Having been a Caregiver for my parents and currently for members of my own family, I am very sensitive to the stress of other caregivers. I started a Meetup called Mama Needs A Nap for parents of special needs students. There are about 20 members but we are all too busy to meet!
Until we do meet, I wanted to share this post to them and to those who may read my blogs.
This is my To Do list to screen for depression. It's my own invention and I pass it along to all who need it. Keep it by your side of the bed. If this list seems really silly, you don't help need to remember to do these things everyday, then you are coping well. If this list seems like it's asking too much of you or makes you cry at the thought of, for example, getting out of bed....get support and help right away!
When my husband and I were first married we had dinner with a friend who had two ADORABLE little kids. The younger of the two was a boy who was about 1-1/2 to 2 years old. He had devised a game of basketball that he taught me. He stood in front of a toy bucket "the basket". Told me where to stand which was about six feet away and with a ball, he told me "make a basket" and he would celebrate my successes by yelling with his arms up, "Yay, you win!" Then he would bend over to pick up the ball, drop it into the basket, lift up his arms and say, "I win." We thought it was pretty clever of him to find a way to win the game all the time.
My husband and I still say, "I win!" when something nice happens or works out. As my kids grew and my mom got more ill my successes changed. When my kids were little and they wore clothes, I won. When the teacher didn't call about my older son for a week, another win. Later, if I could get my mother to the doctor's office without incident, that was a big win!
I got to a point in my life when I didn't want to do anything for myself. I wanted someone to cook for me, to take the older kid to school, to home-school my younger kid for me, to take my mother to the doctor for me. At a psychiatry appointment I was told it was time for Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP). On the first day I realized I was expected to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF! Of all things! I decided to "play" along since it meant 6 hours out of the house three times a week for three weeks.
I distinctly remember two group therapy sessions. In the first one, I was asked to tell my story. My mom had Alzheimer's and I had to put her in a Board and Care, then I was responsible for her care because my Dad didn't understand the medications. At the same time I took my younger son out of public school because he stopped participating in school, he wouldn't do anything for his teacher and had never learned to read. He was identified with a learning disorder, dyslexia, and they could never teach to him. I started homeschooling him. My older son was developing chronic migraines and we couldn't help him find relief. He missed a lot of school.
Then I listened to their stories. I felt so much better because overall my family was doing better than some of the others. I wasn't under as much stress as the others. There was no addiction, homelessness, homicidal tendencies in my family! What a relief!
In the next session, I was very surprised when the people with those huge problems said things like, "If Elizabeth can do it, so can I." WHAT? I had the worst story!? No one wanted to be me? My story inspired them? I guess I really am going through a lot. I won and I didn't even know there was a contest.
No one wanted to be me. I win!
One of the best suggestions from the IOP was to make a small list of things to do. That plus knowing that if I went back into that depressed state I would be asked start taking care of myself I made this "To Do" list. Instead of check marks I put my arms up in the air and say, "I win." After #2 there is no particular order and feel free to add or remove what works for you.
To Restate How to use this list:
If this list seems overwhelmingly hard or impossible to do or makes you cry, you need to get help. Go to your doctor or ask someone to help you get the help you need.
If all you can do is one or two of these things, then you win once or twice.
If this list seems too silly to follow, YOU WIN!!