Shared Caregiving Stories

Guest blog by Jeannette D Mayer, a caregiver and R4 Board Member

Happiness was grabbing that handful of popcorn mixed with chocolate M&M’s® to find the Peanut M&M’s® hiding in there. For many years, these delightful milk chocolates wrapped around tasty peanuts were jokingly called “Happy Pills” in my house.


My favorite snack was mixing M&M’s® with the delightfulness of fluffy, salty, buttery, popcorn — you just can’t beat this combination!


Recently, I have discovered a new form of “Happy Pills” that brings great value into my life, but it was something I never imagined I need to ask for. At a doctor’s appointment a while back I flat out broke down crying uncontrollably.


My doctor knows I am my husband’s caregiver, he asked me how everything was going with my hubby… with me… with my daughter?


My doctor knew it was time to have “The Talk.” The very uncomfortable conversation about antidepressant medication. It was time, because my life felt like it was truly spiraling out of control. I felt my mind, my body, and my spirit were dwindling. I was starting to get sick at so many levels and often. Stress was affecting me heavily.


Concentration was a struggle.


Crying was a normal part of my day.


Frustration over the smallest, stupidest things started to happen.


I began to question myself and why I acted this way. It bothered me how I reacted to events that shouldn’t upset me, and I hated crying all the time.


My doctor was extremely professional in his approach to the this challenging conversation about antidepressants. He asked the question and left the ball in my court, while showing support in pursuing this conversation before leaving his office that morning.


He said something to the effect, “You have a lot to carry on your shoulders and I want you to be successful.”


WOW, “I want you to be successful.”


Those were the magic words that helped me start thinking about seriously. Yet that darn irrational brain crept in. What will others think? Does this mean I am not strong enough to take care of my family, my husband? What’s wrong with me? Am I a failure? Does this show weakness?


With my eyes filled with tears, I pushed this self-doubt aside and told my doctor, we haven’t had the conversation but it is time to. It was amazing how admitting this to my doctor lifted so much weight off my chest. I knew God had truly played a role in my life that day. He directed us both to connect.


My doctor handed me the box of tissues and the trashcan as he took time to answer all my questions no matter how silly they may have sounded. He asked me a long series of questions so he can could decide what medication and dosage to place me on.  


Most importantly he wanted to make sure I had a good combination of support: counseling, support group, and medical care not only for myself but for my husband.


Just like the Peanut M&M’S® and popcorn combo these new happy pills also require quality goodness combinations to work successfully. The doctor covered the warning signs repeatedly, made sure I had his office’s phone number along with the follow-up appointment before I left. With very strict instructions to call at anytime, night or day, if I needed anything.


At the follow-up appointment I could feel a major difference starting to take place. My brain fog was clearing. Crying was starting to become less of a daily event. Smiling was back on the menu vs. frustrations.


It became very clear that my mental well-being and healing journey had begun. My doctor informed me that these antidepressants might be temporary as we continue down my husband’s medical path but that this extra mental health support for me is a good thing so I can be there for him. So I can also be a wife, a mother, a caregiver and a friend.


There are times when all those irrational thinking questions still rattle around in my brain, even though my rational brain says, “don’t care what others think, they aren’t living your life. No one has right to pass judgment. I’m not weak for asking for help, there is a lot I am dealing with and need the extra help to breathe.”


This is on repeat in my brain and on a sticky note on my bathroom mirror to remind myself every morning until I convince myself it is true.


Depression and antidepressants are not meant to be taken lightly. I find humor helps me breathe, helps me face the day. Calling antidepressants “Happy Pills” is because they did help me discover some needed joy.


If you are wondering if you need extra support in your life, You are at that point of asking for help too. Please do reach out for support from your doctor. I promise, it will be ok. If you need permission, I give you permission to allow yourself this valuable self-care conversation with your medical professional.


You Are Not Alone!


50 percent of all post-9/11 military care recipients have depression, twice as many as their civilian and pre-9/11 military counterparts. (Hidden Heroes, America’s Military Caregivers, RAND Study).


As a united front of Military Caregivers, let’s join forces in support of each other and stop the stigma of reaching out. If you are facing depression, thoughts of hurting yourself or even suicide – know there is help out there for you too.


I care about you, along with many others. We can’t be caregivers alone.  


Talk about it with fellow caregivers you trust, have that support person attend the doctor appointment with you, breakdown in your doctor’s office, seek counseling & support groups.


Find your Peanut M&M’S® and Popcorn combo that brings the needed joy back into your life.


We are a Military Family who is American Made!  

We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

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