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HELP! Caregiver Depression...now what??

trish07's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: Jul 2009

I have been sitting here not wanting to post this, because if I say it...I'm acknowledging it, and if I acknowledge it...its real. Depression that deep, dark hole that I don't want to have to struggle to climb out of...I've been managing to safely stay sitting on the edge staring down into it...but I'm afraid I have fallen and no one can hear me.
For the past 2 years I have been a rock, tough as nails, have nursed my husband back from near death 3 times now, never flinched...never cried...just been pressing on. He counts on me... his family counts on me...and I have not once let them down. They thank me for taking such good care and admire me for my strength.
But what now? I'm not doing well...I've been pushing it to the side but I know now that depression has got me full-fledged in it's grips. I am becoming despondent and reclusive.
What do I do now? I can't just stop...I'm the caregiver...what if I fall on my face and its witnessed or someone hears about it?

I'm usually posting on the support side,
but now I need to reach out...

seanslove's picture
Posts: 71
Joined: Jul 2009


I so understand how you feel,as I am there right with you. I lost my husband a week ago now to this awful thing they so kindly call cancer. the word it's self does not do justice for what it does to our loved ones. Everyone comes to count on us to be the rock and the strength which the rest will revolve around,and this is the hadrest part of it all. For myself,I took 100% care of my husband,and now the emotional and finicial devstation has risen it's ugly head for me to once again face alone. I believe it is the feeling of being alone which over take us the most.
At my husbands viewing last Friday night,I was the only one whom was seen as strong,as I sat by his side,as I always have,still holding his hand,touching his face,and every so often still placing a kiss on his lips. Many could not believe that I was taking this so well and in stride,however,I felt what good am I if I fall apart like the rest. However,over the last few days,the more that befalls on me the more I fall apart. What I am learning though,is each time I fall apart,I feel a little better. You ar fortunate to still have your love by your side,and all I can say is cheerish each day you have with one another,allow yourself the time to fall apart a little,and always share with your love how you really feel. I held these feelings in for so long,until a few days before my Sean passed,at which time I finally fell apart in front of him and told him how I really felt inside. I told him how scared I was to be without him,how much I worried over the past few months,and how much I loved him,which I never let to many hours ever pass in a day without telling him. He said to me it's ok. That simple set of words,"it's ok",some how gave me the final strength I needed to keep going over the last few days of his life.
I don't know if this will help any,but I hope in some way it does. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Posts: 9
Joined: Jun 2012

Married only 2 yrs
Husband just had major colon surgery. They call it HIPEC. In hospital 1 month.
Thought they had got it all but just this week his CEA has gone up to 21. I'm told by nurse not to be concerned but how do I NOT be concerned. How do I live and breath each day knowing he is sick? They tell us there is no real cure best to hope for is remission.
I watch him sleep at night. I maybe get three hours sleep and have full time job.
How do people do this long term.

terato's picture
Posts: 383
Joined: Apr 2002


When I was a patient, I saw my wife become resentful and irritable, not that I was any better, mind you. I thought I would be better, if put in the same position. Years later, I had the opportunity to find out when I became my mother's caregiver. In the beginning, I was supportive, but eventually, found myself becoming resentful, mainly out of my own insecurity and the knowledge that I would soon become the only remaining member of my immediate family. I had become my ex in many unsettling disappointing ways, an uncomfortable truth I will live with for the rest of my life.

Love and Courage!


JaneE2366's picture
Posts: 332
Joined: Jul 2009

Hello Trish,
I can relate to the way you feel......I haven't been in this battle for as long as you have....I am surprised you could remain so strong for so long. I have been fighting to stay in control since March. There are times when I feel the same way....like I am going to fall into that big black hole and if I do, there will be no coming back. I know I can't.....I am his sole caregiver....
There are plenty of resources out there.....I know the local cancer center here offers support to both the patient and caregiver. It sounds like you need a professional to talk to and I certainly would not worry about falling on your face. Maybe it is as simple as talking openly and honestly to your family and friends....they are certainly not going to think any less of you....in fact they will probably think more of you for being so honest. And don't discount the thought of going on some meds. It might be just the thing you need to get over this bump in the road.
Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers..

sue Siwek
Posts: 280
Joined: Jun 2009

trish, see your doctor he can help you. i too thought i was strong enough to handle things on my own but, i couldn't and my wise dr. saw it before i did and ask me to take an anti-depressant. it takes about 3 wks. to kick in. it doesn't take away your ability to care, feel, laugh, cry it just helps you deal more evenly. i highly recommend it, i have been on an anti-depressant for 9+ yrs and it has help me be a better care giver because i am on an even keel.

