Malcolm’s Story – Caring for someone with depression

Malcolm’s Story – Caring for someone with depression


Maureen and I have been married for over 50
years. We still got a few years ahead of us, we hope. We just take it easy and have fun
when our health allows us to. That will be for some time yet. I met Maureen, it would have been about 1956.
She would have been the ripe old age of about 17 or something and I was a bit older. We
just seemed to click and we had a long engagement and finally got married when she turned 21.
We’ve got two children. One was born, Diane, in 1962 after 1961 marriage. And the other
one in 1965 was Carol. We had it rough. We could not afford frozen
peas. I longed for frozen peas. We had to have canned peas. But it meant that there
was no spare money for Maureen to do anything. One of our problems that we realise now, was
married woman, 1960s, could not get a job. She was isolated and that was the problem. Maureen probably had her first indication
that something was wrong, which may… We now think, may have been, postnatal depression
when the youngest one was perhaps a few months old, say 1966. Fifty years ago, there’s not
a problem. Have a sleeping pill, get on with it. Now they say, “Look, there is a disease.
We can diagnose it. Let’s do something about it.” That is the basic problem. You’ve got
a disease, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I, not only had to work, but in those days
I had to go to night school. I came home, sometimes, and Maureen was pushing one or
other of the children backwards and forwards out in the front in a pusher and the kid was
crying her eyes out because it was colicky, and this situation meant that she got more
and more withdrawn. I remembered that she used to cry herself to sleep some times. After her breakdown when she was being treated,
all of a sudden her life improved and her ability to do things improved. 1969 Maureen
actually got herself a job. She had a purpose in life, she had mobility. She had some money.
Things, on the surface, improved, but the harm had been done. They manifested themselves
in physical ailments. I think they tended to hide the mental problem until, as a result
of the physical problem with her stomach, she went to a lady gastroenterologist. “I
know what’s wrong with you. I know exactly what’s wrong with you. This is where you go.”
And she sent her to a psychiatrist. Started treatment and she’s been going upwards ever
since. But we got a little bit more money now. We
go to England more regularly. As long as we’ve got something positive to look forward to
and as long as we can enjoy ourselves even in a limited way, because of our health, the
future is good. It’s a full-time occupation. And you have
to learn. Nobody tells you. There was no beyondblue to say, “This is what you do. This is how
you do it.” There was no books. So you learn as you go along. It’s an intellectual exercise
and it’s something that you live with all your life. And you find things you can do
and you find things you can’t do. You use humour as much as you possibly can. If you
can get them to believe in themselves, they’re half way to a cure, almost. A professional carer looks after somebody
because its their profession, but you are not a professional carer. You are doing it
because you’re with someone. It’s gotta be love. If you look after yourself, you’ve got
a chance to look after somebody else. You have to look after yourself and you have to
be very… You have to be kind to yourself. Because if you can’t be kind to yourself you
can’t be kind to anybody else. I didn’t know that I was a carer. I realised afterwards
that I had become one because of what I was doing. So, if you are a successful carer,
you save that person, but you save your own relationship and you save the relationship
of everybody who is involved by the two of you. That is the trouble with depression because
it affects everybody. And if you can reduce that, you make a tremendous difference and
you benefit and the whole community benefits from it, but particularly, your circle of
friends and relations. The help is out there and the understanding is out there.

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