Beyonder Court

DEPRESSION AND THE BEYONDER
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ALPHABETICAL LIST OF COMMON PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTURBANCES

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I’m usually pretty upbeat, but in this article please allow me to be serious, and a little sad.

I want to tell you about losing my son. He was just 20 when he was murdered in 1995: shot in the face with a shotgun at point blank range. The murderer is in a halfway house right now, so chances are he will be released after his next parole hearing…in July of 2008. That makes me angry. I think he should spend the rest of his life in prison. Instead, he probably will serve just under 13 years.

I went into a deep depression after Chad’s murder. The doctors put me on Paxil, and I took it for about 14 months.  I still experience episodes of depression a few times a year. They don’t last long, but those few days are pretty bleak.

In January of 1995 our three year old granddaughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. I spent a week with her and her mother at Children’s Hospital  in Denver. She had several surgeries to implant “ports” where chemotherapy could be administered, and  she lost her beautiful blond hair. Three times, she almost died from complications of the toxins that were saving her life. She survived, and she’s fine now, but those days were stressful.

About 5 years after Chad’s death, my brother committed suicide. It was sad. He’d been abusing alcohol for several years. They found him on the floor in a motel room, dead from a combination of alcohol and prescription depression meds. I still miss Bobby.

During this time, my daughter‘s marriage crumbled. The counselor said it could have survived one major trauma, but not the salvos of distress it went through. We “lost” our beloved son-in-law…a young man who had been in our lives for six years.

And then, my estranged mother died. She disowned me when I married, and never spoke to me again. It was like losing her when I was 19, and then again when she succumbed to cancer thirty years later. I never got the chance to…

Anyway, I mention all this because I know many of you Beyonders wear the same shoes I do. That’s what makes us good parents and foster parents. We understand loss: how it feels to have life snatch something inexpressibly precious from our hands. There are volumes written about caring for the young victims of stress…our foster children or grandchildren, but virtually nothing about caring for Beyonders.

Maybe that’s because everybody experiences loss as they age. It is a normal part of life. That’s why we’re so concerned about the kids…it’s unusual to lose so much so early. It causes trauma. But did you know that the highest suicide rates are for people 65 and older? And, according to some sources, the rate of depression in caregivers is about ten times higher than the general population.

That means an older caregiver gets a double whammy. What are we depressed about?

Well, losing friends and loved ones to death,

Loss of abilities as we age

An ever-shortening future

Worry about finances in the future (or maybe right now)

AND, add to that, the losses we’ve signed up for…the parade of children who pass through our homes and our hearts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting Beyonders shouldn’t foster. As a matter of fact, we make better foster parents on some fronts than younger people. And having a “mission” in life is one thing (according to the gurus on aging) that keeps us young in spirit.

I am saying that Beyonders need to be more self-aware than younger foster parents. We need to monitor our stress load and listen to our bodies. It is estimated that 60% of caregivers present some signs of depression. (Of course that number is skewed because it includes people who work in hospice, etc) It is something to consider.

These are the major symptoms of depression. To be really diagnosed as depression, five or more of these symptoms have to be present over the same two-week period.

       Persistent sadness or unhappiness

       Fatigue or loss of energy

       Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities

       Irritability or agitation

       Sudden change in appetite or weight

       Disruption of normal sleep pattern

       Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

       Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating

       Thoughts of suicide or death

     I found a depression quiz and took it.  

The quiz key said I was moderately depressed. But here’s the caveat: my dog failed, too.

There are reasons, beyond depression, why we may not be sleeping well. We may have a new child who screams all night. There may be a baby to feed at 2 AM, or the teenagers may have the bass turned up on their CD players.

Still, it is unnerving to realize that with so much attention being given to the mental health of our young charges, society is dismissing some real concerns about its valued caregivers.

And the symptoms listed for depression may not be the same for the Beyonder group. Our major complaints might be headaches, backaches and general fatigue.

 

If you think you might be depressed, tell someone. Get help.

Ask for respite care for a while, or take a short hiatus from foster care.

AND IT WOULDN’T HURT TO TAKE A RESPITE DAY OR TWO EVERY COUPLE OF MONTHS JUST TO HAVE FUN! 

 

Society, in general, is concerned about the more than 500,000 children in foster care in the US. And they should be. We Beyonders are concerned about them, too. But to do a good job in addressing their problems, we have to be aware of our own needs.

 

You don’t have to be depressed to be stressed. Take advantage of support groups. If you belong to a church, Go. Make friends who ARE NOT IN FOSTER CARE, too. And once in a while, take vacations WITHOUT the children in your care.

Admit your age. (But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to act it.) Realize that you have to do some things differently than your peers in foster care who may be ten or twenty years your junior. Don’t be pressured to “keep up.” In some areas, you surpass those “kids” without even trying.

 

And  consider this:

 

  • The majority of seniors report that they're happy despite health problems that may be present. People adjust their goals and adapt to circumstances as they age.
  • Things take on different priorities - things that may have caused you stress 20-30-40 years ago may not be as important to you. Seniors' accumulated wisdom allows them to accept that there are things you just can't change.

 

Things we can’t change…like the murder of a child, the death of a sibling, the continual loss of the children we foster.

We’re a valuable asset to society, even when many people our age are bowing out…retiring…becoming snow birds. We are still active, giving, and GROWING.

KUDOS to you. Give yourself a hand.

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

The Depression Quiz: all 18 questions

1. I do things slowly.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

2. My future seems hopeless.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

3. It is hard for me to concentrate on reading.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

4. The pleasure and joy has gone out of my life.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

5. I have difficulty making decisions.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

6. I have lost interest in aspects of life that used to be important to me.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

7. I feel sad, blue, and unhappy.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

8. I am agitated and keep moving around.

Not at all
Just a little
Somewhat
Moderately
Quite a lot
Very much

9. I feel fatigued.