Posts: 358
Joined: Aug 2009

I agree with Sue. If you are not on an anti-depressant, talk to your PCP. When my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer, I made an appointment with my doctor and trialed several anti-depressants before finding the right one. It has helped deal with the day-to-day anxiety, fears, frustrations that come with this disease. Also, seek out a counselor. As you know, this is so difficult to deal with. You need to get as much help as you can. Good luck. Will keep you in my thoughts.

mumphy's picture
Posts: 486
Joined: Jun 2009


One of the first things I did after all of my husbands stageing and testing was to call my pcp. She gave me anti anxiety medication and told me to be careful with it, but on the other hand to use it. She knew I would need it, she also told me to let her know if I felt that I was starting to feel depressed and she would see me right away. I am lucky to have her. I am a medical assistant by trade for 20 yrs and was one of the first ones she ever had so she is also a friend.

Anyway ask for help it's out there, talk to the social worker at the facility you go to they can also refer you to someone. The best thing you did was to admit it the worst part is over now get the help you need. It's ok to need help you are only human & a caregiver to someone with cancer in my book that makes us super human.

May God Bless & Keep You

pattynonews's picture
Posts: 176
Joined: Aug 2009

Hi Trish I know exactly how you feel, I have fallen down that same dark hole, it was so bad the other day I could not get out of bed, to even help Jack, But I got the strength some how and was able to get out of bed, And as for falling on your face , you and I are doing the best we can I know im here 24/7 for Jack, I have not other life, but what I did realize is I do need to make time and just get out of the house which I did the other day I went to Jack's sister house and just hung out, Jack's cancer center has even set me up with a therapist, that I can talk to but as usually I just have not found the time to get there and I know I need to go and do it for myself. In my case I do everything for Jack because the only family he has in town is his, sister who works 2 jobs and his 84 year old dad. and I have no family here at all, and only a couple of friends, I have only been in Texas for 16 months and 12 months has been dealing with cancer, and it is true we just can quit, Jack depends on me for everything, I try to keep myself busy with the house and now I started a quilt for Jack but there are some days I feel like I just can't do it anymore, And we are in limbo waiting for a trial study to start that Jack might qualify for,

If you fall down just get back up and understand you are doing a great job, and I am blessed to have Jack also, I was at the cancer center the other day and there was this patient there and she was just so mean to her caretaker, yelling at him , calling him names, and I almost turn around to her and said you need to be grateful that you do have a caretaker, we are not perfect but we are doing our best, and she is only in her cancer for 2 months, I have a feeling she is going to end up alone, I am thank you Jack appreciated what I do for him and he knows it is not an easy thing on either one of us and he Thanks me everyday,

So Trish you keep your head up find a craft to work on I know it sounds a little silly but it does make you feel better and when you have a finsh project it makes you feel good. Your doing a great job,

Take care and I hope I made you feel a little better

Barbara53's picture
Posts: 658
Joined: Aug 2009

Y'know, I think it's good to break down. Wail if you want to, or, my favorite, get in the car and scream.

But seriously, I just don't think we human beings are built to experience the near-death of our loved ones over and over again. Modern medicine as created the need to do so, and it's tough on patients and caretakers. We are not in a natural situation and it often feels very crazy, so why shouldn't we feel a little crazy, too?

Tell your husband's family that you need more support. Tell the whole world. The problem here is that depression makes you not want to tell anyone anything; it's easier to sit in the dark and stare. But maybe if you can call one person, dump it all out, and get them to spread the word for you, things will change.

We caretakers tend to get too territorial, and others who might help us get shut out. Open the door.

trish07's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: Jul 2009

Thank each and everyone of you dear friends for your responses. I don't know who I would have turned to before I found this profound support of people. I talk to all of you more than I do others "face to face".
I have taken something from each reply and your sincere understanding of how I was feeling made me feel better.
It helps so much to know that I am not alone, that others have faced these " dark down times" too. Not that I get any pleasure knowing someone else is suffering... just knowing I'm not going to be put into some "Rubber Room" with 'Expired Caregiver' stamped on my forehead!
And maybe it is the nature of things for us to breakdown, now and then, a rejuvination of our spirit to be able to keep going despite what has been thrown our way. [thank you Barbara,never occured to me!].
"We caretakers tend to get too territorial", THAT IS SOOOOO TRUE, I had never thought of that before, but I'm not sure I'm willing to give that up.
Thank you again, Trish

Posts: 3
Joined: Aug 2009

I know how you are feeling. My husband was diagnosed 5/5/08 with stage IV melanoma. He had a brain tumor removed followed by radiation and chemo. Since 1/09 we are waiting every 3 months for scans the next one is in 2 weeks. Every time he gets a headache or trips my heart stops. I feel alone too. We have been together since I was 15 now I am turning 44. He is my life and I pray daily for God to keep him here. It is so hard when it is your husband, best friend going thru this. It is very lonely!

