Caregiver Burnout?

Listen up guys… I am not naïve to mental illness and how it takes hold of all kinds of people.  I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, so I know what anxiety and depression are supposed to look like.  In a previous post I told you how I had realized that I needed extra help but I wasn’t sure where it needed to come from.  I had tried medication but it made my migraines come back so I tried just focusing on my marriage, my family, and slowing down.  Fast forward to about two months ago maybe a little longer and I realized I had slipped into a depression and I wasn’t sure how I got there. 

Again, I have a highly stressful job, that I enjoy very much, but again very stressful.  Imagine coming to work every day and it being your responsibility to make sure 20-25 of your closest family members or best friends make it home alive and safe?  Well that is what I do on a daily basis not to mention some of the calls that we take on a daily basis that haunt our nightmares.  However, it is something that I love and I feel like I have a purpose, not to mention I am very good at it.   When you take that level of stress mixed with the daily care of a Type 1 Diabetic and trying to keep your marriage afloat a person just gets overwhelmed with their emotions and life in general. 

There had been more events leading up to this than just my job and Abbi’s T1D, a lot more but those issues are not something I am willing to share and really do not add to the story.  Just know that I knew I need some help and all the date nights in the world were not going to do it.  So, I went back to the doctor and she teamed up with my neurologist to find a non-SSRI medication that would not cause my migraines to return.  After doing some research the original medication I was taking was an extended release and the number one side effect was headaches.  They had a standard release form of the same medication so we decided to try that.  So far, this medication has worked beautifully, minimal side effects and no migraines. 

I knew medication was not the only answer, that I needed to work on me too.  I needed to start seeing a counselor, however, the one that was recommended to me was booked until this month.  Thankfully, our insurance has a program called “health online” and they allow visits with a counselor online.  So, I have been talking with one of those once or twice a week until I can get into a face to face with the counselor I wanted to see originally. 

I know a lot of you are probably saying, “What about your husband, where is he? Why isn’t he helping you? How does this make Abbi feel?”.  Unfortunately, depression takes many forms and I kept it very well hidden behind smiles and laughs for months.  I went about my regular routines, work habits, family habits, and everything in general until I just couldn’t anymore.  Has he been supportive?  Absolutely, I don’t think he fully understands the depression but he supports what I need to do in order to work on me during this process.  I am still fully involved in Abbi’s care, in my family, in my job; I just am making sure I am taking more time to work on me as well.  I am healing a part of myself that I wasn’t aware was broken until it was too late and now it is very difficult to fix. 

Do I think taking care of the diabetes lead to me feeling the way I do? Absolutely not. I love my daughter and would do anything for her.  I would take this disease from her at any given moment without thinking twice.  I have no complaints about caring for her and teaching her how to count carbs, dose her insulin, have her supplies organized so they are easily accessible, and prepare tasty meals that are still low in carbs.  I think it was a mixture of events that transpired over the course of the year.  From losing someone close to me to suicide, to the stress of my job and working 40-60 hours there, to Abbi hitting her “teenage years” and being a Dia-Mom 24/7. And even though I knew I had all the support anyone could ask for from my husband, my family, my work family, and my friends, I never asked for it.  I was too stubborn for that.  I could fix it by myself when in reality I couldn’t.  I am doing somewhat better now.  I still have a long way to go but the fog is gone and I finally have a clear picture.  I am still not 100% sure what part of me broke and what caused it or if it can be fixed fully, but I am trying every day.  Abbi is still my primary concern, but so am I.  Because it’s kind of like when you fly on an airplane and the flight attendant is giving you instructions for the oxygen mask.  They tell you to place your mask first before helping anyone else.  This is because if you pass out from lack of oxygen you can’t help anyone else.  Same theory, if I forget about myself and just focus on Abbi or T1D or anything else, I will forget to breathe and then I won’t be able to help anyone.

Taking care of you….

For the past two plus years I noticed that our lives revolved around our family, around T1D, and trying to balance work, school (I mean hey we have two parents in college too), just everything in between.  Around 6 months ago or so, actually right when I started this blog, I started becoming very overwhelmed.  Now many of you know what I do for a living, but I deal with a huge amount of stress in my job and other people’s every day dilemma’s.  I attempt not to bring that home with me but sometimes it spills over.  I remember looking at Andy one day and saying, “I think I need to go see something, I feel like I am reaching my snapping point”.  I think he understood but was slightly confused because I always put on such a strong face and try to make it seem like everything is okay all the time.  Well, that is what Mom’s do right? 

So, I held everything down for another month or so until it didn’t get any better.  It felt like I was trapped, like I wanted to scream all the time.  So, I made an appointment with my PCP.  I didn’t care at the point what people thought, at that point what anyone thought didn’t matter because I knew I needed help from someone.  When I approached my doctor with everything that was going on, she was very attentive and listened.  It was the most relief I had felt in months.  Not saying Andy hadn’t tried, because God knows he had tried, but talking to your husband about these things just isn’t the same as unloading everything onto a stranger.  After about an hour appointment and some tears, she decided an anti-anxiety medication might be beneficial since I seem to have a lot on my plate.  We started out on Wellbutrin on a very low dose.  She went over all of the side effects and told me to come back in 30 days or sooner if I didn’t feel any relief. 

Fast forward to about 3 months later, two dosage adjustments later and I was doing wonderful.  It completely helped with the overwhelming feeling.  There was only one problem.  It caused major headaches.  I had spent the last 4 years without a migraine or a headache which I had suffered from all of my life so to take this pill and have them come back, was it worth it? Life had started to calm down a little.  We had figured out how to handle some things with Abbie a little better, I had stopped school for a little while, work was slowing down (well as much as 911 could) … so I decided let’s wean myself off this and see what happens. 

I had also decided a couple other things about our life.  We needed to focus on us a little more too.  We had stopped that part, everything was about the girls.  And I mean everything.  From the time we woke up in the morning until the time we went to sleep.  Whether it had to do with diabetes, school, dinner, housework, what to do on the weekends or anything in between. We had stopped dating each other.   So, I decided at that moment I had every other weekend off and at least one of those weekend nights we would have a date night of some kind.  Whether we went out together or with friends it would be kid free.  I also decided I had left my friends behind.  I stopped seeing them, stopped hanging out with them and in short, I had lost myself.  So, I wanted to make time for them as well. 

Please don’t get me wrong, I know this doesn’t work for everyone especially those with newly diagnosed or those with very young children.  But Abbie is almost 12 and has been diagnosed almost 3 years.  We have four phones in the house and neighbors that are amazing.   Has it worked?  I think it has, it has helped my sanity at least.  It has helped show my daughter that we trust her a little more and gave her some self-confidence and she is doing wonderfully with her care.   We talk a little less each day about her T1D and more about us as a family.  Are we perfect?  Good lord no, not by any means, but we try and I think that is what matters and we try which is all that most of us can ask for.

So, the moral of this post is to always remember to take care of you.  If you are failing you, then how do you expect to take care of anyone else. 

XOXO