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Can someone explain depression to me

(11 Posts)
toomuchrubbish Mon 10-Mar-14 23:11:50

I've been fortunate and never knowingly experienced it myself but my dad is suffering from anxiety and depression and I'm struggling to understand it or what I can best do to support him.

Since mum died 2 years ago dad has been on ads. They don't seem to do very much, I don't think he has the first clue how to move forward without her. he's been to see 2 different counsellors (privately) but I think with both he has told them what he thinks they want to hear rather than speaking honestly (I know he lied outrageously to the second counsellor).

He has recently moved nearer to us and whilst he's thrilled to be out of his large house he is not managing at all.

I know he suffers with anxiety which means he feels nauseous in the morning. His response to this is to not eat breakfast. Then he doesn't feel very well so he doesn't get dressed.
In the month he's lived near us he has deteriorated from wandering up to the shops every day, suited and booted to rarely getting dressed/shaved/washed. We accept that he is very shy and won't go to things on his own but now he is refusing to accompany us to community events, church, even the supermarket. He'll come to us for meals although he usually needs to be forced over because he always feels ill.

I know he's not eating properly; he has had a previous problem with alcohol and has started drinking again (and was thrilled to have been successfully hiding the bottles - I don't know where but he leaves the glasses lying around and on occasions the flat stinks of spirits so I know he's drinking).

he doesn't do anything. Sometimes he'll wander to the shop and on a really good day he may watch telly but mostly he sits there, stares at the wall and feels ill and scared. This has been going on for 2 years.

He has a poor memory but having been deaf for years (now treated with hearing aids) I think he's got so used to not hearing that he doesn't listen. He is interested in his preschool grandchildren and dh and I to a lesser extent but nothing else. he's been tested for dementia but apparently doesn't have it which I think leaves us with a mh issue.

DH and I work nearly full time. Dad is in bed when I leave in the morning and when I come home at 6 (I know because I can see the lights) which makes it difficult to see him in the week.

We have tried getting him to fill in a diary to provide a framework for the day - recording info like the time he got up, what he had for breakfast, what he did, what he had for lunch. He said he managed 2 days but then felt ill and didn't have any information to put on the sheet.

Now that he lives near us I have the opportunity to go to medical appointments with him more easily. Is there anything I should be pushing the GP for? Our experiences with the former GP weren't great because initially dad was suffering from grief which the GP couldn't help with - he referred dad to cruse who didn't answer the phone or call him back - and then he was an elderly alcoholic so didn't get any support at all apart from the phone number for AA.

What on earth can I do to support him? How can I understand where he is coming from?

<sorry - that was much longer that I was anticipating>

toomuchrubbish Mon 10-Mar-14 23:25:42

Is it actually something I can help him with if he has no inclination to do anything about it himself?

Bumply Mon 10-Mar-14 23:55:48

I've only had mild depression but I read this a while back and could imagine feeling (or bit feeling) like this

LegoCaltrops Tue 11-Mar-14 06:53:40

It does sound a very difficult situation. And it is very difficult to help someone with depression if they are resistant to the help. You could try Mind for possible support, they may have a group near you, but even if they don't, their website may be worth a look.

LastingLight Tue 11-Mar-14 09:33:39

If he is depressed he probably feels completely useless, that nobody can possibly like him, that there is no point to living, that he doesn't enjoy anything. It must be so hard when your life partner dies, and I can imagine my dad reacting in exactly the same way if my mom should die except that he wouldn't even have gone to see the counsellors.

It's very difficult to help someone with depression and alcholism who doesn't want to be helped. AD's should have pulled him out of the worst of it so that he could get value out of counselling but if he didn't participate honestly then it wouldn't have helped, as you have seen. You could ask the gp about upping the dosage or trying another ad. However ad's and alcohol does not mix well.

Maybe he will respond to some "tough love". Instead of asking him if he wants to go to the shop with him tell him "Dad we're going shopping, will pick you up at 14:00." If he can buy alcohol then he is clearly capable of getting ready and leaving the house.

Could you make/buy some frozen dinners that he can just pop into the microwave, maybe he will eat that?

Are there any old family friends who can call/visit him during the day, to draw him out of his shell a bit?

LastingLight Tue 11-Mar-14 09:39:39

Is there anything at all that you can ask him to do for you?

BertieBotts Tue 11-Mar-14 09:41:31

It's very difficult. Often the simplest tasks can feel overwhelming like there is a ton of sand on your head that you have to move through just to do anything.

