He calls me sister: My dad has dementia

abuThis maybe the first time I’ve written about having a father with dementia. My dad was diagnosed with dementia about 14 years ago. For many, many years it was extremely hard to go see him. I hated to see my father in the condition he was in. I could see his eyes searching for answers as he asked questions and we would provide him answers that he was unfamiliar with or caused more confusion. I hated to see how the spunky, I don’t take no shit, fashionable man was now becoming withdrawn and wearing dickies and a t-shirt as if to be retiring; from life. His spirit seems to be leaving his body.

The hardest part came when we had to put him in a facility about five years ago. He was already depressed but now depression grew as he could not remember any visits from family or friends. Those family and friends visit did become less and less so now he really believed he was all alone. I remember visiting him one day and one of his buddies was sitting with him. He said to my dad, “see you do have family. I told you they come to see you”. I learned that day that he was telling residents that he didn’t have family ☹

This weekend my dad had an episode in which he was not himself. I visited him on yesterday to talk about the incident only to know what I already knew; he would not remember.

Caring for an adult parent can be very hard for a caregiver. Often you feel alone and isolated. You feel overwhelmed with decisions, thoughts, emotions, and trying to balance your own life. Sometimes caregiver guilt seeps in as you find yourself putting off going to see the loved one if they are in a facility or spending less time with your parent because it is hard. For me anxiety was my biggest issue because I was trying to balance making sure everyone was happy and that the right decisions were made or that I would show up to meet everyone’s needs as they related to my dad.

My dad calls me his sister. He sees his daughter but he’s “18” so I can’t be his daughter and be older than him (which is funny every time he says it). So he calls me the next best thing…his sister. Learning this I was sad but I saw the symbolic meaning that he knows that I am so one that cares for him and because I’m not his mom the next person would be a sister.

As his sister I want to share FIVE caregiving tips to help you with self care

  1. Start a daily self care routine. This can be something as simple as meditating for 5 minutes daily; taking a walk alone, getting a hobby, or watching a good movie that has nothing to do with your reality. I like cartoons.
  2. Find a support group for caregivers of parents with… (ie Alzheimer, Dementia, Cancer, Aging, etc.). There is nothing like knowing that you are not alone and can surround yourself around other people who are going through what you are going through. I am a strong believer that people heal through connection.
  3. Ask for help!!!! I was (still am) not a person to ask for help. I would rather get a pulsating headache then ask for help. Over the years this affects your own health when you allow your own issues get in the way. It’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help does not say anything except you care enough to get the best for yourself and meet your caregiving needs.
  4. Accept help. If someone asks to help, accept it. I used to say no thank you. I got it. I got it would lead to more than I can handle and then feeling anxious and later depressed. Again, accepting help does not speak about your character except that you are not stubborn and that you are trying your best to meet your own needs and the needs of your parent.
  5. Take a break. When you feel that things are getting out of control for you emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually take a break. There are respite programs out there that will sit with your love one while you take a break. If they are in a residential facility talk to staff. Trust me. They do understand.

Caregiver stress, anxiety and depression is real. It can be managed if you start caring for yourself. Remember how can you take care of others if you are neglecting caring for yourself.

If you or someone you know needs support with managing the caregiver stress, anxiety, and depression please seek care. Here’s a list of resources. I am also a licensed therapist and I do work with families and individuals with Anxiety and Depression and caregiver stress. I will be honored to help. Contact me.

Resources for caregivers

www.alz.org/care

www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com/

www.alzheimers.net

Tahiyya xoxo

STOP

This week I believe everyone’s anxiety has been through the roof. I have really put my DBT training to use and I have been teaching the STOP skill. Not only have I used it with clients, I have actually had to use it for myself. Often we become so quick to react to our feelings and thoughts instead of mindfully responding. STOP is a skill that will help you respond and not react.

So let’s look at exactly what STOP is.

Stop

STOP is a distress tolerance skill that is taught by DBT trained therapists. A distress tolerance skill is a skill that helps an individual that is heading into an emotional crisis and they need help to tolerate the emotional pain. The STOP skill allows one to become mindfully aware of what is going on and to take a different course of action if possible. In other words I like to say it stops you in your track so that you can step outside yourself in order to bring awareness to the situation that is causing distress and bring awareness to yourself.

S= Stop. Freeze in your tracks. Don’t react to the situation just because your emotions is driving you to do so. 

T= Take a step back. It is time to step away from the siutation. Take a break by breathing in through your nose; out through your mouth. Deep calming breaths. Don’t react. 

O= Observe. Take notice of what is going on with you inside and out. What are you feeling? What are your thoughts? What exactly is the situation? What are others doing and saying that are around you. 

