After a long day at work, you reach home eager to take a well-deserved rest. Just as you are ready to sleep, your spouse has a depressive episode. As you are comforting your spouse, you do not realise that your child is awake watching. The next day, your child looks uneasy and is unusually withdrawn.
It is natural to give all your attention to your spouse when they get diagnosed. However, to be able to support your spouse to the fullest, it is crucial to take care of yourself first and foremost. Peggy Lim, Social Worker at TOUCH Mental Wellness, a service of TOUCH Integrated Family Group, shares how you can take care of your well-being as a caregiver to your depressed spouse as well as how best to help your children cope. (Read about caring for a depressed spouse here)
CARE FOR YOURSELF
Have “me time”
Continue to do what you enjoy, regardless of whether your spouse will do it with you or not. Take some time off to be in touch with yourself by simply doing what you like. Reading a book, taking a walk, or calling an old friend can help you feel more relaxed. Though you may feel guilty for enjoying the time on your own, you will regain your emotional and physical strength to patiently attend to your spouse. Maintaining a positive attitude will prevent burnout.
Recognise what is and what is not within your control
No matter how much you want your spouse to recover, recognise that the process of recovery is not entirely within yours or your spouses’ control. Talking to a counsellor about your worries and attending marital therapy can also help to strengthen your relationship. Do celebrate the small victories along your spouse’s journey to recovery.
Find community support
Besides having a support group for your spouse, you too should establish a healthy community of friends and family that can provide you respite during this difficult period. Positive reinforcement from your loved ones can help you maintain a healthy emotional mindset and in return, helps you to see things with a more positive outlook.
CARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN
Children can be easily vulnerable to their parent’s depression. There is a risk that they might develop depression as it is three to four times more likely for children of depressed parents to become depressed. They might not perform well in school and are likely to have behaviour problems.
To alleviate this situation, it will be useful to explain to them what is happening at home by educating them with the appropriate information. You can start by saying, “Daddy/Mommy may not always be very happy, but he/she is seeking help…”
Suppose your child is older and able to understand difficult situations better. In that case, you are encouraged to share with them more in-depth on what their parent is going through.
However, be careful to not give the responsibility of a primary caregiver to a child, as it can affect their developmental growth. They may place too much responsibility on themselves, becoming overly anxious and stressed. Instead, encourage them to share their feelings with you or a trusted adult or journal down their thoughts.
"Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn't know possible." - Tia Walker
If you need support in caring for your spouse with depression, we are here to journey with you! Reach out to us at [email protected] to speak with a counsellor or to find out more.
TOUCH Integrated Family Group (TIFG) aims to equip families with resources to face multi-faceted issues at different life stages. TIFG focuses on providing Resources to equip families to cope with different stressors, enabling families to strengthen Roles in transitions, and empower families to build Resilience. This is done through an integrated suite of services to support the family as a unit, with emphasis on education, intervention and advocacy.