A survivor talks about how she dealt with her anxiety and depression as a caregiver
I am every woman – a professional who thrives on teaching, pushing the boundaries and nurturing young minds, an individual who plays multiple societal roles, an armchair traveler, who is now starting to actually travel more often, and a reluctant subscriber to free will. In addition, I’ve been plagued by depression and anxiety issues all my life, which have sometimes, been debilitating.
I’ve never had an opportunity for a resolution – every breakdown has necessitated "putting things to bed right then," rather than dwelling over matters and seeking help. I don’t blame my immediate support system – I grew up in early '80s and '90s India (my teen years and 20s), when depression and anxiety were equated with madness, leaving little scope for seeking help. However, about two years ago, I was thrust into a life-changing situation – some important people in my life were diagnosed with life-threatening conditions in quick succession, and I was forced into the role of either primary or a secondary caregiver. During the day, mundane tasks would occupy me – bill settlements, instructions, and doctors’ appointments. At night, a thick coil of fear would firmly bind me and refuse to let go. My own anxiety issues, coupled with the need to stay strong, ate me from the inside. I had a dual battle to fight.
Many of us have been catapulted into the role of a caregiver under sudden and adverse circumstances. While the primary victim of an illness or accident becomes the center of attention for friends and family, the caregiver lurks in the shadows, battle-weary, and dealing with complex emotions.
A caregiver is the primary interface for medical professionals, the family circle, well-meaning friends, and financial entities (including insurance companies). Yet, the expectation is that the caregiver must handle the situation with a degree of composure, without a thought for their own concerns, health or uncertainty. In my case, my inability to forge through everything, coupled with own emotional issues made me a lesser person, sometimes to others, sometimes in my own mind.
However, I slowly clawed my way back, thanks to my circle of care, an honest assessment and articulation of who I am as a person, and demanding happiness and dignity every single day. In practice, here are some tips that helped:
My journey is by no means over – the ones I care for are doing well, and I know that my struggle with depression and anxiety is a lifelong one. However, I am finding strength in my own voice and will -- one day at a time.
Aruna Raman is a social innovation professional currently working with an American university. She tries to practice mindful living on a daily basis to cope with her anxiety and depression.