Everything can build up - he doesn't eat because he feels nauseous. Then he doesn't want to get dressed because he feels weak (from not eating) and it's a big effort and it's easier to sit there in his pyjamas or whatever he's wearing. Then he doesn't want to go out and do anything because he feels ashamed that he is not dressed, and probably not washed or shaved - which is another thing, he could feel guilty about getting into clean clothes if he is not clean himself but the combination of washing and dressing feels overwhelming. If he is behind with laundry as well that's another obstacle to overcome. And instead of just thinking "right - must get a wash on and jump in the shower" he will probably be thinking "FFS I'm so useless I can't even wash my own clothes and I haven't had a shower in days."

It might help to have someone prompting and talking him through the everyday things. That might help him to get started and then do other things, but it's a very time consuming job, and it might not work - he might transfer his guilt to "can't even do this on my own" and/or he might become reliant on the help to do these basic things and not be able to do them for himself after the help has gone. But it might help him to feel more positive and interact with the world more, which might lead to recovery. It's all a bit uncertain, though, nobody can tell you exactly what to do to help.

cupcake78 Tue 11-Mar-14 09:53:24

Real depression and anxiety are all consuming and very difficult to understand if you have never had either.

The difference between depression and low mood is the ability to see out of the box so to speak. With proper depression you are at its mercy. Physically you feel ill, imagine having the flu or feeling like your utterly exhausted all day everyday.

Inside your head it's like walking round living in a dark cupboard. You can't get out of the cupboard, you daren't open the door and there is no escape. Your mind isn't capable of rational thought, you are overwhelmed by being stuck in this metophorical cupboard.

Anxiety is like a continuos feeling of dread. Again uncontrollable. It alters in intensity from feeling a bit nervous all the time to sudden attacks of anxiety and a feeling you can't cope.

It is at its worst horrendous.

You need a plan, but most of all you need your dad to want to get better! Without this its pointless.

To start off with you need your dad on the correct medication. This helps to ease the symptoms and give him the want to get better. It can take a while to find the right one and for this to work.

Secondly your dad needs to be reintroduced to the world. This has to be done at his own pace in his own way but you can hold his hand. Maybe suggest a trip out to the sea or for a country walk. Crowded places may not help him.

Sunshine, exercise, a good diet and gradually introduce new things.

It can take months and years to get better op. Don't give up on him!

toomuchrubbish Tue 11-Mar-14 20:36:36

Thank you all. That is really helpful. Cupcake, I love your explanation of living in a box. That gives me a real feel for where he is.

Bertie & Lasting, I think you may have hit the nail on the head with the guilt and feeling useless thing. Thing is, there's not much I can think of that he could help with. I don't trust him with the children - although on occasion I have left dd(4) with him for a short while and he's too frail to do a lot of jobs for us. When I've asked him to get shopping - even for the kids - he's forgotten - even when I've dropped him at the local shop on my way somewhere else... I will have a think and see if there's something he could help with which doesn't matter if he can't face doing it - I don't want to add to his burdens but it might help him to feel wanted. He's very good at washing up though!
Bumply - that's amazing. very accessible but very clear. Thank you for sharing.

I think I might give the GP a ring tomorrow and see if we can talk about drugs.

Thanks all!

Pootlingalong Tue 11-Mar-14 20:55:52

Great post from cupcake. The black dog analogy sometimes helps as well.

quirrelquarrel Wed 12-Mar-14 20:33:12

Oh dear, it sounds very difficult for all of you. It must be very hard for you to see your dad like that. Also to come to terms with the fact that you cannot help significantly. It's very frustrating not to come up with a satisfying solution. My parents have been great and I'd say the two things that have helped have been a/ believing me and b/ just being there to listen. Neither of them are going to 'cure' me, and that's what makes it very unrewarding for them. I do feel guilty really.
My family is all pretty much prone to depression but not my dad- so when he has a bad patch it's awful for all of us! I feel like I need to find something, anything to fix it- but none of us can, it's time that helps.

For me, one of the bad parts of depression is the waiting and the feeling that my life is on hold. And in the beginning it was the very strong fear that something very strange was happening to me. I had a few moments of what I can only really describe as true panic/terror, where I felt horrified at what was happening to me. That sounds so stupid to say, to be talking of terror, I'm a spoilt middle class student, what the hell do I know about terror. But it was still there. I kept waiting for it to stop and it just wouldn't. Then there's the physical symptoms like feeling sick and endless headaches, feeling very tired (and for a period with me, stress related hair loss! all sorted now thank god!). Then it's the detachment, feeling that you're not free.

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