Posts: 17
Joined: Aug 2009


I could have written this post myself, except insert 4 years instead of 2. It's always too easy to forget about yourself when you have such a weight to carry. I'm the type of person that is that "Pick yourself up by your boot straps" type of person and that's what I'm forcing myself to do now. You can't allow yourself to wallow in despair. It's really not good for anyone. I have learned to accept help from others, ask for help from others, and take the time to focus on yourself. You have to do that in order to be that rock for your husband. Don't ever think that you have fallen and no one can hear you. You just need to make yourself heard.

Take care,

Posts: 146
Joined: May 2009

I haven't gotten to deep dark depression yet (went there after my mom's death (non-cancer) when my sister was so nasty), but I do understand it.

My husband and I have been thru a lot together in seven years. His daughter's bi-polar and goes violent from time to time (beat me up the day after the wedding and has whacked me a couple of times since then); job problems which led to a discrimination suit and five months of uncertainty; his mother (we won't go there). From this experience I can offer these suggestions:

Try getting some sleep or some food. When I stand on the edge of the cliff of depression, those help me. Don has learned to recognize the symptoms and press food or a nap on me, whether I want them or not.

If you are totally stressed out, I can recommend punching the shower curtain. It is very satisfying and it makes a therapeutic noise. The time I ended up doing it was also effective; his son moved out after a four and a half month stay.

Find someone, anyone, who will listen. If you don't have family, create one. We go to a local diner and the staff are more supportive of us than his kids.

Establish limits. People have told me not to try to help his kids understand and support him; unfortunately for me that's something I feel I need to do to a certain extent. However, I don't take on activities that I would normally do because I need and want more time at home.

As you've already heard, find an activity or craft or something that will give you a break. I paint when I can and concentrating on getting the color or perspective right is refreshing in that it takes my whole attention and shuts out the what-ifs. It does that for my husband, too, when he paints. I also read when I have the energy. It's good to escape to Portugal or Spain or the Dalmatian coast with Ann Bridge. I find pottering in the garden for even a few minutes very calming, too. Find what helps you the most.

If you can manage it, plan something to look forward to. It will be a good thing for both of you. You'll count the days and when things are bad, you can talk about it together.

Hope this helps. I would say take care of yourself -- people say this to me -- except that I don't know how (other than what I've just said). My blood relatives are not even close to warm and encouraging. I do have friends who have been good enough to encourage me to call them and talk. If you look, you'll find good people everywhere. You just have to look.


Posts: 20
Joined: Jun 2009

Hi Trish: I have been a caregiver to my wife with stage4 breast cancer for 3 years. I had reached the burnout stage earlier this year. I found a web page http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm
Which basically told me what I already knew, I WAS IN TROUBLE! I belong to Kaiser and I made a appointment with a psychologist. I filled out a bunch of questionnaires and when I met with the doctor, he just confirmed again, I WAS IN TROUBLE. They had a nurse practitioner
review everything the same day and she was debating wheatear to lock me up or just medicate me. She did medicate me.
To make a long story short, you know you are in trouble and needing help. PLEASE don't try to treat depression on your own. Some people call it a copout to take anti-depressant pills, but I can tell you from experience, it saved my life! My attitude is much better, I am capable to handling the pressure of being a caregiver and still maintain a normal life not on the edge.
I wish you the best of luck and hope this helps you in someway. Be strong.


BrittaA's picture
Posts: 19
Joined: May 2009

Hi Trish, Thank you for reaching out during this time when you need it the most. I took care of my father who battled cancer 5 times before passing away in 2007. Being strong for so long can definitely take its toll on your energy and sometimes you question whether or not you can take much more. I didn’t have any outlets to talk about my feelings while watching my father go through treatment and the side effects that come a long with it. I started a blog, www.cincovidas.com, for fighters, survivors and caregivers that deals with the side effects of cancer treatment. I did a post on how to stay healthy as you care for a loved on that I thought could be of some help to you http://blog.cincovidas.com/caring-for-a-cancer-fighter-six-tips-to-help-you-avoid-burnout-and-stay-healthy. Please keep me posted on how you are doing. I’m here if you need to connect, vent or need advice on how to keep yourself healthy during this time. Love, strength and survival, Britta.

