiser.

Denyse said...

Hi. Great help I think to post like this.. So, my opinion & experience as I watched a number of family members slide this way... Everyone above is correct.
My ideas - based on real life w Hub, Son, Son in Law...
1. Person recognizes help is needed to get better but is unable to do that thru fear, apathy, anger. if you liken it to a physical illness a lot more understanding comes.. No-one with a broken leg would be "going to work, making own appointments, attending the doctors"ALONE.

2. Help is required. Hard as it is by a person the ill-affected one trusts. Is her Hub actually ok with understanding that he does have to step up to this responsibility or could it be better to involve another close & trusted relative ..

3. That person ( & I am in my hub's case) will need to gain strength & understanding beyond what might have seemed normal. The job of advocate & carer & spouse is just incredibly taxing but necessary. Love kept me going.. I did not want him to die either. I couldn't relate to him when he was at his blackest but I could take him to psychiatrist, doctors, medicate him according to plan... And try to offload my fears etc away from him. Worst years ever but still here now. One kid had left home, other was 17 & helped a bit. I was a full time Deputy Principal.
My boss understood that I'd need to go if needed.
A standout memory is getting to school at 8.15 am & being rung by hub at work to say he didn't know how he could get up off the lounge to:
"go to work"

4. Here's where I think in 1995 the advice for hub to still work ( self employed) was correct. His psychiatrist insisted, apart from anti depressants & monitoring their affects... Working would help. NO! It was v unhelpful, in fact hubs poor decision making skills via major dep caused business to be liquidated.

No more from me experience wise.. But suggestions must be taken to this husband & treated seriously if matters relating to wife's health are to improve.
A strong & well-versed in mental health GP is a must.
A psychiatrist too.
A psychologist may be better after treatment has started.
This family needs support for all.... Kids too. Please let us know how things pan out.... Much love to you & Jodie for caring enough to share!!

River said...

I know absolutely nothing about depression, but what they said above me all seems to make sense.
Especially the part about her husband taking responsiblity for making her appointments and making sure she gets help. Maybe her husband leaves too much "up to her"? That could be part of the overwhelming/drowning/I can't cope" feeling?
Definitely an intervention of some sort is in order, the sooner the better.

MultipleMum said...

I think hubby needs to step up and help this poor woman. What a diabolical situation to be trying to run a business and raise a family in! Get her to the doctor, dude. Have her scheduled if you need to but she needs medication and therapy and support and she needs it now, before it is too late x

Ami said...

Thank you so much everyone for your thoughts. I really appreciate everything everyone has said. A lot of what has been said confirms mine and my husband's thinking. I saw our family member on Friday and she was not good. Her husband told me that they have to give the natural way (combined with her meds) a go for 3 months. I think that's crazy. We just need to figure out a way to get her husband to take control of the situation. Thank you again to everyone, and a very special thank you to Jodie for allowing me to borrow some of her blog space. xx

Anonymous said...

I could not read all of your friends letter. I currently suffer from PND and Anxiety, one sets off the other. I hide it well I guess. As I started reading it, my heart started pounding.

I have only prayers to offer.....just prayers.


Maxabella said...

I have no practical experience (thank heavens) so nothing valuable to add. Such a tragic situation. It must feel for her like she is fighting with no one in her corner, because hub doesn't seem to be there with the gloves on, huh?

She needs to face up to the fact that it's okay to ask for help. And just saying you have 'no faith in the mental health system' leaves you... where exactly? They need a plan. Perhaps someone (your friend?) just needs to step in and map something out for them. Hand it to them and say "I've made you this appointment to do X on Y". x

Anonymous said...

Your friend needs to find the right hospital and Doctor. There is no one size fits all approach to this. I have a friend who has been through this 3 times. The last time she was in hospital she came out on the long road to recovery. The first 2 times she came home no different to when she went in. The difference was her care. The first 2 times she went to a lovely private hospital which was more like a holiday resort.
The final time she went to a large public facility and it was strict. She had to join in the group sessions and couldnt hide in her room if it was too hard. She stayed until she was ready to come home and hasnt looked back.
Please encourage your friends husband to find her the right hospital. Good luck.

MaidInAustralia said...

Me again. My hubby - ex now - couldn't come with me to appointments or to hospital. Or wouldn't. My shrink begged him to come so he could explain what was going on with me and that it wasn't that scary. He refused. My shrink said hubby obviously had issues of his own that he was not dealing with.
My brother, who I previously wasn't that close to, came with me. Made sure I attended my appointments, cried with me, listened to the advice, took me to hospital, and was by my side as they took out all the things that weren't allowed, like razors, nail scissors and perfume. All without judgement. Cared for the kids and brought them to see me every day. I am so close to he and his wife now, because they were there for me when no one else could be.
When you are chronically depressed and/or suicidal, you can't do these things on your own. You need someone on your side. I wasn't capable of driving to the doctor and asking for help on my own. My brother learned as much as he could so he could help me.
In hospital, I learned not to be ashamed. I learned acceptance and understanding of my condition. I was under the watchful eye of staff who would monitor the side-effects of drugs I was on, so the psychiatrist could change them where necessary. I also met some wonderful, inspirational, successful people who knew what I was going through.
It was the best thing I could ever have done.
It was not easy, and I hated being away from my kids, but as was pushed home to me there, the kids needed a happy, healthy Mummy. My hubby was not capable of making any of these decisions or even talking to me about them. Which is partly why he is my Ex. I hope that does not happen to your friend. But no matter what, she needs to do this. For herself, and for her kids.
And once you start treatment, it is nowhere near as scary as you thought.
Email me if you need to. xo

Hawaii Mama said...

I don't believe in coincidences. I was looking for something else, when I came across your blog with Ami.

The first thing I want to say is Never Lose Hope! I struggled with depresion twice in my life. Once after the birth of my second child and then during a long illness. The first lasted 6 months, but the second one lasted 6 years.

Not only was I sick with my illness, but on top of that with depression. My husband is in medical in the Navy. He made sure I was going to the doctor. But nothing was working. I broke down crying one day and prayed. I believe in Jesus Christ and believed He could heal me, but why wasn't He? I told Him that if this was the way I was going to live, then so be it. But He did not leave me there. Soon after I met a lady, who soon became my dear friend. She told me to try natural medicine. Her doctor gave me some, and at first I didn't know what to think, but I was at the end of my rope. I took it, and I am not lieing, It Changed My Life!!! I was a new person :)

That was 3 1/2 years ago and I am free of my illness and my depresion. I thank God for not leaving me in that stage and for bringing me my friend. I am forever Grateful for both of them.

My friend, believe in God, don't stop praying & Get Help for all your family. Someone that can walk you through the maze and get you to the help you all need. But most of all, Don't Give Up! It also took me 4-5 doctors until my friend introduced me to the one I see now.

The Bible says,
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to Him,
and He will make your paths straight." ~Prov. 3:5-6~

I will pray for you all and believe that God will help and guide you.

Praying for you,
Eva :)