Let’s Talk About Caregiver Depression (And the Courage It Takes to Face It)
illustration of a depressed looking woman

We would like to add our voice to the millions of others saddened at Robin’s passing.

His family and friends were privy to the magnitude of his disease. Dealing with the daily implications of addiction and depression takes heroic effort. Our thoughts and prayers are with those closest to him. Their loss is unfathomable. He was certainly bigger than life.

Robin Williams was a publicly troubled soul. His dependence on drugs and alcohol and his many attempts at recovery received a great deal of press. Under no circumstances is this tragic loss to be minimized as just another celebrity succumbing to the power of substance abuse. The man was depressed. As caregivers, we can be all too familiar with caregiver depression and how hard it is to deal with. Whether we are caring for someone who suffers or we are struggling with our own hopelessness, this prevalent form of mental illness has a great stigma attached to it. This stigma only adds to the problem.

There are people who believe that you should be able to will yourself out of depression; that it is a condition of choice—an easy excuse.

As someone who has been both depressed and has cared for a spouse with severe depression, I want to acknowledge those of you who, as carers, live with the reality of the severity of this condition every day. It is hardly an easy excuse. It’s painful. Sometimes it’s a triggered by physical illnesses with names like cancer or heart disease; but frequently it is the disease and those caring for someone who is depressed often go unacknowledged. We recognize you and want you to know we are here for you.

Depression. It’s a “brain disease” according to Dr. Drew, the celebrity rehab expert, who wants everyone to accept the fact that “Addiction and depression can be fatal.” We know caring for someone with depression can be frustrating because they want to shut us out so they can suffer silently; this leaves us to suffer as well. 

I can attest to the feelings of loneliness and despair I felt and can speak of my own problems with alcohol and drugs, that finally led to a diagnosis of depression. This all happened a very long time ago; now I can listen, and encourage people to be more open about their depression and the many forms it takes.

I know I never felt that I was taking the easy way out; it took courage to face each and every day.

Robin made us laugh. He made us cry. He touched us. His was a talent is one we will not see the likes of again and he will be sorely missed. Tragically, he couldn’t be saved and who knows whether mental illness will ever be a thing of the past. But, one thing we can do is to raise public awareness of a disease that affects an estimated 30 million Americans. It’s time we dispensed with the stigma of this disease and faced the dangerous reality of ignoring it. Depression isn’t funny.

Written by Adrienne Gruberg
Adrienne Gruberg is a former family caregiver and founder of The Caregiver Space. After six years of caring for her late husband and mother-in-law she conceived of an online support space all caregivers could come to. Adrienne holds a BFA from Boston University. She founded AYA Creative in 1982, an award winning graphic design, marketing and advertising company. Her design training has helped shape the website and her personal and professional experience continues to inform and influence the caregiver centric support experience she has created at The Caregiver Space.

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12 Comments

  1. Great Subject..Caregivers can get very lonely & Depressed..I just know I can’t let myself get to far in..But wouldnt have it any other way..Love my daughter with all my heart..

    Reply
  2. Think that this came knocking on my door too.
    But I’m a survivor

    Reply
  3. To do it is one thing – to know you are the only one to always do it is something entirely.

    Reply
  4. I’ve gone through caregiver depression and the person that has emerged is so different and foreign to me at heart that I can’t help but wonder if I’m still in it? Or actually, I know I’m, as I’m still caring. But if I’ve become this already at this half-way point, what will remain when it’s over? This experience has/is creating an animal and she scares me a little…

    Reply
  5. Who do caregivers vent to, God because he’s the only one that care.

    Reply
    • So true. Every friend that said they’d be there, have disappeared or they don’t have time.

      Reply
    • It’s not just friends that abandons you….:(

      Reply
  6. Thank you for bringing awareness to an issue I feel is strongly overlooked. Even worse depression can lead to worse consequences. We need to lobby for help for caregivers and to reduce the stigma that those who need residential care are not any less loving

    Reply
  7. I have always been a very ‘strong’ person…but these last five years of my husband having his third spine surgery and the aftermath of it, plus him developing dementia along the way, have really taken a toll on me. I couldn’t understand what was ‘wrong’ with me lately, I just can’t seem to get up and get going to accomplish anything…. I now realize I am probably depressed (besides just being totally mentally, physically and emotionally drained). Now, how so I find the ‘right’ group to join where I can discuss these issues?? I only have one female friend who understands what I am going thru, and she has been very supportive, but has her own life and problems to deal with also. I really need other females to talk with, and don’t know where or how to find them……

    Reply
  8. I found this very interesting. Currently I have been dealing with an almost bipolar response to my stresses and depression from losing my mother to cancer and having no females to vent to while caring for my bf with Stage 4 cancer, and just the financial struggles, as well as a lack of self-confidence. It has helped a great deal reading other people’s perspectives to try to breathe and reevaluate my behavior. Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Thank you for The Caregivers Space.

    Reply
    • I was my husband’s caregiver for the last 41/2 years of his life. No matter how bad things were I always spun a positive stand on his condition, even though I knew he would not get better. Loosing him in December of last year, has been the hardest loss I’ve ever had to deal with. I am seeing a therapist. All my friends, that said “I’m here for you” or “call if you need anything”…Have all disappeared. No one to talk to other than my therapist drives me further down a dark path. Sometimes I just want to cry and be hugged, until the hurt stops.

      Reply

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