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

I don't have much to add to what already has been said. We have been in this fight for over 6 years and my husband is now on Hospice. You are obviously a strong person, but we all have our breaking points. We can only do the best we can at the time. I usually fall apart about the little things like lost keys, a car that doesn't start, or spilling something. We are under long-term, continuous stress. I hope you will talk with your dr. and take care of yourself. Try to get a break even for a few hours. Cry, scream, and hit things. Do whatever you need to do. We are not superwomen. As much as we'd like to think, we really can't do it all. Hugs and prayers. Fay

mr steve
Posts: 286
Joined: Sep 2009


I've been a care giver for 1 1/2 years. just went on a A/D and it was perfect timing. Wifes CA has spread and surgery is out of the picture for now. It is keeping from being a complete basket case.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2012

was it mild enough so that you were'nt gorked out or was it more of a 'spirit' lifter where you could handle everything better? My wife was diagnosed with billiary cancer in Sept '11 and so far she has had 2 surgeries to remove blockages in her colon. We're in the hospital now recovering from her second surgery and it's been very, very tough. I find little joy in anything but her smile and get such a rush when she says "I'm okay." but it doesnt last long and I find myself sad and sinking. I admire you all so much for your strength and toughness. It seems like I cry all the time and feel hopeless and frustrated.

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2012


My wife was diagnosed last June after the doctors fumbled with testing for 6 months and 65 pounds of her weight loss. I am the primary caregiver as all our relatives live out of state. My head is in a fog all the time, I can't concentrate at work and am in danger of being let go, I have lost 10 pounds in two weeks, either I can't sleep or I can't get up in the morning, I am trying to get our house ready for sale because of her uncertain future and my possible job loss, etc, etc...life is grand.

I just today went to the doctor myself and was told I am suffering from depression. They described a mild anti-depresent. It took a lot for me to go (I am a guy after all and never go to the doctor) and even more for me to talk about what has been going on with my health and mental state.

It sounds like there are others out there going through similar things.


DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

I see the original post was a while back, but it's always a current topic. When I posted about my own depression issues, folks encouraged me to do the antidepressants. I did, but only for about 4 months. I decided to go off my drug (Zoloft) at Christmas, as I had a solid week off from work. It had done its job and helped me through the worst of the PTSD I was feeling. It also helped me realize I was drinking way too much and so I quit (several times, actually - but each time seems to take better, and I can only hope this is my last time).

I've played around with some supplements - no way would they have handled the deep dark times, but they are enough to keep me feeling mostly OK now that I'm better. Tryptophan and methyl formate have really helped keep the mild anxiety at bay. I used a doctor-recommended dosage and waited until all the antidepressants had left to start them.

I'd still recommend the prescription drug route first, under a doctor's care, and counseling, if you have time/money for it, until you are past the really bad depression (which might be never, and that's OK - some folks have to take calcium supplements the rest of their lives and that's no big deal either). Don't wait (like I did) until your favorite knife starts talking to you. . .

Good for you, Dobber - taking care of yourself is important, and thanks for sharing. It's stories like yours that convinced me to get help when I needed it.

LivinginNH's picture
Posts: 1456
Joined: Apr 2010

I guess I need to get some Zoloft or something, I can't seem to break the depression on my own. Thanks everyone, I needed a wake up call.


Posts: 170
Joined: Dec 2010

I took care of my husband for the last 15 months. He died Jan 23-2012 Those where very hard times! Now that he has died it is totally different. I miss him something awful! I don't know what to do with myself, I hate this house, when my sister comes over all I talk about is him, same with my daughter. I just hate talking about him all the time 24/7. I hated to see him suffer all those months! I have to take something to sleep, something I take a anti-depression not every day but some days. Some days I don't talk to anyone for 2 days just lock myself up in the house and watch movies for 2 days. All I can say is its horrible, either way it's awful. But just maybe he is in a better place and not suffering anymore. Just maybe HE is at peace now. But I miss him something awful! We have been together for almost 30 years, so I think I will never get use to not having him with me. I would give anything if he was back with me, this is what I want, but I don't think it is what he wanted. He couldn't eat and then at the end couldn't even talk anymore. Sue

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