You are a caregiver. You are dedicated to your loved one or patient. You juggle appointments, medication schedules, and daily care routines while you try to manage your private life and possibly another job. You’re anxious. You have a shorter fuse than you used to. You have trouble sleeping. You’re wondering about an antidepressant. Or a concerned friend has suggested it. Or your doctor has offered to prescribe one. Is an antidepressant right for you?
In an ideal world, you could instead decide to find time for a twenty minute walk every day. You would find reliable help that would give you a break from caregiving so you could carve out some time for yourself. And your mental health would improve. In reality, however, it can be difficult to find reliable care that will allow you to get away on a regular basis. With all the responsibilities you have to handle, it would be nearly impossible to take twenty minutes a day for exercise. Now what?
You should try to find time for yourself even if it’s only 10 minutes of quiet time outside alone with nature, playing with a pet, reading a book, praying or meditating. It is important to try to eat right, moderate alcohol use, and quit smoking. You should accept help from friends when they offer. Let somebody else go the the grocery store, or pharmacy. Ask your friends if they’d mind folding laundry or washing some dishes. Or see if they would be willing to stay for an hour or two to watch a movie with your loved one. You’ll find out quickly if your friends mean it when they say, “Just let me know what I can do.” If they really want to help, please let them. It makes them feel purposeful and you should feel good knowing that someone cares enough to help.
If you are fortunate enough to arrange for help and even hire caregiver or two, you still might find yourself under a lot of stress. That is to be expected because it is a stressful time in your life to watch someone you care about suffer, decline, or prepare to die. It is also most likely a temporary time in your life but the time spent caregiving now can have severe ramifications for your long-term health. So if you are doing everything you can to make your mental health better but it isn’t enough of a relief for you, then you should give antidepressants some thought. It doesn’t make you a weak person; deep down you know you’re a superhuman. The pills won’t make you a happy person. But they will take the edge off your negative emotions and help you to sleep more soundly. If you take them now, you are not committed to taking them for the rest of your life, just long enough to help you through this difficult time. If you think an antidepressant might help you, I say give it a shot.