P= Proceed mindfully. You should act mindfully; with awareness. Consider your thoughts and feelings when making a decision. You should also take note of the feelings and thoughts of others and the situation before responding. Ask yourself “Which actions will make matters better or worse?”

This skill can be applied to any situation that you believe is distressing such as relationship conflict, urges to self harm or use substances, urges to participate in an addictive behavior, fear provoking situations, anger provoking situations; or any feelings or thoughts that makes you uncomfortable.

As a therapist I help clients put this skill to practice by practicing in session how to use the skill to respond to situations and not react. Reaction is on impulse and usually driven by our thoughts and feelings. Response is with awareness and driven by being mindful and being informed.

If you find yourself struck with an event that is distressing and need to get yourself in check, try the STOP skill. If you find yourself needing some help, hey I am available by phone or teleconference. I provide skills training, coaching, and DBT therapy.  I’m just an email away so schedule today!

 

Tahiyya xo

Resources

DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by M. Linehan.

http://www.tahiyyamartin.com

 

If you like what you are reading and want more; hey follow the blog. I love helping others by teaching new skills, educating and bringing awareness, and just being me…Tahiyya:)

The black woman and depression: It’s not always sadness

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Growing up in the black community crying was not an option. Many families did not know how to embrace emotions because for generations we were not allowed to show emotions. For hundreds of years emotions were a sign of weakness (crying) or short lived (happiness). Over time the one emotion that we were good at showing was anger. Anger showed on our faces even if we were not aware of it. Anger seeped in our conversations even when we tried to be friendly. Anger even showed up in our work as we used it for energy to be productive in the fields. Anger was the go to anger for protection against all the sadness and pain we were feeling in our generational past and even today.

So let’s fast forward to today. In my own personal experience I remember saying “I don’t have time to cry”. That was my go to saying when I was feeling sad, hurt, embarassed, frustrated, or even happy. Crying took time. Crying meant that my sadness was real. So I would quickly resort to being withdrawn and always irritable (another form of anger). I see this a lot not just in clients but also in family, friends, media, characters on television, and on social media posts. Again anger was a way to be protetive of yourself against the vulnerability that came with being sad. However behind that anger was a deeper rooted issue. Depression.

Depression does not always show up as not wanting to get out of bed. It is not always crying for hours or days. It is not always feeling blue. It is not always skipping out on family and friends or things that you love to do. It is not always feeling and admitiing to feeling suicidal (that’s another upcoming post). In the black community depression can show up in those above mention ways but it also shows up as anger. It shows up in spending time with family and friends and feeding your pain with drama to make you more irritable. It shows up as the attitude. It shows up at the dinner table as  we take in more food than we normally would on a good day. It shows up as pretending to have it together. It shows up as emotional suicide as we cope with the red wine every night. It shows up as smoking a blunt or doing a line or two in order to make it through your day. It shows up in yelling  at our kids for simple things. It shows up as being withdrawn from our kids or other love ones. It shows up as the mask that we wear and call it being independent; strong or “that bitch”.

I like to tell people that no matter how we internalize our thoughts and feelings it will show up. Crying makes it obvious and with the stigma behind tears in the black community we dare not cry; not even over spilled milk.  We better get angry! 

We better get help. There are different ways to getting help for your depression instead of getting or feeling angry.

First seek professional help to assess for depression or depressed mood. Talk about what you’re feeling and thinking and how it has affected your day to day living. Sometimes this may include getting a formal diagnosis and medication if the medical professional recommends it (I’m not a doctor so I can’t talk much on medicaiton).

Second find a therapist that specializes in working with depression disorders. There are different types of therapy that can help such as talk therapy, DBT therapy, CBT therapy, and experiential therapy (these are the modalities I use). Your therapist will assist you in developing a course of treatment to help address the underlying issues and develop skills to cope in a healthier manner.

Third utilize your support system. In the black community we also have the stigma surrounding going to therapy and keeping our flaws to ourselves. Let’s end that stigma. It’s time to  connect to those love ones that will be there to help you get through your tough times; make you laugh, and hold you accountable for your treatment. Healthy relationships and connections can lead to healthier recovery.

Fourth develop a routine of getting outside and getting some exercise. This can be something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day. Exercise helps with the whole body; mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Fifth and lastly know that you are not alone. It is okay to not be okay but what’s most important is that you acknowledge what you are feeling and seek the appropriate care.

Ladies we don’t always have to be strong and independent. It is okay to take care of ourselves and get our mental health in check. Sending lots of love and hugs xoxo

 

Tahiyya xo

 

If you or someone you know is depressed and feeling suicidal please get help and call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Other resources

Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting: Terrie M. Williams …

Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America: Charisse …

If you live in the Matthews and Concord area and need a therapist please contact me at www.tahiyyamartin.com/contact